‘Love Boat’ sails from Rainy River

Jack Elliott

Although it goes by the official name of “Let’s Go Fishing,” perhaps the “Love Boat” is an appropriate name because it is a service to the community provided by volunteers who love their communities and the splendid waterways we are blessed with.
Retired banker Arvid Jarason organized the Baudette chapter of “Let’s Go Fishing.” A similar program a friend of his in Bemidji, MN was involved with inspired him. Today similar “Let’s Go Fishing” programs operate in several Minnesota communities.
Let’s Go Fishing—Lake of the Woods County Chapter, first launched their 28 ft, tri-hull pontoon boat four years ago and has been expanding their program over the last three years. Last year, they hosted about 30 group trips, and are running ahead of that schedule a bit, so far this year.
“We initially focused our efforts on providing opportunities for seniors, but are expanding that initial idea to include physically and mentally challenged groups and individuals and fishing opportunities for youths,” explained volunteer and Minnesota DNR biologist, Dennis “Topper” Topp.
“We are a totally volunteer organization, funded by donations from individuals and commercial sponsors,” he added.
Topp, as first mate, was on hand Friday with captain Arvid Jarason, and trainee Nate Hodgins, another DNR volunteer. Over the season, responsibilities rotate amongst 35 trained volunteer operators.
After clearing Canada Customs and Immigration at the bridge, the Love Boat arrived at the dock at Hannam Park to take on passengers
Embarking the Rainy River residents primarily from the Riverside Long Term Care section of the hospital was no mean feat as many guests had limited mobility, but the experienced crew with the assistance of Riverside staff and volunteers managed ably.
Although the skies were threatening, this very stable boat with its enclosed canopy weighed anchor and headed down river at 1:30 for a two-hour cruise. The only things missing were the band playing Anchors Away at the quay and the pop of champagne corks.
But the delighted smiles, “Thank yous,” and “Great time” comments of the returning guests and crew amply demonstrated the crew was truly sailing the “Love Boat.”