(Re)discovering Hessel – Part II
By Alex Watson
Part I of this story (Click Here to view Part I) explained how the combination of usage, climate, care, and continuity made Les Cheneaux what it is today. An area where one commonly sees a classic Chris-Craft in its boat house (with a side order of Boston Whaler).
Boats here are not considered to be collectibles, or assets, or valuable in a monetary sense. Beloved family dog is a closer analogy.
Part I explains, by extension, why 60, 70, or 80+ year-old boats here are used — just as they were in their early days. Why kids run all over them. Why spontaneous races erupt. Why they still tow skiers or haul in fish. Why they still trek 4, 6, or sometimes 12 safely to and from Mackinac Island.
It also explains why most are rarely bristol. Beautiful, regularly and responsibly maintained, preserved, and restored, yes. But bristol? It doesn’t much matter.
So what is our Boat Show? Each and every year, on the 2nd Sunday of August, an assorted 50 or 60 of these boats (an estimated 1/5th or 1/6th of those in the Islands) leave their docks and boathouses, ride to the Hessel Marina, and line up for the day. Not to win praise or prizes. Just to let other residents, volunteers, and visitors share a fun day and share in their beauty. They are joined by about the same number of boats from neighboring areas and, voila, 120 boats are on display.
Like Christmas, our Show lasts just a day. Perhaps that brevity is why we look forward to next year’s show, even as this year’s is wrapping up.
Arrival and Set-Up
At 6:00 am, the first boat arrives in Hessel. By 7:00 am, there was a steady trickle. By 8:00 am, it was a stream. This is the first year I’ve observed this. Never again will my family miss watching the fun build.
Watching the boats come in and dock simultaneously in tight, Hessel Marina quarters was remarkable. Like watching a Rubiks Cube, or a jigsaw puzzle, being solved. And you know, the pieces fell in place beautifully, thanks to skilled handling and Crew support numbering 200+ volunteers.
I have better photos of this 1966 7’ Hydro-Mite, but this one tells the story. The boat was driven to the Show, solo, by it’s owner — a very young boy. Seeing him boat in, with his mom, dad, and sister waiting at the dock, was touching and inspiring. Part of passing the torch.
There’s no shortage of lapstrakes in Les Cheneaux. (Heaven for Captain Grumpy?) The above photo shows Just Another Toy and The Betty, beautiful 1955 18’ and a 1960 23’ Sea Skiffs, respectively.
Here’s Jennifer Anne, a 1938 21’ 22-U. She typifies boats in our area. Her fine condition and the way she’s displayed (tossables, shammies, ropes, life jackets, coffee mugs) is a reminder that Les Cheneaux boats are well-kept user boats — driven to the Show for the day, and put back to work that evening. Cool, without trying.
Tangerine made the show, with her brand new keel. She’s a 1922 Consolidated 32’ Launch with a 1914 Speedway monster of a motor. A monster putting out…
…wait for it…
It’s Show Time
As the slight drizzle gave way, the people began to arrive. I brought The Majestic to the Show. She’s a 1948 25’ Chris-Craft Sportsman.
Ok, you remember that mermaid mannequin in Sunnyland, right? Well in Hessel, we had the real thing in a gorgeous Chris-Craft Continental. Is it uncouth to hope this begins a trend?
Speaking of props (not propellers), no LILY, this boat was not called Hydrangea.
No chicken-on-a-stick here. But we had awesome pulled pork sandwiches, whitefish sandwiches, and less healthy, but still yummy, tubular fuel.
And for drink? Here’s a lemonade stand on Hessel Point. It’s a must to stop and support budding capitalists, right? See the little boy? I learned his first name is Hessel. Damn. Why didn’t I think of that.
Uandi is a gorgeous, 1926 26’ Hacker with a big Gray Marine. So why on earth weren’t these people looking her way…?
Oh. Two words. Doug. Morin. As usual, he brought a stunner. Charismatic is a 1930 30’ Hackercraft Runabout with a Sterling motor. The detail was incredible, right down to the orange-ish (correct color) engine bay. It’d be a “cannon to a gun fight,” except this Show is less intense than that. Piccata to a picnic, perhaps? Tournedos to a tailgate?
You’ll recall my mentioning a locally-iconic boat called Breezing Thru in Part I (Click Here to see Part I) of this story. She was the boat that led to the birth of our Show. Well, here she is, powered by her original Kermath Sea-Wolf 225, 747 c.i. motor, now producing 250 hp at 2400 rpm.
Once the weather lifted, the people showed up in droves. Attendance climbed from a little over 5,000 last year (poor weather) to about 7,000 this year.
This sharp, little 1929 12’ 10” Roy Brady racer is owned by the original owner’s grandson. It has been lovingly restored. This is what you get at Hessel. Not the level of variety of Sunnyland, but still plenty of it. Though the outboards and sailboats rarely get mention and don’t attract the thick of the crowd, they add spice to our Show. Our thanks to the owners who ride in, or bring along, these jewels.
It’s bigger. It’s badder. It’s waaaaay badder. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Snips, a 1927 26’ flat deck Chris-Craft, powered by an Ilmor 725 hp Viper-derived V-10. She’s a sleeper on the water except for two things: 1) Enormous twin exhausts; and 2) Enormous sound. Look closely and you’ll see her tach goes to 8,000 rpm. Of all the boats here, guess which one most guys would want to drive?
Docked next to Snips was her consecutive hull number (448 and 449), totally original sister, Sugar. Sugar still has her Kermath 150 hp motor. Per Tommy Mertaugh, she was so heavily optioned (among them a cigar lighter, an illuminated compass, and a box spring seat under the steering wheel), she had two hull cards just to list them all.In 2012, Classic Glass became an official category in Hessel. The above photo shows a mere sampling. Ok, ok, it’s all the Show’s Classic Glass (except for that aforementioned, tiny Hydro-Mite). But hey, for year 1, it was a nice start and was popular with visitors.
Will Classic Glass grow here? You bet! Les Cheneaux residents will awaken to the realization their many, beloved, turquoise Boston Whalers have become collectibles — boats people want to see because they were once kids in them. Boat Show will soon have several heart warming Whalers on display. They’ll be surrounded by visitors quietly smiling and reminiscing, or admitting they wouldn’t be alive had their childhood Whaler not got them through the stupidest thing they’d ever done in, or with, a boat. Everyone seems to have a Whaler “survival story” around here. Ah, good times!
Here’s Tom Flood, doing something admirable. He stayed with Wuzz-a-Fuzz, his 1947 31’ twin engine Hacker (which he totally rebuilt) to talk with visitors. Loren Sattler did the same in his ALIBI, a beautiful 1928 28’ Baby Gar. There were many who appreciated that courtesy.
So many boats are unmentioned here, including most award winners. But I believe you get a sense of the Show in Hessel. Fun, quality, variety, authenticity, and rarity. While some of the boats are rare, rarer still is that they never leave this area, are shown infrequently, and are shown in an especially relaxed, beautiful, protected, and historical part of our Pure Michigan.
Awards and Departure
Awards were given by category for people’s choice, for best of show, and in memory of area residents. If anyone is interested in the list of awards, I can provide them in the Comments section below. Just ask.
The award for “1st, Runabout 0’-16’,” was especially touching to watch. Chris Smith — very active in the Show, and in the day-before Poker Run — enjoyed handing it out. Heartwarming to see a whole family accept.
Following the awards, I was fortunate to capture this moment between Jim Mertaugh (age 80, son of the 1st Chris-Craft dealer), and Chris Smith (grandson of the company founder).
The first engines roared to life seconds after the awards were given. Here are a few beauties leaving the Harbor for their cottages.
Ok. Here’s the post-Show collision you might have heard about. Apparently, Islington, a heavy (oak) 1895 30’ Truscott launch had a steering failure, clipped two boats, and went on to ram the dock under power. (The sound of all this contact was really disturbing.) Let’s hope the owner took heart knowing: a) no one was hurt; b) any damage can be fixed; and c) odds are, in Islington’s 117 year history, it’s not the first time she’s hit something.
In this year’s Show program, local reporter John Perttunen interviewed the owner (Robert Erdman) of a boat called The Greatest Day, a 1953 18’ Chris-Craft Runabout. I could do no better than end this story with Mr. Erdman’s words from that article:
“Antique boats can bring joy on several different levels. They can be counted among the finer things in life or viewed as the vehicles that merely facilitate these finer things, such as fun with friends and family, freedom, and time spent in peace and quiet. Every day when I get up in the morning is the greatest day. That’s how I look at life. The last two years at the boat show in Hessel, we were really hammered with rain. But the skies eventually parted and it became another one of the greatest days in a person’s life.”
No question the Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show 2012 was a great day — perhaps a “greatest day” — for the organizers, crew, vendors, community at large, guests, and boats of our beloved area. Here’s to many more!
Here’s some advice if you’d like to make Hessel next year.
1) Note the date. It’s always the second Saturday of August. For 2013, that means August 10th.
2) Bring your boat. Even if you don’t want to show it, our area is a must see by water. (When you think about it, how else could you see 36 Islands?) If you like to fish, don’t forget your rod.
3) Take a few days. There are interesting things to see nearby, such as Mackinac Island http://www.mackinacisland.org/ the fascinating Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, Lake Superior http://www.shipwreckmuseum.com/ the natural beauty of Tahquamenon Falls www.exploringthenorth.com/tahqua/tahqua.html and its old growth forests, the two Historical Museums of Les Cheneaux www.lchistorical.org/marimus.html and www.lchistorical.org/histmus.html and more.
4) Book your hotel early. If you want to stay in Les Cheneaux (Hessel or Cedarville), we have very limited accommodations, and many rooms are rented by the week. Don’t fear renting a rustic cabin here. Those I’ve seen are well kept. You’d be staying right on the water. And, you’ll see plenty of woody traffic that way. You’ll find a list of the local accommodations in this site http://www.lescheneaux.com/ (click on “Places to Sleep”). If you can’t get a room here, try St. Ignace, MI, 35 minutes away, where lakeside (Lake Huron) rooms there are plentiful and inexpensive.
5) Leave your work behind. Cell service is spotty up here. And you know, once you get over the fact that the world will keep spinning without you for a few days, you won’t care. You’ll lose yourself in an area where time of day doesn’t matter, and what you do with your day doesn’t matter, and what is going on anywhere else in the world doesn’t matter. In fact, “nothing matters.” Only the simplest things count here. Can you imagine a greater luxury?
6) Come again. With so many classic boats in our area, with a fraction of those deciding to show in a given year, and with 1/2 the boats of the Show arriving by trailer, the mix changes considerably from year to year.
For more about Les Cheneaux Islands and the Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show, here’s a Rudder article from Summer 2000 www.acbs.org/rudder/oldrudder/Rudder/Summer2000/LesCheneaux.htm And here’s a link to the Boat Show webpage www.lchistorical.org/boatfest.html
Alex Watson – Hessel, Michigan
List of Show Winners
1st Place, Runabout / 0-16′, “Awaken,” 1941 Century 16′, Griffith family
2nd Place, Runabout / 0-16′, “Runt,” 1941 Chris Craft 16′, John Cedarstrom
1st Place, Runabout / 17′-18′, “Inclination,” 1948 Century 17.5′, Bill Manny
2nd Place, Runabout / 17′-18′, “Unforgettable,” 1949 Chris Craft 17′, John & Linda Hanks
1st Place Runabout / 19′-20′, “Julie Ann,” 1932 Hacker Craft 20′, Joe Whitsett
2nd Place, Runabout / 19′-20′, “Due Diligence,” 1948 Chris Craft 20′, Lew & Char Kirchner
1st Place Runabout / 21′-24′, “Kemosabe,” 1934 Chris Craft 21′, “Bill Ticknor”
2nd Place Runabout / 21′-24′, “Strait Up,” 1928 Chris Craft 24′, Charles Williams
1st Place Runabout / 25′-Over, “Charismatic,” 1930 Hacker Craft 30′, Julie Monroe
2nd Place Runabout / 25′-Over, “Uandi,” 1926 Hacker Craft 26′, Norman & Keeley Betts
1st Place Utility / 0-17′, “Kay 3,” 1962 Century 17′, Joe & Ingrid Murphy
2nd Place Utility / 0-17′, *** UNNAMED***, 1937 Chris Craft 17′, Dave Ball
1st Place Utility / 18′-20′, “Sail on Silver Girl,” 1936 Gar Wood 20′, Cliff & Diane Spratt
2nd Place Utility / 18′-20′, *** UNNAMED ***, 1965 Century 19′, Charlie & Sue Opie
1st Place Utility / 22′, “Stars & Stripes,” 1946 Chris Craft 22′, Don & Bonnie Bergman
2nd Place Utility / 22′, “Dream On,” 1940 Chris Craft 22′, Kirk & Sharron Smith
1st Place Utility / 21′-24′, “Dock Holiday,” 1952 Chris Craft 23′, Chris Maloney
2nd Place Utility / 21′-24′, “Goose,” 1957 Chris Craft 23′, Tom & Nadine Stinnett
1st Place Utility / 25′ & Over, “The Majestic,” 1948 Chris Craft 25′, Alex Watson family
2nd Place Utility / 25′ & Over, “Valhalla,” 1946 Chris Craft 25′, Bob & Gary Burkland
1st Place Lapstrake Skiff, “Herman I,” 1934 Lyman 18′, Theodore Haapala
2nd Place Lapstrake Skiff, “The Betty,” 1960 Chris Craft 23′, Soderman / La Rue
1st Place Outboard, “Grady Room,” 1963 Grady White 17’6″, Peter Cross
2nd Place Outboard, ***UNNAMED***, 1959 Whirlwind 14′, Hank & Joyce VanderWerp
1st Place Launch, “Tangerine,” 1922 Consolidated 32′, McHenry / Ross / Leyman
2nd Place Launch, “Islington,” 1895 Truscott 30′, Ralph & Petra Shoberg
1st Place Sailboat. “Annelise,” 1958 Sparkman & Stephens 35’6″, Jerry & Michelle Noel
1st Place Cruiser (pre-1968), “Jenny Clark,” 1962 Trumpy 55′, Clark / Randall / Sproatt
2nd Place Cruiser (pre-1968), N/A
1st Place Canoe / Dinghy, ***UNNAMED***, 1937 Old Town 15′, Michael Shay
2nd Place Canoe / Dinghy, “Wayside,” 1920s Old Town 17′, Robertson / Wall
1st Place Wooden Replica, “Pure Michigan,” 2012 Mac-Craft 22′, Mark & Brooke McIssac
2nd Place Wooden Replica, “Borealis,” 2011 John A. Harsh
1st Place Classic Glass, “Misfit,” 1956 Fleetform 15’, Tom & Monique VanderWerp
2nd Place Classic Glass, “Super Fly,” 1971 Chris Craft XK-18′, Alex Watson family
Best Chris Craft (sponsored by the E.J. Mertaugh Boat Works), “The Majestic,” 1948 Chris Craft 25′, Alex Watson family
Carl Malmquist Award (for best boat name), “Dock Holiday,” 1952 Chris Craft 23′, Chris Maloney
Arnie Horween Jr. Memorial Skippers Choice Award, “Tootsie Bell,” 1936 Chris Craft 18′, David & Claudia Wallace
Feature Boat Award, “Snips,” 1928 Chris Craft 26’, The Reid Family
Feature Boat Award, “Sugar,” 1928 Chris Craft 26’, The Reid Family
Jim Bohn’s People’s Choice Award, “Tangerine,” 1922 Consolidated 32′, McHenry/Ross/Leyman families
Best of Show / 1st, “Charismatic,” 1930 Hacker Craft 30′, Julie Monroe
Best of Show / 2nd, “The Majestic,” 1948 Chris Craft 25′, Alex Watson family