Mark Coulthurst: Doing the Bellingham Scramble, Pt. 1

“What Happened in Craig” holds Investor skipper Mark Coulthurst at its core. As the story develops — of the fishing season; of Mark’s birthday celebration in Craig; of the 8 murders on board the Investor — there is a realization that none of it could have happened without this central personality. As previously noted, even as the murders were discovered, there were many unanswered questions.

Mark Coulthurst was at the pivot point for all of them.

  • Were the skipper and his family killed by someone on a rival boat?
  • Was this an inside job, perpetrated by an Investor crewman?
  • Was it a botched robbery?
  • A professional hit by a contract killer?
  • Something else?

Given this context, it is worth getting to know Mark Coulthurst better. Though only 27 years old at his death, there are, in fact, multiple places to start. His family shared many anecdotes and stories about his early life; many of those are in the book. His friends and fellow fishermen also provide important perspectives on the life and times of the young skipper; those too are considered in the book (although we will have much to add).

We are fortunate, however, to have a record of Mark Coulthurst at an inflection point. That is a June 1982 article in Pacific Fishing magazine. We are presenting excerpts from that article in the next few installments. It provides a critical insight into a crucial period of Mark Coulthurst’s too short life.

Mark Coulthurst: Doing the Bellingham Scramble, by Doug McNair.

“There are a lot of romantic stories about fishing. A lot of them involve 18-year-old kids with plywood skiffs who make it big. Mark Coulthurst started with a plywood skiff…

“But regardless of beginnings, there comes a point in a real professional fisherman’s career when the romance, the excitement, even the flat-out, stubborn hustle have to play second to planning and business sense.

“Coulthurst claims to know no real definite turning point in his fishing career. His wife and fishing partner Irene, though, knows exactly when it came. ‘It happened the first time I went gill-netting with him, when he had the first plywood skiff. The bow was so loaded down with net and fish that I had to sit on top of the outboard motor to keep steerage. Right then I said, ‘There’s got to be a better way! We’ve got to have a better plan!’

Mark & Irene Coulthurst (Pacific Fishing, June 1982)

“Evidently, she said it loudly enough for Mark to hear. In his relatively brief, nine-year fishing career, he’s made a habit of finding the better way and it’s brought the Coulthursts from that plywood skiff ad a house trailer that they shared with their gill nets, to the 58-foot Investor ad a highly respected place in the Northwest salmon and fishing fleet.

“At the ripe age of 27, Mark’s hardly a sage of the sea. But his experience and approach to fishing offer some valuable perspectives for the unique class of small businessmen who are commercial fishermen.”

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press.

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