The iconic Beachcombers Persephone recreated in miniature

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The iconic Persephone from the Beachcombers TV show is floating again – on a much smaller scale – thanks to an Ontario hobbyist and his radio controller know-how.

Although the Persephone has left its perch in Lower Gibsons for now, the boat made iconic by the CBC show the Beachcombers has now appeared in Ontario — in miniature scale, that is.

Pete Kurelek of Oakville, Ont., had time off when the COVID lockdowns came into effect. Kurelek is the creative mind behind Naturally RCa Youtube channel which features videos of its miniature off-road radio-controlled (RC) vehicles, composed with stunning outdoor backgrounds. And he always knew he wanted to build a (small) boat.

“It is no coincidence that I have built a model Persephonesaid Kurelek Coast Journalist. “[The Beachcombers], it was one of the shows we watched as a family growing up in Brantford, Ontario. My mom and dad were big CBC fans.

He remembers being blown away by the towering mountains as they appeared on the family’s black-and-white television, the show’s jaw-dropping backdrop.

“It just hit me like a clap of thunder that it had to be the Persephone.

“For the Beachcombers TV show, I can tell you all the characters and everything. But for me, the main characters were the boats,” Kurelek said. “I’m sure for a lot of other people too, Persephone was a main character on the show – she had her own personality. She was an integral part of it.

When Kurelek began his journey to recreate the Persephone on a small scale, he was sure he would find others who had done it before him. But an online search yielded no results. So he found photographs and stills of the original boat used in the show, the John Henry. (Persephone is a stage name, after all.) He found that the boat and on-board accessories change slightly from season to season from the Beachcombers, so eventually created her as he remembered her. The Persephone also got an upgrade and is equipped with radar, as if operating today. Kurelek added basic safety gear — a life jacket here, a fire extinguisher there — though they were rarely, if ever, seen on the show.

“I knew that in undertaking to build this, it was not going to be a museum model,” he said. “I was going to throw him in the water…He was going to be traveling in a backpack. And so it was going to have to be a bit rough and tumbling. The main thing was that it worked. So I didn’t spend much time doing small finicky details on it.

As he tried to limit exposure to COVID, Kurelek avoided making many trips to the store. Instead, he sourced materials from his junk closet. And so the Persephone took shape from scrap metal. A horn on the roof is a painted golf tee. The math VHF radio is a hanger. The smoke from the fireplace is incense (creating a pleasant aroma in its wake).

“Nick would probably do the same. If he needed something and he could find it in the junkyard, he would,” Kurelek said.

Nick Adonidas (played by Bruno Gerussi in the series) was one of the main human characters, and Kurelek also made a miniature out of packing foam.

“What good is the Persephone without Nick standing there on a box looking over the roof? Kurelek said, adding that he received many requests to add a Jesse figurine to the crew.

Kurelek said he studied sculpture and painting in art school, and so Nick was born again. The hair was the crowning glory: when Kurelek placed the black foam on the figure’s previously bald head, “I literally burst out laughing. Alone in my studio, I was breaking my guts because it was so perfect,” he said. “I can’t take credit for it. It’s the magic that sometimes happens by accident.

Then the Persephone was ready for her maiden voyage. One day, while diving in the water, Kurelek found a stick and shot part of the opening credits of the Beachcombers, with the model pulling a log to the musical theme. These days, when Kurelek takes him on the ponds and lakes of Ontario, passers-by recognize the boat and Nick, even though this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere and it won’t hasn’t been aired for years.

“The response has been phenomenal,” he said.

Yet the Persephone is not perfect. Kurelek said he had trouble making it watertight and the hull would fill up. Ironically, the real Persephone is under repair because it too has water damage. When this ship was moved from its roost at the Five Corners intersection in Gibsons last year, the water leaked out.

Since his boat and his videos have been circulating, Kurelek has heard from his loved ones the Beachcombers. Jackson Davies, who played Constable John Constable, commented. Kurelek said he was also contacted by someone close to the John Henry‘s owner, asking if he would make another model.

“Unfortunately, the answer was, I can’t. It’s one of a kind and it took me forever. I don’t think I could ever replicate it,” he said.

As for whether he will recreate a small version of Relic’s jetboat, Kurelek said, “My answer is: like, subscribe and stay tuned.”

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