Today we are featuring Part 1 of a story we call “The Seventeen Year Itch” from John & Sharon Lisicich in the great Pacific Northwest. Their remarkable 17 year odyssey to locate and restore No Ka ‘OI – a rare 1950 17′ Fairliner Torpedo is a wonderful example of their patience, dedication and passion.
With John’s help, we were also able to communicate with Allen Petrich – grandson of Western Boat Building Corporation co-founder Martin Petrich, Sr and son of Allen Petrich Sr who was the founder and head of Western Boat’s Fairliner Division in Tacoma, Washington. Allen provides some great historical commentary and period photos for John & Sharon’s story. Allen’s grandparents and John’s grandparents were very good friends and came from Yugoslavia at the same time. – Texx
Our Fairliner Torpedo Story! (Part 1)
by John and Sharon Lisicich
Owners of Fairliner Torpedo Hull # 32
No Ka ‘OI
Life is truly awesome and every day is brimming over with possibilities to achieve and get whatever you want! I have learned that just as Paul Meyer said, “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass!
All of my life I have had the uncanny ability to find whatever I was looking for. Every time someone said that something was “unavailable at any price” it became a challenge to me to find one. Most of the time I have found at least two! I did not know that what I had really done was to unleash the power of The Secret, and use the power to place my order to the Universe for what I was looking to find. It always works!
No more is this clearly evident in unearthing and having restored my dream boat, the Fairliner Torpdeo. I have also learned that most anything you are looking for is usually only a few miles from where you at the time you want it. At one point in my life I wanted an automatic violin playing machine called a Violano Virtuoso, that we had heard was in a ladies basement in Federal Way. After two years of going door to door hunting and having someone hypnotized twice, we found it. But, that’s another story.
My first stop along the journey was meeting Curt Erickson. (Curt is a well known wooden boat collector, historian and enthusiast in the Seattle area.) Curt had an 18 ft Chris-Craft for sale and was interested in trading it, or selling it. We had a beautiful restored player grand piano that we had discussed trading. So, he invited me out the lake to see the boat and test drive it.
I packed my Dad in the car and away we went. I had never driven a classic boat and was enthralled. I loved the throttle on the steering wheel and the beautiful wood. We got in the boat and Curt showed us the engine and educated us about the engine and the boat. Then, he handed me the keys and my Dad and I went for a spin. I was in my late 40’s and my Dad was in his mid 80’s.
When we fired that baby up and took off from the dock my Dad and I were all smiles. My Dad said to me, “Johnny, you are going to buy this boat, right?” He wanted me to take him to Dockton, WA in it to see where his father built his first commercial fishing boat in around 1908.
Well as it worked out, the boat started me on a fun and exciting journey. I will never forget the sound of the engine when we took off from the dock. I can still hear it today. Even though we never traded, Curt Erickson still came into my life to fulfill the dream. At that time I did not know that Curt had a Torpedo that was a perfect restoration candidate.
It was my cousin Scott Mullen, who really set this dream in motion. We were attending a memorial, in 1997, for an old Croatian fisherman, and at the dinner we were discussing boats and I had mentioned that I would love a classic wooden speedboat. Scott said to me, “why don’t you build a Fairliner Torpedo?” I knew Fairliners quite well but did not know about the Torpedo. Scott said that he had a set of plans that his close friend Allen Petrich, Sr., had given him and the seeds were planted. From then on it was a full on hunt for a Fairliner Torpdeo.
Later on, Scott and I met up and he gave me the plans to copy, I went to see (wooden boat restorer) Bruce Bronson at Bronson Boat Works in Gig Harbor, Washington and introduced myself. It was a very dark and rainy March day and he was just leaving. So we went back to his shop for a few minutes and discussed boats.
I hauled out my plans that Scott had given me and asked Bruce if he could build me a Fairliner Torpedo. He looked at the plans and said that they were not really complete enough. Then he said, “I could do it, but why don’t you just buy mine instead?” It was really a hulk of a boat and a collection of lumber hanging in his rafters.
Below are a few photos of the Torpedo (Hull #32) before we started. It was literally a planter box with no sides, hanging in Bruces’s rafters. This was about March 1998 when we bought the boat. Check out the missing pieces in one of the photos, or the pile of wood tied together that used to be planks. At some point someone had fiber glassed the bottom. It was truly firewood and Bruce resurrected it. (Warning: These photos are not for the faint of heart… – Texx)
We struck a deal and journey was under way. Thanks to God, Sharon, Scott, Bruce, and Curt Erickson, we were on the way to an 17 year boat ride that is truly a fun thrill ride! Curt continues to be a source of parts, and information to Bruce for our dream boat. According to Curt’s records this was probably the last fully completed Fairliner Torpedo that left the factory.
I owe even more thanks to Scott Mullan for his recent gift of an office chair from the Fairliner plant that has a tag on the back that states is was the property of the four Petrich brothers. Scott bought the chair when it was donated to the Slav Hall rummage sale many years ago.
Scott also gave us a gift even more rare than the Fairliner itself, the gift of a rare Western Fairliner tool box. Scott was given the tool box by Nick Sumich when he was cleaning out some old stuff. Many years ago Scott told me he had the box. Now that the boat is completed, Scott has gifted us the original plans, the office chair, and the beautiful tool box, with all its character. It all needs to stay with the boat.
John & Sharon Lisicich
Thanks John & Sharon. Stay tuned to Woody Boater tomorrow for Part 2 of “The Seven Year Itch” story. Restorer Bruce Bronson transforms the rare 60 year-old Torpedo from a planter box to beautifully restored wooden runabout, looking just like she did when she left the Western Boat plant in Tacoma, WA in 1950.
And of course, the successful re-launch of No Ka ‘OI