Classic Minnesota Part 7: Lake Minnetonka – More Than A Century Of Boating History

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Dave Bortner’s immaculate 1961 Century Coronado 21′ “Dreamboat”

After spending six wonderful days in the Bay Lake / Gull Lake area of Minnesota, we decided to make our way down to Lake Minnetonka, just west of Minneapolis, to check it out. Although this wasn’t in our original travel plan, how could you not visit this historic area which is only 2-1/2 hours from where we were staying.

Fellow Woody Boater Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service in Mound, MN extended the invitation to visit him and he graciously took some time from his busy schedule to give us the grand tour of Lake Minnetonka yesterday. And to top if off, Dave gave us the tour in his immaculate 1961 Century 21′ Coronado powered by a rare Cadillac V-8. Classic Minnesota at it’s best.

From Wikipedia – Lake Minnetonka is a 14,528-acre lake in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is located west-southwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis–St. Paul. The lake is irregularly shaped with numerous bays, peninsulas, and islands that form approximately 125 miles of shoreline. The lake is located almost entirely within Hennepin County; however, its southernmost extension, Smithtown Bay, reaches into the City of Victoria, which lies within northeastern Carver County. Lake Minnetonka is divided into two separate sections, the Upper Lake and Lower Lake (which refer to the flow of water from west to east, not geographical location). The rich history of Lake Minnetonka is well documented in Wikipedia by Clicking Here.

Our tour started at 7:30 AM sharp at from Mound – at the west end of the lake. We were anticipating a 2 or 3 hour tour with Dave in the Coronado, which ended up taking 8 hours with a lunch break and a stop to visit Marina Manager Skipp LaJoy at Tonka Bay Marina, in Excelsoir, MN. Tonka Bay Marina is a huge full service marina on Lake Minnetonka which stores around 450 boats during the winter, and they also manufacture the legendary Skiff Craft line of wooden boats their Plain, Ohio plant.

As this was my first ever visit to Lake Minnetonka, I can say that it’s easy to loose your bearings on the lake with all the channels and bays, so Dave prepared this quick map to explain where we went. Now I’m not sure Dave should get into the mapping business any time soon, but we decided to post the his ad-hoc map to give you an idea of what we are talking about here. The lake, which name means “Big Water” is huge with lots to see as you cruise through the various areas of the lake.


Our route during Tuesday’s Lake Minnetonka tour.

When we began our tour at 7:30 AM it was already 80 degrees and the heat quickly reached well over 90 degrees, so the big Coronado’s hard top was a life saver – and the gull-wing roof panels makes docking, ingress & egress easy.
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Dave right at home (literally) in his classic Coronado on Lake Minnetonka.

Off we go as the big Cadillac likes to run between 2,500 & 3,000 RPM – a bit thirsty for avgas at the higher RPM range but the sound it makes is worth the price of admission (easy for me to say, Dave insisted on buying the avgas). What a grest way to tour the lake.
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Classic boats are everywhere on Lake Minnetonka, but many were on their lifts on Tuesday morning. Dave knows every classic boat on the lake as many of them are serviced and maintained by Freedom Boat Service.

Tonka 8 - 1927 26' Dart

Under the cover is a rare 1927 26′ Dart Triple Cockpit Runabout.

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Lake Minnetonka has many of these elegant cabins best viewed from the water.

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At the dock a 1995 28′ Hacker Triple.

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An interested spectator at 7:30 AM.

The summer cabins and permanent residences dot the shore line everwhere you look with an interesting mixture of original classic architecture and modern structures. And as expected, there is also some serious properties on Lake Minnetonka, many with deep family history.

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An original 1912 summer cottage – we would call that “preserved”…

The unique styling of the ’61 Coronado is fantastic as Century blazed the trail for innovative design in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s – and the boats are easy on the eyes (and ears) from any angle.

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The original 390 CID – 325HP Cadillac V-8 powered Coronado performs great.

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For those of you who remember the Warner Auction in 2010 – “Quite Contrary” is the rare 1938 29′ Chris-Craft Sportsman that was sold at the auction.

Below, under the cover is a very interesting boat – can you guess what it is? If you guess right, you will receive a special gift from Woody Boater HQ. The answer will be posted around 4:00 PM this afternoon here in the comment section.

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Guess the boat and win some Woody Boater wieners…

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No cabin fever here!!

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A member of the rare Chris-Craft 25′ Sportsman family, this is a 1947 model.

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Many of the cabins on Lake Minnetonka’s 125 miles of shore line are beautiful.

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We rounded the corner and as Dave approached this boat lift I had a serious flash-back. True story, in 2003 a photo of this Riva Tritone caught my eye in an advertisement and it was that photo which first ignited my interest in classic wooden boats.

I saved the photo and later asked a boat broker where I could get a boat like “Pirahna” and was told by the broker it was not what I needed. I was shocked to see it today, so Dave and I stopped to have a closer look, it’s one of Dave customers who owns it so we had the opportunity to have a closer look and appreciate the Riva’a magnificent styling and detail.

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“Pirahna” 1959 Riva 26′ Tritone brought back memories.

Nearby, we passed another collection of Riva boats on Lake Minnetonka – three in all.

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This family of Rivas includes a standard Riva Aquarama 27′ and an Aqua Riva (not shown).


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The big brother of this family of Rivas on Minnetonka – a big Rivarama 44′.


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Next door to the family of Rivas is the historic Pillsbury Estate once owned by the family of the same name.


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“Sea Jet” is a rare 1950 Hackercraft 26′ Triple Cockpit Runabout which was been in the same family since new.

When Dave Bortner was five years old, for Christmas he was given a copy of “The Golden Guide To Power Boats” in his Christmas stocking. On page 134 was a small photo and description of a 1961 Century Coronado, and on that day Dave decided that this was going to be his “dreamboat.” Dave still has that exact same book, and now has that same “dreamboat” – a wonderful story of a childhood dream which came true for Dave when he purchased his 1961 Century Coronado wit a 325 HP Cadillac V-8 ten years ago.

Book 1

The Golden Guide to Power Boats – Published in 1961 by Golden Press.


Book 2

The 1961 Century Coronado 21 with 325 HP engine.

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Living the “Dreamboat”

I am very glad that we made the decision to go down to Lake Minnetonka for a tour, we had a fantastic day with Dave Bortner and the Coronado.

In fact we had so much fun yesterday, that we decided to spend another day in Minnesota with Dave as he takes us on a very special road trip today. Stay tuned and join us as we discover more “Classic Minnesota!”


32 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Your description and the map of Minnetonka is reminiscent of my first cruise on Lake Muskoka this summer. I was constantly confused as to where we were on the lake. The caliber of classic boats and homes is also much like what we saw on our Canadian adventure. Great story.

  2. Troy
    Troy says:

    Hope Chad gets the weiners! I have no idea.

    Love the Century!

    What a Great story about you falling in love with the Riva and getting to see it up close and personal.

    It seems to me that your definition of a “cabin” must differ from mine.

  3. Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    I was cruising around Mtka yesterday too! From about noon to 4 in my 1955 Thompson 14 ft. Thomboy. We may have passed one another! I went very close to that blue fiberglass Biesemeyer on Enchanted Island at least twice!

    Those are NOT cabins, by the way. We call them permanent homes here in Minnesota. All the “cabins” are “up north at the lake”.


  4. Sean
    Sean says:

    Well if spelling counts, and it really does not ever count around here…. it is a Biesemeyer.

    Here’s a 1959 4 point hydro Biesmeyer just restored. It’s for sale too if you’re brave enough to drive it.

  5. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Texx, that broker was wrong – the Tritone would have been just what you needed.

    I was going to guess on that boat, but Chad beat me so he wins, and gets extra points for faulty spelling.

  6. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    Tell Dave I have a serious case of Coronado envy and am glad to see him not in a Riva. He looks so much better in a thoroughbred .

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      I was hoping you would notice the story today. See how that red upholstery pops in the sunlight…

      That Coronado at 3,000 RPM is music to my ears!

      And Dave is laughing in the truck with me right now.

  7. rabbit
    rabbit says:

    Those are definitely not “cabins”. There are a few still left on the lake, but most are homes. It’s a suburb of Minneapolis. And it’s not uncommon for people to have another cabin further north. Also, the official boat of Minnetonka is a big lapstrake: Sea Skiffs, Skiff Crafts, Lymans. They’re everywhere.

  8. Dane
    Dane says:

    It would be cool to line up a Coronado from each model year for a picture. Can you think of any other model that had a 30 year run?

  9. Mark Anderson
    Mark Anderson says:

    Had I known you guys were in the neighborhood yesterday for lunch, it would have been fun to boat in formation as your Minnetonka tour wingman in the afternoon (in our 1960 CC Capri).

  10. 72hornet
    72hornet says:

    Texx, come on down to Lake Okoboji for the weekend! We are only 3 short hours south of Minnetonka. We would love to host you for a day or two on the lake and a chance to visit our museum. Don;t forget to hit Maynards on Minnetonka!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Hornet – I would love to come down to visit the guys at Lake Okoboji for a few days but have to be back home for the weekend, and it’s a 3 day ride.

      Some day we will do a Classic Lake Okoboji tour.

      Thanks for the invite Hornet (and all the other folks who e-mailed me from Lake Okoboji – I appreciate the offer.

      • Dane
        Dane says:

        You know you could leave the bike at Dave’s, fly home for the weekend, fly back to take in the Minnetonka Rendezvous, See Okaboji and then ride home.

        Welcome to the Hotel Minnesota, You can check out any time you like, but….

  11. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    That’s Bruce Paddock’s house with the Rivarama, Aquariva, and Aquarama. Bruce is a super nice guy, I think that is one of only two 44′ Rivarama’s in the US. Not to worry… he has a 28′ Gar Wood and 28′ Hacker too.

  12. Texx
    Texx says:

    Well Ladies & Germs – Thanks to everyone who participated in the “Name the Hidden Boat Contest” today.

    You guys are a tough crowd.

    The answer to today’s question is:


    We will tabulate all the answers to determine the winners and send out the Woody Boater (frozen) Wieners by regular mail.
    So check your mail box often for a leaking USPS package…


  13. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Why the avgas in a Cadilac V8? Today’s 100LL avgas is not the same as 1950’s auto gas and I can’t imagine it is doing that engine any good.

  14. brian t
    brian t says:

    Great story today. Love that Piranha !!

    A question though. With millions of dollars in real estate and boats, what is with the crappy looking metal boat covers ?? Out West here on Oswego Lake, there are mansions and beautiful boat houses to match. The pics above show twelve of the God awful things that locally we would see at a rental house in a questionable neighborhood providing cover for a 1986 Chevy Citation.

    Zoning laws? Winter weather? What gives??

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      There are laws in Minnesota about boat houses on lakes. Will do a story about it when I get home. Many people wish they could have them.

      • Andreas Jordahl Rhude
        Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

        It’s zoning strictly enforced by the Lake Minnetonka Nazis, er I mean Lake Minnetonka Water Conservation District. Thery have huge control of what goes on and does not go on here. Looks like a bunch of circus tents, doesn’t it! There is only one wet boathouse on the lake as far as I know. There are a few dry ones. NO maintenance can be done on any boathouse on or near the lake. The LMWCD wants them to fall down. Instead of great boathouses with charm and functionality, we get these horrid tents.

        The vast majority of the docks and boat slip tents must be taken out of the lake for winter. The ice would tear them to shreads.

        • MHM
          MHM says:

          My good friend – and chair of the non-profit I operate with my husband – has an actual boathouse on Gideon Bay. His was grandfathered into the law and we keep our research boat in his boathouse during the summer. It is built over the water and it’s the only one I’m aware of.

  15. 72hornet
    72hornet says:

    Safe travels Texx! You always have a place to stay here in Okoboji and maybe a Donzi or two and of course a Century to run! Hope to see you in Idaho in a few weeks as we are bringing an Okoboji contingent. I am so looking forward to it!

  16. Ted Pape
    Ted Pape says:

    Helped mow the lawn @ Pillsbury estate late 40’s on Brackets Point. Also – George Pillsbury was in my class @ Wayzata school thru the 4th grade. Phillip P. also attended school there – a couple grades up. Spent summers after war hanging around the Tonka Boat Works watching them build row boats. Learned the game of baseball from Coach Bud Crowningshield

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