'Nichols World' hosts 100-plus guests on tour

"“Nichols World” hosts 100-plus guests on tourJIM LARSENRecord editorWas it Nichols Brothers, Disney World, or possibly a hybrid called Nichols World?It was hard to tell Thursday at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, which for a portion of the day became a tour destination.As bemused workers went about their business welding, hammering, cutting and joining, some 130 visitors toured the boat yard on Holmes Harbor.Trying to keep some kind of order were company president Matt Nichols and his son, general manager Bryan Nichols. The visitors represented the company’s customers and vendors as well as the Passenger Vessel Association.The tour-takers arrived by Nichols boat at the public dock, then were hauled to and from the boat yard in a big white bus and a flatbed truck with hay bales as seats. “Genuine Gabelein hay,” noted Matt Nichols. The visitors were all part of boating companies and the like, men and women who someday may order something from Nichols Brothers or provide something they need, so the company was out to make a good impression. The throng was initially guided into a building where an 800-passenger dinner boat for Argosy Cruises of Seattle is taking shape. Guests navigated steep steel steps to the recently-assembled main deck when Argosy owner John Blackman praised his baby.“There’s nothing else like it in the U.S.,” he said, describing the boat’s extensive galley facilities on three decks and its ability to host several different functions on a single cruise in Elliott Bay.Although Blackman is investing some $8 million in the boat he’s not worried about the public accepting it. “I think it’s a sure thing,” he said. “Seattle’s a very hot city for tourism.”The boat, due to be finished next April, will be berthed at Pier 56 in the central waterfront, and Blackman thinks it will soon become a symbol of Seattle.“It’s an icon that will have as much or greater significance to Seattle as the Space Needle,” he boldly predicted.Matt Nichols gave a short welcoming speech, announcing that boat yard employment will top out at a record 300 jobs when work gets under way on all the boats now under contract.From the Argosy boat, the crowd descended the steps and dispersed in small groups to examine smaller jobs and question workers.The Karin Lynn attracted much attention as the big fishing boat loomed high over everyone’s head, awaiting finishing touches on minor maintenance work. “It’s in for a shave and a haircut,” said Dennis Willson, machine shop foreman.Checking out the Karin Lynn’s propeller was John Todd, an employee of Pacific Detroit Diesel and an interested tour-taker.“Nichols Brothers has a lot of ingenuity and innovation in the way they put a boat together,” he said, noting that such attributes are “a financial necessity” for a small boat yard. “They get it done very quickly with a minimum of labor,” he said, explaining the company’s success in landing millions of dollars in contracts year after year.Properly impressed, the tour takers were herded back onto the bus and flatbed to begin the land and sea trip back to Seattle. The short history of “Nichols World” was at an end."

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