Posts Tagged ‘classic wood boat’

Gar Wood, Chris-Craft, and “Nap”

Miss Detroit II

Miss Detroit II

Joseph Napoleon Lisee was the hull designer behind Chris-Craft and Gar Wood race winning days. He was nicknamed “Nap”. He was a master builder, designer, pattern-maker, wood turner, and had a reputation as a  real perfectionist.

He was born in 1891, died in 1946. He started working for Chris Smith in 1905. He designed Smith’s 1916 successful Gold Cup raceboat, Miss Detroit. That racer was “a broken, battered hulk after the race, fit only for junk”. After the race, Smith lost a poker game and only had pennies in his pockets.

Gar Wood brought Miss Detroit from Chris Smith for $1,000 cash and a note for $800. Soon after Gar Wood also bought a controlling interest in the C. C. Smith Boat & Engine Company, what we now call, Chris-Craft. “Nap” as well as Chris’ sons; Jay, and Bernard came with the percentage ownership interest in the company.

“Nap” designed another racer (Miss Detroit II) to use the 250 HP engine from the hunk of the original Miss Detroit boat. That was also a successful single-step Hydroplane. She was 20 feet long.  Miss Detroit II set a speed record of 61.724 MPH. Jay W. Smith was aboard as the riding mechanic when the record was set. All of the Miss America hulls were a “Nap” design, including Miss America X, which set a record of over 124.42 MPH.

Gar Wood had “Nap” design the hull of the famous “Baby Gar’s”. They were a 33 foot long and had triple cockpit layout, brought to market in 1922. They were the cream of the crop of luxury runabouts.  A second, Baby Gar, at 28 feet in length was introduced in 1927. In 1930, a 22’ speedboat came along. By 1931 an 18 and 25’ models were added. By 1934 a 16’ sports racer was offered, primarily in the Clayton and Alexandria Bay area. A 40’ commuter was also offered.

Open cockpit or a Utility cockpit design came in 1936 in two lengths 18’ and 20’. By 1937 a 24’ model was available.  Later 19’, 22.5’, 24’ , 25’, 32’ models were added.

Chris Smith exited his ownership relationship with Gar Wood in 1922. He built a new factory and Gar Wood got the old C. C. Smith & Engine

company location. Smith’s sons (Jay, Bernard, and Owen) stayed with him.” Nap” stayed with Gar Wood. Chris Smith, born in 1861, died in 1939.

By 1930 the demand for Gar Wood boats outstripped the old plant. A new plant in Marysville MI was built from scratch. They could build 1,200 boats per year here. Demand for Gar Wood peaked just before World War II.

Gar Wood born in 1880 and died in 1971. He retired from racing in the fall of 1932, and retired from his business interests in 1940. He bought Fisher Island in Miami, FL in 1946 for his retirement home. He invented and tinkered until near his death.

After War II, the people that ran Gar Wood boats had noted industrial stylist, Norman Bel Geddes, restyle decks of the hulls of “Nap” to update them. Gar Wood boats closed in 1947.

Miss America X

Miss America X

Gar Wood Baby Gar

Gar Wood Baby Gar

Gar Wood Baby Gar engine

Gar Wood Baby Gar engine

1946 22.5 Gar Wood

1946 22.5 Gar Wood

1946 Utility Gar Wood

1946 Utility Gar Wood

bow photo 22.5 Gar Wood

bow photo 22.5 Gar Wood

 

 

Christmas on the waterfront.

Christmas on the waterfront. Being in a lighted Boat Parade is the way to go. Or enjoying a good meal at a harbor-front restaurant while decorated boats idle by is another way.

About thirty working watercraft, pleasure craft, crab, sport fishing, skiffs, speedboats, oyster, and charter boats paraded in the town harbor off the Wye River. The St. Michaels, Maryland Lighted Boat Parade was a first-year success. All the boats, their crew, and restaurant goers had a merry time and were in the Xmas spirit.

St. Michaels is a resort town of about 1,026 people. They have all sorts of tourist themed special events throughout the year, including during the celebration of the Christmas holiday. The lighted boat parade was one of the special events for 2020.

From a multi-decked charter boat to a well decorated sailboat the minds of show goers and show watchers were entertained. The lights were different colors and seemed to attract the eye to the harbor in town. All the various interpretations of Christmas Lighting on watercraft were on display.

Starting at 6 PM, the last boat went around the harbor by 8 PM on Saturday, December 12. It had been a sunny, warm day with light winds. By 5:30, the air had turned colder and the wind demanded warm coats and a scarf.

Dennis Glackin of St. Michaels, MD, USA organized the event. He did a yeoman job with these diverse boaters. He has held several positions within the town.

Amateur and professional boatbuilders had their work on display. There is a rich maritime heritage within the Chesapeake Bay in the town. It includes a significate story of boatbuilding now and in the past at St. Michaels. Wooden classics are valued.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, with it’s 17 acre campus is a delightful trip when visiting town. They have a working boatyard. The lighthouse there is decorated for the season and shines brightly at night. Other seasonal touches are sprinkled throughout the grounds.

It was a cheery evening and very holiday inspiring.

First Niche Chris Craft

Words © Chris (seabuddy) Brown and photos CBMM
Chris Craft Corporation said this quote “Chris-Craft has the name, the prestige, the public acceptance. It has consistently advanced from the beginning and maintained the continued success for its merchants. Chris –Craft has been the leader, is the leader, and will continue to lead” in the early 1930s..
By 1936-1937 Chris Craft introduced what Seabuddy labels’ the first niche Chris Craft Runabout; the 19’ Special Race Boat. It had a cut down (lower) hull profile with less freeboard fore and aft. Plus, Chris-Craft boats used thinner dimension framing as well as thinner planking in the bottom for this 19’ Special Race Boat model. These changes made a big difference compared to their other 19’ by 6’2” sized runabouts that were made by Chris Craft boats for the masses. For instance, while there are different engine choices, it is perhaps fair to say that one of these boats were 20% faster.
Funny thing… Chris Craft made 51 of these boats, the same number of 19’ Chris Craft Cobras it made in 1955. So, this first niche Chris Craft Runabout is about a rare a boat as there is in the Chris Craft line-up ,just like a 19’ Cobra is! Note, they made some 760 plus units of this 19’ 0” by 6’ 2” hull in their standard models.
The Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the ACBS clubs St. Micheals Classic Boat Show had both of these rare boats, fully restored in its annual June event. They were displayed on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum grounds over three days in 2015. It was a signature show! Seabuddy hopes that you made it to the show or plan on putting this show on your calendar in the future years.
Now, there is a new construction wood boat available for a custom new build with a period correct engine for the made-to-order newly built hull or a buyer can direct that a modern V-8 Seabuddy has seen this boat, it is a real head tuner. Please see… http://www.vintagewatercraft.com/classic_boat_construction.htm and scroll down on the left to the “1937 Special Runabout (19’)”.
It was only in 1930, that Chris – Craft Corporation was the boat building company’s new name that Christopher Columbus Smith started business back in about 1874. The name had changed many times to allow for various partners in the years between these dates. It (the name) was the family’s idea and a way to sell 1/3 of the company to Wall Street. That partial stock sale never happened. The family ran the company and kept it private until they sold the entire corporation in early 1960.

Cobra Chris Craft and Shelby Cobra 427 together at Classic Boat Show

Words © Chris Seabuddy Brown, photo by CBMM
A Chris Craft Cobra set to towed by a Carroll Shelby Cobra 427 at a Classic Boat Show. It was the winner of the Best of Show-Land Display at the Classic Boat Show. Only at a classic show would such icons of land and water, or keels and wheels, if you prefer would seabuddy see such a thing on a Saturday afternoon.
Boaters know the Cobra’s as the most collectible models of mid-fifties. Restored Cobra boats are the envy of most fans of the classic Chris Craft line-up. They were made in only one year and only in very limited quantities. These two models are rare Chris Crafts. They were style leader models, made to attract buyers to dealer boat showrooms and major boat shows of the Chris Craft models. These other roughly 150 boat models were each priced at a profit. Chris Craft was still privately owned by the descendants of Chris Smith (who had died in 1939 two weeks after being found in the Chris Craft boiler room bleeding from his nose) and many family members still worked in the business.
Chris Craft Cobras used gold finished fiberglass to fashion a big fin behind the seat that dominates the styling of both sizes of these boats. This was an early attempt by the world leader in wooden boat construction to use the new boat-building material. The fiberglass was made in one plant and the otherwise planked mahogany wood boat was made in another. Several fiberglass parts did not match up with their boat hulls when mated on the final production line, the trial and error of fitment was one of the first learning lessons.
The boats used some car parts like the steering columns and their steering wheels are said to be1949 Chrysler parts. Cars and their brand-leading styling like the Mercedes Gullwing, GM Corvette, and early Ford Thunderbirds with limited seating and more style than function are often mentioned with the Chris Craft Cobras. These models are runabouts. Get in, sit-down, and enjoy. One does not walk around in a runabout.
Now, for the other snake in this write-up.
The 289 Shelby Cobra had used the British AC Ace car that came to market in around 1953 which began with a 100 HP engine ant then later with up to 120 HP six cylinder engine. The first small block Shelby’s used Ford’s then new 260 cu. In. V-8 engines for 75 Cobras and then 289 cu. in. engines (about 525 cars). There were several changes in these cars over the production run including rack and pinion steering, inboard and outboard mounted disc brakes, wheel hubs, and various details like radiators.
The Shelby Cobra 427 was the big block Cobra that Carroll Shelby created. That car had a new chassis and coil springs (instead of the transverse leaf springs of the Ace and the Ford small block cars). That new frame and suspension were developed with Ford’s cooperation, (Klaus Arning and Bob Negstad at Ford and this suspension is similar to the Ford GT-40s) and it is best identified by the wide fenders and an even bigger radiator opening. The engine was both a 427 and a 428 Ford engines. The 427 was the more desirable “side-oiler” engine.
Both Cobras are show stoppers!

chris craft cobra shelby 427 cobra

rare Chris Craft Cobra ready to be towed by Shelby 427 Cobra

Classic Boat Show Award Winner # 4

Words © Chris (Seabuddy) Brown, Photos by CBMM

Trooper II is both the current and original name for the winner of the Competitors Choice Award – Cruiser. She is a 39’ custom yacht from the Consolidated Shipbuilding yard in NYC. Trooper II was custom built in 1935.
The Consolidated company was a multifaceted boat and yacht builder from around 1896 to as late as 1958. The company still continues as a yacht repair center in City Island, is seabuddy’s understanding..
Consolidated Shipbuilding has been a builder of custom yachts and commercial ships. In the 1890s they built steam-powered yachts and naphtha-powered launches as well as tugs, cutters, schooners, cat boats, torpedo boats, and yacht tenders. Following various mergers, the company operated under the cumbersome name of Charles L. Seabury Co. and Gas Engine & Power Co., Consolidated, but dropped all the old names and became just plain Consolidated Shipbuilding after World War I. Then after WWII, Consolidated bought the Robert Jacob shipyard on City Island in NYC and closed its Morris Heights yard.
In the 1930s, when Trooper II was made, boats and yachts from about 33’ to 154’ were custom made at the yard. Most of the yachts were one-off designs as well as lengths but some of the government boats were made in series. Remember, there was a depression throughout the world during the late 1920s and the 1930s. Chris Craft boats was still losing money in 1935.
Trouper II is a traditional wooden boat. This yacht is a sedan style, not a sport fisherman nor a traditional, raised deck cruiser. She was built plank on frame with a bright finished cabin/deckhouse. She is a comfortable cabin cruiser that is enjoyed by her long-time owners.
Note her substantial anchors and the forward bitt to secure them to while using this ground tackle. She likes to anchor out, up and down the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and the broad selection of the other mid-Atlantic cruising grounds. Also note her custom yacht opening forward windows that allows for a comfortable breeze in the deckhouse/main living area in the afternoon and early evening while swinging on the hook. Please remember, you are looking at a 1935 yacht!

tropper II CBMM image

1935 Consolidated yacht 39' custom wooden boat

wooden boat custom 39 plank on frame

Dressed for a Classic Boat Show

New twin engined wooden Runabout

34 twin engine speedboat runabout

new wooden boat

see inside wood boat
deck members in place
swim step built in wood boat
wood boat swim platform construction detail
twin engine speed boat
at speed on the lake
new construction wood boat hatch
this engine hatch knocks my socks off

 

She is a new wooden inboard speedboat. Hand crafted by one of the few boat yards that still do this “creation work” as compared to “restoration work”. Although the shop does both types of work. http://cdacustomwoodboats.com/process/ 

 

She was created under the personal direction of Jim Brown the wood shop manager and who is a master craftsman He has been building wood boats full time since 1991. He provides expertise in every phase of wood boat construction, from the creation and design of a project through the lofting, building, rigging and finish steps of the process. He has a team of wood craftsmen at The Resort Boat Shop to create the award-winning Coeur Custom line of boats and offer restoration for antique and classic boats. His e-mail address is jbrown@hagadonemarine.com

Seabuddy loves the engine hatch on this luxury speedster on the water. Twin 400 Horsepower rated engines are under there. It is a very unique way to access the powerplants. Jim also builds single engine boats and in different lengths. He has even crafted a sailboat or two.

Here is the boat builder’s comment on this 34’ inboard runabout “Pure is an example of the “pure” definition of Gentleman’s Runabout. She is hand-crafted from imported African mahogany and Western red cedar; cold molded using vacuum bag technology to produce excellent weight to strength ratios. This amazing 34’ runabout is powered by twin 6.2 liter small block engines that rate 400 HP each.  The purposeful design of the hull give her amazing lift, maximizing power and achieving a quick plane and smooth, powerful cruising stability.  The Alexseal Blue Hull sides add to her unique attractiveness while providing added durability.  A custom signature stainless steel windshield with special bent safety glass, Livorsi gauge package with custom dial faces give Pure a distinctive look no other boat possesses.

Pure is, from stem to stern, one of the most sturdily built, luxuriously fitted and handsomely powered hand-crafted wooden runabouts we’ve ever created”.

 

 

 

19’ Racing Runabout

wood boat photo chris craft post war

1947 Red and White Chris Craft 19' Racing Runabout

 

Seabuddy’s photos show a 1947 Red and White Racing Runabout (one of 205 painted and colored this way). Some 503 of these 18’ 11” runabouts were made between 1948 and 1954. The balance of these models was stained and varnished finished.

These post war 19’ Racing Runabouts was loosely based on the 19’ Special Race Boats of 1936 and 1937. Chris Craft had made some 51 of those. These earlier ones were 2” longer in length and an inch wider in beam. These were also paint finished according to Jerry Conrad’s Chris Craft The Essential Guide book.

This boat is being restored by Jerry LeCompte’s http://docksideboatworks.com/.  He showed the boat at the St. Michaels Classic Boat Show and his research is part of my write-up. He does great work. I have seen his boat’s decks still tight and show quality several years after he did his restoration magic.

Back to post WW II Chris Craft boats. War production was over but good mahogany wood and other materials were in short supply. This boat was cedar planked and came with a plywood deck by Chris Craft according to LeCompte. Thus, she was painted, not stained and varnished, as the cedar wood did not look right bright finished.

It would be smart to point out, that by this post World War II era, the Christopher Smith family had been through several tough times. They built boats to feed their family. They had shown strong growth and good profits at the boat business up to the early 1930s. The company made $308,000 in 1929 and then $51,204 in 1930. Chris Craft then lost money making boats until it went into the black again in 1936, with a profit of $213,131.  The model offerings had been cut down during this time. Now, 97 models were cataloged for model year 1937.

Then the war hit. Production went on a sort of cost plus and some profit basis. Anything over that was turned back to the government. At a high point, a record 602 boats were shipped to the military in one month. This was a record despite material shortages in armor plating, engines, and brass castings.

Chris Craft did not even mention any specific construction materials during this post war period. They never knew what they had to substitute in any boat. Lumber has been mentioned as the longest lasting shortage.

 

restored chris craft 19' racing runabout

Red and White Chris Craft Racing Runabout

 

The old photo is courtesy of the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA.

 

mariners museum chris craft photo

photo courtesy of the Mariners Museum

Wooden Runabout by John L. Hacker

wooden inboard runabout john hacker new york thousand islands

48' Worlds' Largest Runabout "Pardon Me" at the Antique Boat Museum

 

She is big! 48’ long with a beam of 10’ 6” and sixteen tons in weight. Power is a single screw Packard 4M-2500 engine, a supercharged 12-cylinder engine. This runabout speedboat’s top speed is 60 MPH.

 

Brooklin Boat Yard did the latest restoration. Prior restorations/upkeep/maintenance and a repower was done at Mayea Boat Works and on the St. Lawrence River at the Antique Boat Museum. She was built in this same area of the 1,000 Islands as the Antique Boat Museum is located in at Hutchinson Boat Works or http://www.hbwboats.com/.

 

Built in 1948, she has had several owners. The last owners donated her to the museum years ago. Google search “ Pardon Me” or “World’s Largest Runabout”  or read pages 76-77 of Robert Speltz’s book The Real Runabouts from 1977. Seabuddy has a signed copy of his book dated 1980. Mr. Speltz has now passed on.

 

Hutchinson  Boat Works or Hutchinson Brothers built boats along the St. Lawrence River since about 1908. The business continued under new leadership after the brothers passed on. They now sell boats, but they were a wooden boat builder originally. They also offered wood boat repairs in oak, mahogany, cedar, and teak.  While they could build and repair all styles of wood construction, most of their boats were lapstrake style or “clinker style”, like a Lyman boat. Pardon Me is not a lapstrake design. She has the double planked mahogany construction method.

 

Pardon Me was designed by Hacker and built by Hutchinson for Mr. Locke of Oak Island in the Chippewa Bay area of the 1,000 Islands (summer home) and MI (his winter home). She did not handle well and never has been used much in her history. Her sheer size, transmission shifting, handling around a pier, engine cooling, and her massive engine torque were some of the reasons for this lack of use. Call it fine-tuning, trouble shooting, or tinkering, problems have continued over her history since 1948.

 

She is now back at the Antique Boat Museum in the Thousand Islands for the upcoming summer months.

88u

Brandywine River / Gunpowder / Pizza

hagley gunpowder building

Hagley gunpowder

 

Hagley Gunpowder Brandywine River Here is how a boater gets an outing while the boat is on the hard. A section of the Brandywine River in Wilmington, Del holds a marine history experience as the river falls in such a way that industry harnessed the waterway for gunpower production. Seabuddy visited the Hagley Power Yard that the DuPont family has restored. It was the US start of their family businesses.

Back in In 1813 a Frenchman, Mr. du Pont, chose the banks of Brandywine River to start his black powder mills, the Hagley Power Yard. He chose that location because of the natural energy that the water here provided the power for the mill. Local trees produced the charcoal used in black power production. Sulfur is also needed and it came in from France and Italy. Then the Saltpeter also needed came from India via English ships. These ships used the nearby Delaware River to get the raw materials in and the finished product out and onto the rest of the world (for instance, Africa, South America and Australia). Du Pont’s black powder factory became the largest black power maker in the world.

Thus they made one of the the building products of canals ( please see my book … http://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guide-York-Waterways-Champlain/dp/1565542509 ) rail roads, the mining industry, tunnels, and roads. They also made 40% of the gun power used by the US Army and Navy during the Civil War. By the way, these mills closed in 1821.

There are multiple historical buildings to see here, the main home, and a very good look at where and how the du Pont Company moved onto other businesses. Women’s nylons, paint, Kevlar by du Pont which “helps [boat} hulls reinforced with Kevlar® be lighter yet tougher and more damage-tolerant, and perform better under hydrodynamic fatigue loading”. Cobalt boats use it.

sailboat using dupont nylon in sails

Luxury yacht with Du Pont nylon sails

 

hagley du pont brandywine delaware

the story of DuPont Nylon

 

chevy racing car jeff gordon

Chevy racing car with Du Pont paint

Allow lots of time to see it all.

Pizza by Elizabeths. Simply put; it is world class. A do-not-miss meal. The décor and food is special. The place celebrates women named Elizabeth. They have gluten free pizza crusts as a choice, as well traditional crusts. Seabuddy had a meatball, tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheeses pizza named the “Hasselbeck”. My wife had a “Claiborne” with basil pesto, chopped tomatoes, she deleted her cheese, with perfectly done chunks of chicken added at her request for her pizza. 4019 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807 (302) 654-4478

 

inside seating pizza by elizabeths

dining at Pizza by Elizabeths

 

inside seating pizza by elizabeths

Pizza by Elizabeths dinning

Winterthur Home / Garden Tour. TheGarden Club of America awarded Henry Francis du Pont their Medal of Honor, proclaiming him, One of the best, even the best, gardener this country has ever produced.” Seabuddy would like to see these gardens in late April.

Take a tour of the home any time to see its exquisite 175 spaces in which the du Ponts entertained family and friends in grand style several generations later than the gunpowder folks. The collection of objects is over-whelming. The web site says “These masterfully designed spaces promise to inspire, enlighten, and delight.”

Do all three of these in a very long “dawn to dusk” day at your own risk.

 

home winterthur

Grand Staircase at Winterthur Du Pont home

 

Dupont Winterthur house

Gifts at Du Pont Winterthur home

Riva Runabout and Sophia Loren, movie Star

Miss Loren had her own wooden Riva speedboat. She picked the top-shelf  twin engine model. While she won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in the movie Two Women in 1962, seabuddy remembers her first for being in Houseboat with Cary Grant in 1958. I have her described as “adorably charning” in this film and those words do it for me.

Miss Loren, movie start, on her Riva runabout

good close-up of Sophia Loren on her Riva wood runabout

The 1960 film It Started in Naples with Clark Gable seems to bring out another side of her acting skill while still being unsophisticated and lovable. Please also recall her dance number called “Americano” in this film. Others are Arabesque with Gregory Peck, El Cid with Charlton Heston, The Fall Of The Roman Empire with Stephen Boyd, Christopher Plummer, an Alec Guiness, and  Man Of La Mancha with Peter O’ Toole.. She did numerous other films, too.

Sophia Loren on aft deck of Riva runabout

 

The newest model Riva model came out in 1963. The hull was a development of Carlo Riva’s Triton model. All Aquaramas were wood boats but only the first three boats were planked wood boats.

riva yacht bow wood boat

bow photo Riva Yacht

 

Laminated (or plywood) hull sides were then used for the balance of the production run of these boats. These sheets were different from what was being used by higher volume (and lower priced) production boat builders. Each hull side was molded as one full length, top to bottom, bow to stern, single piece. And that sheet of plywood was molded off the boat to the same sweep as the designed hull’s curve. It is a treat to see these panels ready to be installed on a boat.

MBBW photo, thanks

seabuddy thanks MBBW for their photo

 

There at least four minor hull side, bottom shapes and length changes over the years of the boat’s production run.

A Riva is also a work of art in many aspects. Start with a look at the hardware. Study the windshield. The grace in the shape of the control handles. The dash panel.

riva aquarama wood boat framing

Riva framing for Aquarama model wood boat

 

A Riva boat can take one’s breath away if one really looks at it closely and in detail. A Riva looks like a handcrafted, one-off boat, but it is a production boat. A limited production boat that stands close up inspection as one would do with a custom boat.

riav yacht aquarama cockpit

Finely detailed Riva Cockpit

Riva Yachts hand selected its lumber. They then seasoned all of that lumber that went into the boats themselves, and then  they decided when it was ready for boat building. All that wood was held together with screws, glue, and then bright finished. Almost all of a boat was sprayed several times and then hand brushed several more times to a high gloss polished varnish finish. Windshield glass, screws, the metal for the boat’s hardware, and much of the material used in the seating was out sourced from other counties. Engines came from the USA. The varnish used in the finish of their classic boats was Italian.

A great book on the company’s history, the boat models, and boat owners of Riva Boats is Riva by Roberto Franzoni. It is a hardcover book that is printed in several languages within each copy. Like these classic wood boats, this book is rare. It is now an out-of-print book. Search for a collector copy at books within Amazon.com.

Riva Aquarama at a boat show with crew

Fun Boat

sophia loren with her riva wood boat

Sophia Loren with Riva Runabout on the cover of Life magazine