The Reasonably Priced Restoration Of A Classic 1959 Feather Craft Islander Express Cruiser


As we travel to the various boat shows and boating related events around the country, the subject of future growth of the antique & classic boat hobby often comes up. Over the last few years, at many of the local events, and even the larger events, we are noticing more and more entry level classic boats in attendance made from wood, fiberglass and alumimum. It’s just great to see that these old classic boats are being saved, their owners are bringing them back to life, and proudly displaying them and participating in the hobby.

Local ACBS Chapters are always looking for ways to attract new members, which has a direct impact on the overall growth of the hobby nationally. Some folks feel that more should be done to encourage folks to get involved in the hobby with these less expensive, reasonably priced classic boats. After all, the reasonably priced wooden, fiberglass and aluminum boats from the 1950’s and 1960’s are cool too, and represent the history of boating during that period.

In early January, fellow Woody Boater Chad Durren ran across a listing on the Internet for a 1959 17′ Feather Craft cruiser. The only problem was, the classic aluminum Feather Craft was located in an outdoor storage compound in Calgary, Canada not far from where our friend and fellow Woody Boater Paul Harrison lives. (Another fine example of how the Woody Boater community works together)

Chad (who is currently restoring a Feather Craft runabout) and Paul did some quick research on the marque and determined that this particular Feather Craft was called an Islander Express Cruiser, which according to their research was not that common. They also communicated with some folks on one of the very active Feather Craft owner’s forums to find out that the boat was a rare find. A few days later, after an initial inspection, Paul ended up buying the boat. The first two photos of the Islander (above) on the flatbed trailer are from the original on-line advertisement.

Below is a rendering of a 17′ Islander Express Cruiser from an original 1959 Feather Craft brochure.

This is what the Islander actually looked like when Paul arrived at the storage compound. But from what he could see, it looked to be in fairly good condition for a 52 year old aluminum boat and he was able to locate a serial number on the transom which confirmed it was in fact a 1959 model.

The cabin top was originally constructed from fiberglass and the plexiglass windows were weathered but all there. The ventilating front windows were made from flat glass and almost all of the hardware to operate the windows was intact. Except for the bow light and stern light, it appeared that all the original hardware was there, rub rails and original custom side grab rails were intact.

Although from the photo it looks a bit rough on the interior, the original plywood interior components appear to be there, but the original folding captains chairs are missing and will have to be sourced. According to the seller who knew the family history of the boat, it had been stored outside for a number of years awaiting restoration. As noted in the original 1959 Feather Craft brochure, they claim “The foam filled flotation compartments under the seats and in the bow make your Feather Craft virtually unsinkable.” The foam flotation sections are what you see scattered around the inside of the boat.

The aluminum transom appears to be in good condition, and Paul was able to locate the original wooden boards that were used to mount the outboard motor to the transom. For purposes of originality, all the original wood will provide good baseline templates for the new wood located throughout the interior.

The Feather Craft specific hardware such as this nose piece also appears to be in reasonable condition, which certainly helps in terms of cost of restoration.

The original Wilcox Crittenden steering wheel was still in the Islander, but badly weathered. The dash board was sparse to say the least.

But hey, it has those iconic “Fins” which were a common design element in the late 1950’s with many of the fiberglass runabouts and express cruisers from the period.

So at this point your probably thinking to yourself, “Why is he telling us this stuff?” Well, Paul’s vision for this Feather Craft is to attempt to restore the Islander as a period correct “Reasonably Priced User Boat” and get it back into shape and in the water by the summer. Last week he was very fortunate to locate the original Mastercraft trailer that came with the Feather Craft Islander and will arrange to transport the boat 300 miles to a restoration company for an assessment. Paul’s ultimate objective is to complete the project within a specific budget of under $10,000.00 – all in, including a period correct outboard motor.

We thought it would be fun for Woody Boater to follow the project with weekly updates, covering every aspect of the restoration process, to experience the ups and downs of the restoration and see if Paul can meet his objective of completing it as a “Reasonably Priced User Boat” and get it back in the water by the summer.

While Paul was in Tavares for the Sunnyland boat show, through the flea market he located a 1961 Evinrude Starflight 75HP (simliar to the brochure below) that he had completely rebuilt in time for his return to Canada, c/w period correct controls, etc. More on that later.
If you look closely at the boat in the Evinrude ad, you can also see the folding captains chairs similar to what Paul needs for the Islander. Many of the express crusiers from that period used them.

A new windshield will be located for the upper cabin top from Taylor Made as well.

So stay tuned for updates on this interesting restoration project, it should be fun… “The Reasonably Priced Restoration”


19 replies
  1. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy says:

    Ok: Ill say it , for regular folk starting out in this hobby. 10K is a lot of money to spend. I saw a 1964 MFG 19′ complete 4 cyl i/o on Craigs List yesterday $1500 or best offer with the trailer and manuals. Now thats an affordable classic.

  2. chad
    chad says:

    1959 was the first year for the Islander, although I’m not sure how many they made and how long the model lasted. I do know that there very few of them.

    Randy, I agree, there are more affordable options out there.

    When you start putting the pieces back together during a restoration, you quickly realize how much money you can dump into even the “simple” projects. I think Paul has set a realistic goal and I wish him the best in getting her wet again. I can’t wait to see it.

  3. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Hi Randy –

    My goal is not to get the cheapest thing that floats – it is to get a unique, interesting and practical boat in the water for a price that is not outrageous. The cost of the boat was next to nothing, but getting it kitted out is not easy or particularly cheap. What I want to end up with is a presentable, safe, usable and reliable boat that someone might consider as an alternative to a used fiberglass boat, for instance.

    Unless someone is very fotunate, most very cheap boats are cheap for a reason – they need lots of work. Hopefully when done, I will have attened to all that this one needs and at the very least, it is a rare boat saved. It should be fun, and the project is about to get underway. Not sure how long it will take, but I am looking forward to it.

    • Ben Monfil
      Ben Monfil says:

      This series will be a great step in the right direction, as far as this boatnut is concerned! I agree with Randy that 10k is too much for most people, but I still think it represents a more realistic example to those of us who don’t own our own companies or otherwise have boat collecting as a “job”. Kudos to Woodyboater for bringing it down to our level. Oh – and keep up the “lifestyles of the rich & famous” stuff, too!!

  4. anonymus
    anonymus says:

    Do you guys happen to drink your beer out of cans? You may have an aluminum condition. Nice boat. No soak hull. Very sturdy. Goood luck.

  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Great find and great story, look forward to followups…..that is a neat boat!!

    John in Va.

  6. mfine
    mfine says:

    Good stuff for classic but this is woody boater.

    There are more affordable wood boats out there that can be restored as well for the $10k budget if you do most of it yourself. If you find boats other than Chris Craft or Century, or even the less collectable of the big names, you can get a great looking user boat that might not win shows but will make you smile and catch a lot of attention as well. A little Penn Yan Swift with a 35hp outboard would be a great under $10k project. The aluminum boats or classic glass can be fun too but they have their own homes on the web.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Hello Mfine-

      I think that the mere presence of the story on the site suggests that Matt and Texx think other than you do. The interest of the others who have commented also suggests that your opinion of the site as being only for wood boats is not widely shared. After all, if that was the case, we would not have had the very interesting story about Tin Can – the aluminum sedan, or any of the other fiberglass boats that have been on here.

      I happen to like almost all old boats and find most of them interesting – regardless of hull material. I have few prejudices. I believe many in our hobby feel the same way.

      Your point concerning the Penn Yan is well taken. I in fact own a 1946 Peterborough Falcon, a 16′ cedar strip open fishing boat that I bought for $1000 because it was interesting, inexpensive and needed only some varnish. I have a restored ’46 Evinrude Lightfour for power, along with the original oars. All in it cost me about $2k. So, I get that side of it. However, these are very small boats, with narrow beams and are generally not very versatile, or stout for that matter. I am stout (fat, even!) and generally need a bigger boat.

      The decision to fix this one up was somewhat predicated on the fact that it is 17′ long with a roughly 6′ beam and a top, making it actually practical and much more versatile than a little Swift or Peterborough. It is quite a bit larger than the typical aluminum or molded plywood boat of the era. With those dimensions and 75HP, this boat could be used and enjoyed by a younger family, or just about anyone needing something more than a 14′ craft and a 4′ or 5 ‘ beam. The size obviously also provides a measure of safety and comfort that is absent in smaller boats.

      Cost is subjective, and in most cases no one will ever agree on what is reasonable or excessive. I have a 1926 Mullins 15’ Outboard Special that I bought for something less than $200. It is not on the water yet, so while it was cheap, it is currently a lawn ornament or summer beer tub. So, was it actually cheap? Maybe for a lawn ornament, but not for a boat.

  7. Redbeard
    Redbeard says:

    Who wants to go to the same boat show and see the same 30 wooden boats anyhow…There are alot of old blue collar boats out there that need to be restored and shown off at these boat shows to, if for nothing else but to see something different..

  8. Texx
    Texx says:

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. It’s just great to see the nice cross section of comments and opinions on the ‘Reasonably Priced Restoration” project.

    The Feather Craft Islander Express Cruiser is a unique, rare craft and it will be fun to follow the fast track restoration process from start to finish. Every aspect of the project will be revealed with associated costs and timelines right through to re-launch day and water test captured live on video.

  9. matt
    matt says:

    The coolest thing about this boat is that its not made out of wood. We here at Woody Boater are all about very cool boats. NOW.. Most of them are wood for sure. Like the cruisers. Trust me, I wish there were a fiberglass cool cruiser. The Roamers are cool.. in metal and alum.. I love this boat .

  10. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    I certainly enjoy seeing other types of old boats. There is so much boating history out there that will never be in my wooden boat magazines. Heck I even enjoyed the airplanes!

  11. pick373
    pick373 says:

    I have made money on every boat I have ever owned! I if you believe that I have a 51% ownership in the Brooklyn Bridge you might be interested in! People get involved in hobbies (obsessive passions) not to make or lose money, but because it’s fun and sometimes it’s a distraction from the s*** we have to deal with in life (which is relative) so enjoy! You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.
    Dave P

  12. Epilasyon Dünyası
    Epilasyon Dünyası says:

    It’s a nice beneficial part of details. I’m just contented you shared this convenient information around. Remember to stop us well informed like that. Many thanks spreading.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Scott – The restoration continues, however it’s on a slower schedule. Period correct 75HP Evinrude is ready to install once the repaired to the fiberglass top are completed. – Texx

  13. Ron
    Ron says:

    Hello Woody club, I have been working on a 57 Feather Craft Ranger for the last couple years, a labor of love. When I read about Paul’s restoration of Islander I was very interested and would love to see it or even pics of it. I am not part of any club but love boat restoration as the 57 is my second restoration project. For those who are interested I can send pics of her. I reside in Alberta, Canada and haven’t been in touch with any folks that share my interest. Bye for now.

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