Fellow Woody Boaters Mike Connell, Greg Lewandowski friends of friend of LeRoy Stevens, with information from the family, sent us in this fantastic story on WaveTrotter, A family boat has spent it’s entire life in Port Huron and will be at the 2018 show. It’s regularly used by the family, and LeRoy is one of the four members of the steering committee for the Port Huron show.
This is what Michigan Woody Boating is all about and why this years big Port Huron Show is going to be epic. BTW, hotel rooms are booking up already. This is going to be one for the history books. And whats better than a little family history to get started with! Take it away Mike! Photos by Chris Herbert, Shannon Knight and Eric Friazier
LeRoy Stevens can be forgiven if he does not remember his first voyage on the 24-foot Chris-Craft runabout that is his pride and joy.
After all, he was only four months old.
Stevens’s boat, WaveTrotter, has been in his family for more than 80 years. He was still in diapers in 1947 when he joined his mother and 4-year-old brother on his maiden cruise.
Like his father before him, he would grow up beside the sky-blue waters of the St. Clair River, the upper portion of the strait connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
“My father loved boating and speed, which is what the WaveTrotter is all about,” Stevens said. “He kept the boat close to him his entire life, so I grew up with the boat and the St. Clair River.”
WaveTrotter was built in 1930 at the Chris-Craft boatyard in Algonac. An all-mahogany runabout with a six-cylinder Chrysler Imperial engine, it carried a sticker price of $2,750 and was sold to Port Huron businessman Louis Foster on Sept. 6, 1930.
The boat originally was named for Foster’s wife, Margaret. Both of the Fosters died in the mid-1930s, and perhaps with angels in mind, the family rechristened it The Halo.
The ’30s brought the Great Depression, and boat prices collapsed with the rest of the economy.
In the summer of 1937, the Fosters’ son, Harold, sold the boat for $500 to Stevens’s father, Allen, who had just graduated from college. For another $500, the Fosters also sold Stevens a boathouse on the Black River in the shadow of the 10th Street drawbridge.
The following year, 1938, brought the opening of the Blue Water Bridge, which connects eastern Michigan and southern Ontario at the place where Lake Huron spills into the muscular St. Clair River.
Allen Stevens made a bit of extra cash by taking tourists on rides beneath the towering bridge in the boat that he had renamed the Stevie IV.
In 1939, he married Lois Black, and the runabout got yet another name: Al-Lo.
The newlyweds also built a boat house on the St. Clair River in Port Huron. In fact, the floor of the boat house was poured on July 14, 1939, the day before their wedding and a year before they were able to move into their new house on river’s edge.
The runabout would remain at that location for more than half a century.
During World War II, Allen Stevens joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary and used the Al-Lo to patrol the international border waters on weekends.
The couple loved cruising and water skiing, and they kept the Al-Lo in splendid condition. LeRoy Stevens, the middle of their three sons, remembers the attention his parents lavished on woodwork, brightwork and engine.
LeRoy and his bride, Brenda Wilkin Stevens, began caring for the boat after their marriage in 1972.
In 1986, the elder Stevens gave them title to the boat, which they renamed the WaveTrotter. LeRoy and Brenda had the old Chrysler engine rebuilt and re-upholstered the seating for 10 passengers.
In the early 1990s, the Stevens had a trailer built specially for the WaveTrotter and began taking it on family trips.
Their cruises have carried them to dozens of destinations, including around the mitten of Michigan, to the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River, to the Finger Lakes of New York State, and to the St. Johns River in northern Florida.
In 2010, a family friend, Mark Mason, owner of New England Boat & Motor Inc., of Laconia, N.H., suggested they replace the 80-year-old Chrysler engine with something newer and more reliable.
Robert Mishko, of Rocky Summit Performance, provided a custom-built, small-block Chevrolet engine (409 cubic inches, 375 horsepower).
“This was a fantastic decision, as we have been able to go boating with no engine issues,” Stevens said.
With Mason’s help, they also refinished the brightwork, replaced the flagstaffs, refreshed the varnish and, in general, kept the WaveTrotter in tip-top condition.
“We have continued to keep the boat in good shape, focusing not necessarily on its original manufactured condition, but how we remember it,” Stevens said.
The WaveTrotter will be part of the fleet in mid-September when the Michigan chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society plays host to the group’s annual meeting and International Boat Show.
Classic boats from across the United States and Canada will gather at Port Huron on Sept. 12-15. Pre-event activities begin on Sept. 9.