Live-ish From In Lake Huron, Yes, I Said In.

And just when you think that the entire Classic Boat universe is on Gull Lake, but what about IN the Lake? A huge thank you to fellow Woody Boater Drew Regan for this report from Hessel. Take it away Drew.

My daughter and I were enjoying the last Saturday of August in the Les Cheneaux Islands. As we usually do, we were walking around Hessel Marina, checking out the boats and the really great view of the channel that leads to the Straights of Mackinac and Lake Huron. As you know, this is the site of the annual Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show held on the second Saturday of August every non-pandemic year. It’s also the home of E.J. Mertaugh Boat Works, the first Chris Craft dealer. While walking by the gas dock, we noticed this:

The gentleman running Mertaugh’s gas dock gave us some very interesting background. This was the very first Chris Craft boat, a 26 foot triple, obtained from the factory by E. J. Mertaugh Boat Works in 1927. The boat was picked in Algonac and motored north on Lake Huron heading to Hessel. Along the way, the boat developed a significant leak around the rudder and was hove to while Gene Mertaugh tried to make repairs. Fortunately a southbound freighter came along, spotted that he needed help and picked the boat and Mr. Mertaugh up, taking them back to Algonac. The boat was repaired and loaded on a train and shipped this time to Hessel.

After all these years, the boat was found in California in a barn completely dried out. The photos show it being rehydrated by being weighed down in a slip in preparation for a complete restoration. It’s too bad that this process wasn’t demonstrated during the boat show, it would have completely stolen the show. There’s just something about a boat under water.

I think I got the story right, but I’m sure there are others with more knowledge that can correct and fill in the details. I am really looking forward to seeing the restored boat. Hopefully it will be ready for it’s 100 year anniversary.



13 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Wow, I think there are other methods to “hydrate” a boat, but I guess they know what they are doing!

  2. Brock
    Brock says:

    We walked up on this last Friday evening as well. Shocking to see unknowingly. Mentioned it to the staff person at the Cedarville maritime museum and he said his neighbor is doing the same with his old sailboat in Les Cheneaux. Can’t wait to see this boat at next year’s boat show. Great history. Wonder what they’ll name it?

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Dang! After this they are going to need to dry her out a little before the freeze hits.

    What fun to find and acquire the first boat sold from the first dealership!

  4. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    ugggghh…I don’t know….
    Lots of sakrete and etc needs to come out first lest they end up with two lift rings on a chain? Diver job?

    Whatever works…..hope to see it up and running.

    John in Va

  5. Floyd r turbo
    Floyd r turbo says:

    It’s going to be interesting to hear and hopefully see how things turn out with this restoration. Great story

  6. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    Interesting. When I saw the pictures, I thought. A classic sunk at the gas dock in Hessel oh no. I’m glad I took the time to read the post. I think it is a crude way to moisten her up. They are going to have to be VERY careful in bringing her back up. Time is of. the essence. Hessel bay will start to freeze in about three months.

  7. Jeff Rogers
    Jeff Rogers says:

    That’s exactly right. You’ve captured the details well. I’ll defer to Mertaugh Boat Works owner Brad Koster for the whole story (and it’s a great one), but after being delivered to Les Cheneaux in 1927 – then being shipped out west to California in the 1960s – she returned back home earlier in August. Definitely a historical and noteworthy project – and also definitely one destined to grace the pages of Woody Boater again in the future.

  8. tom
    tom says:

    I’m no restorer, but I would think that a boat coming up on 100 years old would require at least a partial dismantling (topsides planking, transom etc.) and refastening, new battens, whatever it takes before such a bold step. But definatly a worthwhile project historically.

  9. Jeff Funk
    Jeff Funk says:

    I’m going to remember this story next time one of my boats takes on water, ‘I’m just re-hydrating’.

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