Bruce Armstrong's Report from the Homer Show

Arriving Homer noon Friday, we proceeded as directed by Renn to the Kachemack Gear Shed, a marine hardware store beyond discription. Renn said anybody at the `Gear Shed could point us to his world headquarters on the Bay……sure enough, everyone knew Renn and his whereabouts….we pulled up in front of Renn's shop on a bright, sunny afternoon, dodged a couple skiffs in for repair and banged on the locked front door. "WHAT! Oh – just a minute" Once inside and past the hand shaking, we listened and watched as Renn showed Stan Lefton, a California refugee who'd recently finished his own Jumbo, his nearly complete Jumbo. While listening and watching, sometimes in Renn's new Jumbo, sometimes wandering around shooting his office, epoxy cart, tool bench, etc, I was taken by Renn's relentless enthusiasm and knowledge of boats, guns, shooting, the outdoors, folk dancing, etc ….no wishy-washy opinions here! We've all heard that Renn is slowing down, not building as many boats today…..well, if he's slowing down, I'd hate to try and keep up with him ten years ago…the way he darts around, jumping in and out of bo ats, all while encumbered with rubber boots and epoxy-stiffened Carharrts is quite a mazing. Before leaving for the Homer Spit and show set-up, Renn pulled out the Yukon Jack and passed it around….me, Diane, Stan: "part of the builder's initiation…drink up" This must be Alaska!

We stopped for lunch at a place above the Spit's small boat harbor and watched a beautiful Jumbo dock….little did we know it was Jim O'Meara pulling in after his first run…..we hooked up for the full tour and pictures before friends showed up and they were off fishing…..shame to spoil a nice new boat! I'd have joined them but for assuring Renn I'd be at the show site at 3 to help set up. By 5 we had an entire row of Jumbos and widebody's ready to display. Stan Lefton's grey Jumbo with a big cabin/side windows. Self-built in Homer exclusively for fishing, the insulated, heated cabin features doors front a nd back. Ron Blake's Jumbo built in Bellingham: Shameless Hooker…..the class of the field for finish and trim. W/B open skiff now owned by Doug Huvar. Doug's the 3rd owner of this early Renn-built widebody and has just finished a complete re-fit. Blue, yellow trim. Seen at the ramp/did not attend the show: 1991 20' Standard / white / blue bottom Renn-built, original owner Derek Stonorov uses it to fish and explore and carry film crews around the Bay. Ron Williams' just completed W/B in white with blue trim…..Ron's wife Lorraine did the detail work and paint and it's super-nice……some mahogany trim and a very nice cabin, this boat looks pro-built….. Gary Porter's W/B: Because this is the most traveled boat at the show and has had the most lovin'/rubbin', it was the most interesting….Gary and his wife have obviously spent lot's of time solving the little problems that come up cruising on a small boat – and it shows……very pretty and his cabin appears light and does not overpower the hull visually. I spent the most time looking at this boat. Renn's new skiff: This boat is going across the Bay June 10 come hell or high water! Renn moves forward like the tide and I have no doubts he'll launch and go on a trip I can only dream about, so sure is he of the boat and its preparation. Sure wish I hadn't asked what the shinny thing was in his insulated cabin. (Hint: heat er) Jim O'Meara's 93 day wonder: the 22' Jumbo. Renn had to have been thrilled to have the newly completed Jumbo at the show! Jim's boat was the talk of the Spit since Homeroids know how much work goes into building a cabin-skiff………gawking was the order of the weekend as folks walked around Jim's beautiful newly-splashed cream/green skiff. He got stroked all day and into the nite! Neal's just-about-done 22' Jumbo drew huge and enthusiastic crowds all weekend and Neal surely closed several fence-sitters…..when done, Neal's Jumbo will look like a fiberglass boat…..that's how good the hull looks! Maroon wide body skiff…….beautiful open boat……never could find the owner.

Several other Tolmans went directly by the show and on to the launch ramp or were moored in the harbor. Other Tolman owners didn't even bother bringing their skiffs to the show while two other Tolmans and Renn's green boat remained at Renn's shop .. that's how common they are in Homer. My varnish queen would look very strange in this line-up and I can see why Renn was taken aback when I sent him completion pictures back in '97. Doubt I'll be dragging Begone! to Alaska anytime soon.

Dinner after the Saturday show was an all'hands affair ….. no descriptions necessary ……fun….Diane and I poked around Homer Sunday morning, went to the new 18M National Parks wildlife museum/park HQ, drove up the the heights for the view and got out of town about noon, stopping at a small fishing village – Inilchik on Cook Inlet for lunch…. Someone towing a 3-axle boat/trailer got it all wrong coming into Soldotna -burned to a crisp… hour wait….decided to go to Seward as suggested by JimO instead of back to bland Anchorage. Good Call…..Seward and the boating environment are wonderful… time I want to see Whittier and Prince William Sound…..there may be a place for my skiff up there after all. Monday morning we visited Neal and Linda at Skiffkits…..fantastic machinery and op eration…….held the prototype of the Tolman model which I can now hardly wait to get my hand on….but am not standing by the mail box awaiting its arrival. Neal was about to start cutting for a sold kit and I have to think, from talking to the folks at the Homer show, that Neal has a big winner on his hands. The inquiries are coming in nationwide.

That's about it for the boating part of the trip…..anyone wanting big-file copies of any of my pictures are welcome to contact me directly…..there area about 250 on iPhoto ……..Bruce/Santa Barbara.

Click on the links for the contact sheets to get an over all look at images. Keep note of any specific image file names you'd like to see large and come back to the list below and click on that link to see a larger version. When I get more energy I'll link the thumbnail images on the contact sheets so you can directly click on the images.
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