A Huge thanks to longtime Fellow Woody Boater and pal Gary Visser for sending in one of the more emotional story ever to be on Woody Boater. This, this, story right here is what and why we are part of this amazing community. I actually got a bit emotional near the end. Dang, my cold cold heart actually felt a twinge in its beignet clogged arteries.
My brother Royce Humphreys and I spent our summers on a small Iowa lake with a parade of old boats and motors that never stranded you too far from the dock…the benefit of a very small lake. My brother, the youngest, could quickly identify every Donzi, Chris Craft or Century that passed the cabin pulling water skiers and filled with Coppertone and cocktails.
Today his collection of boats looks like the fleet that cruised the lake of our youth. But, he doesn’t just have a Chris Craft, but the 16’ Racing Runabout we knew as kids. Not just a Buehler Turbocraft jet, but the same red hulled boat that BB blasted water at skiers who quickly learned not to follow directly behind the jet!
Next door was a boat house where our neighbors Glen and Rosie kept a Century Ski Dart. Few Ski Darts survived, the victims of neglect and plywood hull rot. And besides, if you’re going to pour your time, money and sandpaper into an old boat, why not a mahogany beauty queen? Who saves the dowdy girls who weren’t asked first to the prom?
Glen and Rosie’s replaced the Ski Dart after an engine failure and the Century spent the next fourteen years in a barn filled with critters. Eventually it found it’s way into Royce’s “lake-historic” fleet and Glen shared her stories starting as every “new” boat, towing home without trailer lights, just a flashlight stuffed in the Dart’s exhaust pipe.
The engine’s head and block had cracked and there is evidence of hull sides damaged in a collision and a long forgotten color change from yellow/black to white black. Restored, the Century looked like it just left the boathouse where Royce was first intoxicated by the rumble of her flathead six. The Ski Dart has a generous cockpit and wide seating in the stern where skiers would wait their turn on the Dick Pope Jr.’s.
Over the restoration Glen and Rosie would drive up to visit their old Ski Dart. Fresh paint and varnish erased years of neglect. That next summer Royce invited them to the Ski Dart’s first boat show. Glen’s advanced age didn’t stop him from sitting on the dock and carefully being helped into the cockpit. The new Gray burbled softly and Glen enjoyed his last ride.
Ok, if you’ve followed this story this far, that’s just too perfect, something everyone in this hobby would hope to do someday. Who wouldn’t want to restore a boat from the memory of their youth and take its former owner for a ride, one last opportunity to hear the idle of their old inboard? Or, even better, have a person they knew as a child and new to the hobby, find and restore your old boat! Could it get better? Well… yes.
Glen had a gift for Royce’s newly restored Century. It was something he’d cherished since he had trailered her home with the flashlight stuffed in the exhaust pipe. The gift was the original burgee from the bow of his Century Ski Dart. You know, we should stop calling this a “hobby”.