For the longest time one of the most popular questions we would get upon somebody walking in the front door of the historic lodge was, “What’s the story behind that big boat on the porch?” Considering it took up a good portion of the already massive porch and it was right next to the front door it was not a surprising question. It has sat on the porch for almost 30 years in the same place and has greeted every person who has walked in the door since then. The boat was purchased by Margy Nelson and her at the time partner Jim Holzman from the Earl Nelms the game warden for $200 in the early 1990’s. It was the last boat in a fleet of fishing boats that were used on North and South Fowl Lakes in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Fowls are about 20 miles east of Clearwater Lake up at the end of the Arrowhead Trail and are known for their excellent walleye fishing.
Over the course of the last few years of having to move it multiple times to refinish the exterior of the lodge and floor boards on the porch it has been a little more exposed to the elements and is a little worse for the wear. For this reason, along with a need for more room on our ever expanding seating on the porch we decided something had to be done with the old boat, but the last thing we wanted to do was just leave it out in the rain and snow to slowly rot away. For the majority of the last year it has been stored behind our shop under tarps as protected from the elements as we could get it. During that time, it was amazing to us how many people would walk in the door and immediately ask about its whereabouts. None of questions were of the nonchalant, “oh by the way” variety either, people were generally concerned with what we had done with the boat. We had to explain it was in storage because of its condition and our need for the space, and this explanation was typically not met with a great response. During the process of weighing our options as to whether we should keep disappointing people with it’s absence or put it back on the porch a third option emerged.
As if we we’re not already aware the whole process really highlighted how serious people take the history here at Clearwater and how delicate the balance between how we got here and where we are going is. The decision to preserve the old boat was essentially made by the hundreds of guests who missed its presence. After consulting Margy, who when she sold the lodge to Bob and Marti Marchino in 1995 maintained ownership of the boat under the assumption it would remain on the porch indefinitely we decided it would be best to have the Chik-Wauk Museum at the end of the Gunflint Trail continue to preserve and display the boat. Margy Nelson and Jim Holzman donated the boat to Chik-Wauk last fall where it will be included in a future boat pavilion the museum plans to add to its list of exhibits. Though the boat was donated in the fall of 2016 we did not actually deliver it until today, June 3, 2017. When we had the boat in storage and people would come in longingly questioning us about its demise I never understood what the big deal was and why anybody cared about that old thing. As I watched the old boat pull away from the lodge on top of a flat bed trailer towards its new home a new feeling hit me and all of a sudden, I understood.