My Grandparents Steelcraft – by Jim Hilton

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Jim, please don't take this wrong.. But your grandmother is HOT!

OK Jims family is the coolest family on the planet!

Fellow Woody Boater Jim Hilton sent us in this nice story of his grandparents Steelcraft the other day, in the email he said he had some old shots… I had to ask, and the gods of all tha’s cool and fun, delivered. Thank you Jim for sharing. I feel warmer already! . Take it away Jim.


Thanks Matt, It was my grandparents boat. The boat itself is a 1947, they acquired it in 1962. They had a smaller (22ft?)  wooden cabin cruiser with an outboard (which by the way I have pics of- and have no idea what kind of boat it is), but after a couple of years of getting a real taste for boating,  wanted something with a bit more room.

They found this Steelcraft on Henderson Harbor, NY (lake Ontario) and the guy who had it was looking to get into something smaller.

stel 30

So they agreed to swap even-steven. So yea…I spent a lot of time on the boat when I was a kid.


stel 9

stel 10

They sold it in 1974 during the gas crunch. Having lived through WW2 where gasoline was completely unavailable, my grandfather was convinced you’d never be able to buy gas.  Ever.  Again.  So he unloaded it fast. Ever since then, I was the guy who would randomly stop at marinas and look over the bone yards.  Longing to find a treasure worth saving.   For me it was always about the boats from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.


One day in 1992 on one of these random marina excursions…what do I come across?   The old family tub for sale.   I called the number, met the guy, and paid him.  No dickering around. Didn’t know if it would start, didn’t know if it would float, but I got lucky and it did.  But it was definitely rough.

Lazy Bones doing what a boat named lazy bones does. Sitting at the dock.


Fast forward to 2006….and despite my TLC best efforts, and I had been using it every summer since I reacquired it, the roughness got the best of it.  The wooden top, and cabin, which I’m sure was never designed to last 50+ years, rotted out.  It was time to replace.  So I had it hauled close to home and did the work myself.  I got lucky in that there was a marina about 10 miles from home that let me do that level of work undercover.    They didn’t care what kind of mess I made, so long as I cleaned up at the end of the day, and didn’t destroy anybody else’s boat.  Which I was always careful not to do.   The restoration was kind of a learn-as-you-go thing.  I had no experience whatsoever, but learned real quick.  I guess when the motivation is your boat, you tend to learn fast!   I also wound up doing things I hadn’t “planned” to.  I guess that’s always the case with a boat.  Rechromed the nav lights, horn, and spotlight.  Along with some other odds and ends that always bugged me, but never seemed to find time to do.  Figured if I was going to do it, may as well do all of it.  Why the hell not.  It’s a classic boat!

[caption id="attachment_190569" align="aligncenter" width="440"]Lazy bones ready to get some work done Lazy bones ready to get some work done

Just got back from the machine shop, have a bronze prop shaft that needs to be straightened, which is proving harder to accomplish than I thought.
But finally found a guy who wants to take a look-see.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  😉

Thanks jim..

51 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:

    This is a GREAT story and hits at a time when I really need to read something like this.

    I love to hear about people finding and caring for boats that were in their family years ago.

    I feel blessed because our family boat “Yorktown” never left the family, (also purchased in ’62) even though it did spend almost 12 years “on the hard”.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Wait…is Woodyboater going to become a Steelcraft dealer?

    “and a new special product debuting in Florida. Stay tuned for that tomorrow.”

  3. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    I cant believe that you actually found the same boat after all that time!

  4. Tom
    Tom says:

    Great story. Congratulations of finding your grandparents boat.

    No disrespect intended but are the new products either Pumpkin Pie or Katz tooth picks?

  5. Bill Ladd
    Bill Ladd says:

    To Jim Hamilton – I work very closely with a commercial propeller shop here in Wilmington, NC, The Prop Shop (they have a website by that name). These guys do wheels up to 94″ and shafts to 8″ diameter. If you have no luck up finding a place up there, The Prop Shop will be able to rebuild the wear at the log and strut and then true the shaft.

    Let me know if I can help.

  6. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    This will be Mike Mayer’s dream WB day, he loves Steelcraft! I’ll read all this a bit later as i’m at work, but it is great to see this story.

  7. Rick
    Rick says:

    2 years ago I came across my father’s old boat that I had proposed to my wife on 32 years ago. It was docked in a marina at Watch Hill on Fire Island and I recognized it from small things my dad had done to customize it for himself. When I explained to the current owners who was relaxing on it they invited us on for a look and drinks. The boat was not for sale or I would have bought it right then and there. Wish I had a camera with me that day.

  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    Jim, great story and great (make that GREAT) boat. I agree with Mayer, these are beautiful ladies.

    Enjoy every minute of it!

  9. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Yea….I love’s me a Steelcraft. I’ve had two opportunities to buy two different boats in the last few years. They both sold a lot quicker than I ever expected. Next time I think I’ll just have to move quicker.

    There is something incredibly cool about the lines of those boats.

  10. joe
    joe says:

    Great story and great boat! I have my grandparents old boat as well and I belive I saw this boat last summer on the Seneca River. Looks great!

  11. cobourg Kid
    cobourg Kid says:

    Thanks for the wonderful story Jim. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to find, let alone retrieve, a lost family legacy, I have been sporadically seeking my father’s long last (and very rare) 1932 Durant Model 6-18
    Sedan (automobile) for many years.

    Thought you might enjoy a couple Steelcraft ads pulled from the pages of 1947 issues of MotorBoating

  12. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Great Find – Great Story! I just gave one of those Packard Marine motors to a local musem – Always wondered where they may have been used.


  13. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    Guys, I have to say THANK YOU for the kind words and compliments! And Matt S…I had no idea you were planning to make the boat a feature story. Compared to some of the meticulously restored & maintained woodies (which by the way I LOVE and am secretly jealous I don’t have one of) on the pages of this website I feel honored to be part of the gang.

    Redbeardsraven= is that your 35 footer? I met Mike Amerlan via the web about 15 years ago. He was/is a big time steelcraft enthusiast and I know that’s his boat. He had it for sale awhile back. Are you the new captain?

    And Joe= yes you did see me cruising the Seneca river last summer. Took about a weeklong cruise from Sylvan Beach to the finger lakes, and I definitely recall seeing the beautiful Shirley K! Kudos to you as well for hanging on and maintaining your family legacy.

    Bill Ladd= thanks for the tip! If this doesn’t work out I will definitely be reaching out to you.

    Cobourg Kid= those are some really cool vintage ads. I have some of them already in frames hanging around the house. haha. Aside from the sentimental family tie, I think my boat is a little bit unique. By that I mean, it does not have the Sea-Vee hull that they advertised so heavily back in the day. I got connected with really nice guy Jake VanReenan a couple years ago from Rochester NY. He was/is also a big Steelcraft aficiando (he provided me a complete hardtop he had stashed away that I used for patterning when I was redoing mine) and he had spoken with the daughter (I think) of the original designer Marcus Hall. The daughter gave him alot of records, and from what we can tell from my hull # 277, is that my boat was probably made in late 45 or early 46. The registration says 47 so thats what I always go with, but an interesting factoid I guess. A pre-Sea Vee hull.

    • cobourg Kid
      cobourg Kid says:

      Thanks Jim. Although you’ve probably seen Steelcraft’s 1945 cartoonish ( hmm is that a word?) “We Feel Like a Quiz-Kid” Q&A promo I thought other WB viewers might get a kick out of it ….

    • Gord Gowie
      Gord Gowie says:

      I have what I believe is a 1946 Steelcraft 26′ Serial number 1006. I use it daily as I have seen I purchased it in 2007. I average 8 to 10 hours per week on it during the boating season.

  14. Denis D
    Denis D says:

    I love today’s header and the 2 photo trick is really cool.

    Besides boats, I have been a car nut since before I could drive. Today, both of my sons and my grandson are car nuts also as well as being recreational boaters. Great exposure for young kids to give them something to focus on and strive for as well as building great memories.

    Denis D

  15. matt
    matt says:

    Thanks Denis, that shot is killer, I couldnt decide between the two, the photographer likes one and I like another. This could not have worked out better! I thought it might be to much, but always trying new things is fun..

  16. Boulder Boater
    Boulder Boater says:

    Jim! Thats an amazing story. As someone who grew up around countless cars and boats, all of which I loved, it really stinks when they get sold. The memories are still with me but it’s different to have them in front of you. This gives me an idea…

  17. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    The S/C hulls are so distinctive that you recognize them immediately. There was one kicking around Clayton, NY by the Antique Boat Museum that I believe was painted dark blue all over and was configured as a utility, if I recall correctly. That had to be over 10 yrs ago. I’ve always wondered how a steel boat performed assuming that is was some much more heavier than wood? Congrats on finding the boat Jim. Would be so lucky is I could do the same with just one of my grandfathers boats.

  18. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    Floyd, I’ve seen that S/C around Clayton before. There were a few up in the river a couple years ago. I’m told they used to use them to ferry the river pilots out to the lakers at cape vincent. Now I suspect they’re used as ice breakers or general work boats. There’s one in Alex Bay in awful shape. Garlocks uses it I think to push barges around the islands. There was another one anchored in the bay back around Fineview too. Looked like someone was trying to keep it running and useable.
    And the last one I know of up there was sitting behind a building (a welder’s shop, go figure) between Clayton and Fishers Landing.

  19. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    MikeM, if you have a serious hankering about getting a S/C I’m sure if we put our heads together we can locate one. On my cruise last summer I came across two more at one of the marina’s that I spent a nite at. (Weedsport, NY). A 26′ and a 28′. Both in rough shape and up on blocks. The hulls looked in decent shape. Don’t know what the intent of the marina is, but I go within 3 miles of the place 4 times a month, every month for work. I’d be happy stop in and inquire. Also if you’ve ever been to the website, there was a S/C featured there from Ess-Kay Yards. Coincidentally, I summered there the first few years I had my boat, and I can tell you that one was in ridiculously good shape. I know it sold, but it wouldn’t be hard to track down. I’m sure it didn’t go far. The marina owe’s me a return phone call anyway, I’d be happy to ask.

    • Bill Ladd
      Bill Ladd says:

      Jim – I may be reached at bill DOT ladd AT gmail DOT com

      Wrote it that way to keep the bots away.

      In case you need help with yer propshaft.

      I’d be interested in finding out more about those SC hulls you’ve found. I’m nearing completion of a Correct Craft runabout restoration and would love to do a small cruiser next.

      Let me know what turns up. Thanks.

      • dreed
        dreed says:

        I am about 5 miles from Weedsport NY and can check them out for you as well. You can reach me at dreed at twcny dot rr dot com

  20. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    Dreed, they’re at Eagles Nest marina. Or maybe it’s Eagles Landing? Right in the canal, near the little airport.

  21. Northshore
    Northshore says:

    Great to see you and the beautiful SC again Jim! I have some photos from last summer at Sylvan beach…lets see if this works…

  22. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    Holy smokes Northshore! Thanks for sharing the pics. We had a great summer at Sylvan Beach once the rainy weather at the early part of the summer finally ended. Pleasure to make your acquaintance again!

  23. Jim Hilton
    Jim Hilton says:

    I’ve found it several places.

    1.The easiest is on your helm station. Unless someone removed it. there should be a brass/chrome plate with the Steelcraft logo above your instrument panel. If it’s gone try this:
    2. Second easiest- It’s stamped underneath your dinette table.
    3. 3rd easiest- It’s stamped on the underside of your cabin floorboards
    4. A little harder because of layers of paint and/or rust. It’s stamped into the top side of your exhaust outlet on the back of the boat.

  24. Matt Perkins
    Matt Perkins says:

    I had a 26′ Steelcraft in 1988 I bought off a local guy in South Haven,MI. It was a 1948 with a Packard 6cyl flathead engine it used about s quart of oil per 5gallons of gas. I had a great summer on her. Then I pulled from the water and lost interest. I planned on fixing her up and the job turned out to more than I could handle. I wish I would have kept her I miss that boat. Now I have the tenacity to do projects like that. She ended up being sold for scrap in the mid 1990s. I love to hear of stories of folks fixing up these old gems. I wish I could turn back time and so it again.

  25. Gord Gowie
    Gord Gowie says:

    I have a 1946 26′ Steelcraft. Hull number 1009
    Anyone interested in finding out more, just contact me.

    • Jim Hilton
      Jim Hilton says:

      Gord, email me – Jhilton AT robinsonus DOT com. (to keep the spammers away). Love to hear from you.

  26. Gordon Gowie
    Gordon Gowie says:

    I have a 1946 steelcraft boat serial number 1009. It is used daily as I am the Harbour Master in Gimli Manitoba. If you wish to contact me I can be reached at work 204 642 7517— 204 642 2374

    • Kyle
      Kyle says:

      I have a 1946 steelcraft with a flying bridge i am currently restoring it and would like to find more info about the original interior on the boat. Can anyone help me out

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