About the boat

For more information about using the Bend Band of Brothers’ fishing boat, contact East Lake Resort at 541-536-2230 or email at eastlakeresort@gmail.com .

LA PINE — A 21-foot, aluminum fishing boat docked at the East Lake Resort is ready for any veteran to take out on the water.

The Bend chapter of the veterans group Oregon Band of Brothers raised about $15,000 in material and cash donations over the past few months to build the boat from scratch. The boat, which can seat nine people and has room for one wheelchair, is free for veterans. It also will be available for first responders to use personally or in an emergency.

“All you have to do is call up the resort,” said Mike Cleavenger, a member of the Bend chapter of Oregon Band of Brothers and chairman of the boat project.

The inaugural fishing trips happened over Memorial Day weekend.

Cleavenger said it was fitting, although no one planned to kick off the boat trips on the holiday weekend, when veterans who died while serving in the armed forces are remembered.

It started over the weekend because that is when the resort opens for the season, he said.

“It was a nice coincidence,” Cleavenger said. “We just plan to let people go fishing.”

The local Band of Brothers chapter sees the boat as a nice gesture for fellow veterans, but also an accessible way for elderly veterans to enjoy the outdoors.

One local veteran will have an especially meaningful boat trip this summer because he has a terminal illness, Cleavenger said.

“This veteran has been fishing on this lake for 50 years,” he said. “It’s on his bucket list. He wants to go fishing one more time.”

For other veterans, the boat will offer memorable outings with family and friends.

Richard Harley, an Oregon Band of Brothers member in Bend and Navy veteran who served from 1951 to 1955, said he plans to invite his grandson, who runs a fly fishing club.

Harley said the general public can rent the boat at the resort and a portion of the rental fees will go toward the Bend veterans group. For each trip, everything is supplied, including life jackets and fishing poles, he added.

Being out on the lake with fellow veterans is a similar feeling to the veteran group’s casual meetings throughout the year, Harley said.

“There’s a feeling there,” Harley said. “Unless you are a veteran, it would be hard to explain.”

Ray Hartzell, secretary for the Bend chapter and an Air Force veteran who served from 1965 to 1969, is looking forward to taking his daughter on the boat when she visits from Virginia this summer.

Hartzell is putting in his request now since spots on the boat are going to fill up fast, he said.

“There are only so many days in the summer to fish,” he said.

Bend chapter members of Oregon Band of Brothers put more than 600 hours into the boat effort, either by working on it themselves or by soliciting funds and services. The boat was built entirely with donated material. For example, the decking inside was the former altar from Holy Communion Church in Bend, said Cleavenger, who belongs to the church.

It also was built specifically for a smaller lake, such as East Lake, with a speed limit of 10 mph. The boat comfortably cruises along the water at 8 to 9 mph without rocking, and is dog- and child-friendly, Cleavenger said.

“This is going to be a fly fisher’s dream,” he said.

The boat will stay at East Lake Resort and will be tied this summer to a wheelchair-accessible dock.

“It’s going to be right here,” Cleavenger said. “Just being enjoyed.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com