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MIDNIGHT SUN was built in 1938 at North Vancouver Ship Repair Ltd. in North Vancouver, BC.

The Floe family ran the Midnight Sun from 1949 to 1994, a period of 45 years. They owned her for 32 of those years.

Knute Floe was born on April 10, 1898 in Ulsteinvik, Norway. He began whaling in the Arctic at age 17. He later crewed on yachts, tankers and freighters, which took him to many ports throughout the world. In 1927 he moved to Vancouver, where he became involved in the fishing industry, skippering various fishing vessels prior to running the Midnight Sun. His brother, Nels Floe, also moved to Vancouver and became active in the industry.

Midnight Sun was built in 1938 for Nootka Packing Company. In her early days, she worked as a packer on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, packing herring and pilchards. During this period she was purchased by the Canadian Fishing Company.

Around 1949, the Canadian Fishing Company converted the Midnight Sun to a seine boat for the herring and salmon fishery. Following the conversion, Nels Floe captained the vessel for three years. Then in 1952 he and Knute built their own fishing vessel, the Elling K. With the new vessel, Knute became captain of the Midnight Sun, while Nels skippered the Elling K.

From 1952 to 1962 Knute ran the Midnight Sun for the Canadian Fishing Company. Then in 1962, when Norman was 23 years old, he and Knute bought the boat and formed the Midnight Sun Boat Company. They rebuilt the vessel completely, outfitting her for the halibut fishery in addition to the salmon and herring fisheries. Knute remained on as Captain, while Norman crewed as engineer. Norman had obtained a certificate in diesel engineering and had already acquired experience fishing on the Midnight Sun as well as other vessels. Later Norman completed further courses and obtained a 350 ton Master's ticket.

They fished halibut in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea; locally they fished salmon and herring. In some years, they also fished tuna off the Oregon Coast. They ceased fishing halibut in 1976 when the 200 mile limit was introduced.

In 1972 Norman bought out Knute's share of the Midnight Sun Boat Company and formed a new company - Floe Fishing Company Ltd., with his wife Catherine, who also became a shareholder.

Norman continued to own and run the Midnight Sun until 1994, when having decided to retire from fishing, he sold Floe Fishing Company (with the vessel) to Pacific Faith Ltd., a company owned by the Sewid family from Campbell River. The Canadian Fishing Company was involved in financing the purchase, and expressed pleasure in having the boat back in their fleet. The Midnight Sun had come full circle.

In the early fishing years, the vessel had a crew of eight. Due to advances in technology, this was later reduced to six, consisting of skipper, engineer, cook and three deck-hands. They had very loyal crew members. For example, five of them, Carl Krossoy, Olaf Vingsnes, Lars Christiansen, Al McLeod and Bob Fylling served a combined total of about 80 years on the Midnight Sun, leaving only on their retirement or on the sale of the boat.

Family members were also involved. Norman's cousin Kris Rodin fished with him for several years. Nels Floe's son Gordon joined the crew during summers while a university student. Norman's son Ken also fished with him during the summers of 1993 and 1994 while attending university.

After Knute's retirement at age 70, he ran a boat for the Canadian Fishing Company for a few seasons. At the age of 75, at the request of the Company, he went to Newfoundland to bring a fishing vessel back through the Panama Canal to Vancouver. He was Captain on that voyage, while his brother, Nels Floe also in his 70s, and was a first mate. Knute remained active into his old age, visiting Norway in 1987, at the age of 89. He died the following year on March 11, 1988, one month short of his 90th birthday.

Knute was a man of vision with a strong sense of history. His log-books from 1940 were called upon in recent years when the Government considered reactivating the pilchard fishery. They wished to review old data on these schools of fish. Norman was asked to review Knute's log-books for the relevant years, 1945 to 1948 and prepared a detailed tabulation on pilchard locations and numbers by season. These log-books represent an irreplaceable piece of BC history.

Further Read:

By The Light of The Midnight Sun
A British Columbia fisherman charts a course through the years with his vessel (One Man One Boat).

Publication: National Fisherman
Publication Date: 01-JAN-04
Author: Rick Crosby

>> Click here to Read the article

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