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Celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving at The Kawartha Lakes – Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association event in our ’72 Greavette. – Chris Bullen photo.

This weekend we join fellow Woody Boater Sean Conroy on what began as a quest to retain his title for the Hagerty Marine Insurance “Best Last Gasp Story” again in 2013. Sean took the prestigious award in 2012. But somewhere along the way, he ended up buying a classic DONZI in the process, which included a completely different “Last Gasp” experience for Sean and his family. Part 1 of his story which began in September 2013 runs today, and Part 2 from January 2014 will run tomorrow.

And for any of our viewers out there who need to break the news to their better half about the classic boat you just bought, you can learn from a master like Sean below. – Texx

Last Gasp For A Classic Donzi – Part 1
Story by Sean Conroy

I was feeling pretty bad about “Last Gasp 2013”. As the current title holder (2012) I felt I should have a good follow-up story. But, we had bailed on the season-ending (ACBS Toronto) Muskoka fall colors run, and took our last family cruise for 2013 in our 1972 Greavette Sunflash IV over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, at The Kawartha Lakes – Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association event.

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“Last Gasping” at Kawartha Lakes – fall 2013. – Chris Bullen photo.

We had beautiful weather, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey with friends and managed to still have a small celebration for my wife (the Admiral’s) birthday. But, the Greavette needed some warranty items to be done (with removed items being sent away and returned) and the logistics of winterization plus claiming a good spot in the storage facility… we were “boat busy” – just not on the water.

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I also considered the annual Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association’s last 2013 run for my “Last Gasp” story. Also a great day, with good attendance, great camaraderie and some very interesting points of interest but, that was at the end of September…. not really in the running for a true Woody Boater style “chill-in-your-face last gasp”.

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A very cool, and very rare Mullins metal runabout we spotted at the Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association’s last run of 2013 in September.

So, to fill the need for my lack of fall water time, I happened to be browsing on the DONZI web sites. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered, as I found a 1964 Donzi 16′ Ski Sporter project at a very attractive price and not too, too far away… Long Island, NY is close to Toronto, right? Sure just 11 hours one way and that was the easy part. I quickly followed up and struck a deal on the boat.

Now that the DONZI was in my pocket, I had to figure out just how to convince the Admiral that I needed to double the fleet? That was the hard part. With 24 years of marriage under our belt, I didn’t want to break the good news all at once. So, out of the blue I offered up a trip to the SPA as an ante. I thought I could score some points.

To sweeten the pot, I asked her how she would like to “see the lights of New York City”… which the Admiral thought was a great idea but, I wasn’t quite home yet. I had to go all out. Over the next days I announced we should take an Ocean Cruise, a trip to the Orient, Mexico, Rome, and possibly see Egypt. The Admiral could hardly contain herself. She must have thought I was dying for a vacation. She was in!

On Monday I asked her to pack her bags for the weekend and see if she could take Friday off so we could get away – She did. This was key as it was the “official Last Gasp” week and it HAD to be done. Friday morning, after a little complaining that we were taking the truck instead of the Volvo, we pulled out of the driveway. The Admiral was happy to go on a drive to “wine country” but, appeared perplexed as I took the highway east towards Ottawa and not south to Niagara Falls. The drive was relaxing but then, the questions started as we headed to the Thousand Islands border crossing.

“Are we going to Clayton” she asked? “No, dear… just relax” I answered. “Good” she said, “I wouldn’t want to be buying another wooden boat today”… Her statement was met with a smile and silence. On Interstate 81 south, I pointed out the sign for MEXICO (NY) and a while later again I mentioned the exit for ROME (NY). The Admiral was enjoying the drive and didn’t really make the connection. The drive was getting long and I had hurried our gas/rest stops. Of course the destination question arose once again. It was time to play one of the big cards. “Honey – I’m taking you to see the bright lights of New York City!” was my answer.

Hours later as we crossed the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River we marveled at the lights of Manhattan to our south. Up Highway 495 we stopped for the night in Riverhead, NY. The Hilton Garden Inn is a nice hotel and our room was complete with a king bed and a SPA. We had an early start Saturday into wine country but, all of the wineries were closed. “Oh, that’s bad planning” I said. The GPS directed us to Southold, NY where I met the seller of the DONZI. The jig was up!! Good thing the DONZI is classic fiberglass.

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A look across Southold bay just past the causeway.

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The Prize, as found – Our new 1964 Donzi Ski Sporter 16.

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The Admiral (maiden name NELSON) with our new project.

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The Prize loaded, the Admiral “relaxing” in the truck…

Now with the boat and trailer all hooked up, and back on the road there was some silence in the truck cab. It had been a nice trip. The sun was out and the scenery beautiful so, it was easy to relax. As we passed the big sign for the PORT of EGYPT marina in Southold, I was greeted with a “smirk”. Finally all the pieces clicked as we entered the town of ORIENT (NY) and the Admiral began to chuckle. “You have been planning this for a while, huh?” I explained about my lack of “Last Gaspitis”… I told her the “Ocean Cruise I promised was next as we turned in to the ferry terminal. After all it was salt water and direct passage to the Atlantic… right?

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Boarding the “Mary Ellen”… Ocean voyage and our 2013 Last Gasp.

The cross sound ferry “Mary Ellen” was built in 1983. She is 260 feet and is 1,237 gross tonnes. This was absolutely our “Last Gasp 2013” out on the water (with our new DONZI). We spent almost the entire crossing on the top deck up front with the chill on our face. I thought to myself….. “I think I got this deal in the bag – I hope!”

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Out on the water with our new 1964 DONZI SKI SPORTER.

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Hoping not to get thrown overboard! – No comments on the “cheesy mustache” please, as I was growing it for “MOVEMBER” (men’s health awareness month).

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Just making sure the Admiral knows where the safety equipment is….

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A beautiful “Last Gasp” at sea…

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One of the great lighthouses in Long Island Sound.

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Old Glory flying from MV Mary Ellen on a beautiful “Last Gasp” 2013 day

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The traditional “wake shot” on the Last Gasp cruise.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion to Sean Conroy’s story “Last Gasp For A Classic DONZI” – Part 2, where we learn some history of the DONZI marque and see what Sean has in store for the restoration project, following some special historical DONZI race boat design ques.


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9 Responses to “Last Gasp For A Classic Donzi – Part 1”
  1. Rick

    Well you passed within 15 min of my house on LI, would have taken you to lunch. The ferry is definitely the way to get a boat on and off the Island. A little expensive but better than the narrow, potholed and crazy driver Cross Bronx Expressway.
    Keep us informed of the restoration.

  2. Gary

    Very cool coverage of a weed find.
    The header shot of Longshot sort of suggests the bilge needs pumping or the picture was taken just as a wave rolled over the exhaust and waterline on the stern. Which?

    • Jimmuh

      Guy on dock comments to self; “wow, the cushions are already floating, this thing sure is filling up fast!”

  3. Steve

    Hey I see a big race in the future….The Donzi vs. PUMPKIN! They should both be ready this summer?

  4. Troy

    I think Sean may have also taken the “Biggest Balls” award from David.

    It is one thing to mess with open ocean in a Sea Skiff, but it is another thing to mess with The ADMIRAL!

  5. Cobourg Kid

    Thanks for the travelogue Sean. BTW I think I’ve contracted cabin fever (fortunately there are no holes in my freezer) stuck here in Cobourg with boat drinks waiting out yet another howling blizzard ; and, well your story has warmed me up, given me some hope that I too can escape from Jack Frost’s kingdom of unrelenting ice and run off to an exotic locale like you did. Whoopee Jamaica here I come! Oh dang that’s in New York state isn’t it! 🙁

  6. Carla

    Very smooth with the Admiral! She knew all along you had something up your sleeve other than the bright lights and the Spa!! Hagerty proudly recognizes the classic Donzi’s and we are happy to protect your investment! Give us a call to learn more!!