Although a previous owner had replaced much of the rotted wood, the boat still needed repair from stem to stern, had no engine, and despite the tarps, was collecting rainwater in its hull.

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PORT ORCHARD — The first time Bob Irving saw his Sea Queen — the model name for the 1928-vintage wooden boat he launched here Thursday — it hadn’t tasted the sea in nearly a decade, and it certainly didn’t look regal.

An ad had led him to the 30-foot cabin cruiser, which was covered in blue plastic in a backyard of a boat-repair shop on Vashon Island.

Although a previous owner had replaced much of the rotted wood, the boat still needed repair from stem to stern, had no engine, and despite the tarps, was collecting rainwater in its hull.

“It was essentially a derelict.” Irving recalls. “If you had put it in water, it would have gone straight to the bottom.”

Many people would flee such a sight. But if you know Irving, you know this: He doesn’t want toys. He wants projects.

“I knew it would take some work,” said Irving. “I was thinking a year, maybe two or three.”

Would you believe 18?

Indeed. It was 1993 when a 39-year-old Bob Irving, professional cabinetmaker and father of three kids under 13, paid $1,000 for this boat and another $700 to have it hauled to his home on Fox Island.

And it was a 57-year-old Irving, vice president of a telecommunications company and grandfather of two, who stood by Thursday as the same boat, recently valued by a marine surveyor at nearly $90,000, was lowered into the water at Sinclair Inlet it will now call home.

Surrounded by his family, Irving christened the boat’s bow with Champagne then stood aside as a travel lift slowly lowered it into the water at the Port Orchard Yacht Club, where it will be kept in covered moorage.

“Dah dum, dah dum,” he said, grabbing his jacket and emulating the beating of his heart. Then he climbed in and began peeking under floorboards. A slight leak let in some water behind the engine, but no more than Irving had anticipated, and as the dry wood swelled with water, the leak would stop.

Stepping out after a few minutes of investigation, he smiled and pointed at the bottle of Champagne.

“You can drink the rest of that now.”

Across the boat’s bobbing stern, dark green newly applied lettering declared the boat’s name, Miracle. Irving’s wife, Pat, said the name they chose has two meanings for the family. The first, that their son Gage, 19, miraculously survived serious injuries after being struck by a train last year.

And the second miracle? “That Bob actually got the boat finished,” Pat said.

Gage had earlier snapped pictures Thursday as Miracle was loaded on a yacht-transport truck and removed from the shed where it sat for 16 of its 18 years. He said he’s grown up with the boat.

“It’s a year younger than me. It’s like my little sister, but it gets more attention,” Gage said.

Bob Irving, an experienced mechanic as well as a woodworker, has been repairing the boat in the 16-foot tall, 40-foot long shed he built in his yard in Gig Harbor. For years, he has been staring at the boat but hasn’t been able to step back and see its entirety.

As it was hauled from the shed, Irving watched quietly.

“Wow,” he said. Then, smiling, “Oh, I don’t like it. Put it back.”

Pat Irving helped on the project, which continually reinforced her sense of what an artist and perfectionist she had married. Just about every time she sanded a surface until it seemed smooth to her, he’d suggest it needed a bit more sanding.

“I understand now that this is a work of art, and so for him, it has to be perfect,” she said.

Take those beams arcing across the cabin ceiling. They looked beautiful when Irving made them, by bending strips of fir and Angelique mahogany on a mold he made. But they look even classier now that he has added dark-brown mahogany molding and end caps along their edges.

Another detail: the Brazilian cherry floor has tiny round wood plugs over the screw heads — he made more than 1,000 in all. He installed the diesel engine, the propane range, the mahogany cabinets, the granite countertops. He said he might have gotten the boat done much sooner if he had worked at it steadily.

Instead, other things intervened — stuff like holding down a job, raising a family, assisting parents in their declining years, putting on weddings for the couple’s two daughters, married just months apart in 2006.

At one point, Irving took a few years off the boat job to remodel the house, which also dates to 1928.

After the remodeling, Pat said she told her husband “Go work on your boat,” and added, “That’s the last time I saw him.”

Over the past few years, Bob estimated he’s worked on the boat about 40 hours a week — two or three hours each day, and all weekend.

It’s impossible to estimate the cost of the repairs, Pat Irving said, but her husband has been very budget conscious. When he ran out of mahogany, Bob used reject pieces from a cabinet shop for finishing touches.

Irving’s Sea Queen is one of only six to eight made, all on Lake Union at Vic Franck’s Boat Co., which is still in business.

Dan Franck, boatyard owner, said his grandfather built the first Sea Queen for himself and then sold others — the exact number is unknown, because company records were destroyed in a 1938 fire.

At 30 feet, a Sea Queen is a bit smaller than many might want to take out on the open sea, but Dan Franck said his grandfather took his to Alaska at least once. A brochure indicates one model was offered for $3,600 — money that in the 1920s might have bought a decent house.

The stock-market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression largely dried up the company’s sales of pleasure craft, though it continued to make commercial and fishing vessels, and later, yachts.

Over the decades, lighter, cheaper fiberglass has replaced wood as the dominant material in pleasure boats. But the charm of working on a wooden boat is something Puget Sound artisans have appreciated for generations, said Dick Wagner, founder of the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.

“It’s the fact that they know that this boat was made by human hands,” Wagner said. “It wasn’t poured into a mold like making a cookie. The art and the craftsmanship are living with the boat.”

With the Irvings’ boat now in the water, they’ll likely take it to wooden-boat shows around Puget Sound. Bob said he plans to take it out for a spin next week, after the boat gets acclimated to the water, and slowly progress to longer trips.

But in a few years, he may put Miracle up for sale and move on to a bigger boat — and a new project.

“But not something that will take another 18 years,” he said.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or