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North Bend boat builder finishes 40-ft. schooner

NORTH BEND - "How many times do you see a 40-foot boat coming out of North Bend?" asked Andre Lavigueure as he watched the wooden schooner he just finished with his own two hands get loaded onto a truck last week.

The question was a rhetorical one, asked as he and his family members marveled as the largest boat Lavigueure had ever built was put onto a rig that was taking it to a dock in Seattle. Standing and smiling, Lavigueure, 69, reveled at his completed work, done entirely for himself, his family and his love of boat building.

"This was a fun boat," he said. "I didn't built it to get rid of it."

Lavigueure has been fascinated with boats ever since he got his first one as a child growing up in Michigan; he later learned to build them with the help of an older friend he had there. He moved to Bellingham as a youth and went to the University of Washington to study forestry. He got a job in the U.S. Forest Service and started building wooden boats in his spare time in the 1960s.

"I've always loved working with wood," he said.

He quit his job in the forest service and starting spending his summers as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and his winters working on boats. In 1965, he opened Eastside Boats in Duvall. He specialized in building McKenize drift boats, a classic, wooden fishing boat, and sold many fiberglass boats. Lavigueure sold so many that his children claim to see them on trailers every now and then when they drive around the Valley.

Most of Lavigueure's boats were for the average boater, but he did get some special requests. In 1972, Lavigueure was commissioned to build a row boat capable of making it all the way to Hawaii. Lavigueure repeatedly turned down the offer but eventually agreed to build the specialized boat and, sure enough, the man rowed it to Hawaii all by himself. That boat is now in a maritime museum in Oregon.

Lavigueure sold Eastside Boats in 1984, but he still worked with wood whenever he could. In 1998, he and his wife Linda opened up a wood craft store called Log Cabin Creations in North Bend, where they have lived since 1979. His daughter lives just down the road and he worked on many of his boats in a shed on her property.

It was there he saw his latest work get loaded onto the trailer that will take it to Fisherman's Terminal near Ballard. Lavigueure estimated that he's put 10,000 hours into the boat, which is the longest wooden boat he's ever built and has two masts for five sails. The inside is made of cedar and pine. Lavigueure even painted the boat himself.

This lastest boat is a testament to his skill, but it is also an homage to his family. It is called "Ky-Lo-Kir-Mar," and while the name seems to go with the Native American design he painted on the hull, it is named after four (Kylie, Lola, Kirsten and Mark) of his 23 grandchildren.

Even if he were still in the boat-building business full time, Lavigueure doubts he would build many wood boats. While there are some devoted wooden boat enthusiasts in the boating world (there is a wood enboat museum in Seattle), the boats are just too expensive and take too long to build compared to fiberglass models. He guessed the market value of the schooner he just finished to be between $250,000-$300,000.

But this boat was never about the money. This was a boat he was eager to get in the water so he could get his family into it. In Lavigueure's world it was perfectly plausible to see a 40-foot schooner coming down a North Bend road.

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