My Chris Craft Barrel Back Antique Boat

It all started one rainy winter day. I found this boat online. I already owned a very nice show quality 1949 Deluxe runabout. I loved that boat. I purposefully did not even call the broker. I was fearful of getting sucked in. Which of course I did. I made the call and was told she had been in a barn for over 35 years. All the person knew was that it belonged to a Jeweler in Racine Wisconsin. The boat looked very clean for a boat of that age. No rot. Straight as a pin . In fact we did measurements and she was 1 inch off in just one area. No motor. Still on the 1970’s trailer. I had promised my dear wife a weekend in a warm place, it was February and it was very cold out. What I did not tell her was that we were going to Minneapolis Minn. Technicaly it was warmer. It was a freak winter there, 50 degree’s not 50 below. 50. I reminded her of this fact quite often as I recall. Despite that little mis-understanding we had a great time and looked over the boat in person. WOW. she looked almost new. But why? I got a new correct engine for her. The boat, not the wife… And planned on soaking her up… the boat.. And seeing what happened. Come springtime we put her in the water. She was a float, no bilge running. Just sweet and tight. I felt like she had been waiting for me all this time. We drove around and actually used it for a summer. Word to the wise. Orig nice boats are tricky. The more you use them the more they leak. The boat was being twisted and just torn to pieces. I couldn’t take it. So I decided to restore her. This was an undertaking of massive proportions. It is a very rare boat. And to do this boat was going to cost a small fortune. A small fortune that I did not have. Or any hope of having. But it needed to be done. Enter Jim Shotwell. I decided on Jim because he was very well respected and close. I wanted to be there at her re birth. That was 3 years ago. We tore into her. Every part detailed, inventoried, and either fixed or replaced. All the screws were redone with the correct kind. I then moved her home to Deltaville to my dear friends Kaptian Krunch’s. We started on the wiring, all correct, down to the staples that hold the wires together that are custom made. It is exact as built. Along the way I have been trying to find a history. This all came to a head one winter day after calling every jeweler in Racine Wisconsin. I found someone that knew the boat and the owners daughter. But they had moved to South Carolina. And she was married to an unknown name. But it was a lead. The next step, I called in my old days as a Bail Bondsman. WOW… That talent actually came in handy, and through some devious interneting found a name that was darn close. I sent a letter and to my amazement got a call, and in deed it was her parents boat. Bingo… I was shaking. She informed me that it had been restored in the 70’s and the engine re-builder had gone out of business with the moter, and the family parked it and that was that. I thought to my self. Dang I just tore apart a restored boat. But wait. It was falling apart.. That is a testimate to understanding that regardless of condition, age does effect things. Her name was given to her because that was her mothers name. Wanitta II. The the boat had been purchased from a family friend in the 50’s. 2 years later. While sitting in a house in New Severna Beach Fla. I was staying there to go to Mt. Dora. My friend asked about my boat. I told him the story and he asked what it looks like. I tried to tell him. He said “wait, I have a book on these things.” He pulled out Real Runabouts from Bob Speltz. It was Volume I. The one issue I did not have. It was signed the whole deal. As I was flipping through I noticed a similar boat… blinked rubbed my eyes like in a bad sitcom way looked again, there it was Waneta II. With a couple standing next to her. It was a story on Streblow Boats. And how they were a restoration shop as well as boat builders. Holey Cow. There it was. Thanks to the great folks at Streblow I was able to gather some more info and things have been going fine since in the history front. I have run out of money on this project from time to time as you might suspect. Last Thanksgiving we got the call that my grandmother had passed away, she was 105. I was very sad, and happy at the same time. trust me, you don’t want to be 105. She was still smart as a wip. It was just that all her orig parts were giving out. Kinda like Wanita II. She was kind enough to make it financially possible to complete Wanita II in her will, and so we are going about that now. With only one change. She is to be renamed Sylvia my grandmothers first name.. I plan on having her at MT. Dora this spring, Visiting Wanita’s daughter in South Carolina on the way, and finely after 4 years getting her in the water again. If you decide to come to the spring show look for Sylvia. I’ll be right there beside her.

1 reply
  1. Perry Degener
    Perry Degener says:

    It is hard to describe that feeling of finding the perfect mahogany runabout (perfect price, perfect year–the year when you first beheld a Chris or a Garwood).

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