After spending the entire day touring Lake Minnetonka with Dave Bortner last Tuesday, Dave had a full schedule of Freedom Boat Service related business the following day, and when he told me what was on the schedule I decided to tag along with Dave for the day – and what a fun day it was. (And for our new viewers, don’t forget that you can always click on the images in the story to enlarge them, and today they blow up real good!)
The day began at 7:30 AM and we were on our way to the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria, MN – about 2 hours west of Lake Minnetonka. The plan was to pick up Kermit & Jenny Sutton’s 1932 28′ Gar Wood Triple “Wren” which has been on loan to the Museum since last fall, and deliver it up to the Sutton’s lake home on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes near Brainard – about two hours north-east of Alexandria.
As always, we were greeted with a warm smile and some kind words from Bruce Olson, museum Director, who gave us a quick tour of the new additions to the museum and surrounding Maritime Gardens. The museum is constantly making improvements to the facility and exhibits which is great to see.
We then hitched up the big Gar Wood to Dave’s truck for her two hour trip over the Kermit & Jenny’s.
We delivered “Wren” to Kermit’s hanger next door and made our way over to their lake house for a visit and to get a glimpse of their boat collection. When we arrived, Kermit had just arrived home from a fishing trip in Canada – and he rolled out the “red carpet” for us which made for a fantastic afternoon of fun.
Our tour of Kermit & Jenny’s boat collection began with a ride in their freshly restored 1953 Chris-Craft 26′ Express Cruiser that they use as a fun day cruiser and grocery getter on the Whitefish Cain of Lakes. A great boat for when friends come to visit.
Then Kermit said “If you like we can put “Daniela” in the water and go for a ride.” Well for those of you who don’t know me, I will never turn down an offer to go for a ride in any classic boat, especially a Riva. Before we knew it the big Riva has moving down the rail system from the boat house and ten minutes later we were cruising across the bay in the Minnesota sunshine. And then Kermit said “Texx – You drive” and it just kept getting better…
When we arrived back to the dock, we made our way over to the other boat house where the Belle Isle Super Bear Cat lives, which is normally shared with “Wren” the 28′ Gar Wood Triple and also some perfectly restored marine engines, including a huge Sterling-Petrol six and a Hispano-Suiza V-8.
Then to my amazement Kermit offered to put “Ondine” the Belle Isle Super Bear Cat in the lake to take me for a ride! Minutes later “Ondine” was rolling down the rails and in the water. The 1929 650 HP V-12 Hispano-Suiza Model 12 Nbr fired right up which was spectacular to hear – with it’s 2,000 cubic inch, 2,000 Ft. Lbs. of torque @ 1,700 RPM… away we went using the Riva Aquarama as a “shoot boat”…
After we snapped a few shots of “Ondine” I joined Kermit on board the Super Bear Cat for the ride of a lifetime. And then Kermit moved over, handed me the wheel and said “Texx – you take over.” Driving the big Belle Isle was fantastic. I was amazed how nimble the boat handled and how quiet it was from the forward cockpit. An experience I will always remember. At one point (not wanting to over stay my welcome) I began to steer the boat towards Kermit’s dock and he said “Let’s make another lap of the lake” and that was like music to my ears.
When we returned to the dock, I handed the controls back to Kermit and watched as he masterfully pulled the big Belle Isle into the slip and on to the submerged boat cradle.
The automated rail system works great. When we returned to the dock, Kermit approached the dock with enough speed to steer the big 30′ Super Bear Cat into the submerged cradle with the protected guide posts. Once the engine is shut off and the passengers are on the dock, with his wireless key fob, Kermit actuates the winch and the cradle moves up the rails into the boat house. I am guessing the entire procedure takes less than 5 minutes and the boat is back in the boat house for a quick wipe down.
After we wiped the boat down, Kermit said “Before you leave, come on over to my hanger and see our Ditchburn Viking.” What a nice surprise that was.
“Eleanor” is a rare 1929 29′ Ditchburn Viking which utilizes a step hull design, which was found by Peter Breen Antique & Classic Boats in Ontario, Canada.
As described by Peter Breen on his website – Constructed in 1929 for a wealthy widow, “Eleanor” was designed so that it could be used in the spring and fall, and varying weather conditions (in Muskoka, Ontario) with six roll-up windows, a folding front windscreen and retractable navy top. This was the only boat of its kind ever produced as the intricacy of the hardware so close to the cockpit proved to be quite expensive.
“Eleanor” was one of the last boats delivered before the stock market crash of 1929 and she is still powered by her original Sterling Petrel 200 hp engine. After spending her first 50 years in Muskoka, Ontario – “Eleanor” was housed at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in British Columbia for 20 years. She was brought back to Ontario by Peter Breen in the mid 1990s.
After a full day on the road and an amazing day of boating with Kermit Sutton, Dave and I hit the road for the two hour trip back to Lake Minnetonka.
During our recent trip to Minnesota, we had the opprortunity to see four different Belle Isle Bearcats, including Kermit’s Super today and Lee Anderson’s two Supers at his facility and during the boat show, as well as a very cool Bear Cat that John Allen owns.
Last week Dane Anderson and I gathered together some great photos and information on the Belle Isle marque and will put together a special “Belle Isle Bear Cat story” later this week featuring some details and history. So stay tuned for that.
Special thanks to Kermit and Jenny Sutton for sharing their amazing collection of antique & classic boats with us and for their wonderful hospitality last week. The visit just capped of a perfect and memorable 10 days of Classic Minnesota along with some warm hospitality from everyone we met.
And thanks again to Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service for his assistance and hospitality over the last 10 days. It was a great time.