A Lifetime Of Boating Memories – Now If We Could Just Find A Burgee

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The classic Owens Family Cruiser emerges from a barn after 38 years of storage.

THROUGHOUT THE 1950’s & 60’s the Owens Yacht Company consistently developed creative advertising campaigns with eye-catching titles like “This New Boat Is A Family Affair!” Years later, that title still remains fresh in Captain Bill’s memory.

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A few days ago we received a message from fellow Woody Boater Bill Masterson via our Woody Boater Facebook page. He was looking for some help to locate a vintage burgee for his Owens cruiser.

We exchanged some information via Facebook and what we discovered was a great story about a man and his 40-plus year love affair with an old wooden boat.

Four years ago Bill decided to take on the restoration of a very special 1955 Owens 21′ Family Cruiser (that’s the Owens model designation) – the same boat he rode in with his father and uncle up the Mississippi River when he was 12 years-old.

And the best part – Bill has completed the entire restoration himself, in his carport and back yard. Here is Bill’s story…

Texx – I have attached a few photos to give you an idea of what’s been going on for the last 4 years of my life. This 1955 Owens 21′ Family Cruiser was my Uncle Jim’s when I was a young boy. I’m now 56 and my wife has been calling it my “Mistress” which is what I have decided to name her.

As far back as I can remember, this boat had my interest. My Uncle Jim’s neighbor had it under a tarp and never used it. Uncle Jim bought it, painted it, and ran it on the Mississippi north of St. Louis for years.

It originally had a 60HP Scott outboard on it (this was back when I was 10-12 years-old). Uncle Jim then turned it over to his daughter and her husband (Shirley & Harold) and they put a new bottom on in 1971, and installed a new 1971 Evinrude 125 HP outboard.

They ran it for awhile then put it in a barn. I always had fond memories of the great times I had on this boat. After sitting in the barn 38 years – One day Shirley called and said “Come and get that boat or we’re going to have a bonfire!” My loving wife approved, and I picked it up.

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Bob takes her for a quick water test before the restoration begins.

These two photos (above and below) were taken 4 days after I got it home from the barn. The 38 years in the barn had taken a toll on the Owens, but after re-wiring the 1971 Evinrude that the mice had eaten all the wiring out of and cleaning the carbs, I managed to get it fired up. I just had to take it for a test-ride before tearing it apart.

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After 38 years in the barn, she still floats and runs.

To this day, I still have vivid memories of driving it during flood waters on the Mississippi, with lots of logs coming down river. My Dad & Uncle Jim reassuring me when we got to the Illinois River that it would be clear, and sure enough it was!

I was probably 12-13 years-old then. Dad and Uncle Jim having a cold beer as we cruised along the river. Times were a lot different back then. Also the boat had a full canvas enclosure.

With the test-ride over, it was time to get the Owens home and start tearing her apart.

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The 55 year-old Owens interior is ready for a facelift.

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Completely stripped down and ready for a thorough inspection.

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Much of the boats original wood structure was still in good shape after all those years.

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Bill identified the wood that needed repair or replacement – and forged on with the repairs in his carport.

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The 21′ Owens just barely fit in the carport where she was flipped for further repairs.

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The interior of the cabin is restored one piece at a time.

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And the classic Owens begins the next chapter of her life as the cabin is slowly and meticulously reconstructed – one seat at a time.

I’ve been on this project for 4 years now, with still lots to do. I plan to have her back the water this summer. I live in Westphalia, Missouri – just about center of the state, and water is close-by when I am ready to re-launch her.

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Now with fresh paint & varnish “Mistress” once again looks like the boat in the 1950’s Owens sales brochures.

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The seating has now been done and engine remounted, but it’s far from perfect. I’ve done all the work myself including learning how to use a sewing machine to do seat cushions and upholstery.

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I asked Bill about the outboard set-up on the boat, he notes: “Yes that is the original outboard setup, I called the Chamber of Commerce where it says it was made but the lady I spoke to told me there was a school there now. That 1971 Evinrude 125HP outboard engine is what is still on the boat and what I plan to use. After some work on it I mentioned previously, it’s still in great shape.” – Bill

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Texx – “If you are wondering about the tarp, I started out working on it under the 3 car carport – then it got too big. I had to move it outside my basement garage and keep it covered.”

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Final touches to the cabin interior look great.

Bill notes: If you are ever wondering about something good to do with those epoxy brushes that are only good for about 20 minutes, you should first consider – Is your wife going to start counting and say, “Don’t those things cost a buck a piece?” lol.

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Not only is Captain Bill a great amateur boat restorer, it appears he is also a talented artist – brush artist…

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Now on the home-stretch of the 4-year restoration, Bill is excited to re-launch his long-time friend this summer.

So – getting back to the original reason Captain Bill contacted us…

Texx – “I’ve been searching for a location to buy a burgee for a 21′ Owens cruiser I am restoring. I would truly be thankful for any help.” – Bill Masterson
We suggested that Bill reach out to www.burgees.com but Bill didn’t receive a response to his e-mail requests.

Then we thought that maybe one of the Owens marque clubs would have burgees available, but after doing some research, it appears those websites may not be up to date or active.

So out next option was to reach out to the Woody Boater community to see if anyone out there can give us some assistance on where to go to either buy a vintage Owens burgee or possibly have one made for Captain Bill.

Thanks for sharing your story with us here at Woody Boater today Bill – Your patience and dedication to save this boat from the burn-pile and get her back into service is an inspiration. Nice work, she looks wonderful!


26 replies
  1. Bill Hammond
    Bill Hammond says:

    Capt’n. Bill has done a perfectly wonderful thing! He’s done such a wonderful thing that I don’t even want to tell him he’s become part of the ‘Crazy’ Club – A Cruiser Owner!! Congratulations Capt’n. Bill!!

    Capt’n. Bill Hammond
    Another Member of the Crazy Club
    1960 36′ Connie

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Bill Hammond – You know how daunting a cruiser restoration can be, and we are proud of what Bill has accomplished with his Owens. – Texx

    • Roger Martin
      Roger Martin says:

      Yes, flag chick is the best I have bought four or five flags from her and she does great work, she made an Owens flag for me so should have the pattern. Good Luck

      • Tom McGowan
        Tom McGowan says:

        I can also endorse the flag chick. She made a Larson flag for me from a photo that came out perfect.

  2. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    Capt Bill, she looks wonderful, That mistress is a keeper and she will be more fun. Enjoy the summer ahead, we think its coming soon.

  3. Roger Martin
    Roger Martin says:

    Great job Bill it would be great to see it at the Quincy Boat Show in September. Here is our 39 year barn find Owens still in progress.

  4. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Call Ginger Martus (410) 820-4067 ( See ACBS directory for address). She founded and ran for many years, the Owens owners club. I’ll bet she’ll know where there is an original burgee.

  5. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:


    What a Great looking boat. The outboard platform is very interesting and must make for lots of room in the boat.

    Good luck with your pennant.

  6. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Cruiser stories are abounding these days…we are cool as well as crazy. Great project and really neat outboard mount etc.
    Going Boating on a perfect day here.
    John in Va.

  7. Tom F.
    Tom F. says:

    Love the cruiser restorations…here’s my 7 year restoration. She will see water soon…the roofs leaking.

  8. Bill Masterson
    Bill Masterson says:

    Thanks to all for your help and very nice comments. I’ve just sent an e-mail to flag chick. Thank to you all again, Bill

  9. Randy
    Randy says:

    Congratulations for saving this plywood cruiser, which most people over the years would have burned. Kind of like restoring a Ford Falcon 20 years ago — just unheard of. But they have become scarse now because of that attitude.

    Don’t stop collecting Owens ‘stuff’ now with just a burgee, go for the ‘gold’!!!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for the link Dane – Sounds like Flag Chick is the “go to burgee site” for classic boaters.

  10. Bill Masterson
    Bill Masterson says:

    I just got a message back from the Flag Chick with a Photo of the Owens burgee, looks like I’ll have one on the way soon. Should have started my search with you all to begin with ! Thanks to Texx and everyone else involved. Bill

  11. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Wonderful work Bill it’s fantastic to see yet another cruiser saved from the Viking funeral pire!

    I recall a time when wooden cruisers seemed to be everywhere, not so much now, but I think that there may be a revival coming as I’m seeing more and more of these versatile craft (some with amazing histories like yours, being yanked out if barns and fields and put back into service.

  12. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Congratulations Bill! Great job! I grew up (?) with a 1954 21′ Bryant Voyager as our family boat. It also had the “eggcrate” outboard mounts off the transom, which left a lot of room in that 21′ hull and were pretty common in that era. Enjoy!

  13. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    Nice Job Capt Bill! Thought you might find this interesting: Written by John B Owens, founder and president of the Owens Yacht Compny….and straight out of 1964….”Cruising Fun for the Family”. It’s a cool book, and touches on a little bit of everything- How to tie knots, how to steer, how to navigate, rules of the road, etc. And of course features Owens boats.

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