A huge thanks to Rabbit for a well written and spelled report from the Bob well Spelt..z Spring clinic. I know, I know, I ruined the story with my lame aft spelling pun. Sorry Rabbit. I am going to just slither away now. OH.. And I get to make up the captions. Sorry again..
The Kid’s Got Talent: The BSLOL Spring Clinic at Fitzke Boatworks.
Maybe it was the recent long-awaited ice out on Lake Minnetonka, or more likely it was just a chance to hear from a truly gifted next generation builder and restorer. The Land-o-Lakes Classic Boat Club’s (BSLOL chapter of ACBS) final Spring Clinic was standing room only last Saturday. Kevin covered four topics and the crowd was not disappointed. While few boat builders of his (relatively) young age have more appreciation for the history of our beloved boats -down to the most arcane details- Kevin is not afraid to adapt the latest technology in his painstaking preservation of history.
Here at Woody Boater we all talk about the next generation: Are they going to love these vintage treasures as much as we do? The good news is that woody boaters in their 20’s and 30’s were there along with us grizzled veterans. Kevin’s dad, Lee, was in attendance, too. Kevin caught the woodworking bug in his father’s woodshop. But his love of boats began at age 16 when Lee gave him a nautical book with small boat illustrations. Kevin used his math skills to scale up many of the drawings: A John Hacker in the making. Surely, Kevin’s fascination with those illustrations was a precursor to highlight of the day, which was Fitzke’s discussion of his next gentleman’s racer -Miss Moonshine- which promises to be a masterpiece of both design and craftsmanship.
Kevin shared the ¼-scale model and 3-D renderings for Miss Moonshine. Like his earlier award-winning racer, Bugbite, Miss Moonshine will be a completely new build of a boat that is heavily inspired by iconic classic racers like Baby Bootlegger, Ethel Ruth and Columbia Jr. from legendary naval architects like George Crouch and John Hacker and Charles D. Mowers. Fitzke embraces state-of-the art technology in every way as he brings history to life with his builds. Miss Moonshine was rendered with software which was originally created for submarine design: KeyCreator and Fusion 360. Kevin credited retired Van Dam Custom naval designer Michel Berryer for training him on the software as well as being a sounding board for the myriad design decisions the software can’t accomplish on its own. The frames for the model -and eventually the actual boat- were cut with Fitzke’s advanced hand-held CNC shaper/cutter. When it’s finished, the torpedo-shaped (well, it was created with submarine software) Miss Moonshine will measure twenty-three feet with a six-foot beam. It will be built using cold-molded construction and feature a pre-war Bugatti and aviation-inspired interior. Modern touches will include a bow-thruster and a modified GM 350 powerplant with 315 horsepower. In short, it’s performance promises to be as breathtaking as its appearance.
Speaking of cold-molded construction, Kevin had two Rivas in the shop. The first was a rare 1960 Riva Florida which Fitzke plans to have completed this Summer for some very fortunate yet-to-be-found new owner. It’s one of only two Floridas known to exist in America and was one of the first cold-molded, not planked, boat created by Riva. While it originally came with a Chris Craft K engine, the original owner sent it back to the Riva factory to have them install a Ford Interceptor 140-hp V-8 when this engine became available as a factory upgrade.
When Fitzke discovered the block was cracked he was able to find an identical numbers-matching Ford Interceptor V-8 in Wisconsin and had it restored. After the boat arrived from Italy, Fitzke also found that an Italian flag decal on one side was hiding a hole that had been patched with fiberglass and Bondo, which necessitated new sides on the boat. Listening to how Fitzke created his own molds for the new sides was a true lesson in ingenuity. And why the name Florida for a quintessentially Italian Boat? Legend has it that Carlo Riva was inspired to build a boat with the unique folding sun deck after viewing bikini-clad sunbathers on a trip to Florida in the late 50’s.
Kevin also provided an overview of a transom repair on a stunning Riva Ariston that was in his spray booth. He replaced planks and had applied new varnish over old varnish with skill that would make Carlo smile with pride. He documents his work as meticulously as he executes his craft and it was fascinating to see a video that outlined the process step-by-step. Amateurs walked away with some clever tips. For example, to remove a block which held a plank in place, Fitzke applies a solder gun to the nails, loosening the glue so the nails could be removed with no marring of the new plank.
Fitzke also shared a detailed discussion of the mostly pros and some cons of spray varnish. He’s a true believer and the mirror-like luster of his builds and restorations is ample evidence of this new alternative to the tried-and-true brush and roller. More luster, a harder finish, even viscosity, longer lasting, no brush marks, less risk of dust, and the ability to apply multiple coats in one day with less sanding were just some of the advantages Kevin outlined in his presentation. Of course, for many hobbyists the equipment and safety investment can be a barrier to investment. While no one can deny the quality of finish possible with the traditional methods, the benefits of spray varnish are compelling to say the least.
Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin is home to some of the country’s most respected restorers and builders, and several were in attendance. It’s great to see that the tradition will continue in the Land-o-Lakes.