While traveling through northwestern Montana recently, I decided to make a quick pit-stop in the community of Lakeside (on the western shore of Flathead Lake) for a cold drink of water and a splash of fuel for old Harley-Davidson. That particular day it was hotter than a biscuit in Montana – and when ambient temperatures get close to 100 degrees on an air-cooled motorcycle, it often feels more like 120 degrees as the hot air passes through the engine, and not even the breeze off the lake seemed to help that afternoon.
And short of staying in the air-conditioned gas station all day, the best way to cool off is to simply get back on the bike and continue riding into the evening, as I wanted to get another 200 miles under my belt before dark.
In the rush to get back on the road, I noticed an old fiberglass boat parked in the lot next to the gas station. Now normally I don’t pay much attention to old fiberglass boats on the side of the highway with For Sale signs on them, as there seems to one every few miles these days, but for some reason this old boat caught my attention. So I grabbed my iPhone and shot a few “craigslist style” photos as I made a quick 360 degree loop around the boat (better known as a “ride-by shooting”). Sixty seconds later I put the iPhone away and hit the road.
It was a classic fiberglass StanCraft 19′ Varuna model with a sliding / removable hard top which appeared to be in very original condition for it’s age (although my knowledge about StanCraft fiberglass boats is very limited). Not surprising that a StanCraft boat would be found in the Lakeside / Somers, Montana area – as that’s where the original StanCraft plant was located for the first 50-ish years before relocating their facilities to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in the early 1980’s.
In the side window of the boat was a weathered photocopy of the boats description by the owner, no mention of the year but I am guessing it’s from the mid / late 1960’s or early 1970’s based on the Mercruiser I/O and the rear deck vents that looked like mid-60’s Century Resorter vents.
The description on the weathered paper said: 19′ StanCraft Varuna 120HP Mercruiser I/O; Tandem Trailer; Sliding / Removable Hardtop; Double Hull with Full Floatation; Runs Great / Economical. (and included a phone number which I have if anybody out there can’t live without a StanCraft Varuna)
The interior layout was simple and typical of similar boats from that period, and the upholstery / floor colors & vinyl-ish looking “landau top” reflected the automotive design features of the period.
For the next 200 miles, as I rode along daydreaming and looking for deer to spring out of the Montana ditches, I kept thinking about the boat in Lakeside, and that it looked very familiar for some reason. After I returned home I went to the old Woody Boater photo archive (which is massive by the way) and discovered why the StanCraft Veruna looked so familiar to me. I found some photos that I had from Robert Miracle of the classic AristoCraft Nineteen model that Robert shot on Lake Chatuge, Georgia in 2011.
I remembered the unique design of the AristoCraft with it’s sliding top and the “arched” transom. Hopefully the Turner family will chime in on this, but I think the AristoCraft Nineteen model was produced from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s. However the flat, boxy windshield and side-glass on the StanCraft certainly hurts the overall appearance, looking far less elegant than the Aristocraft.
As we know, it was common for competing fiberglass marques to mimic “design ques” back in the day, but up until my pit stop in Lakeside, I had never seen this top or transom style used on any other fiberglass boats (other than the AristoCraft) from that period.
Unlike many other wooden boat builders from the early days, StanCraft boats have been around since 1933 and many classic StanCraft boats (both Wood and fiberglass) can still be found throughout the Pacific Northwest. And they are still building wooden speedboats and pleasure craft today.
From the StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats website:
StanCraft Wooden Boat Company was founded back in 1933 by W.H. “Billy” Young and his son Stanley C. Young. Stanley later married Delores and had three children Joyce, Syd and Bruce. The company was originally built on the shores of Caroline Point, Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana. It was Flathead Lakes 1st boat building factory. The business was later purchased by Stanley’s oldest son Sydney H. Young and his wife Juliette in 1970.
In the early 1980’s Syd & Julie and their two daughters Sydney and Amy moved the company to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where they continued to produce custom built StanCraft boats along with providing general repairs, restorations, maintenance and storage for their clients. Being the second generation, one of Syd’s main focuses in the late 1990’s became redesigning boat bottoms to achieve better performance and provide a more enjoyable ride. Today StanCrafts are not only sought after for their beauty but also for their buttery soft, level ride.
The company is now in its third generation with their youngest daughter Amy and her husband Robert A. Bloem. They purchased StanCraft in 2010 after co-managing the company for the previous 8 years. StanCraft Boat Company employs a seasoned crew of craftsmen, mechanics, and upholsters.
Along with their existing classics, the new “3G” designs StanCraft is making today have taken the company into the powerboat realm. The Missile, Flash XM, Shooter, Arrow and Wave Dagger are just a few of the models produced in the last few years. At StanCraft, there’s nothing we love more than creating something beautiful that rides fast, level and smooth. The future of StanCraft as in the past lies in our passion for design, performance and above all customer service. – StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats
Lakeside and Somers are nestled on the northwest shores of beautiful Flathead Lake and Blacktail Mountain. The two distinct towns are neighbors on the bay. Located 8 miles south of Kalispell, the communities are the destination spot for locals as well as tourists. All four seasons in Lakeside and Somers offer something for everyone, from skiing the slopes of Blacktail Mountain to sailing and boating majestic Flathead Lake.
Always carry a camera, you never know when you might want to be involved in a “Ride-by Shooting” some day…