Remembering Old Friends – This Is What Woody Boating Is All About.

val1A huge thanks to fellow Woody Boater Kent Volmerding for sending us in this touching heart felt message about his passion of rebuilding, and now building a boat. It’s a reminder to take a moment and thank those around us that make it possible for us to enjoy the best part of Woody Boating. Being with others along the fun journey. And keeping a bit of them in the soul of the wood makes a Woody Boat special.  Thanks Kent. Take it away Mr Volmerding.
Having grown up in northern Indiana at a time when wooden boats on the lake out numbered fiberglass boats, I have always had a special place in my heart for wooden boats. Thirty five years ago, for $150 I drug home a 15′ Chris Craft Cavalier runabout and a dream became reality. That is until my wife saw the boat and made me get it off the drive and in the garage immediately. Seems I was instantly dragging down our property value with that object of dry rot and that rusty trailer.

val2Well fast forward 35 years and multiple self-restorations and rebuilds of Chris – Crafts, Hacker’s, Century’s,  Ventnor’s and even a Gravette, it was time to tackle my life long dream of building a boat from the ground up. I started with plans my kids got me for Christmas a few years back of a 22 foot Palm Beach. With a little more dead rise in the bottom and a little more tumble home at the transom and a slightly different shape to the keel, the boat has become a reality. With just a few more coats of varnish and final assembly,  the boat will be done.val3

I built the boat out of African Mahogany, skinned entire boat with 4 mil Okoume Plywood and planked with 1/2″ Mahogany.  I hope to have the boat complete by next spring. I am powering it with a fuel injected 350 Chevy with some internal hop up’s.  The plan is to travel the US and maybe even do a Canada trip as I am recently retired and planing to use boat as an excuse to travel all over.


Over the years, I have had a very supportive group of fellows that have had my back on each and every project. A Dad that was the smartest engine man anyone could ask for. A Father-in-Law who was as wise as they come, with the ability to figure out how to do anything the easy way the first time correctly. A buddy, who I met over 30 years ago who was building a boat when I met him, he became a life long friend. These gentleman and others have been my inspiration daily on this boat. Believe it or not , that wife that could not see the beauty in the first boat has stuck with me thru all my projects and is now my helper on the racer along with my son.  My son has pick up the love for wooden boats and is currently build his version of a Ventnor 225 class racing hydro.


Ventnor 225 class racing hydro in progress


Hydro Bottom!

Unfortunately, many of the rest, thankfully not all, of my support team have passed away, leaving me with a big hole in my heart. They left me with something else, the desire to leave something I can pass on to future generations to remember them by. Thus the boat will be named “In Memory”. All of those that have inspired me and are no longer here, will be named on a brass plate on the dash.val4

17 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Kent, along with a boat smith, you are also a very class act. Your racer is beautiful and your story behind it’s naming is the best I have ever heard. I hope you will consider including our Michigan chapter Algonac event as one of your travel destinations. We would be proud to have you join us. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

  2. Tom Gruenauer
    Tom Gruenauer says:

    I started in this hobby 35 years ago knowing nothing about boat restoration. Not having money to hire anything out I needed to learn how to do everything. After joining ACBS and the local chapter I wrote a letter to the president of our local chapter asking for help. Jack Barron wrote back telling me “we are here to help”. This started a 30+ year friendship. Jack was a presenter at almost every club workshop. Teaching/ demonstrating/ advising, telling stories from the old days in Detroit where he grew up. He used to say that when he started in boating he had a group of friends that helped / taught him how to repair and maintain his wood boats. After a while Jack encourage me to start presenting at work shops.
    He always had a boat or motor project. Working in a one car garage he did amazing work. When chemo slowed him down he would work at his bench, helping someone with their water pump.
    We lost Jack Summer of 2015, he went home to Michigan.
    Jack change my life in so many ways…..

    • Wilson
      Wilson says:

      Jack was a most unusual fellow…An early ACBS president, he was always there( with wife Jean in earlier days) to help and always with a story about a boat restoration. Until his very last year, a Christmas letter from Jack, always mentioning some boat project, was refreshing. We miss him

  3. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Beautiful story of a beautiful boat. Sounds like you have an awesome family. Be sure to share pics here when she’s launched!

  4. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    It just makes my day to read a story like this! Boat friends are truly special in every way. Every day I check Woodyboater and then go to the CCABC site via WB…after reading the paper and all the mayhem in the larger world…it is a time of peace and fellowship. This is the only cyber time I am at all interested in….no fakebook, no of that other BS, just friends sharing a common passion and devotion to old school ways and means!
    thank you, one and all…..John in Va.

  5. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    As I have mentioned before, I have been restoring boats for a long time. In the early days my Mentor was Dave Wright who passed away 4 years ago. This guy was my best friend who took the time to share information (often over a glass of Jack Daniels) and taught me the skills to complete sometimes difficult tasks. Many of these skills I have passed onto my son Brian, who has taken the whole thing to another level. We have always taken the time to share information and give advice to others in the hobby. This is what it’s all about.

  6. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    It was one of those trips to Tahoe, Terry Fiest says we have to stop by and see Dave Wright at their house over looking ( I should say hanging over) the lake. A Jack Daniels was offered and shortly thereafter he became “cousin Dave” Later on we were housemates with our wives and several others on a week long houseboat excursion on Lake Washington preceding the first ACBS meet at Couer d’ alene. Dave was a very talented guy.

    • Ron in Seattle
      Ron in Seattle says:

      Wilson, that was Lake Roosevelt, behind Grand Coulee dam. That was a grand time! Five houseboats and I forget, about 50 people? And I think we had 12 or 15 runabouts to do day trips while the houseboats motored to the next stop. I remember getting a ride in Dave’s boat.

  7. Wudzgud
    Wudzgud says:

    Matt, you have given us another perfect story about wood boats. I am relatively new to Woody Boater but have helped my neighbors work on their Chris Crafts for years. Wood boat restorers and builders like Kent are true artists and it is so cool to read and see what they do. Thank you!

  8. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Great story being surrounded by so many boating focused friends, yet time flies by so fast. It seems the older you get the faster the clock spins and the less you’re able to get done even if you’re retired. So what happened?

  9. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Kent: Thanks for taking the time to send us this Great story through Matt.

    I Love the Palm Beach and thought I would want to build one myself one day. I have come to the conclusion that I am more of a “user” than a “builder”, even though I do like doing the upkeep and maintenance myself.

    Is there any chance you will get this Beauty to The Sunnyland Festival in March? That would be a wonderful way to start of your cross country tour.

    • Kent
      Kent says:

      Will be in Florida for Race Boat Regetta and maybe the Sunny Land Show for Sunday. Unfortunately boat won’t be ready. Hope to have final varnish on by the time we leave for Florida and while there, upholstery work will be going on. Upon return final assembly will begin for Spring launch.
      A special thanks to all for your kind comments and to Matt for posting and the great way he laid out article.

      • Troy in ANE
        Troy in ANE says:

        Make sure you stop by the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club and the WoodyBoater tents to say Hi!

        I will also be running around the lake in my wife’s Formula.

        (Photo by Craig Stanfield)

  10. Tom H
    Tom H says:

    I love to see people building their own boats. I built the Palm Beach back in 1998 and could not even think of parting with it. I made some modifications to the boat and after using it for a while would have loved to made a few more, like enlarging the cockpit slightly. I sent a letter to Nelson Zimmer for specific design information. His response was telling of his years. Using terms like “johnny come lately”. I would love to see your finished boat and the smile on your face during the first time you leave the dock and push the throttle forward.
    Not sure you will need it looking at the construction photos but good luck anyway. If you ever get out to the northwest I would love to compare notes.

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