Sindbad – A 1939 Batchelor Designed Runabout, Alive And Well In Washington State


Last week we were doing some research on one of our new favorite series of wooden boats, the iconic Pre-War & Post-War Chris-Craft 25′ Express Cruisers – better known as the Red & White. When it comes to Red & Whites, one of the most knowledgeable people in the country is Seattle area Woody Boater Dick Dow. Dick has owned and restored a few of them over the years, and has also acted as a consultant on many other Red & White restoration projects.

While we were working with Dick last weekend, exchanging e-mails and phone calls, we quickly learned that Dick Dow is not just a Red & White expert, he’s a true, dedicated, life-long fellow Woody Boater. If it’s made from wood and it floats (or doesn’t float) Dick is interested in it and seeing it saved from the burn pile. Among the wooden boats that Dick & Kathy Dow currently own and care for, is a very cool, very retro 1965 38′ Tollycraft Mariner (more on that later) and an ultra rare 1939 19′ Batchelor Homebuilt Runabout named “Sindbad”.

We often joke at Woody Boater HQ that we are nothing more than a couple of Wooden Boat Termites, and once we get into someone’s boathouse (or workshop), we like to set up camp for a while and feed off what they have in their collection. And Dick & Kathy offered up a gourmet meal of boats for us to feast on. Once we completed our research on the Red & Whites, our focus quickly changed to “Sindbad”. Dick sent us a few photos, including the one that we used for the Woody boater banner today, and we asked Dick if we could do a story on “Sindbad” to share with the community.

Here’s the story of “Sindbad” as told by Dick Dow…

“Sindbad” – A 1939 19′ Batchelor Homebuilt Runabout

Except for the folks in the Seattle area, few people know what it is – “Sindbad” was homebuilt in 1939 by an engineer living near San Francisco, California – Mr. Batchelor – (I can’t remember his first name) – he lofted the boat, (I have the offsets in his handwriting from 1939 which also shows her original name – “Sindbad”) he designed and built the trailer which it still rolls on and marinized the original engine, a 1939 Cadillac V-8, which I have and will go through one of these days and put it back in the boat.

According to his son, the family used the boat from 1939 to 1954, and then put it away. It was the favorite of the family, modeled after the CC racing runabout of the day, but much heavier, at about 3800lbs. Cypress over oak. Bottom, sides and frames are all original and have not been refastened. There is not a butt-block in the boat – all the planks are full-length!

My wife Kathy does upholstery for our boats, and some on the side as more of a hobby and for friends, here’s some of her upholstery work. She’s pretty sure she doesn’t want to do it as a real business, though she is licensed, etc. (Many folks in the Seattle area, including noted restorer Rob DaPron prefer Kathy’s upholstery work and her attention to detail – Texx)

When I got it, he had torn the original deck off, and was turning it into a utility. The motor had been placed all the way to the stern, then run though a v-drive and out via a Joe’s box (see info on Joe’s Gears below). Stainless steel shafts and U-joints linked it all. My guess is they put it in the water once, realized that would never work and put it in storage again to wait for another inspiration. Mr Batchelor passed away and his family decided to let the boat go.

The two old photos below (Polaroids) are from when I first looked at the boat in storage, partially converted to a utility with the Cadillac all way to the back and plywood extensions on the hull sides and transom. I’m glad he gave up on that idea!

Two weeks after I had taken possession of the boat from the storage facility and minutes after her son had basically loaded his dad’s shop into the back of my pickup, I purchased the boat from his widow in 1990. After I promised that I would put it back into the water as a runabout along the lines of the original concept and asked her what she wanted for “Sindbad”, she named her price. I paid $1.00.

They told me the boat had been used on San Francisco Bay, the Delta, Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead and the Colorado River. Below is an original WWII era photo taken from the boat looking aft at speed on San Francisco Bay. Note the registration number on the deck between the engine hatch and the rear cockpit – visible from the air as required during WWII.

I re-used his fasteners, instruments and many other bits and pieces as I re-lofted the deck and reconditioned the boat. It was really fun finding clues in the framing as to how things were originally laid out and put together. I tried to honor the original construction, but went to a mahogany over plywood epoxied deck for a little extra stiffness and stability.

A couple more “credit-where-credit is due” mentions – Alan Thomle (from Alan Thomle Boatworks in nearby Stanwood, WA) put the deck on the boat. I lofted and framed it, but had a trailer he wanted for “Rio Rita” so we worked a trade. It worked out really well for both of us. Last spring we used the boat as the basis for a hands on refinishing clinic where Rob DaPron volunteered to provide the expertise on prep and share techniques. We had a great turnout and good result, with my having to do only one additional topcoat to get it to where I was satisfied.

Mr Batchelor designed an amazing boat. It is probably the best riding 19’ vintage runabout you will ever be in. Weight has a lot to do with it, but you can see from the running pics he got the nose up Hacker-style, and the result is an incredibly smooth and confident attitude. Fourteen years after I purchased “Sindbad” and approximately 50 years after it had last been run, I put it back in the water.

Dick & Kathy Dow

Thanks Dick, that’s a great story about another rare wooden boat from the west coast. Dick is hoping to some day connect with Mr. Batchelor’s family so they can see how the old boat looks today, and that he kept his promise to Mrs. Batchelor to some day bring “Sindbad” back to life.


Story Update – Here’s some info on Joe’s Gears for you “Gearheads” out there. Thanks to Chad Durren for submitting the vintage ad image & newspaper article. You can click on the old newspaper article to enlarge it. – Texx

19 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:


    Another great story, but it I have never heard the term “Joe’s Box”. I assume it is a type of stuffing box, but what makes it unique or different?


  2. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:


    I saw some talk on the Buzz that a Joe’s box is a V-Drive unit.

    Awesome story Texx

  3. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    Joe’s Gear was a gear company who made transmissions and parts for several engine companies. They also sold transmissions under their own name. They were especially big in the 1920s and 30s.

  4. John Kadimik
    John Kadimik says:

    Kim’s 1949 Globe is powered by a Gray Marine Phantom 4 with a Joe’s Transmission. Chris Craft’s A-70 also had a Joe’s Transmission

  5. Texx
    Texx says:

    Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Chad for sending us the info on Joe’s Gears. I guess some of us learned something new today, heck yesterday I had no idea what a Joe’s Box was… and as I was preparing Dick’s story this morning and read that “Sindbad” once had a Joe’s Box I had no clue what that was. Guessed it was some sort of V-Drive.

    This morning Dick e-mailed me to say that the original Joe’s Box found in “Sindbad” was shipped to somewhere in New York State and is now being used in a vintage Jersey Speed Skiff.

  6. Rick
    Rick says:

    The registration numbers facing up is pretty neat. I’m surprised we don’t see that at shows as although it’s not original from the factory it would be period correct for some. If mine were older I’d consider it.

  7. Texx
    Texx says:

    I agree Rick, that would represent the perfect Patina of “Sindbad”. Imagine the attention it would attract at a boat show… You would have to rig up a recorded message at the dock.

    I wonder if that was a West Coast thing mandated by the US Coast Guard, etc during WWII?

    What do think Dick, call the sign painter this weekend?

  8. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    ACBS would frown on such blasphemy! How dare you suggest restoring a boat to “as enjoyed” condition. The only acceptable state of a boat is as delivered from the factory, even if there was no actual factory or delivery.

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      That why I don’t have my boat judged anymore. Ok, I couldn’t keep a straight face even typing that. Maybe it’s more like it needs new varnish, cleaning, the head cover needs to be tightened, I need to put one of the gauge bezels (sp?) back on and I’ve been too lazy to get to shows recently.

    • brian
      brian says:

      Blasphemy is watching my family use our 1930 Runabout to tow our kids who are on a modern day ‘innertube’ down the river.

      It is the only ‘judging’ our craft will ever see!

      • m-fine
        m-fine says:

        OH MY, you mean to say you USE your boat AND you don’t show it? And with a modern towable that was NOT a factory option?

        At least you didn’t mention any modern upgrades for safety or reliability. That would be BAD!

  9. brian
    brian says:

    Whoa Kemosabe !

    Yes, yes, I am a novice, anyways – in the article above was a reference to having the bow riding high “Hacker style”. What exactly is this idea?

    Our 1930 boat, Zoomer, was a one off custom built boat here in Lake Oswego and it rides bow high as well. I have been searching to perhaps find out what plans were used by the builder of our boat, Ralph Coan, and as of yet I have nothing. Even though we purchased the craft from the original family, some info has been lost with Ralph’s passing.

    I have a photo or two showing the high riding bow – which by the way does make our craft very smooth – so if anyone would like to see the photos or has any clue as to our craft, I would be most grateful.

    (photos of Zoomer can be found here as Woodyboater did an article awhile back.)

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Hacker-Craft are wood boats built a few miles east of you on Lake George. They are still in business and continue to produce mahogany boats. Their earlier boats were known to ride very bow high which gave a smooth ride as long as you didn’t care to see where you were going.

  10. Texx
    Texx says:

    Brian – Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of how it was explained to me…

    John Hacker was a renowned marine architect in the 20s-50s and designed arguably some of the most desirable runabouts, commuters, cruisers and raceboats ever built. His hull designs have been dissected, written about and admired by many.

    The unique John Hacker hull design lifts the boat and softens the ride, creating the distinctive nose-up attitude at speed and cushions the tendency to pound in chop which is so typical of most planing hulls of the era.

    “Sindbad” incorporates many of these John Hacker design details which creates a similar attitude at speed.

  11. Jack
    Jack says:

    I always heard that bow high attitude referred to as “Riding Proud”. I sure like the sound of it!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Jack – I really like the term “Riding Proud” , it’s says it all!

      And I can tell you that Dick Dow is very proud of “Sindbad”…

Comments are closed.