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Built More Than 75 Years Ago in Lutsen, this Boat has a New Life

A beautiful cedar strip boat came around the break wall on a clear and warm Autumn morning at the DNR boat landing in Grand Marais. It reminded me of the old boats my grandfather had on the lake at the farm.

When she got to the dock, I met her skipper, a Lutsen resident named Gregg Strathy. He told me the fascinating history of the boat.

Built in 1951, the boat was carefully restored a few years ago.

A bronze plaque on the boat reads “A North Shore Boat.” North Shore Boat Works built it in Lutsen at a yard near Solbakken Resort. The Boat Works, long gone now, built custom cedar strip boats and canoes for sports fishermen in the area.

This boat uses the same design as those fishing boats, but this one was built to order for a local man. It has a steering wheel at the bow instead of being a traditional tiller-steered craft for commercial fishing.

The original owner was Millard Holmberg. Holmberg had a place on the shore, and he used a crane to move the boat from land to water when he was going on Lake Superior. He’d store it on his lawn when he wasn’t on the water. The crane used a three-point with iron rings attached to the boat to lift it, one on the bow and two at the stern. The rings were retained on the boat when it was restored.

Carl Sandstrom was the craftsman who built this boat in 1951.

“I had the original journals of the builder and gave them to the (Cook County Historical) Society to copy and return to his daughter,” Gregg said.

When Holmberg passed away, the boat was given to Irving Hansen, Gregg’s father-in-law, who kept it on Caribou Lake in Lutsen. When Irving passed away, the boat went into storage. Gregg took possession of the boat and stripped it down for restoration.

He had the hull restored at J. W. Swan & Sons near Washburn, WI, on the south shore of Lake Superior. With 20 years of experience, Josh Swan is an accomplished and well-known boat builder and restoration specialist. His expertise is evident when you see Gregg’s boat.

A friend of Gregg’s crafted and finished new seats to match the originals. Gregg himself finished the dashboard at the bow.

He rigged the boat for Lake Trout and Salmon fishing with a pair of downriggers and two side planers. A Lowrance fish finder brings it into the 21st Century.

Lake Superior is a water body not to be trifled with, so Gregg is cautious about taking the boat out there. “ I only take the boat out on calm days, but it has proven to be an excellent boat for ‘the mission’,” he said.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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