At the helm: Master shipwright keeping South Sound maritime tradition afloat

After quick working trips in Maryland, Tacoma and recently Croatia, Michael Vlahovich often finds peace onboard the Commencement. He’s sat at the helm of the 90-year-old fishing boat often. “Rain or shine, this is the place I’ll be,” the 66-year-old master shipwright said of his favorite place on the boat. Despite its age, the Commencement is Vlahovich’s baby. For 70 years, Croatian net fisherman, much like Vlahovich’s Croatian immigrant parents, used the vessel in Washington and Alaska before it was retired and Vlahovich adopted it for rehabilitation in 1996. He’s worked on keeping it ship shape ever since. The Commencement is 65 feet of bright white wood that Vlahovich and members of his nonprofit, the Coastal Heritage Alliance, have painted and restored since it became the organization’s flagship in 2003. Read the story here with six images, and a video 16:31