The Yakutat Timber Barge loaded with 3000 tons of scrap metal prior to departure on Aug. 1, 2023. Photo by Dick Shellhorn for The Cordova Times

The renowned Steelhead is no more.   

Termed “the heart of the flats tender fleet’’ by longtime North Pacific Processors Cordova Plant Manager Ken Roemhildt, the rugged steel craft sat in decay on the North Shipyard pullout area until recently falling victim to the cutting torches of Yakutat Timber. 

A former oyster barge in Washington state, the Steelhead was purchased in 1972 and converted to a tender by Hugh “Hughie” Hosick. From 1972 to 1995, it was the stalwart workhorse for the big local plant. 

“It kind of broke my heart to see it sitting there rusting away,” said Roemhildt, now retired and managing a small fleet of charter sport fishing river boats on the Eyak River.  

Hosick was Pete Blake’s stepfather, and Blake, a very successful Cordova gill netter and seiner, described how Hughie and his Steelhead always drew the most challenging tendering assignments.  

“He was always sent to Kokenhenic, which was the toughest spot on the Flats to get in and out of, especially in bad weather,” Blake said.   


Blake also recalled that the Steelhead was utilized for very successful tanner crab fishing here for many years, and that it survived a collision with Salmo Point due to navigation error by a crew member that fell asleep at the wheel. 

Yakutat Timber’s large excavator was used to load 3,000 tons of Cordova scrap metal onto their salvage barge. Photo by Dick Shellhorn 

The Steelhead was also famous for another reason. Hughie’s wife Toni, who worked on the tender with him out on the sound, started the practice of giving ice cream to the kids on board the seiners. She felt it wasn’t fair that on Friday night closures the adults got beer and the kids didn’t get a treat. Pretty soon, the adults looked forward to the ice cream as much as the kids.  

The bow of the historic craft was cut off to be the last item loaded on a massive 90-foot by 250-foot Yakutat Timber barge that was being filled full of scrap metal purchased from the City of Cordova.   

Most of the material came from the Mile 17 landfill, with Yakutat Timber responsible for crushing and hauling it to the barge. The outfit from Yakutat brought in all their own equipment for the job and began the operation in mid-May.    

An estimated 3,000 tons of scrap were loaded on the barge, which has a 5,000-ton capacity. The impressive amount of scrap included over 700 cars. 

Towed by the tugboat Kimberly C, it was headed south on Tuesday, bound for the Richmond Steel Works in Vancouver, B.C. 

Yakutat Timber will return in mid-August to continue the project. 

Yes, the Steelhead is gone; her battered prow loaded on to the barge on Monday.  

But perhaps not forgotten. 

So many fishermen stopped by to tell their Steelhead stories to the salvage crew that one of the Yakutat welders said he might cut out the name plate on the bow and donate it to Cordova. 

Let’s hope so.   

The bow of the historic Steelhead prior to being loaded on a barrage for shipment to scrap yards in British Columbia. Photo by Dick Shellhorn