A STAR is reborn

Fishing boat’s long journey back to original condition, family

Photos courtesy of Paul VonGoertz From left, Erik Kivela, Paul VonGoertz and Mark Kivela with STAR

When Paul von Goertz first heard that a boat built by the historic Kivela Boatworks Company was being used as a lawn ornament, he knew he had to do something.

The “STAR” was built by Jacob Kivela in 1934, for fisherman Sivert Andewson. It was built with the intention of being used to fish the waters of Isle Royale, and so required some special design.

“My guess is that Sivert and Jacob Kivela collaborated on the design for the special needs of fishing the exposed waters of Isle Royale,” von Goertz explained. “It was built as a double ender to break following seas, with the beam of the boat forward of amidships so the bow would pop up in a following sea. One does not want to get buried in a following sea as the next wave would push the boat sideways into the trough and from there into a capsize. Pretty smart boat designers!”

“Following seas” is a nautical term used to describe waves that are flowing parallel to the direction of a vessel. 

Andewson fished Isle Royale for many years, until disaster struck. Sea lamprey decimated the lake trout population in the mid-’50s, leading Andewson to pull his boat from the water. He was eventually convinced that the lake trout population would never bounce back. As a result, he passed the boat to his nephews in Knife River to use for herring fishing. The brothers retrieved the boat and towed it to Knife River using a 16-foot outboard boat. One of them had to continuously pump the boat for 50 miles to keep it from sinking. 

Once the STAR reached Knife River, it was used by five different fishing families until the early 1970s. It was then bought and turned into a lawn ornament. The boat began to decay, with one side almost completely rotting away.

Luckily, it was rescued in 2013 by five Knife River men. It was totally restored from 2013 to 2018, and was also given a new engine. The restorations cost over $6,000, and took about 3,000 hours over five years to complete.

The STAR was relaunched in September 2018, with 50 members from the Knife River community in attendance. Three wives of commercial fishermen christened the boat, and a pastor gave a prayer honoring Knife River’s founding fishing families. Von Goertz called it, “Quite a ceremony!”

“I was one of five men who rescued and rebuilt STAR and became its owner. I decided to sell STAR last fall as I have cancer, which is treatable, and no longer have the energy to care for STAR,” von Goertz explained. “I had Mark Kivela’s email from when I was invited by the Keweenaw Historical Society a few years ago to speak on STAR’s rich history and rebuild. I asked Mark if the Kivelas had an interest in buying STAR, and a day later, Erik emailed to say he would buy STAR.” 

The rest is history. Last Saturday, the STAR was officially back in the hands of her original family, the Kivelas. She will also be featured in Lake Linden’s upcoming Fourth of July Parade.


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