A. E. Erickson
In 1921 at the island of Ruissalo there was a mahogany saloon yacht built at Åbo Båtvarf, aka Turun Veneveistämö in Turku, Finland. At the bow on both sides there were shiny brass letters which said “Bonito”. The 12 meters long saloon yacht was truly a high quality masterwork.
Bonito was ordered new by Anton Edvin Erickson, the owner of a local stevedoring company, A. E. Erickson Oy. Mr Erickson had a summerhouse called Villa Fjällbo at Ruissalo island’s north peak where he kept Bonito at a pier every summer. The boat was used as a leisure yacht but Mr Erickson also used to drive to work at Turku Harbour with Bonito.
Bonito was a loved member of the Erickson family and was was used extensively every summer until 1948 when a sad accident happened. There was a huge storm – one of the worst storms in the decade – and the sea was raging. It was too much and Bonito ended up on Mr Erickson’s neighbours cliff. The bottom was broken badly.
Mr Erickson called his workers to come and help and they managed to patch the bottom so that they could get Bonito towed to the harbour of Turku. Bonito was raised up and Mr Erickson decided that he was too old to get Bonito repaired anymore. According to his workers it was the only time they saw Mr Erickson crying, that’s how much Bonito meant to him. With sadness he sold Bonito after 26 years of use.
Bonito was bought by a local industrialist Mauno Rainto, the owner of bicycle factory Pyrkijä and Finland’s biggest photography company Foto Ab. He repaired the bottom and took Bonito to his summerhouse at the island of Svartholm at Parainen.
Bonito was used actively by the Rainto family, but only for a few years when Mauno Rainto passed away after a house building accident.
After Mr Rainto had passed away Bonito was bought by his very good friend, the commodore of a local yachting club TPS and vice judge Olli Tulenheimo. He was a big influencer in Turku and was for example in the boards of Turku Theatre and the banks Sampo and Turun Suomalainen Säästöpankki. He worked as an attorney for over 50 years. Olli Tulenheimo, the brother of Finland’s prime minister Antti Tulenheimo was an honoured man who didn’t fear to use his own money for the good of others.
Bonito was in the Tulenheimo family for almost 20 years and it was part of countless memories born at boat trips to the Turku Archipelago, Åland and even Sweden. Sometimes people were guestioning Bonito’s seaworthiness but it was proven to be stable and had great manouverability. At Mr Tulenheimo’s ownership Bonito was also used in many business trips.
Bonito was sold when Olli Tulenheimo passed away in 1971.
Bonito was bought from the estate of Olli Tulenheimo by a local Sea Captain Hannu Siikarla. He conducted some big repairs on Bonito where every small detail was still saved.
Kari P. Knuuttila
It was Spring 1974 when it was time for Bonito to leave the sea and the beautiful Archipelago of Turku behind for the first time since she was built. Hannu Siikarla sold Bonito to an entrepreneur who had great eye for beautiful cars and boats. Kari P. Knuuttila lived in Lahti so Bonito had to get used to sweet water in lake Päijänne.
The Knuuttila family enjoyed Bonito a lot but after a few years they made a hard decision that it was time for something faster.
“A lots of water has flown in the Kymi river since we saved Bonito from crashing to the rocks in a hard wind. We were onboard the S/S Joh-Parviainen heading south when Bonito passed us. After a while I noticed that Bonito was slowing down and the engine was off. She was too close to the shore already so we couldn’ t get next to her. As soon as possible we got the lifeboat in the water and two men onboard to help. Bonito’s fuel line had clogged and that’s why the engine stalled. The problem was solved and the engine was fired up. Kari Knuuttila’s wife refused to stay on the boat and moved to the sturdier steam ship (around 80 tons) with the kids.”
Best regards, Timo Tenho
Steam engine operator and honorary commodor.
Chief Engineer Pekka Salonen
After the Knuuttila family Bonito got to stay in the gentle waves of Päijänne since she was bought by Chief Engineer Pekka Salonen from Jyväskylä. In a brief moment Bonito became the family treasure of the Salonen’s which was in active use. Bonito was loved by the whole family and not least by the two young boys, Timo And Mikko who even had shirts with Bonito embroidered on them. One April Fool’s day the boy’s mother tricked the boys, telling that Bonito has been sold. The boys bursted in tears and it wouldn’t end until it turned out that it was an April fools’s joke.
The Salonen’s enjoyed Bonito all the way until the beginning of the 1990’s when she was sold in bad but still repairable state. The Salonen’s were the last family who had Bonito in water.
Esko ja Jani Vahto
Esko Vahto, a well-known classic boat collector and restorer from Turku knew Bonito from the 1970’s. In the late 1980’s he travelled to see Bonito in Jyväskylä and tried to buy it from Pekka Salonen. At that time Salonen would sell but after a few years Esko heard that Bonito had been sold and that’s when the boat disappeared. Esko and his son Jani tried to track Bonito down for a long time but with no results. They were afraid she wouldn’t exist anymore.
In 2009 Bonito was surprisingly found when an elderly lady came to visit the Esko and Jani Vahto’s workshop in other than boat related matters. She saw the boats in the workshop and said: “My son also has an old wooden boat but it’s in so terrible condition that it’s ready to go to the Midsummer bonfire”. Esko asked the name of the boat and she replied “Bonito”. Cold shivers went through Esko’s body. “Could it be the same Bonito, which we have been searching for all this time” he asked himself. It turned out that it was. The Vahto’s went to see Bonito in Somero and there she was sitting in all her glory, full of snow and ice. Bonito had been finally found. She was in bad but still saveable condition. Maybe it was Bonito who chose her rescuers?
Although Bonito was in bad condition she was still original. Any of the original design hadn’t been modified during the years. Also most of the trim and all of the other shiny parts were all there.
Bonito was transported to Turku inside the Vahto’s workshop. The hull was a notched but Esko managed to straighten her. The project turned out to be too big to restore little by little so outside
funding was needed to get someone working on the boat on a daily basis. In 2017 the Museum Department of Finland granted Bonito a restauration grant. In September 2017 the boat was moved inside the Maritime Museum Forum Marinum’s workshop and their experienced boatbuilder Juha Suorsa started working on the boat. In Spring 2018 the Museum Department granted Bonito a new grant for the next phase since the first phase was completed.
Jani Vahto continues research on Bonito’s history and is collecting funding for the boat’s restoration. The aim is to restore Bonito in her former glory and to return her in the waters of the Turku Archipelago. She will also be used to remind people of how wonderful boatbuilding craftsmanship we have had in Finland and Turku almost a hundred years ago.
Bonito will most probably be ready for water in 2020. She will also be used for charter in order to maintain her condition and for everyone to be able to feel a real yacht from the golden 1920s.