Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:59 PM on Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boat of the week: F/V Sea River

Old boats don't die, they justwell, in the case of the F/V Sea River, sitting high and dry beside Ninilchik River, they just turn into seafarers' memorials. On Friday, the 28-foot gillnetter was fitted with a sign declaring it the "Bob Chenier Fishermen's Memorial — A Tribute to Our Fishing Community and Our Children Who Play Here."


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Jack Blackwell, left; Mike Schuster; Liz Kruzick; and Tim Evers celebrate the transformation of the Sea River from abandoned fishing vessel to fishermen's memorial.

On hand were Jack Blackwell, district park ranger; Mike Schuster of the parks' citizen advisory board and owner of Meander In Bed and Breakfast; Liz Kruzick, a long-time friend of the late Bob Chenier and his wife, Ida; and Capt. Tim Evers of Fishward Bound Adventures and the Deep Creek Charterboat Association.

"We are really pleased that the Deep Creek Charterboat Association and the parks advisory board were willing to help make (the boat) safer for folks," Blackwell said.

For years, the Sea River sat at the corner of the road leading to Ninil- chik's beach and harbor. Harsh weather has chipped its blue paint. Hull planks and trim became fuel for campfires. Special pieces were claimed as collectors' treasures.

In 1999, the Alaska State Parks, on whose land the vessel sits, contacted Tim and Jodi Evers of Ninil- chik and asked if they'd like the boat, provided they moved it.

"Once we started talking about it, we knew it would be awfully hard to move," said Jodi Evers, owners of Deep Creek Sport Shop. "Then the thought came to donate it to the Deep Creek Charterboat Association."

What to do with the boat remained a puzzle until a group of Ninilchik residents came up with a plan.

"When long-time resident Bob Chenier passed away last year while walking on this very beach with his wife, Ida, as they always did, I was inspired with the idea to save 'Sea River' as a Park landmark and childrens' play platform by making it a memorial to Bob and all the fishermen of Ninilchik," said Schuster.

A memorial using a commercial fishing boat and naming it in honor of Chenier, an avid sport fisherman, seemed the perfect pairing.

"We're a community of fisherman," Schuster said. "Commercial and sport. That's who we are."


Photo courtesy of Mike Schuster

Josh Adams of the Deep Creek Charterboat Association works on the Sea River.

Last year, Tim Evers got a call from Bill Sullivan of Kenai.

"He called about something else and started talking about the Sea River and I told him that's the boat we were turning into a memorial," said Tim, surprised to discover Sullivan once owned the boat.

Sullivan bought the boat in the 1960s from the person who had built it. He fished it out of Ninilchik for 10-15 years. Who owned it after Sullivan is unknown, as is how or when the boat was abandoned on the river bank.

Whether Chenier's French heritage or his military service in France during World War II were to blame, he is known for sharing his love of fishing with visitors from France. He was noted as one of a handful of guides in the early 1980s in an article written for the Peninsula Clarion, April 20, 2008, by Captain Mike Chihuly of Chihuly's Charters. Following Chenier's death Sept. 4, 2008, his family recalled that he "frequently guided French tourists in his signature red Lund boat that he launched in the surf himself."

With funds provided by Deep Creek Charterboat Association, Schuster, DCCA board member Josh Adams and his family, and others have volunteered time to make the boat safer and more attractive.

Although work remains to be done, it is the hope of all those involved that officially designating the boat a memorial will encourage others to help complete the Sea River's transformation, honoring Ninilchik's ties to fishing, be it commercial or sport, and paying tribute to a former resident who shared the community's relationship with the inlet.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky.@homernews.com.