Fair winds and following seas

Ivar Reiten, 1927–2020

Ivar Reiten

Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Commercial Club
Ivar Reiten was the 2012 recipient of the King Neptune Award presented by the Norwegian Commercial Club in Seattle.

NORWEGIAN COMMERCIAL CLUB
Seattle

It was with heavy heart that Seattle’s Norwegian Commercial Club noted the passing of King Neptune Ivar Reiten on May 24 at his home in Shoreline, Wash.

Ivar Reiten was born on Oct. 9, 1927, at the farm Reiten on the island of Otrøya, west of Molde, Norway. Ivar had three older brothers and two younger sisters. Early on, he went fishing on the 60-foot family-owned boat Barden 1 and other vessels until he left Norway for the United States in 1952. 

He spent the first five to six years in Poulsbo and went fishing with his uncle Trygve Pedersen on the Summit, longlining for halibut, and trolling for albacore off the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and southeast Alaska. With his experience, Ivar started to work for another uncle, Chris Dahl of the Kayler-Dahl Co., as the skipper of the tender vessel Homer, freighting salmon to the canneries.

After this, Ivar bought the Hawaiian sugar freighter Mokuhana in San Francisco with Dahl and converted it to a factory/freezer vessel for operations in Alaska to process salmon, king crab, and herring roe. Following this success, he converted and operated the Blue Wave and the Stellar Sea with Whitney Fidalgo Seafoods and Peter Pan Seafoods. When either of these vessels was on the ground, Ivar could occasionally be seen in a skiff checking things out.

Ivar partnered with Einar Langesater and John Johannessen in 1979 to build the MARCO Oceanic. Through this, he became a partner in the Ocean Phoenix with Oceanic Capt. Luis Arruela Sr.

Ivar was instrumental in creating floating processing capacity for Peter Pan, for both salmon and crab, with the conversion of vessels that became the Blue Wave and the Stellar Sea. He supervised the layout and construction and was instrumental in staffing and overseeing operation of both vessels for many years. Ivar had the ability to visualize the big picture on how the layout of the vessel would be, how it would operate, as well as an uncanny attention to detail, where every valve was and how the wiring was routed. The vessels were designed in the “Ivar Reiten style,” in that they were impeccable through and through, from engine rooms to living quarters and galleys, processing and weather decks, and bridges

This attention to detail manifested itself many times. Clyde Sterling had told a story of when the Blue Wave lost a high-capacity compressor motor during the height of salmon processing. A spare motor was aboard, but Clyde wondered how they would get the incredibly heavy and unwieldy old motor out of the machine room and the new motor in. Hidden in the white paint of the ceiling was an I-beam that ran from the machine room and down the companionway. All they needed to do was take off the machine room door, attach a trolley and old motor out, new motor in: no problem. Who other than Ivar would have thought of that?

When the Stellar Sea suffered a debilitating engine-room fire on its way to the northern crab grounds in Alaska, Ivar left Seattle immediately and met the boat in Dutch Harbor. After making sure that the crew was taken care of, he worked tirelessly with the U.S. Coast Guard and contractors to initiate repairs as quickly as possible. His even demeanor and knowledge of the details were invaluable in getting temporary repairs done safely return to work. This was of critical importance to the entire crab industry as the Stellar Sea was tasked with processing the bulk of the northern region crab.

As impressive as his technical abilities were, more importantly, Ivar was a gentleman. He truly cared about everyone who worked for him, from his captains to his process workers. He took great care of everyone, and they, in return, were productive and loyal to him. Even with his great attention to detail he was not above delegating authority and important jobs to his people, trusting them to do good work. Ivar was generous with his knowledge and kept few secrets (except for his smoked black cod recipe). Over the years, he brought his colleagues up through the industry, many who remain active and successful today.

Ivar was well known from Seattle to St. George, British Columbia, to the villages of the rivers north of Bristol Bay in Alaska, where he took the Mokuhana to buy kings and chums. He had great working relations with people from all of these regions, be they fishers, suppliers, community leaders, or other boat captains. All considered him to be an honorable man, someone they could trust and respect.

A great sailor, navigator, and boat handler, Ivar was a credit to his Norwegian heritage. He had the knowledge and calm demeanor to bring a vessel dockside safely in any weather condition. Safely bringing a boat in sums it up, as he put so much of himself into the vessels but even more, put so much care into the crews that worked for him. Ivar touched the lives of hundreds of people in the fishing community and was a stellar example of how to do things the right way.  

Despite a busy life in the United States, Ivar always kept very good contact with family and friends in Norway. He will be missed by all, far and wide.

Fair winds and following seas, Ivar.

This article originally appeared in the June 26, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email: naw@na-weekly.com

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