A few weeks ago, we learned of an interesting project underway at Classic and Antique Boats in Hessel, Michigan. We thought our readers would find this story interesting given the boat’s rarity, the comprehensiveness of it’s restoration, and it’s ironic name in our times. Tommy Mertaugh of Classic and Antique Boats wrote this brief story for our readers, with a little input from our Hessel-based reporter, Alex Watson. Take it away Tommy…
Classic and Antique Boats purchased this 1930 Chris-Craft Model 99, 17’ Runabout “Rowdy Dow” from Don Ploetner in Vernon, New Jersey after seeing it on e-Bay. The boat is really petite: a 17’ LOA with a beam of 5’. It is a model we had come to know intimately, after completing a keel up restoration of the same type, just one year earlier. Here are a few photos of that boat, “Serendipity”. As you can see, once restored, the boat is a jewel!
Restoring two of the same model in successive years suggests they are pretty common. In fact, the opposite is true. While 226 were built during the model’s run of 1930-1931 (Hull #s 14000-14225), between ACBS and Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club listings, excluding overlaps, there are only 6 documented survivors. Including “Rowdy Dow”, that makes a total of 7. Anyhow, the one we restored last year drew a lot of attention and so we saw an opportunity to take on another project just like it.
Including info from Don Ploetner, we’ve managed to piece together some history about the boat. It was delivered to Harris G. Leonard of Rowers Point, NY, May 21, 1930. This makes it over 81 years old! The boat’s original name was “Rowdy.” We don’t know why or when “Dow” was added. Perhaps it refers to a person by nickname. Or perhaps it refers to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Don told us he bought the boat in 2008 in a little town on the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. It had been sitting in a farmer’s field. According to the farmer, it had been there a good 20+ years. Prior to that, the boat apparently had been stored in a barn — two stories up. (Try that with a big A-120-powered triple cockpit!) And before that, we understand the boat had been Canadian-owned. Hmmm. Canadians you say? Forerunners of Paul and Karen Harrison, maybe?
What made this boat a survivor, when 98% of its peers didn’t? The boat’s northern life probably played a big part in that. Northern, short seasons lead to limited, cool water use which, as we’ve seen in Hessel, Michigan can lead to long original-wood lives. No question, though, being stored-and-forgotten played a huge role.
This allowed “Rowdy Dow” to survive the decades-long custom of burning old wooden boats for sport or for space. We bought this boat from Don complete, including its original Gray 4-cylinder motor. The only missing component was its bow light — a part we have since obtained. Check out the original engine hand-crank below.
Tommy Mertaugh and the crew at Classic and Antique Boats are passionate about what they do, preserving and restoring wooden boats in historic Hessel, Michigan. For more information about Classic and Antique Boats in Hessel, Michigan you can click here.
See Y’all Tomorrow – Texx