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Almost 30 years In The Making, A Seattle Man Gets Ahold Of Two Boats From Taiwan

Jackson Main
Michael Jacobson, with one of the tatala canoes he purchased from Ivar's.


This story originally aired on October 7, 2017.

There is that saying that pops up in fortune cookies and is spoken often by parents of antsy kids: Good things come to those who wait.


Michael Jacobson of Seattle waited for something. In fact, he waited for nearly three decades to get ahold of two unusual boats that were being used as light fixtures at Ivar’s Salmon House on North Lake Union. When this eventually happened, a new door opened up in his world that he did not expect.


These boats, or canoes, are called tatalas. They are built members of an indigenous tribe called the Yami. The Yami live on Orchid Island, off the coast of Taiwan.


Constructing a tatala is considered to be a right of passage. Once a young man builds a tatala it is a sign that he can be a provider. The canoes are used by the Yami to catch flying fish with nets.


This ornate canoe is what greets you when Michael Jacobson opens the garage to his home in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.


“Yeah, some guys have Harleys, I have a tatala,” says Jacobson, laughing.


The tatala is 16 feet long and takes up the length of the garage.


“It is made up of 21 pieces of wood that have been very carefully custom carved to fit together. There’s pegs holding these pieces of wood together. You see the puzzle shaped nature of this. There’s no nails. There’s no glue.”


In this story, Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing tells us how Jacobson managed to acquire two tatalas and how in doing so, he created a connection to a community half way around the world.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.