Kabot’s Habit – Can A Classic 1965 Sea Skiff Be Used For Live-ish Boat Show Reports?


As we get closer to the start of the 2011 Sunnyland Antique & Classic Boat Festival on Lake Dora, FL our plans to cover this year’s event are beginning to come together too. One of our many objectives this year is to incorporate a few short live-ish video reports into our regularly scheduled daily coverage, including audio… on Lake Dora aboard a Classic 1965 Chris-Craft Sea Skiff. All I can say right now is that it will either work real good or blow up in our face… Lights, Video Cameras, Wires, Power Cords, Microphones, iPhones, iPads all in the back of a 24′ Sea Skiff sitting on top of a 60 gallon gas tank. It’s comforting to know that Paul & Karen recently replaced the original 46 year-old fuel tank in “Kabot’s Habit”. Stay tuned for that, it should be interesting…

The Official Woody Boater Shoot Boat (and on-water transportation / fun boat for the weekend) is being provided by Paul & Karen Harrison. And it gets even better… This very original Chris-Craft Sea Skiff has quite a unique history as well, and here is what Paul Harrison had to say about this cool old boat…

“Kabot’s Habit” is a 1965 24′ Sea Skiff Sportsman. We bought it from Joe Kabot last year, and took possession just about 2 weeks before he passed away. He had owned it for a very long time – never really found out for sure but I think about 35 years. He bought it from the original owner who was a preacher or something. It was origainlly named “JimmyJoe”, which was some amalgam of his and his wife’s name. Joe Kabot never changed the name.

During the Sunnyland Show last year (as you likely recall, Texx) I became impulsively interested in the Skiff style of boat, after seeing one at the show that had been very nicely restored. I found Joe’s online through Macatawa Bay Boat Works and the long process of acquisition was initiated. Unfortunately, though I inquired after Joe’s boat while still in Florida, I did not hear back from him for a few weeks. It turns out that Joe was actually at Lake Dora for the show when I was inquiring after the boat but I did not know this. This is sad because I never did get to meet him – he intended to meet me at the ACBS International at Bay Harbor, MI last fall when the boat was delivered to us, but he was prevented by illness from doing so. Sadly, Joe Kabot passed away less than two weeks after that.

The boat was used by Joe for fishing on the St. Claire River and had only 117 original hours on it. It had been fully equipped for fishing by the original owner, with much dealer-installed equipment, including a 1965 depth finder and a very tidy side-steering arrangement for a trolling outboard -added at delivery. We have specifically chosen to do only the mildest possible cosmetic touch up on the boat in order to preserve it in the style that it was used for so many years by Joe and the original owner. While not as delivered because of the dealer installed equipment, it is absolutely as-used.

We will use this as a utility boat, which respects the way Joe used it. During the period between when I became aware of the boat and delivery, the universally evident respect with which Joe Kabot was held by literally everyone in the hobby with whom I spoke with, convinced me that the boat should be preserved and used in his memory. My wife Karen came up with idea of naming it “Kabot’s Habit”, and we re-launched her yesterday at Lake Dora. Before we got it I don’t think it had been in the water for at least 5 years. It has taken on less than a cup of water in 28 hours in the water.

Everything is original – from the tops, upholstery, engine, vinyl decks, fire extinguisher – everything except the fuel tank which had to be replaced due to internal corrosion. I should point out that because of long-term storage the paint was peeling and we had to have the sides re-painted (above the water line), and I don’t want people to think the paint is original when it is not. Also, a fresh coat of varnish was applied to brightwork but it was not sanded down to wood – just roughed up and varnished. The minor repairs to “Kabot’s Habit” were recently completed by Richard & Kathy Arnold at Rejuvenation Woodworks in nearby Eustis, Florida.

It is a beefy, big user boat and we love it already. Although it’s entered in the Sunnyland show this year, it is not a show boat. It is quite loud and sure is a brawny big boat. Tons of space and clean – the cuddy and bilge are almost like new. The original owner installed fitted coolers with full water circulation underneath both front seats, presumably for bait and as a live well. Those coolers will be used by Karen and I, but not for the purpose intended by the original owner!

More than the boat, the story is about the sometimes simple pleasure that the founders of our hobby, people like Joe Kabot, got from these sometimes everyday boats. Besides over restored Tahoe boats, we need to keep these users around as well. As you know, that is increasingly my point in the way I am trying to do my boats. After the show it will be taken back to Shuswap Lake, in British Columbia, Canada and used there. It is not a show boat.

Paul Harrison

Thanks Paul… We had a copy of an original 1965 Chris-Craft Sea Skiff Brochure and thought it would be fun to see what the boat originally looked like when it left the Chris-Craft plant in Salisbury, Maryland back in 1965. When compared to the photos from the original brochure, it gives us a true appreciation for how well Paul & Karen’s boat was cared for over the last 46 years.

1965 Chris-Craft Sea Skiff Brochure

1965 Chris-Craft Sea Skiff Brochure

It’s fun to read through Chris-Craft’s description of the 24′ Sea Skiff in the brochure and wonder just for a moment… When the advertising agency was writing the description and preparing the brochure for the 1965 model year, did they ever (in their wildest dreams) think that 46 years later there would be two goofs out in the middle of a lake in one of these boats attempting to beam a boat show story around the world with a portable video camera and something called an iPad?

Stay tuned for more updates from Lake Dora and the big Sunnyland Antique & Classic Boat festival over the next few days.


19 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Although I never had the honor of meeting Joe Kabot, I know many of his friend’s in Michigan that have nothing but wonderful stories of him. I want to comend Paul and Karen for thier tribute to Joe”s memory through what they have done, and will continue to do with one of the boats he loved so much.

  2. anonymus
    anonymus says:

    After finding out that I need a new $6000 engine in my truck my spirits were bouyed by the user lapstrake in this story. Now that some of my future weekends will not be in one of my user lapstrakes so I can cover the engine it is stories like this that let me live vicariously through others and the Woody Boater website. Thankyou to all involved and keep those user boats coming. I have less time to sand and varnish, sand and varnish, sand and varnish.

  3. Kent O. Smith, Jr.
    Kent O. Smith, Jr. says:

    Joe Kabot was a great friend and a true gentlman – one who is sorely missed. It is fantastic to see one of his boats out there being used and bearing his name. What a nice tribute.

  4. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Thanks Texx- couple of points – I believe that Skiffs were produced at the Salisbury, Maryland plant. I don’t have my hull card here but I think that is what it said.

    The re-paint of the hullsides was done by Mike Green from Maritime Classics at Traverse City, MI, right after I got it. Richard Arnold did the brightwork and the fuel tank for us down here in Florida. I have to say the boat came out exactly as we hoped and intended.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for the clarification Paul. For the record, I revised the story to indicate that the Sea Skiff was built in Salisbury, Maryland. My error – In the late 1950’s Chris-Craft HQ which included the Sea Skiff Division relocated and was managed from the Pomano Beach, FL location.

  5. Skip Langell
    Skip Langell says:


    Great article. I was fortunate to visit Joe 2 weeks before he passed away. He was very pleased the boat was going to “The Shuswap” Anxious to see it up there. Maybe we can swap boats for a day!!

    Skip Langell

  6. chad
    chad says:

    What I love about the Harrison’s photos is that Karen is often at the wheel. She clearly has the confidence to drive all of them.

    My wife drove our skiff up onto the dock once while boating with a girlfriend. She was approaching the slip slowly and swung the throttle lever down instead of pulling the shift lever into reverse. Luckily, no one was injured, but she hasn’t been at the helm since.

    FRANCHINI says:

    Any one who has been at a show with the Harrison’s knows what a great couple they are and how lucky this hobby is to have them. Great story and I can’t wait to hear how the boat is doing when it makes the trip up North.

    By the way, Karen can handle a boat just with the best of them. I still laugh thinking of the first time I saw her dock a boat at the Sandpoint show. All the guys are on the dock scrambling for lines and yelling directions and she put the boat on the dock like it had magnets pulling it there. It is a sight I will always remember.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      I second that Brian – Paul will tell you a great story about Karen docking the freshly restored Gar Wood sedan at the ACBS International, just like clock work. The enclosed sedans bring a different set of challenges to the docking procedure…

  8. randy & ginger
    randy & ginger says:

    we love the story, too.

    did i miss the part that explains the steering wheel on the side of the boat…

    we’re still so green!!!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Aft Steering & Throttle Controls were an approved option by Chris-Craft in some Sea Skiffs and Utilities for fishing, so you could control the boat without having to move up to the forward cockpit area.

      I’m sure someone out there can explain it better than this…

  9. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Texx, Randy & Ginger- – to the best of my knowledge, in this case the side-steer unit is a dealer-installed item. It is set up for a Johnston engine and all the original manuals and instructions are still with the boat. The boat has a number of items in place that are not on the hull card, but are obviously from that period. I think the orignal owner took delivery and simply told the dealer to fully equip it for fishing, and the side-steer for a trolling motor was part of it. The side-steer does not work on the rudder. I am going to determine the correct size 1965 Johnston engine and re-equip the boat with it. I want to use if for fishing in BC, so why not?

    By the way, today we figured out the side steering helm has a cigar lighter and a chart lite on it – never would have thought of that.

  10. Pat Kabot
    Pat Kabot says:

    Paul and Karen, what a beautiful thing you did by naming the skiff “Kabot’s Habit”, this is so wonderful and I could not be happier. This really made my day! I am also so happy that the 2 of you are enjoying the boat. I wish that you could have met my husband. He was a great man and I am sure he is smiling and so happy that he sold the boat to you. Whenever he did sell something (and not to often) he always wanted to make sure that it went to the right person, and am sure that he is smiling and knows that it went to the right person. I found a large photograph with Joe driving the boat and I am going to send it to you. Thanks again so much, enjoy and I wish that I could have been at Mt. Dora to meet you and your wife and to see the boat.

    Pat Kabot

  11. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Hello Pat –

    Well, you have made our day! We came in from cleaning the decks to be greeted by your very kind remarks.

    Thank you so much for the photograph – we can’t wait to see it, and to display it. It is not an overstatement to say that all the comments we have ever heard from others about Joe have been very positive, kind and above all respectful. He was indeed held in the higest esteem and it was an easy decision to name the boat as a tribute to one of the founders of the hobby that provides us so much enjoyment.

    We will anxiously await the arrival of the photograph, and please accept our sincere thanks for this wonderful gesture.

    Paul & Karen Harrison

  12. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    A cigar lighter! Now that Mr. Kabot was my kind of guy. Not enough has been written about the pleasures of driving a wooden boat while enjoying a good Havana. They naturally go together. Paul, I would be happy to supply the cigars to give the lighter a test.

  13. Skip Langell
    Skip Langell says:

    I am not sure that this much enthusiasm is common when a boat changes owners. A tribute to both Joe Kabot and the new owners of the boat Paul and Karen Harrison. The boat will certainly have a great new home on “The Shuswap” in British Columbia.

Comments are closed.