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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

July 2, 2010 at 7:05 PM

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The scoop on Lake Union's Sunday Ice Cream Cruise (Part 2)

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

larrycaptain063010m.jpg

Sketched on June 30, 10:45 a.m. [Click sketch to view larger]

[Continued from this post.]

I met Captain Larry Kezner at the end of dock 9 in Fishermen's Terminal, where he's been docking the Fremont Avenue in recent years. Kezner sported a full mane of silver hair that gave him the look of a celebrity -- he reminded me of the characters on the Love Boat TV show (it was called "Vacaciones en el Mar" in Spain.) The looks added to a charming personality, full of interesting stories about Seattle.

Kezner recalled the summer of 1950, when his mother took him on the Leschi, one of the last passenger ferries to operate on Lake Washington. Kezner, who was 5 at the time, remembered the feeling of being on a "big thing moving on the lake." That excursion to have ice cream cones in Kirkland is one of his first childhood memories. He also remembered other day trips to Bremerton and back to Seattle on the Kalakala. "We would have ice cream and treats," he said. The ferry service between his neighborhood of Madison Park and Kirkland ended that summer. "They didn't consult with me about that!" joked Kezner, now 65. The Kalakala was in operation until 1967.

In the late 90s, Kezner was ready for a change from 17 years behind a desk working as a service manager at a scientific equipment company. "Kezner, isn't there something you much rather be doing?" he recalled his boss saying. Inspired by his early memories of ice cream and ferries, he decided to start his own "Sunday Ice Cream Cruise."

He saw an ad for a boat he liked in Cleveland and went there to get it. The 42-passenger ferry used to take people along the Cuyahoga river. He had to cut it in pieces to transport it to Seattle and it took him more than four months to put it back together. In 1999, a couple of years after getting his captain's license, Kezner started operating his tour boat out of Fremont, where the Fremont Chamber of Commerce was delighted to hear he was naming it the "Fremont Avenue."

The boat is decorated with several Fremont icons, a sun representing the solstice outside the pilot house and a cool depiction of the Fremont Troll inside the cabin, where board games are hand-painted on tables that line the windows. If you happen to use the bathroom, be prepared to be surprised by a striking mural of Wonder Woman. It all contributes to the party atmosphere.

After 10 years in service, Kezner calculates he has travelled more than 10,000 miles around Lake Union, showing more than 35,000 people the city "from the inside out ... the kind of view you can't get from a dock." Only counting his Sunday scheduled tours, he has taken more than 2,600 trips around the lake and served more than 4,000 chocolate root-beer floats -- he also prepares dreamsicles and sells other wrapped ice-cream like sandwich bars and cones.

When I took one of the 45-minute tours he does on Sundays, my kids danced to the music on the deck and I learned a great deal about Seattle history listening to Kezner's explanations. The "real shocker," as he calls it, is that back in the 1880s the city seriously considered taking part of Queen Anne Hill and filling up Lake Union to create more space. "They had the streets drawn," he said.

Thanks to Captain Larry and his Sunday Ice Cream Cruise, we now have a special memory of summer in Seattle.

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