The story of Makin' Waves

The phone rang late one evening, it was a buddy of mine telling me about this big boat on the side of the road for sale. "It's a big inboard, its lapstrake and I think it's wood." He had said the magic word. Actually two magic words, WOOD and INBOARD. He had my attention because I had wanted a wood boat since I saw my first one as a kid. A neighbor of ours had a shiny varnished Chris Craft. He would run by the boat house making waves for us kids while we swam. I thought that wood boat was the coolest boat on the river. (and I still do) My dad always said "There to much work, you don't want one of those." Fact was I really did but at age 8 I wasn't going to argue.

While his phone call had my curiosity peaked I had been on too many wild goose chases to get very excited. Well maybe I was excited but I it didn't last to long once I remembered all the other boats I looked at. The thing was that Lane loved and knew boats as much as I did. If he said it was an inboard he knew what he was talking about. Even if it was fiberglass this was might be something I would be interested in.

That weekend Lane and I made the forty plus mile drive to Lacey Springs. As we drove up I could see that it was definitely wood. First impressions were good, the boat had nice lines, it was an old inboard and it didn't look that bad! It looked like this might actually be something! I thought it must be a Lyman because Chris Craft never made lapstrake boats. As I walked up to it I saw the name plate, a Chris Craft Sea Skiff?? I thought that Chris Crafts made only varnished runabouts!

As I got closer I realized this was a really big boat. Sitting on the trailer the deck was above our heads and it must be 20 foot long. As we continued walking around the boat I found attached to the varnished transom (well I think it was varnish anyway) the ugliest set of trim tabs that I had ever seen. The hydraulic cylinders were at least two foot long and the top of the cylinders were nearly even with the top of the transom. There were four 1 inch holes bored through the transom for the 3/8 inch cylinder lines. I thought to myself, "OK, so it needs some work but it is a wood inboard." My heart was racing.

While I stood there admiring the trim tabs Lane had walked on around to the other side and climbed up on the fender of the trailer to check out the inside. Then I heard him say "OH MY GOD!!". I couldn't tell whether that was good or bad. He just said "You've got to see this!!"

I quickly climbed on the fender of the starboard side of the trailer expecting to see a shiny varnished interior. Bear in mind that at this point I was ready to buy. However what I saw the unthinkable. The deck of the boat was covered in household kitchen linoleum flooring!! As if to add insult to injury it was a wood parquet pattern no less. The edges were trimmed simulated wood (plastic) molding nailed into place. The kind of trim you use in houses mind you! The motor box was covered in the same wood parquet linoleum, with the same cheap plastic trim. The once beautiful mahogany seats were upholstered with cheap brown vinyl which was tacked and stapled in place. Some one had made an attempt at a padded dash cover. Black indoor/outdoor carpet was glued to the floor boards. The interior liners were painted a fleshy orange color, screws and all. The bright work, and I use that term loosely, had something that vaguely resembled varnish peeling off the wood and the screw heads. This was the ugliest boat I had ever seen!

I stared at the interior a few seconds, climbed down off of the fender while shaking my head and drove home. All I could think of was how could someone have ruined what was at one time a beautiful boat. I felt sorry for the poor girl.

That night I couldn't get the that old Sea Skiff out of my mind. I kept thinking it needed a good home, but who did I know that would be foolish enough to buy that ugly thing. I kept trying to convince myself if you looked past the kitchen Linoleum it wasn't that bad. After all the Linoleum could be removed and new Nautolex put down. Then you could repaint the inside, revarnish, remove the carpet, new upholstery and... well. I guess I better keep looking.

Early the next morning I snuck off and drove back to take a second look. I didn't really want anyone to know where I was going. By the next weekend I had talked to the owner. I found out what he was asking was TOTALLY out of line. No way was I interested at that price. And while I had him on the phone I arranged for a test drive. I was feeling a bit sick. What I didn't realize was that Wood Boat Fever was setting in. Saturday finally arrived and we slipped the boat off the trailer and into the water. As I drove the truck to the parking lot the owner tied her up to a dock. I walked down the hill to the dock and admired how good she looked in the water. Distance really helped the looks of this boat! I watched as a couple walked down the pier to get a better look at here. When they did they just kept on walking with out saying a word. The look on there face said it all!

The owner attempted to crank the engine. She turned over three or four times and the battery died. After an hour of sitting at the dock, at a distance from the boat I might add, he returned with a fresh battery. We slipped the battery in and then it happened, she cranked and I heard THE SOUND. That sound a REAL boat makes! If you've never heard a classic inboard engine gurgling then you can't understand. After all these years I still love to listen to them idle.

We idled out of the harbor and turned down stream. The throttle opened, the boat surged forward and THE SOUND!!. The engine was running rough but just listen to THE SOUND!! Everyone we passed would turn, listen and look at us! This was great!! I WANT THIS BOAT!! About that time the engine died. As we ground on the starter trying to coax her back to life the current washed us into a tree that had fell into the river snagging us in its' limbs. Guess what....everyone was still looking.

After two weeks, a carburetor rebuild, three trips out on the river, being towed in the first time, then limping in the second and then being towed in again on the last trip the owner was disgusted and I was ready to buy. My wife began to doubt my sanity, I was a bit concerned too! Six weeks after the first contact, I made the owner an offer and the ugly duckling was mine.

I need to say my wife and I had worked together on antique cars for several years and she knew how to see the potential in a rusty old pile of junk. However she now admits that she thought I had gone off the deep end when I brought this one home. Her opinion was the owner should have paid me to take the boat off his hands.

I started to work on her early the next morning. Within an hour I had found the problem with the motor and the ugly duckling was running. Believe it or not it was just out of gas! I put her in the water for my fourth trip and hopefully my first real return trip. I made several laps around our small cove and then I tried to dock an inboard for the first time. While I succeeded I thought I knocked my neighbor's boathouse off it posts in the learning process. It seems inboard tend to pivot around the center of the boat, so you better watch the stern when in close proximity to your neighbors boathouse.

After some tinkering at the boat house it was time. With a tiny amount of confidence and even less skill I ventured out in to the white caps on Guntersville Lake where I quickly fell in love with my ugly duckling. She went through the big waves with ease and stayed very dry. With new found confidence (and a great big grin) I turned and headed her across the lake to my father in-laws boathouse to show her off.

For the next year we used the boat pretty much as it was. However we did strip the linoleum off the decks. My boating friends were very kind and never said much except to agree with me that this was the ugliest boat they had ever seen. When we were out on the river we didn't stop at any Marinas unless we just had to. When we did we would tie up at the far end of the docks all the while explaining that I bought it that way and I was going to rebuild it, SOON!

The rebuilding of Makin' Waves

One Saturday in February I had to do some repairs on my boat lift. I pulled her out of the slip and tied the boat up at my neighbors dock. When I finally finished the repairs it was late and I was tired so I left her at his dock for the night.

The next morning I received a phone call and was told that during the night the wind had shifted and that the boat had been beating against the dock and was damaged. Sooner or later had finally arrived. It was time to rebuild her.

On March 1, I starting stripping the old girl down all the while wondering if I could put her back together. For the next four months if anyone wanted to find me all they had to do was look under the blue tarp out back. My friends would stop in and offer moral support and shake their heads in disbelief. Many times they tried to persuade to me to take a break and go boating with them but I never accepted. I was total obsessed by this old lady. The more I worked the more determined I became to give her back her youthful looks!

During the Fourth of July weekend 1992, sporting a new name, MAKIN' WAVES was re-launched. She now had some new wood, vinyl decks, red and white seat cushions, a complete revarnishing, mahogany liners, painted floor boards and a new Sea Skiff Ranger paint scheme of bright red and white. No more would I be pulling in the Marinas looking for a place to hide this boat!

I received the ultimate compliment one day a few months after the rebuild. I had pulled Makiní Waves out on the trailer and had her parked in the front yard. I was cleaning inside the boat when a passing truck comes to a sudden stop just past the house. The driver backs up and pulls into my driveway. Without saying a word he gets out, walks up to the boat, climbs up on the ladder beside the boat and looks around the boat as if I'm not even there! I didnít know this guy and wasnít sure what he thought he was doing. He just kept looking around the boat with wonder in his eyes. Then he looked at me with disbelief and asks "Is this really the same boat that you bought from me?" Then I recognized him, it was the young man I had bought the boat from 2 years earlier! He couldn't believe it was his old ugly duckling.

It has been ten years and Makin' Waves is now due a new coat of paint and some re-varnish and general touch up. Soon she will be trailered to Tennessee to be refastened and perhaps have some wood replaced. She has provided her new family with many many enjoyable hours of boating. No doubt she will continue to make memories for many years to come!