THROUGHOUT THE 1950’s & 60’s the Owens Yacht Company consistently developed creative advertising campaigns with eye-catching titles like “This New Boat Is A Family Affair!” Years later, that title still remains fresh in Captain Bill’s memory.
A few days ago we received a message from fellow Woody Boater Bill Masterson via our Woody Boater Facebook page. He was looking for some help to locate a vintage burgee for his Owens cruiser.
We exchanged some information via Facebook and what we discovered was a great story about a man and his 40-plus year love affair with an old wooden boat.
Four years ago Bill decided to take on the restoration of a very special 1955 Owens 21′ Family Cruiser (that’s the Owens model designation) – the same boat he rode in with his father and uncle up the Mississippi River when he was 12 years-old.
And the best part – Bill has completed the entire restoration himself, in his carport and back yard. Here is Bill’s story…
Texx – I have attached a few photos to give you an idea of what’s been going on for the last 4 years of my life. This 1955 Owens 21′ Family Cruiser was my Uncle Jim’s when I was a young boy. I’m now 56 and my wife has been calling it my “Mistress” which is what I have decided to name her.
As far back as I can remember, this boat had my interest. My Uncle Jim’s neighbor had it under a tarp and never used it. Uncle Jim bought it, painted it, and ran it on the Mississippi north of St. Louis for years.
It originally had a 60HP Scott outboard on it (this was back when I was 10-12 years-old). Uncle Jim then turned it over to his daughter and her husband (Shirley & Harold) and they put a new bottom on in 1971, and installed a new 1971 Evinrude 125 HP outboard.
They ran it for awhile then put it in a barn. I always had fond memories of the great times I had on this boat. After sitting in the barn 38 years – One day Shirley called and said “Come and get that boat or we’re going to have a bonfire!” My loving wife approved, and I picked it up.
These two photos (above and below) were taken 4 days after I got it home from the barn. The 38 years in the barn had taken a toll on the Owens, but after re-wiring the 1971 Evinrude that the mice had eaten all the wiring out of and cleaning the carbs, I managed to get it fired up. I just had to take it for a test-ride before tearing it apart.
To this day, I still have vivid memories of driving it during flood waters on the Mississippi, with lots of logs coming down river. My Dad & Uncle Jim reassuring me when we got to the Illinois River that it would be clear, and sure enough it was!
I was probably 12-13 years-old then. Dad and Uncle Jim having a cold beer as we cruised along the river. Times were a lot different back then. Also the boat had a full canvas enclosure.
With the test-ride over, it was time to get the Owens home and start tearing her apart.
I’ve been on this project for 4 years now, with still lots to do. I plan to have her back the water this summer. I live in Westphalia, Missouri – just about center of the state, and water is close-by when I am ready to re-launch her.
The seating has now been done and engine remounted, but it’s far from perfect. I’ve done all the work myself including learning how to use a sewing machine to do seat cushions and upholstery.
I asked Bill about the outboard set-up on the boat, he notes: “Yes that is the original outboard setup, I called the Chamber of Commerce where it says it was made but the lady I spoke to told me there was a school there now. That 1971 Evinrude 125HP outboard engine is what is still on the boat and what I plan to use. After some work on it I mentioned previously, it’s still in great shape.” – Bill
Texx – “If you are wondering about the tarp, I started out working on it under the 3 car carport – then it got too big. I had to move it outside my basement garage and keep it covered.”
Bill notes: If you are ever wondering about something good to do with those epoxy brushes that are only good for about 20 minutes, you should first consider – Is your wife going to start counting and say, “Don’t those things cost a buck a piece?” lol.
So – getting back to the original reason Captain Bill contacted us…
Texx – “I’ve been searching for a location to buy a burgee for a 21′ Owens cruiser I am restoring. I would truly be thankful for any help.” – Bill Masterson
We suggested that Bill reach out to www.burgees.com but Bill didn’t receive a response to his e-mail requests.
Then we thought that maybe one of the Owens marque clubs would have burgees available, but after doing some research, it appears those websites may not be up to date or active.
So out next option was to reach out to the Woody Boater community to see if anyone out there can give us some assistance on where to go to either buy a vintage Owens burgee or possibly have one made for Captain Bill.
Thanks for sharing your story with us here at Woody Boater today Bill – Your patience and dedication to save this boat from the burn-pile and get her back into service is an inspiration. Nice work, she looks wonderful!