Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Skiff: Reconnecting with the Water and the Community Steve was Raised in

On the water in Tutka Bay with friends and family.

Having grown up on the water, in and out of boats of all sizes his whole life, Steve has always made it clear that when we moved back to Homer we'd be getting a boat as soon as we could. While we'd like a cabin cruiser at some point, a skiff was much more realistic for us right now, in regards to price, maintenance and ease of transport. After working every spare minute last summer selling our house in Palmer, moving to Homer a little bit at a time, and starting on our building project, this summer we were more than ready to carve out a little down time.

In the early spring Steve started thinking about boats, looking at boats for sale, and talking about boats. He has always loved the traditional lapstrake skiffs he grew up seeing around Little Tutka Bay, built by close family friend and neighbor, Dave Seaman (interview with Dave about life on the bay, here) and thought it'd be nice to have one built eventually. As a young teenager, Steve commercial fished (set netting) out of one of Dave's skiff with another neighbor/friend, Robert Purpura. He had told me many times how much he loved the experience and the boat itself, and had recently brought the boat up again, wondering what had become of the boat in the time after Robert had passed in 2015.

Painting of Robert in the Bianca
By some stroke of fate or luck I happened to log into Facebook in the middle of the day (rare for me) and one of the first posts I saw was from Roberts wife, Renee, with a post in the local buy-sell-trade page listing the 19ft skiff for sale. I called Steve right away, but he was at work and couldn't answer, so I took a screen shot and texted it to him for when he was able to steal a look at his phone. Steve called Renee that evening, and it turned out to be a perfect solution for both us and Renee. She wasn't interested in selling the boat to someone she didn't know, or who didn't appreciate the qualities of the traditional skiff, yet she hadn't used it since Robert passed and there was too much attached to the boat emotionally for her to use it in the future. Seeing a young family take it over was just what she was hoping for, and having watched Steve grow up it meant a lot for her to see him take over the boat.

Once the boat rode the ferry over from Seldovia and made it into our possession on the Homer side, we set to work cleaning her up and doing some maintenance that had fallen to the wayside over the past two years. It took a few weeks of Steve working on it at night after work and on the weekends too when work allowed it before we were able to splash the boat, but it was a fun experience, and we felt an extra sense of responsibility to get the boat back to its original condition, just like it was in when Robert was at the helm.

Bringing the Bianca home: just after we picked the boat up from the ferry.
Spraying her down
Picking up the kids from Grandma Dotti's: their first time seeing the boat.
Stripped off the old to put a whole new layer of bottom paint on - we went with black instead of red.
Keeping Steve company while he worked.
And she's done! Lots of hard work and she looks great.
Back in the water where she belongs.
Since we've had it in the water, Steve has already caught a seasons worth of fish and we've explored as a family just like we envisioned. It's been fun to have people all over across the bay recognize the Bianca (the name the Purpuras gave it when they commissioned Dave to build it in 1997) and smile with both their memories of Robert and the joy of seeing the boat freshly painted and being used in the water again. We can't wait to make years worth of memories in the boat that has so much history for Steve and many in the Little Tutka/Jakalof/Seldovia communities.

Tutka and my dad in the bow with fish jumping in the background.
Bounty of fish.
Kids sleeping on their favorite cushion (me) in the bow.
Exploring the back lagoon with the kids.
Steve teaching the kids about driving the boat - Riggs was able to run the outboard all the way back into the
harbor from Halibut Cove, with Steve right there to guide him. Steve was just loving being back on the water
he grew up in, teaching his own son how to do the things his dad taught him at the same age. 

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