Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers saw 800 hours of hard work pay off on the pristine Saturday, Sept. 4, morning at Lake Crescent.
Club members gave a handmade 15-foot cedar boat to Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit organization providing fly-fishing instruction and opportunities for wounded military personnel and veterans.
Chuck Tye, the northwest regional coordinator of Project Healing Waters, told a crowd of family and volunteers that the boat is truly priceless.
“It was probably a healing process for all of you,” Tye said.
“Whether you know it or not, you’re helping with the healing process.”
Tye was given the honor to be the first to take the boat on the water.
The consensus among the volunteers was that the boat rides as good as it looks.
“It really goes,” said Dean Childs, vice president of the club, when he took the second spin in the boat.
Paul Huston, a U.S. Army soldier who served three tours in Iraq, worked six hours on the boat and found it beautiful sitting on the trailer.
“But out on the water, it’s at a whole other level,” Huston said
“This has been a labor of love from all the people involved,” Tye said.
“Everyone’s been super generous.”
The boat was worked on for more than six months by 39 club volunteers, soldiers and wounded veterans working in donated space first near Joyce, then in a Sequim garage. Club member and master boat-builder Bill Kindler served as the guide for the workers.
Word-of-mouth spread fast and donations came in quickly including McClanahan Lumber giving the cedar; Ancient Auto Works, the clear coat; Greywolf Fly Fishing Club, the oars and boat cover; Stephany Andregg, labor for the cover; Stan Marquette, the boat’s trailer; and more.
Teams worked up to four shifts of several hours a week on the boat.
“Bill Kindler started a whole industry here,” Childs said.
“Two other boats are being built now by club members.”
The boat almost didn’t make the launch, no thanks to Mother Nature.
Childs took the boat to the National Fly Fishing Fair and Conclave in West Yellowstone, Mont., the weekend of Aug. 27-29.
Two hours before the event was over, a “microburst,” a localized meteorological event with strong winds, lifted the boat and trailer, slamming it onto the concrete.
“It was very dramatic,” Childs said.
The seats popped out, the hull was bruised in two spots and the bow slightly separated.
Club members feverishly repaired the boat the week of the launch, Childs said.
Tye intended to hold onto the boat for a few years to promote Project Healing Waters before selling it as a fundraiser but he plans to keep it now.
“We can’t sell it, because she’s one of us now,” Tye said.
“It’s a fitting thing that a wounded boat will help wounded veterans.”
Recovering soldiers at Fort Lewis Army Base will use the boat to go fishing.
Before it leaves the Olympic Peninsula, the boat will be featured at the 34th annual Wooden Boat Festival Sept. 10-12 in Port Townsend.
Childs said the possibility is open of making more boats for Project Healing Waters.
For now, the group is building more fly-tying tool kits for hospitalized wounded veterans and for soldiers in the Middle East. They plan to make 250 kits.
Cliff Schleusner, club president, said they just completed “Project Purple Heart,” which brought 51 people together to help wounded veterans learn fly casting and other fishing skills.
Other club events promoting fly fishing in 2011 include Kids Fest and Kids Derby in Port Angeles, an annual retreat at Pooh’s Pond, teaching a fishing class for Campfire USA and more.
Donations for current and future projects can be made by calling Dean Childs at 683-4272.
For more on Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers, visit www.opff.org and for Project Healing Waters visit www.projecthealingwaters.org.
View more photos in Wednesday's Sequim Gazette