Nonprofit Bear Boating takes seniors, veterans out on the water

At the dock beneath the VFW Post 1782, a pontoon boat powered by volunteers carries a daily manifest of smiles.

"I just love it because we couldn't have a better day," said Linda Anderson, a resident at St. Andrews Village in Mahdomedi.

Anderson is here with several of her friends, all seniors, to take in the sites of White Bear Lake all from a boat operated by a unique nonprofit organization.

"Welcome to Bear Boating, glad you’re here today," said boat captain Gary Day as he welcomed Anderson and her friends.

Bear Boating has been operating on White Bear Lake since 2015.

"We're all volunteers, totally nonprofit," said the Bear Boating’s President Dave Ryan.  "We get our fundraising from the generosity of community supporters."

Ryan says the heart and soul of the organization is the 63 mates and 17 captains who give of their time to offer free boat rides to seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans.

"We do two types of trips," said Ryan.  "One is a boat trip. We go around the entire shoreline of the lake. 17 different captains. You get 17 different narratives as you go around the lake."

The other is a fish trip that typically lasts about an hour and a half. And sometimes, they actually get lucky.

"We've caught up to 150 fish. Nobody believes that. But I always say it might be the same eight or 10 fish, 10 times each," said Ryan.

The season for Bear Boating starts in June and runs through the end of August. Reservations and information is available on the company's website.

"Every now and then, you'll get somebody who shows up in the boat … they're little on the grumpy side," explained Ryan. "But I've never seen anybody get off the boat and still be grumpy. They absolutely love it out here."