Lake Pend Oreille’s Only Tour Boat: The Shawnodese

by Kathleen Mulroy \ Photo ©Linda Mitchell

One fateful day in 1992, Curtis Pearson spotted a dry-docked, 43-foot hull for sale. After some thought, he decided to buy it, strip it down, create his own blueprints, and build the boat of his dreams. Curtis and his wife, Linda Mitchell, who owned a vacation rental business, envisioned using it as a “floating cabin,” and renting it out for private charters.

There was one small hitch: Curtis had never built a boat before. Refusing to let that stop him, he hauled the battered hull to a hillside property which he and Linda owned. There he stripped the hull down to its bare bones: essentially, a large aluminum rowboat. Needing advice about how to create his blueprints, Curtis turned to an acquaintance who was a marine engineer in Seattle. With the additional assistance of a C.A.D. computer program, the future captain developed plans for a two-deck boat with a sleeping cabin and kitchen on the bottom and a covered, 15-passenger deck on top. There would also be space for chairs on the bow and the stern, for a total of 36 passenger seats, plus three crew members.

There were many decisions to make over the next two-and-a-half years of construction, including what type of wood to use for the cabin and wheelhouse. Curtis built the bulwarks of aluminum, and the wood he chose was mahogany, which he bought from a Spokane, Washington mill. Linda made most of the cabin-decorating choices. In keeping with the boat’s old-fashioned appearance, she picked dark wood accents, a booth-style table, a small wood-burning stove, and comfortable red velour seats.  There’s also a tiny galley and, of course, a head. When it came to naming the unique craft, the couple chose Shawnodese. It means “Spirit Keeper of the South,” honoring the Inland Northwest’s Native American people.

Not long after launching the boat in 1995, Curtis and Linda began offering a variety of public tours out of Sandpoint, Idaho, on scenic Lake Pend Oreille. Today, Lake Pend Oreille Cruises is the best way to enjoy some of the most spectacular vistas in northern Idaho, while learning fascinating facts about the lake and the surrounding areas. For more information on cruises, including launch locations, tour times and costs, go to lakependoreillecruises.com.