A Cool Enchantment – The Story Begins At The Whitefish Lake Launch Ramp



“Ondine” – The 30′ Belle Isle Super Bear Cat in a new Boathouse Classic Trailer at Gull Lake, MN. – Photo by Dane Anderson

On Sunday night, immediately after the Gull Lake Classic Boat Show at Bar Harbor, we received the following e-mail from fellow Woody Boater Steven Olson, a freelance writer in Brainard, MN.

Hey Matt & Texx – After a local woody collector (Mr. Kermit Sutton) invited us to stop by the 2013 Gull Lake Classic Boat Show at Bar Harbor (after sort of running into him and his wife, as they were loading their Belle Isle masterpiece onto a custom woody-trailer at Hay Lake/Whitefish Lake on Friday), we came, we looked, we saw, we have become woody-convert-wannabees, looking sorrowfully upon our mere, but still proud, Bayliner 175.

I’ve drafted a piece I would like to offer for publishing on Woody Boater. If you would be at all interested, I will email you a final draft plus more best images with captions, and transferring all rights to Woody Boater.

Just let me know…thanks! – Steve Olson

Of course we always welcome fresh stories like this here at Woody Boater, and over the next few days – as I was on my 1,200 mile motorcycle trip back home – Steven and I exchanged e-mails from the road as he was preparing his story. Steven discovered the Gull Lake Boat Show, beginning at the launch ramp on Whitefish Lake and he was fascinated (as we all were) by the new fully enclosed, fully automatic classic boat trailer that was on display at the show from Boathouse Classic Trailers. As you will see, this is the ultimate in classic boat trailers. – Texx

Story & Photos by Steven Olson

We weren’t thinking about Woodys, or boat shows, on one recent Friday while launching our bowrider at Hay landing on Whitefish Lake. An enthusiastic couple greeted us dockside as we watched them load their classic Belle Isle Super Bear Cat onto a custom trailer.

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Photo courtesy Boathouse Classic Trailers.com

“Looks like a Lee Anderson special”, I joked. “No, but it’s a friend of his!” came the response. “You should come to the boat show this weekend at Bar Harbor!”, they said. We came, we looked, we saw. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “A boat is a boat, how many more do you need to look at?” We saw Woodys, then more Woodys, and after snapping a hundred photos and still counting, the answer became clear to me.


Photo courtesy Boathouse Classic Trailers.com

More than half a century ago as a kid, I recall my first glimpse of the Woody mystique: fast, Woody “speedboats”, as they were known back then, operating tours on the Fox Chain of Lakes near the Wisconsin-Illinois border. A skipper on his megaphone announced to crowds on shore, “Ten miles around the lake!”, then planed off with the deep-throated roar of the engine, polished wood gleaming in dazzling sunlight.

I also recall several day outings on Lake Michigan, aboard a Chris-Craft cabin cruiser. This, I thought, was like heaven. Then, Valhalla did strike me: seeing a Woody on a northern Wisconsin lake while summer vacationing near Rhinelander — refreshingly yours, a call to cool enchantment, from the land of sky blue waters, as the famous televised beer commercials from that era exclaimed.


Today’s story written by Steven Olson – Here he is seated, far left, on board ‘Sawdust Willie’, with family on Lake Michigan, 1950’s.

Fast forward 58 years. Dockside at Bar Harbor, Saturday, August 24th, a classic Woody on display, on the dashboard sits a can of Hamm’s beer, empty, with the removable pull-tab (remember those?) missing. Refreshingly yours, and deja vu all over again.

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The “Ondine”, Kermit Sutton’s 1926 Belle Isle Super Bear Cat, we found on display above the dock area, nestled against its custom travel trailer, and looking pristine as we had seen it coming off of Hay Lake.

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Classic woody speedboat in transit.

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The 30′ Belle Isle Super Bear Cat – One of Detroit’s finest.

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Park ‘n drive, for classic woody’s. You can look, Ok, you can touch, too…

There was even a cabin cruiser, Rudy Amacher’s “Knooper Way”, a 28′ Chris-Craft Constellation from 1962, remarkably looking like it had just left the dealer showroom, that hearkened me back to days spent on Lake Michigan in the 1950’s.

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Rudy and “Knooper Way” – Happy to share his Constellation with spectators.

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TOLKA is a historically significant antique wooden boat hand crafted at the Alexander Graham Bell Laboratories in Baddeck Nova Scotia Canada in 1928. It was owned by the Lash family in Muskoka Ontario for 30 years before it was rescued by Lee Anderson, and restored under his supervision by Peter Breen Antique and Classic Boats.

There were Lee Anderson’s several amazing choices from his collection, including early 1900’s Woody tour boats recalling bygone lazy, hazy days of summer. There was his “Ethyl-Ruth IV”, which embodies such impossibly smooth streamlines that it made you wonder if it has ever taken off, airborne, after coming up on plane.

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Lee Anderson’s “Ethyl-Ruth IV” has infinitesimal wind resistance, and reportedly zero radar signature.

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“Ethyl-Ruth IV” — impressive cockpit view.

“The Love of Boats” is a shared emotion. In Minnesota, it’s a way of life. Woody boats…forever memorable, true Minnesota Classics, from the land of sky blue waters.

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Parking lot at Bar Harbor is full — see valet…

by Steve Olson. (Patty Hallbeck contributed to this article.)

[Steve Olson is a freelance writer and lives near Brainerd, Minnesota]

Special thanks to Steve Olson and Patty Hallbeck for sharing their Classic Minnesota experience from the recent Gull Lake Classic Boat Show at Bar Harbor, MN – Site of the 2015 ACBS International Meetings and Boat Show. – Texx

Here are a few more shots I snapped during the Gull Lake Boat Show of the Boathouse Classic Trailer in action, as the retractable cover is moved back. There is also a curtain section that closes in the back of the trailer.

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For more information on these custom made boat trailers, you can go to the Boathouse Classic Trailers website.


22 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Somewun needs to clue Steve into how we spehl around here.

    Other than that, a great read, and yes that trailer is cool.

  2. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    I noticed a flaw on Ondine: The key fob. Foam rubber? It deserves a perfectly knotted monkey fist or one of those beautiful cork fobs that Dave Bortner gives his clients.

  3. Redbeardsraven
    Redbeardsraven says:

    Sawdust Willie …. Man I love those old family boat pictures .
    I think there should be a Family boat photo day. Where everyone
    sends in old family boat photos all day long. Boating memories….It would be something to do over the cold winter to warm up ….

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      I think that is a great idea – I wish I had some of my own but we weren’t boaters. I sure like looking at those old pic’s though.

    • Bob Menzel
      Bob Menzel says:

      Here is one from around 1954 or so. Me on right with my Dad driving on Conneaut Lake, PA. The boat is (I think) a 15 foot 1953 Chris Craft plywood kit boat built by Press Reel in Pittsburgh. 15HP Johnson.

      And yes, my lil sister Diane still has all her fingers…

      • floyd r turbo
        floyd r turbo says:

        @Bob – your Dad doesn’t look that excited about being on the water. But the shot has fantastic detail (b&W must have a finer grain and more latitude for light). Right click on the photo and select “view image” and you’ll get the more detailed larger version which you can expand further if a “+” shows up and make yet a larger version. Thanks for sharing.

        • Bob Menzel
          Bob Menzel says:

          ..yeah. Don’t know why Dad looks so grumpy. He had other boats after this one. 1958 Trojan Sea Queen 16ft with 35 horse Evinrude, 1959 Chris Craft utility 17 ft with Hercules 6 cyl and a 1966 Century Fibersport. So he did like boats and using in them.
          Maybe it was dealing with us 6 kids back then.

  4. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Make it a b&w or old color photo day. There is something about the old b & w and early color photos that seems so intriguing for some reason. Maybe its the fact that film was more expensive, people didn’t reel off a hundred shots and the subjects took time to pose knowing the importance to getting the “right” shot.

  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    We had one of those trailers at Hessel this summer. First time I’d seen one. Drew quite a crowd at the launch ramp to watch the pull-out and covering of its 1929 29′ Hacker.

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    The vintage Rochester Triples are amazing and don’t get the recognition they deserve. Lee Anderson had two of them at the Gull Lake show.

    “Chuckle” a 1925 28′ Rochester Triple.
    (photo courtesy Dane Anderson)

  7. Texx
    Texx says:

    Both Rochester Triples were powered by perfectly restored 200 HP LM-6 Hall Scott engines which started and ran like a Swiss watch.

  8. Kerry Price
    Kerry Price says:

    The lake picture scene taken for the Hamm’s commercial was from a window at a restaurant on Lake Saganaga in northern Minnesota. I remember a as a kid going to the restaurant for lunch with my family and sitting at the very table where the commercial was shot.

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