SmithSkiff – Keeping It In The Family
In January Woody Boater published a story featuring the wonderful, fresh photography of Robert & Linda Miracle. For the story, Matt created a banner which highlighted a very nice Chris-Craft Sea Skiff, based on a Robert Miracle photograph.
We received a number of positive comments and e-mails from viewers about the Sea Skiff in the banner and thought it would be fun to learn more about the boat and it’s owners. With Robert Miracle’s help, we were able to get in touch with the owners, Alan & Faye Smith in South Carolina and what a great story it is – Here’s the story in their own words…
Alan Smith is the Great-Grandson of Christopher Columbus Smith who, along with his brother Hank established Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company in 1922. The company changed it’s name to the Chris Craft Corporation in 1930. One of Christopher Columbus Smith’s many sons was BERNARD (pronounced BER-nerd, not BerNARD). Bernard’s oldest son was Charles Christopher Smith who was Alan’s father. The current Chris Smith is the youngest son of Bernard. Chris and Alan were very close in age and were raised more as cousins or brothers than as Uncle and Nephew. Alan was the only one of his generation (4th generation) to work full time for Chris Craft. During Alan’s time working for Chris-Craft, he worked in Algonac, MN and Pompano Beach, FLA. A lot of the others worked part-time or after school jobs or summer jobs, but not full time employees.
“SmithSkiff” is a 1957 22 foot Chris Craft Sea Skiff. It was manufactured in Salisbury, Maryland in the winter of 1957 for a delivery to Northern Michigan in December making the skiff a 1958 Model. The hull number (meaning the production number) of the boat is SK 22-2165. Broken down, the letter designation of “SK” stands for Sea Skiff. The 22 in the number tells the length of the boat and the 2165 is the actual number of the boat off the production line.
Sea Skiffs were made as a cheap, throw away fishing boat. It has a mahogany frame, oak ribs, and fir plywood. Each of the plywood planks are screwed into each rib and frame with clinch nails used between the ribs. The lapstrake hull (meaning overlapping planks) was sealed inside and out. The boats came with different color hulls and the buyer had a choice of color. The earlier boats came with a Chris Craft K engine, later, as in our year, a Chris Craft 283 was an option. The inside of the hull (called ceilings) were sometimes planked over with mahogany, making the boat a “Ranger” model.
Our boat was purchased in Georgia. We first saw it on the internet and stopped by to look at it on a trip to the mountains. It was love at first sight. The boat is 90 percent original with the exception of the engine. The engine that came with the boat had been run in salt water and not maintained, it was a Chris-Craft 283. We decided to replace the old tired engine with a 350 for better speed and safety.
Other than hull and bottom paint every couple of years and annual attention to the mahogany brightwork (Bow topside, seats, covering boards, transom, and engine cover), the boat needs little attention. Actually far less attention than a fiberglass boat if is maintained properly.
It is a fun boat…. Perfect for hauling the grandchildren on skis, puttering to a picnic in one of the coves, and trying to outrun slower boats…. We have a wonderful boat.
(I also asked Faye Smith about the new book they created, named Transoms….Painting names on history)
Faye Smith commented… I had an idea a few years ago while at the Hessel boat show. We (the cousins and I) bantered around the idea for a while until we finally got serious. Between the 5 of us (Chris’ son Mark and his wife Alice, and Chris’ daughter Joy, Alan and I) we got busy, made our plan, and developed the concept and published the book. The book came out the first week of December in time for Christmas. Volume 2 is now in the planning stages.
If anyone is interested in ordering a copy (or 100) of “TRANSOMS” they may do so by emailing : Joysmith0428@att.net or by Sending a request in writing to:
608 Crescent Dr.
Holland, MI 49423
The books are $35.00 per copy plus shipping
We would like to invite anyone with a wooden boat or just an interest in wooden boats to contact us. We would like nothing better than to rendezvous on the lake for a picnic. If you are interested contact us by email at email@example.com.
Alan and Faye Smith
Just another example of why the antique & classic boat hobby is so great… friendly, gracious folks like Alan & Faye Smith.
Thanks Alan & Faye for sharing your story with us and we look forward to seeing you at a boat show in the future, and going for a ride in your beautiful, classic Sea Skiff.
The photos for this story were provided courtesy of Robert & Linda Miracle, at Miracle Photography in South Carolina.
Wow. it is my birthday today and it is the second day with a lapstrake. I guess I am a lucky guy. It seems that the Smith family enjoys a nice lapstrake. With several Lymans in our family it is a little hard to hear some one say that they were thought as throw away boats. Of course the sting is balanced by the fact that they are preserving this boat. I hope that someone takes care of the 22 footer that was on ebay. Thanks
Stay tuned – We have a tasty Lyman story cooking on the stove right now and it may be ready later this week…
Texx, lovely boat. It might help readers and the creators of Transoms if you — or they — could provide a brief description of the book’s contents. I know, I know. Pictures, right? How many though, and from what areas?
Hi Alex, the boat has boats from alll over the US. Volume 2 should be even more diverse. There should be over 100 photos in the book with stories to go with each one. I think you would really enjoy reading it. We have had some great responses. We plan to have them along with us at the boat shows that we will be attending this year. Our first show will be at the Marine base at Camp Le Jeune, NC the first weekend in April and then In Hartwell, GA the next weekend. If you plan to attend, please introduce yourself, we would like to meet you and all.
I had not heard the phrase “…cheap, throw away fishing boat” used to define Sea Skiffs before but coming from someone with first hand experience in their development in 1953 (and possibly earlier) it must have been a common expression used around the Algonac facility at the time.
A tremendous amount of time and energy went into conceiving this new offering by MacKerer and the Smiths before they began production. The first ones were built in Algonac and then, Cadillac before the Sea Skiff Division facility was built in Salisbury, MD. to mass produce them for awaiting customers. Another Chris-Craft success story.
Here we are 50 plus years later, still enjoying these “cheap, throw away fishing boats”.
Hi Al. I remember when I wanted to start the SeaSkiff Club a number of years ago. Alan’s uncle Willis Richardson ran the Sea Skiff Division in Salisbury. I contacted him and ask if he would give me insider information about the boats, production etc. His exact response was “what for? they were just a throwaway boat, intended to last about 10 years”. I’ve always got a chuckle out of that.
Thanks for adding that, Faye. That’s a great addition to the story. I look forward to meeting you and Alan in the near future.
Re-reading old posts a couple of years old…it’s ironic that CC felt that a Sea Skiff would last 10 +/- years and then be thrown away…
On the contrary, many of these handsome, durable and versatile craft became family heirlooms and are still turning heads and making memories… SIXTY years later!
…I guess they built ’em better than they had planned!
here is what i really like about this article…
a lot is still new to us…at events things get busy and there never seems to be enough time to get to know just who it is that you’re talking to, but you know when you see them at the next event you’re just happy to see again and having this article along with the pictures gives us an opportunity to learn more about our new friends…
we really enjoy the stories about the boaters and their boats, they are fascinating…
Thank you so very much for such a wonderful opportunity to share a little of our boats history with everyone. It makes me feel great that folks have an interest.
As to the Transoms book, the focus of the book is some of the interesting names that families give their boats and how much time and energy and love went into that process. The stories are heartwarming and some comical. Some just downright fun. The book was conceived out of curiosity and each of us has contributed in some way to make it something that we can all be proud of. Remember that volume 2 may be on the radar screen before long. Keep watch and join in. The skiffgirl email is incorrect. It should read firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your comments Faye. I revised your e-mail address on the bottom of the SmithSkiff story as well.
I’m actually Frank “BOAT” WILLIAMS great grandson and I was interested in the company records owned and operated by him. Also the Chris Craft Company. Please if anyone has this information or knows how to go about finding it please let me know.