Submitted by Westport Winery

In the summer of 2021, a local fishing family donated an antique anchor to the International Mermaid Museum.

Stan Kurylo, a Polish born fisherman, had worked on a commercial dragger or trawler, in the late 1990s. One day, while fishing near Destruction Island, he found his net coming up heavy on one side. He was surprised to lift aboard an anchor that was about six feet tall. He kept the relic on the deck of his home in Westport for years. When he and his wife, Patricia, toured the museum, they decided to donate the anchor to the museum’s collection along with the chart he marked the day of the find. He thought the anchor was about 200 years old.

This historic anchor was the inspiration for museum founder Kim Roberts to design and build a “sunken ship” inside the museum this fall, so that the displays were integrated within and on the ship’s hull.

This week, the museum’s executive director, Bailey Cavender, began researching the anchor.

She believes it is an admiralty anchor from the Russian brig Nikolai. The charted location of the Nikolai’s sinking matches that of the anchor’s recovery. The timeline fits, based on comparable anchors made at the time that the Nikolai was built and set sail.

The wreck of the Nikolai was the first recorded shipwreck in this area. In September of 1808, its Russian crew sailed down from modern day Sitka, Alaska, looking for a place to build a Russian settlement. The captain was Nikolai Bulgin. His wife, Anna Petrovna Bulagina, was 18, and is believed to be the first European woman to reach the area. There were twenty members of their original expedition: thirteen Russian crew members, the captain’s wife, four Aleut men who acted as crew, and two Aleut women.

The Nikolai lost wind near Destruction Island. The ship, subject to the current, drifted ever closer to shore. On November 1, a gale developed, pushing the ship on a reef. Everyone was able to get off the Nikolai before it sank, and many supplies were salvaged.

The crew hoped to find rescue from another ship, the Klodik, in Grays Harbor and tried to hike through. Anna was captured. Her husband was so upset that he gave up command of the expedition to his second. In a first effort for ransom, the Russian team would not give up their weapons. The second time, the attempt was foiled by Anna, who did not want to be rescued, having been treated well by her captors. The rest of the crew decided that capture sounded better than being in the wilderness and surrendered. Thirteen of them were ransomed in 1811. The captain and his wife both died in captivity.

We hope you will come to see the Nikolai’s anchor in person, as you explore the immersive experience of the displays in the International Mermaid Museum at Westport Winery Garden Resort, halfway between Westport and Aberdeen, Washington. The museum, gift shop, gallery, and tasting bar are open daily from 11am to 6pm. All ages are welcome with $3 admission except for those age 5 and under whose admission is free.

The International Mermaid Museum is a registered 501(C)3 non-profit dedicated to teaching ocean ecology from seashore to sea floor immersed in mermaid mythology uniting world oceanic cultures. The annual Mermaid Festival will be held March 26 through April 3 with live mermaids, classes, and extra displays. For more information go to the International Mermaid Museum website. 

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