The legacy of Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal

And the fleet goes on …

Photo: Madison Leiren

The Norwegian American

Every spring at the start of halibut season, the Seattle fishing community gathers at Fishermen’s Terminal for the annual Blessing of the Fleet, as members of the community gather to honor and pray for the safety of the men and women who harvest the seas.

Photo: Madison Leiren

Home to the North Pacific fishing fleet, the terminal is located on the Lake Washington Ship Canal where the historic Ballard, Magnolia, and Queen Anne neighborhoods intersect. It’s a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike, with its seafood market, restaurants and bars, green market and deli, barbershop, and boat club—and, of course, there are boats, boats, and more boats!

Fisherman's Terminal

Photo: Madison Leiren

Photo: Madison Leiren

For me, a visit to Fishermen’s Terminal always feels like a homecoming. I grew up within walking distance, and the smell of the sea reminds me of my childhood. I remember spending hours on end there, walking along the docks, as I admired the different fishing vessels with names like Polar Lady, Kristiania, and Thor. 

Now, as then, I am reminded of Washington state’s fishing industry’s strong anchoring in the Norwegian-American community, and after a 100 years or so, the Norwegians are still running the show. The names of the commercial fishermen and women lost at sea on the bronze and stone Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial are another reminder of how Norwegian immigrants built up commercial fishing in the Pacific Northwest. As a child, I often heard Norwegian spoken around the docks, and I wondered what it would be to go to sea myself and visit faraway places, like Alaska to the north, or Norway on the other side of the world. 

Photo: Madison Leiren

Today, in the big city of Seattle, Fishermen’s Terminal feels like a little community with its small-town, down-to-earth atmosphere. There is always someone who will stop to tell you an old tale of the sea or funny joke to make you laugh. I still love to linger there for an hour or two to take in the fresh air and regain the feeling that all is well in the world.

This year, for the first time in its 93-year history, the Blessing of the Fleet was held virtually at Fishermen’s Terminal, but it was just as meaningful as ever. Even a pandemic cannot stop the men and women of the North Pacific Fleet, as they carry on in the legacy of those who came before them.

This article originally appeared in the April 23, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.