Last fall fellow Woody Boater Sean Conroy was on a mission – to retain his title for the Hagerty Marine Insurance “Best Last Gasp Story” for the second year in a row. His mission started in Ontario, Canada and ultimately took him to Long Island, New York where he ended up buying a classic Donzi project boat. On the trip home, he and his wife (who he refers to as the “Admiral”) and their new 1965 Donzi experienced a different type of “Last Gasp” adventure.
If you missed Part 1 of Sean’s story,“Last Gasp For A Classic Donzi – Part 1” – just click on the highlighted text to check it out. But now that Sean has his ’65 Donzi project boat back home in Ontario, Canada – the burning question is “What exactly is he planning to do with it?”
Last Gasp For A Classic Donzi – Part 2
Story by Sean Conroy
As you guys know my “other” classic boating interest (besides all things Greavette) is Classic Donzis. I documented for Woody Boater (in Part 1), my journey to pick up a 1965 Donzi 16′ Ski Sporter project from Long Island, New York last November. Seeing as it’s still very white outside and I have already spent my time at the 2014 Toronto International Boat Show, I have been doing some research on the Donzi Ski Sporter and its roots.
The key in all this is the well known designers Jim Wynn and Walt Walters, whose names appear on the plans for the Donzi Ski Sporter. In 1964, the first boat Donzi Marine produced was the 16′ Ski Sporter. This model has had variations over the years known as the 16’ Baby (an o/b), the “Sweet 16” and the “Classic 16” becoming one of the most well known and successful designs ever. This design with its 7’ beam and 24* deadrise is also the basis for the Donzi 18’ Classic, the X-18 and the Classic 22’ models that have made Donzi famous.
Now, because I’m a woody boat guy and a bit of a “non-traditionalists”, traditionalist… I began to plan the restoration of my ’65 Ski Sporter to have a wooden deck. As there were so many Ski Sporters made, and still surviving, despite being an early model, mine is neither special nor identifiable. Like many classics, a properly restored (to factory) example will most likely be a money losing proposition.
OUR boat has no provenance, documentation or factory markings located anywhere on it. This is not uncommon, as many of the early Florida made Donzis had no identifying marks and this was also true of the Donzi 16’s produced under license by Shepherd in Ontario, Canada. So, (to me) no harm…no foul.
While making plans for the impending Ski Sporter refit, I was digging further into the history of Jim Winn and Walt Walters. I found the original design that spawned all of the great Donzi racers is a 17’ 2” wooden boat called the WYN-MILL that was designed and built as a one-off boat in 1962. The WYN-MILL won her class in the Miami-Nassau race as well as the Miami-Bimini run that year. In 1963 the Wynn/Walters team hooked up with Don Aronow to build larger off shore boats directly based on this design. They won… a lot!
As a development of the WYN-MILL, Wynn and Walters penned a 16’ version of the boat for Circuit racing called the WYN-MILL II. This “all wood boat” was also a champion, winning the prestigious Paris 6 hour race outright with several other subsequent wins added. The WYN-MILL II went on to become the pattern for the Donzi 16’ models as well as 16’ boats from Formula and Thunderbird. In the mid 1960’s the WYN-MILL II became so famous and desirable you could order plans from Popular Mechanics Magazine to build one yourself.
While trying to track down a set of the WYN-MILL 2 plans I thought would help with my ’65 Ski Sporter project, I happened on to the current owners of the original WYN-MILL which is now located in Norway. I’m pretty sure in its post race life it was used to develop and test stern drives for Volvo before becoming a recreational boat. The WYN-MILL has been lovingly kept, driven and recently restored. There were ultimately only 2 boats built to this design, WYN-MILL and her sister THUNDERFLASH. The latter has been located in the UK and is in the midst of a restoration.
In a discussion I had last week – I find that this unique craft which was the inception for so much history is actually up for sale. The owners of this magnificent craft are only asking $30,000 USD but, of course you’ll have to pay for the transportation back to North America!
It’s hard to believe that a boat this special is actually available and within financial reach of many classic boaters. This, is especially true in comparison to a 1990 Garwood boat re-created from an earlier Gar Wood Baby Gar design, that is not significant nor antique but, recently sold for $150,000 USD at the RM Arizona Auction.
Here’s a short video from Norway (I think) of “WIN-MILL” from January 2012.
Hmmmmm… Do you think the Admiral will miss her Volvo station wagon if I sold it?
Thanks Sean for sharing your story with us, and we look forward to some further updates on your Donzi project as it moves forward. One thing we know for sure, there’s a V-8 out there looking for a new home…