It’s said the third time is the charm, but in Jason Crosby’s case, the second time sufficed. Some four years ago marked the first time he came across an opportunity to purchase the fishing vessel Genius, a well-known Gig Harbor boat that had been in his family for more than 75 years. It may be familiar to many Gig Harbor residents, because its likeness appears in the ubiquitous Douglas Michie painting, “Genius.”
Crosby was in Seattle perusing a newspaper when he came across an advertisement in the classified section that offered the purse seiner for $15,000.
“It was in pretty bad shape,” Crosby said of the vessel that played an important part in his childhood.
He decided against purchasing it because he was busy with his West Coast fishing career.
Crosby’s second chance came in February 2012 when a friend at Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands let him know the vessel was about to go to auction. Crosby was between fishing seasons, and a planned road trip to Atlanta instead turned into going to the auction and buying the Genius for $3,010.
“I ended up getting the boat at a much better price,” Crosby said.
His affection for the Genius includes familial ties as well as priceless memories from his youth. Crosby is the grandson of Leonard Crosby and great nephew of Buddy Bezich, Berniece Skansi and Einar Nielsen.
“Well, I used to fish off it when I was a kid,” Crosby said of the Genius.
He recalled growing up in the San Juan Islands, where some of his first memories involved the Genius, which made the salmon run between Friday Harbor and Gig Harbor every summer.
At the time, his uncle, Gerald, owned the boat, and his grandfather was the captain.
Crosby was 7 when he first got to accompany his uncle and grandfather on their fishing trips. He had to wear a life jacket all the time and wasn’t allowed on deck while the crew worked. He spent a lot of time sitting on the top deck atop a Coca-Cola ice chest.
In 1980, when he was 11, he and his identical twin brother, Christopher, began their own fishing careers aboard the Genius, working hard at piling web, plunging nets and pitching fish. They shared in the proceeds with the rest of the crew.
Crosby continued to serve on the Genius through 1987. He become a skilled deckhand and solidified his love of the sea and passion for fishing.
The Crosby twins, along with Jason Crosby’s fiancée, Cathryn, plan to completely rebuild the Genius not only to keep the ship in the family, but to preserve a significant part of Gig Harbor’s maritime history.
The Genius, built for the late Nick Babich Sr., was one of 10 purse seiners constructed at the Skansie Shipyard in 1920. Eight years later, the Genius was sold to longtime fish buyer Nick Skansi, who operated the vessel as a tender in the Puget Sound area until he died in 1939.
In 1940, the late Gerald Crosby took over the operation of the vessel from his father-in-law. For the next six decades, the Genius was one of the most well-known and recognized boats to ply the Puget Sound.
Tom Nolan of Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands eventually purchased the boat from Gerald Crosby’s son, Gary.
Jason Crosby credited Nolan, who had the vessel hauled out of the water at repair facilities in Port Townsend, where it currently resides, with doing a lot of repair work on the Genius while he had it.
“He rebuilt the back part of the boat,” Crosby said. “We’re starting where he finished up, from mid-ship forward.”
Much of the extensive repair and rebuilding work on the 65-foot vessel is taking place inside the ship.
“We gutted the inside and tore it out to make one big cabin,” Crosby said. “We kept the galley and the sink. We just wanted to make it more spacious.”
The newly seaworthy vessel will be back in Gig Harbor in June, Crosby said.
“We plan on bringing it back to Gig Harbor, where it seems to fit,” he said.
That doesn’t mean work on the boat is close to being done.
Crosby said this is the first phase of a five-year plan to fully restore the Genius, including repainting the ship white.
“I don’t want to rush myself,” he said. “I just wanted to get her back in the water.”
As for the working future of the ship, it’s possible the Genius could once again be used as a fishing vessel, said Crosby, whose fishing career has taken him from California to Alaska.
There’s even a chance the Genius could someday end up fishing off the waters of the Last Frontier State, he said. By Alaska law, fishing vessels may be no longer than 58 feet, but the Genius may be grandfathered in, Crosby said.
“We still want to keep our options open,” he said.
For more information about efforts to restore the Genius, including how to contribute financially, visit www.ageniusproject.com.