Hello to all. I wanted to introduce myself, Ben, and my new project to you all. I have been a long time lurker on the boards and have always enjoyed reading and learning from all of the wonderful posts. I recently purchased my first antique Chris Craft, a 1939 15.5’ Deluxe Runabout. It is not my first old wooden boat of sorts but it is my first old CC and for me that feels a little special. I am hoping to share my trials and tribulations with all here as I bring her back to her best but for now I just wanted to say hi and share some history and a few pictures.
I live in the rainy Pacific Northwest, Seattle to be specific. The boat was owned by the granddaughter of the original owner and after many emails and a couple of visits, I was lucky enough to reach an agreement with them to sell me the boat. I have included a bit of a history “blurb” below that the previous owner passed on to me that some might find interesting. One of the most attractive things about this boat for me personally is that it has a very clear history being that it had always been in the same family since new and that it had spent its entire life sitting in a little boat shed on the other side of Lake Washington from our house. Add to that, the original owner is somewhat of a historical figure in the Hydroplane racing world and played an important role in the early days of Seattle’s Seafair Celebration. I plan on doing some more research on the original owner himself as he sounds like a real character. One other interesting fact about the boat is that it carried Eleanor Roosevelt as there was an apparent family connection with the original owner and the former Presidents daughter Anna. Beside all of that nonsense, of all the project boats I have journeyed to see over the last while, this one was by far the tidiest and most original one that I had come across. In my humble opinion, she appears to be in very good shape, with a few exceptions here and there, but nothing that I don’t think I can handle or would have my wife shaking her head at me.
So here are a few pictures of the boat and the little “history blurb” below. I am looking forward to sharing my story with you all as we begin her restoration this Wednesday.
History written by the son of the original owner.....
"The Story of the Chris-Craft
My parent’s Chris-Craft was purchased in 1937 from Jerry Bryant, the Chris-Craft dealer in Seattle. His location was in Portage Bay. The building is now owned by the UW and was used as the UW police headquarters for many years.
The boat was delivered to Fisherman’s Wharf in Ballard by railroad car. I believe the factory was in Michigan and it was shipped from there. It was on a big wooden crate on a flat bed rail car. The dock with the railroad tracks no longer exists. The boat was lifted off with a crane and put directly in the water. My father and I took the boat back to our home on Meydenbauer Bay on Lake Washington.
Subsequently, we built a small floating boat house with a lift arrangement hooked to an automobile frame which was blocked to fit the hull of the boat. The motor that drove the shaft and cable arrangement was a washing machine motor. This was used to lift the boat in and out of the water. It has always been stored out of the water.
It was used frequently for cruising and for waterskiing on Lake Washington. The water skis, made by Don Ibsen, were the fourth pair made in the Pacific Northwest. They were made of solid cedar, very long and very wide, and had tennis shoes attached. This was at the time of the development of water skiing in Florida where early water skis were made in Coral Gables.
The boat was used to demonstrate the sport of water skiing to celebrities visiting Seattle. I recall one instance where my father took Harold Ickies, Secretary of the Interior under Pres. Roosevelt, for a boat ride on the lake. It was my responsibility to show him the art of water skiing. I wore a tux, for a reason I do not recall, except that it was party time. The tow line came loose from the cleat on the boat and I sank. That was the end of that show. We frequently took the boat across to Mercer Island to the home of Franklin Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna. On occasion, Eleanor Roosevelt was a guest on board even though she was not comfortable in a boat.
The Chris-Craft was used frequently to cross the lake and go to Jensen Motor Boat in Portage Bay. This company was a wooden boat institution in Seattle even then and my father regularly took our family’s boats there for work. After the war and when I no longer lived at home, my father had fiberglass applied to the hull. It is unlikely that anyone but Jensen Motor Boat would have done the work as they were the only boatyard my father used. To this day it is operated by the grandson of the founder. Going by boat was simpler than going by car as that entailed catching the ferry to Seattle. After the war, I used the Chris-Craft occasionally to go to school at the UW.
For several years my father was a referee for the Gold Cup hydroplane races held on Lake Washington. This was an annual event. The Chris-Craft was used to ferry him out to the officials’ barge on the lake and home again.
My father experimented with the speed of the boat which was 32 mph stock. By removing the engine cover he installed a super-charger beside the engine. The fastest the boat would go with the super-charger was 42 mph. The super charger was removed many years ago. In those days, 40 mph was a big deal.
The Chris-Craft was frequently used as a tender to the family boats, the 63 foot Zimmie and later as a tender to the 80 foot Shorleave. The present rings on the deck were used to lift the boat. It was never allowed to hang, but was put on chocks on the upper deck. I recall taking the Chris-Craft as a tender to the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. My parents were pioneers at this time for it was a rare thing to see another cruising boat of any size but particularly small outboards, let alone inboards. The only small boats we saw were the Indian reef net tenders. Often times we would be the only pleasure boat anchored in places like Stuart Island, Parks Bay or Spencer Spit which would now be filled with cruising boats. On these summer trips aboard our family cruising boat my sister and I enjoyed taking the Chris-Craft and going off to explore the islands. The big boat was used to cruise the San Juans, including Princess Louisa, which we would have all to ourselves. Another favorite and quiet anchorage was Horse Head Bay in south Puget Sound. We went there many times. The Chris-Craft was used to salmon troll, which we did frequently. The brass rod presently on the stern of the boat was used to slip the trolling board down to control fishing speed.
In the 1960s the Chris-Craft had a new use…to teach the grandchildren how to water ski. Our family would go over to Meydenbauer Bay on any sunny Sunday and have a grand time. Others would come up from California to visit their grandparents and make use of the boat as well.
For many years my wife and I cruised off-shore and during that time the boat was covered and stored in the oversized garage in Duvall that was on our son’s property. Upon Craig’s death it came into the possession of our daughter and son-in-law."
The memories of Stanly W. Donogh, Jr