HERE AT WOODY BOATER WE ARE ALWAYS AMAZED by the connections so many wooden boats have to their past owners over the years, and throughout the life of the boat. Wooden boats have a certain DNA or history that is often respected, maintained, documented and carried forward by the current owner – to hopefully be passed on to future generations.
I suppose in some ways, the current owners have a responsibility to maintain that history, just like the responsibility they have to maintain the condition of the boat. That’s the responsibility the owner takes on when he or she takes ownership of a classic boat.
Today’s story is a perfect example of this ownership responsibility and respect for the history of a classic boat, courtesy of fellow Woody Boater Dick Dow in Seattle. – Texx
“SINDBAD” Full Circle…
Story by Dick Dow
Photos by Dick Dow & Lesley Batchelor
Back in June of 2011, I was honored when “Sindbad” was featured on Woody Boater. The feature told the story of the boat as I understood it, pieced together from conversations when I first found out about it and when I met the owner’s widow and son back in July 1st, 1990 – the day I purchased the boat. (You can see that original “Sindbad” story in the Woody Boater archives by Clicking Here)
During that meeting I promised the family I would put the boat back on the water – I couldn’t say when – but they would be the first to know. It was a little more than 14 years later when “Sindbad” was launched. After the successful first run, I called their numbers, but got “disconnected” messages…
Fast forward to August, 2011. We were up in the Canadian Gulf Islands on “Thisuldu” when I received a phone call from a very excited Barry Batchelor! He and his son were attending the Lake Tahoe Wooden Boat Show and he wondered if “…that guy who bought dad’s boat ever did anything with it?”
His son went online, searched “Sindbad” and the Woody Boater feature story popped up in the Google search. After expressing his joy at seeing the boat and knowing it was back on the water, Barry told me that I didn’t have the story quite right.
It turns out his dad, Millard Batchelor isn’t the one who designed and built the boat. Yes, he had told me it was his dad who designed and built “Sindbad”, but it was his step-dad, Marcel Baalmann. You see, when he was about 9, his mom and dad divorced and she married Marcel. I guess he had referred to “Dad” sort of interchangeably in our earlier conversations…
Marcel and Millard were friends and early members of the Mariposa Boat Club in San Francisco, racing outboards and generally enjoying the early powerboat scene in the Bay Area of California. Marcel admired the 16-foot and 19-foot Chris-Craft racers of 1936, but decided to design and build his own boat at his home in Woodside, CA.
His intent was to use it in and around San Francisco Bay, which explains its stout and rather unusual construction. He built quite a boat! Millard helped with the engine and systems and they finished “Sindbad” in 1939, according to the title and original offsets. Barry thinks it was launched earlier, perhaps in 1937, but the documents indicate the later date, so I have held to that.
Barry has great stories of the adventures his family had in “Sindbad” on San Francisco Bay, The Delta, Colorado River, Lake Tahoe and Lake Almanor when he was growing up. The boat was used regularly until 1954 when Marcel developed a heart condition and they decided to sell it. Barry told his dad (Millard) about it and a deal was struck that included the boat, trailer and “Sally” the 1929 LaSalle Tourer they had towed the boat with all those years. Marcel gave Barry a commission on the sale…
Millard brought his boat to Seattle in October, 1954. Sometime between then and 1958, he began to rework it, moving the Cadillac motor to the stern, changing to a v-drive set-up and creating more of a utility configuration. Barry told me the last time the boat ran was on Priest Lake, ID in 1958. He said his dad was a brilliant engineer, but never finished his own projects, which I’m sure many of us can relate to and would explain its condition when I first got it. By the way, “Sindbad” and “Sally” were both powered by Cadillac Flathead V8’s.
“Sindbad” never left the family until I bought it. (Thankfully, the car was no longer around – I would have had to get it as well…)
This wraps up the “Sindbad” story – for now…
Barry wrote a nice letter after our phone conversations, sending a picture of “Sally” the LaSalle and “Sindbad” at Marcel’s house and closing with “I have added to my bucket list a ride in “Sindbad”. Some day I would like to see her in her new life.”
So, this past May, 25 years after I had first set eyes on it and 60 years since it had left, “Sindbad” returned to the Bay Area. Our good friend Craig Magnusson and I left Seattle on the afternoon of the 28th and the morning of the 30th at Orwood Resort in Brentwood, CA.
Barry, with tears in his eyes, climbed aboard for his first ride since Priest Lake. His son Stanley, daughter Lesley, a niece, nephew and their spouses were there with him. We had a great day! Fast rides on the Delta, smiles all around and except for our lunch break, we didn’t shut the boat off all day.
Many stories were shared over lunch and sitting by the waterway at the end of the day. We heard about “Grandma Doozy”, Barry’s mother, who lived to be 100 and was clearly loved by her family. There were more adventures with “Sindbad” described, more questions explored and answered. The whole group stayed until the boat was back on the trailer. It was a wonderful day.
We’ve brought “Sindbad” full circle and opened an entire new chapter in the process. It will be fun adding to the stories as time goes by. It’s been on Lake Tahoe, Priest Lake and The Delta. I guess we should put Almanor on the list of places to go!
Barry and I have talked several times since then and I suspect that there will be more rides for he and his family in the future. I’m looking forward to it.
We love and enjoy our boats, no question. But the people, the new experiences and memories made with them are priceless.
Special thanks to Dick Dow for sharing this great story with us today, and to Craig Magnusson for helping Dick make this trip a success.
Dick Dow is magnificent ambassador for the antique & classic boat hobby, with a lifetime of knowledge and experience – and the willingness to always share his knowledge with other classic boaters. Dick & Craig are also proud members of the Pacific Northwest ACBS Chapter, a strong, well organized Chapter.
We are proud to have Dick Dow as our friend.