It's a day for tales of Joe and other beloved vessels

OLYMPIA – Over the years, Robin and Kae Paterson haven’t missed the Olympia Wooden Boat Fair too often, and it was no different this weekend.

Alongside 40 other wooden boats in the marina near Percival Landing, the Gig Harbor couple talked with visitors while sitting in the wheelhouse and shared stories of the Joe, a 45-foot tugboat they bought in 1986.

When next year’s fair rolls around, the Patersons won’t be chugging their tug to Olympia. The couple is completing the sale of the Joe to a local buyer who has shown interest for nearly a decade. The sale marks the end of an era, but it was time to let go, Robin Paterson said.

“There are just (other) things that we’d kinda like to do,” said Paterson, a 77-year-old retired Pierce County deputy. “We wanted to sell it before it had to be sold and before it goes to pieces.”

The couple has become so close with the boat, Kae Paterson jokes that the boat is included in their marriage contract.

“The joke is he (Robin) goes with the boat,” Kae Paterson said.

The decision wasn’t easy. The Joe, built in 1942 and designed to work in the Foss Waterway, was the couple’s fourth tug and has been used by the Patersons as a commercial tugboat. It even helped the family move belongings to a remote community near Tacoma. The boat was overhauled to allow for more space and comfortable travels.

Kae Paterson said she’s “going to miss just getting on the boat” and going.

“I think I’ve quit crying,” she said, speaking to the emotions of the end of the 25-year relationship with Joe.

The Joe only missed one Harbor Days tugboat race (one year it was in the shop) and took home first place a few times.

“We won two of them by less than a foot,” Robin Paterson said, holding his hands up to show the margin of victory.

Standing on the main deck, Chuck Fowler, a friend of the Patersons, talked about the influence the couple has had on the local boating community.

He and his wife met the Patersons about 35 years ago when they owned their previous tug, the Sound. Karla Fowler had painted a picture of the tug and the Patersons wanted to purchase it.

“That started our whole relationship,” Chuck Fowler said.

Seeing the Patersons sell the Joe is tough, he added.

“It’s just been a great run,” he said.

Just because the Gig Harbor couple won’t have a tug doesn’t mean they’ll be leaving the boating scene. They have already been invited to join another tug for Harbor Days this September and Robin Paterson might be at the wheel.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “We’ve met really nice people and just enjoy the community.”

As the Patersons said goodbye to Joe, boat owners old and new showed of their own boats Sunday to anyone who wanted to climb aboard.

Across the marina, Jerry Crabill, of Shelton, gave tours of the Grand Romance, a 32-foot sedan, to Mark Jobson and his 5-year-old daughter Celia, who was recently adopted from China and had never set foot on a boat.

This year’s fair had a drastically different look as work continues on Percival Landing. The 60 or so vendors set up shop on a small section of the boardwalk and a large parking lot near Fourth Avenue. Organizers said this year’s fair was a huge challenge but that the temporary setup appeared to work and better crowds were expected Sunday after a wet Saturday hampered attendance.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476