Today we are honored to have our friend Lee Wangstad here to report on the Fourth Annual Gull Lake Classic Boat Show in Minnesota. For those of you who don’t know Lee, he is a noted writer for publications like the ACBS Rudder & Classic Boating magazine, and is also a gifted speaker with his endless knowledge about the hobby and the history of classic boating.

Lee is also a proud “Minnesotan” and the Managing Editor of The Boathouse – The quarterly magazine from the Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.

The 2012 Gull Lake Classic Boat Show
Story by Lee Wangstad
Photos by Dane Anderson
Photo Shoot Boat by Dave Bortner

It wasn’t the most hopeful of days for a boat show. The weatherman was predicting showers over most of Minnesota with a chance of clearing later in the day. And sure enough, the rain came, but so did the boats. The sound of multiple bilge pumps doing their job was like music to the ears of their owners.

John Allen’s 26′ Greavette with John at the wheel, smiling through the rain on Saturday.

John Allen’s 1955 26′ Greavette Streamliner – Pocahontas

After the showers began to calm, the spectators began to make their way to the docks and the Bar Harbor Supper Club, Gull Lake’s premier lakeside restaurant, home of the 4th Annual Gull Lake Classic Boat Show. Located north of Brainerd, Minnesota, the show has grown at a phenomenal rate over the last four years.


The extent of that growth is incredible. It’s not just growing in size, but the quality and variety of the boats has shown a marked increase. These boats were powered by everything from a single cylinder Neptune outboard to 3 boats with Liberty V-12’s. My Darling was at the dock with its 12 cylinder Allison.

My Darling with her 12 Cylinder Allison

The cylinder count here must be amazing (I wonder how that averages out per boat?). Every now and then you’d hear one of them fire up with their deafening roar and I’d try to imagine a dozen of them running at full throttle back in the 20’s.

The sight and smell of the exhaust brought crowds to whatever part of the docks it was emanating from. It ranged from the almost docile roar of John Allen’s 1923 Liberty powered Baby Gar to the staccato rap, rhythm, and popping valves of the wild and wooly Liberty that resides in Apache II. This made incredible engine music that kept you keeping the beat by tapping your toes right along. There’s something about a Liberty running through 16” straight pipes that reminds you just what mammoth power these engines have.

400 HP Liberty 12-Cylinder aircraft engine in Apache II

There was a 28’ Gar Wood with a Scripps V-12. Dave Bortner brought Sea Flow II, his magnificent Hacker Craft powered by a Scripps V-12. The multiple cylinder crowd had all they could do to contain themselves. “Cicada”, on loan to Lee Anderson from the Antique Boat Museum, made its appearance at the show (yesterday’s header), with its Liberty V-12. Man, there was just no end to it.


There were electric powered boats, production boats, one-of-a-kind specials, raceboats, cruisers, rowboats, triples, utilities, you name it, it was not only here, but could win a best in class anywhere it would be shown. There were so many incredible boats here in this one place. In four short years this show has become a must-see event.

Dave Bortner also brought his big 30’ Lyman. When you stood next to this boat it felt like you had been shrunk down to half size and you were standing next to an Islander. This was made for BIG WATER! It would prove its mettle out on the choppy north section of Gull Lake as part of Saturday’s boat parade.

Woody Boater Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service won two awards! Best Hacker-Craft for SeaFlow II and the 30′ Lyman took Best Utility over 21′

The boats from the collections of Lee Anderson and John Allen were supported by an all-star cast of spectacular boats. Brian Marks brought his Hutchinson triple from the west side of Gull Lake. This super rare runabout, “Scram”, shows a different side of Hutchinson than most are used to. Kermit Sutton docked his 19’ Dee-Wite runabout with an early Gray V-drive. If you’ve never seen a Dee-Wite up close, you owe it to yourself to come see this boat. He also has a 17’ split cockpit runabout, just as pretty as they come. These boats are from just another of the great collections that grace this Minnesota area.

Mike Favilla spent time with “Dazzle”, his 1925 Dodge Watercar, explaining the virtues of this perfect user boat. But, it’s not that kind of “user boat,” it’s the user friendly nature of the boat that makes it his favorite. Dazzle’s condition just gets better and better every time I see it.

Lee Anderson also brought “Ethyl Ruth IV”, a John L. Hacker designed Gold Cup racer from 1934. Sitting next to “Apache II”, it showed the contrast and development involved in a few years of on-the-water testing. “My Darling”, with its Allison V-12 (when this started I immediately looked up in the sky, expecting a large C-135a to come out from around the trees), was docked next to “Imp”, powered by its Wright 620 V-8 racing engine. What an incredible sight. What an incredible sound!

Ethyl-Ruth for the requisite lilypads…

The 620 Cu.In. Wright V8 in the 1929 Purdy – IMP

Bob House showed his immaculate 1947 Century Sea-Maid, just to prove that not all classic mahogany boats need racing engines to be here. There were Coronado’s, Resorters, even fiberglass Coronado’s and Resorters.

An Immaculate 1947 Century Sea-Maid

Chris-Crafts weren’t left out either, with all varieties included. There were Customs, Capri’s, they were all there.

The Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum brought over their 1907 Fay & Bowen launch, “Stella”, winner of the Best Launch Award at last year’s ACBS International Show along with “Bertha”, a Chris-Craft Limo. “Stella” could be seen leaving the dock all day long, giving spectators rides on beautiful Gull Lake.

Stella – Visiting from the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandrea

The crowd on Saturday was steady, despite the rain and drizzle. At 4:30 PM the parade began with the deafening sounds coming from so many large engines.

Gatsby – 1929 28′ Gar Wood Triple Cockpit Runabout

Of course, then there was “Tolka”, the fabulous boat from the shops of the Alexander Graham Bell Laboratories. This boat has had an incredible journey from the day it first hit the water that has followed it right through its discovery and renovation by Peter Breen in Ontario, Canada. You can experience this story at http://www.tolkaboat.com/. You don’t get more special than this boat. To see it up close and personal is quite an experience.

Tolka – from the shops of the Alexander Graham Bell Laboratories

Peter Dahl’s Very Cool Riva Jr

On Sunday it was sunny and bright and the great weather brought out the spectators by the thousands. When it was over and the boats slowly eased back out into the lake, it seemed like they were disappearing, just as they had decades ago, slowly fading into the distance until they were gone.

Lee Wangstad

Cruising Across Gull Lake – A 1962 28′ Constellation owned by Ryan Amacher

Thanks Lee for a great story today… And thanks to Dane Anderson for sharing his beautiful photographs with us here at Woody Boater, and to Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service in Minnesota for his assistance on the water.

Texx
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19 Responses to “The Fourth Annual Gull Lake Classic Boat Show – Firing On All Cylinders For 2012”
  1. m-fine

    The wood on that streamliner is amazing. Great grain on the cover board, I can’t imagine the size of the raw wood stock that piece must have been carved from!

    • m-fine

      Ahh nevermind, put my glasses on and clicked for a larger image and now I see it is multiple planks. still, the curves are amazing.

  2. Philip Andrew

    Yikes look at the Coronado!! Quick where are the heart pills. Love that Wright V8. What a pretty thing it is. Great shots thanks Lee.

    • Dane

      Philip

      Gull Lake was/is a “Century” lake. Lots of wood and early glass Resorters, Arabians and Coronados at docks around the lake. Even a couple Ski Furys. I also saw some nice ones for sale on my way to the show.

      • Philip Andrew

        Dane- thanks for that snippet of info on Century. Something about them that gets me, I just cant describe it.
        Love to add another one to my collection but my kids are hovering up my spare cash with their studies right now.

  3. Rick

    I guess they’re lucky I don’t live near the show as my 4 banger would have brought down that boat:cylinder ratio.

    • m-fine

      It’s not just the number of cylinders but also the size. The Write’s jugs are more than twice the size of those in a stock 283, and the 12 cylinders in a Liberty displace 27 liters, or almost as much as the 48 cylinders that would be in six 283 v8’s. In fact, I believe each cylinder of a liberty has about the same displacement as a Chris Craft/herc 4 banger has in total. Thems’ sum BIG power plants.

    • Texx

      Rick – That four banger is a cool part of “Panther’s Patina”…

      We can just tell the boat show spectators that it’s a special “Big Bore” version (thus the name “Panther”), that will impress them.

  4. Alex

    Lee and Dane, thank you for a wonderful story. Thoroughly enjoyed it all.

    • Tommyholm

      Wow, that was almost a “thoroughbredly” enjoyed it by Alex

  5. Texx

    Dane’s comment about Gull Lake being a “Century” lake is interesting.

    Most of us can relate to a lake or area where the local boat dealer had a significant impact on what marque dominated the docks.

    For me the first area / lake that comes to mind (and there are many) is of course the Hessel / Cedarville region of Michigan with the Mertaugh Chris-Crafts…

    Or Lake Tahoe with Obexer’s and the Gar Woods…

    Or the Payette Lakes in McCall, Idaho where Century dominated and you can still feel that even today as Dane says…

    I think I feel a story developing…

  6. Tommyholm

    Texx, thats a story for sure. Back in the day one could build a great boat but the sale/delivery to the new owner depended on the boat builders’ local dealer.

    nice Coronado bow shot!
    keep the Thoroughbreds coming!

    • Dane

      I believe that there is a time frame component to this as well. This part of Minnesota really boomed after WW2. Higgins and then Centurys might have been viewed as a sexier and better performing choice for watersports than what Chris Craft was offering. So did the quality dealer dictate what was sold, or did they sell what the people wanted?

      • Texx

        BIG V-8 power and bold new styling I suppose.

        Frank? – Are you out there?

        • Tommyholm

          Century jumped on the V8 in 1955 and got in early on the water skiing boom, , selling Resorter 16 boats like hot cakes at a kiwanis fund raiser in1956.
          The men in Manistee reacted to dealer demands – and they could DEMAND – they had first hand knowledge what the customer wanted. Only at winter boat shows could the boat companies see what the other mfg were doing and get an earful from dealers and the buying public.

  7. Lee Wangstad

    I think that a lot of the Century proliferation on Gull Lake was due to the presence of Harold Thompson, a master boat carpenter who almost single-handedly kept this fleet on the water. He knew Century boats inside and out, knew all the tweaks and tricks to make them last. Harold is gone now, but quite appropriately, the Gull Lake show is dedicated to his memory. Higgins boats were handled by Ray Madison during the late 40’s and early 50’s from his Brainerd dealership, along with Shell Lake. I do know that Leonard Marine (later Nisswa Marine) handled Chris-Craft during the 30’s.