Fritz (short for Frederick) has a tee-shirt that reads “Bundin er batlaus madur –bound is boatless man.” He subscribes to Wooden Boat magazine and Messing About in Boats. His grandparents on his mother’s side came from the fjords of Norway, so he is l/2 Norwegian. He loves to build, repair, fish from, and journey in boats. He spent the first thirteen years of his life in Sitka, living on Sheldon Jackson campus across the street from the beach, rowing with his neighborhood friend in a small wooden rowboat.
FRITZ AS A TEENAGER
When Fritz moved to Juneau as a teenager, his dad bought him a 16-foot wooden skiff and an 18-horse engine. He began to teach himself how to repair and replace boat engines; how to wire and repair boat electronics; how to build wooden boats.
LEARNING TO SAIL
Fritz and I crewed on a 56-foot ketch, named the Red Witch, out of Juneau when we were 20. We were running before a storm outside of Baranof Warm Springs when 19-year-old deckhand friend John raised the sail but over-stretched the winch’s reach. Screw-bolted into the wood, it actually ripped out of the mast and hit John in the chest. It could have killed him, but he was unhurt. We made it back into the protection of the cove, where we all took hot tubs and hiked the hills of natural hot springs to avoid the raging captain carefully re-mantling the winch so we could continue on our journey. A few days later we hit an unseen iceberg south of Juneau in Taku Inlet, heard the screaming blame of the captain one too many times and decided to leave the ship for good once back in Juneau. This was not the captain for us, but we certainly had sailing in our blood from then on. Two things remain to this day – I am willing and capable of going out in any weather to deal with lines, then coil them carefully for the next person. The second is that I can tie a fast bowline knot, which I use to this day for tying up everything.
FIRST GUSTAVUS BOATS
In 1977, at the age of 23, we moved to Gustavus with our klepper kayak. For the first three years or so, Fritz traveled in the kayak either alone or with a friend up into Glacier Bay for two weeks each spring. About this time we found ourselves moving up in the boat world. We first rescued a small plywood skiff from a Juneau beach. After two years, we acquired the 22-foot Soleglad, meaning sunset in Norwegian. This scow sloop with lee-boards had been built by Manual from Haines in 1952, the year of Fritz’s birth. Fritz and my brother-in-law Jim sailed it down Lynn Canal and Icy Strait to Gustavus. We spent the summer when our oldest daughter Lena was two years old sailing and motoring all over Glacier Bay.
As a mother, then 28 years old, I found myself losing confidence in myself when afraid for the safety of my child. I was no longer the 20-year-old sailing off on the ocean among men deck mates. Now I felt responsible for others. It surprised me as much as Fritz that I worried so much on the sea. Though I never got seasick, living on a small sailboat in Glacier Bay I had to deal with my fear to enjoy life on the water. I kept a small journal.