After several weeks spent searching for a sailboat at the bottom of Budd Inlet and months restoring the damaged craft, the 22-foot Harmony, better known by the name Gizmo, sails again.
And Gizmo is set to be challenged this summer, according to John Thompson, its longtime owner.
Thompson, 57, plans to sail her in the Race to Alaska, a 750-mile race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska, that he hopes to complete in 10 days.
Throughout the search for the sailboat and during its restoration, Thompson said he was never far from the spirit of sailor and friend, Jay Berglund, who was lost at sea when Gizmo sank in about 60 feet of water on Oct. 25, 2014. Berglund, who drowned, was found the following day in Case Inlet, 11 miles north of where the boat went down. He was 46.
“I felt his presence all the way through this,” said Thompson, recalling Berglund’s happy-go-lucky nature and his fondness for jokes and pranks.
Part of the restoration process took place at Thompson’s home after he squeezed Gizmo into the garage, letting the air out of trailer tires so that the boat would clear the garage door. While Thompson worked on the boat during the hot summer 2015, he said he could hear Berglund laughing at him. It was payback, Thompson said, because Berglund had worked on the boat in the cold and rain of winter 2013.
After eight months of work, Gizmo emerged reborn, including a tribute to Berglund that displays his name on the side of the vessel. It also reads: “Sail on, Bro.”
Gizmo was relaunched on Aug. 15, and was back at the starting line for the South Sound Sailing Society’s Eagle Island race in October — the same race a year before that had been met by a fast-developing storm that sent Gizmo to the depths of Budd Inlet and took a sailor’s life.
Thompson scattered flowers in Berglund’s memory at the starting line and at the spot where Gizmo sank. The race went well, Thompson said.
“We won the whole damn thing,” he said.
After the boat sank, some might wonder: why bother looking for it?
But Thompson, who originally paid just $3,000 for Gizmo, says he fell in love with the boat and its ability to sail well in light air. If the boat wasn’t irreparably damaged, he planned to restore it, he said.
“She was Jay’s boat as much as mine, and I know for certain that he would not want to leave her on the bottom to rot away slowly,” Thompson said. “I owed it to him to raise and restore her if I could.”
The search began with grappling hooks, dragging the bottom of Budd Inlet in hopes that it would snag the boat and mark its location. Other technology was put to work, including the kind fisherman use to spot fish. That didn’t work either, so Thompson eventually spent $1,800 on a side scan sonar, which helps detect objects on the sea floor. It finally identified the outline of Gizmo on the bottom of the inlet.
With the help of Osborne Marine of Olympia, a diver attached a buoy to the boat to mark its location, and then using floats, the boat was raised to the surface on Dec. 22, 2014.
From there, a tug towed the boat to one side of the inlet and then a barge and crane lifted it out of the water. As the boat was being drained, the first thing to come floating out of the boat was Berglund’s life jacket, Thompson said, a reminder that he had chosen not to wear his.
That won’t happen again: Anyone who sails on Gizmo must wear a life jacket from now on, Thompson said.
The race accident also has brought about change for the South Sound Sailing Society’s races. Now, each boat is required to have a radio with digital selective calling. In the event of an emergency, all the boater has to do is push one button to deliver a distress signal, Thompson said.
“The distress signal has the GPS coordinates, which would have been helpful for the rescue last year,” said Webb Sprague, past commodore of the South Sound Sailing Society.
RACE TO ALASKA
Now, a final tribute to Berglund is in the works. Thompson seeks to raise $8,000 to $10,000 via a GoFundMe page to fund Team Ghost Rider and its race to Ketchikan. He needs provisions for a four-person crew and also plans to invest in dry suits, ocean-tight hatches and possibly solar panels or a little generator to charge batteries.
One major requirement of the race is that no power is allowed, which means the various boats that enter the contest must either sail, row or paddle.
That’s another thing Thompson needs: oars.
One of the race stops is at Victoria, B.C. Gizmo won’t be allowed to sail into the harbor, so it will have to row in and out of it, he said.
It’s the kind of race that Jay would have relished.
“This is right up his alley,” Thompson said.