Wooden Lady – A Trailer Queen But In A Good Way
Although I have never actually met Gil Grant in person, I feel like I have known him for years. We were first introduced to Gil and his beautifully restored 1960 Chris-Craft 25′ Cavalier through Robert Miracle’s camera lens back in 2011, when he was shooting classic boats on Lake Chatuge, Georgia for his website. Since then, Gil’s boat “Wooden Lady” has appeared here in a number of classic boat show reports from Robert Miracle.
Over the years, Robert & Linda Miracle have kindly shared many of their photographs from various boat shows and events with us here at Woody Boater, which we appreciate. The Miracle Photography website is loaded with wonderful classic boat photos, and a wide range of brilliant photography.
These days, classic wooden cruisers are being lost at an alarming rate due to the high cost of maintenance, storage and restoration – some are simply being abandoned by their owners. They are appearing weekly for sale or salvage on the various websites like Craigslist, Ebay, etc and it’s sad to see – but a reality. And once these cruisers are gone, they will never return to be used, seen or appreciated by future generations.
But this isn’t one of those sad cruiser stories. This is a story of a “basket case” wooden cruiser that was saved from the burn pile by fellow Woody Boater Gil Grant. Gil and his boat “Wooden Lady” are well received wherever they go and have gained quite a reputation in the hobby for being a class act. On Saturday we posted a few shots of the boat on our Woody Boater Facebook page and so far it has received more than 5,000 views, 250 likes, 65 shares and more than 20 positive comments.
The same day we posted the photos on Facebook, her owner Gil chimed in with an update on where they have traveled to (partly by trailer) – from her home in DeLand, Florida to the Finger Lakes Region of New York. So we communicated with Gil via Facebook yesterday, and have a fun update to share with you today. One of the best parts about this boat is that it’s big enough to be a cruiser, but small enough to travel by trailer. – Texx
Hi Texx – Thanks for the interest. “Wooden Lady” was brought to Florida from Wisconsin by a girl attending Embry Riddle College in Daytona in 2000, I bought the “basket case” in 2002 from her after they had taken her all apart, down to the hull (sad looking mess).
It took me four and a half years to bring her back to life – on July 4, 2007.
That summer we took her to New York (Wine Country was her first show) then up to party on the Rideau Canal system in Canada, and then more fun in The Thousand Islands. Then back to Western NY and the Buffalo ACBS show in September – then back to Florida.
The “Lady” is probably the most used classic boat in this great hobby. She is in the water almost all the time (St. Johns River) where I live. In 2009 we cruised the Erie Canal and Finger Lakes and met so many great people along the way. She has been in Lakes Erie, Ontario, Chatauqua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Smith Mountain, Lake Norman, Lake George (NY & FL), Lake Chatuge, Sinclair, Big Rideau, and a few I don’t remember…
Originally powered by a Chris-Craft 283, the 1960 Cavalier now runs a fresh, early 350 CID small block with all the original Chris-Craft parts and manual Paragon transmission – but still looks like the original Chris-Craft 283. Sorry I don’t have interior photos with me, as I am currently in Buffalo for the holidays with family. I will be at Tavares in March for the Sunnyland ACBS show, since it is only about 40 minutes from my home on the St. Johns River.
She has a good size cabin (V berth, dinette, galley, fridge, and head) so when I’m traveling, I can easily live aboard the boat which makes it economical. With all that, she also has a large cockpit (they didn’t waste any space). I also designed a mahogany swim deck that flows off the spray rails.
“Wooden Lady” has won many awards (Best Cruiser or Large Craft and Craftsmanship, Furthest Traveled, etc). I’m looking forward to getting back to Florida in the new year and back on the St. John’s River.
Thanks again for your interest, and hope to see you at Tavares in March.
Thanks for the update Gil – it’s great to hear from you and to know that “Wooden Lady” is being used and cared for once again. Great work!
Thanks Texx and Gill that is very classy boat. And yes I could and would love to be in any of those pictures with Gil.
Wooden Lady would be right at home cruising the St. Clair flats. I hope Gil would consider a road trip to Algonac next June 27 for our Michigan chapter 30th anniversary show. It will be a good time.
That sounds like fun, put me on the info. list. Gil
All of the show info is on our Michigan Chapter web site (michacbs.com) or click on our logo on WoodyBoater. I hope to meet you and see you beautiful cruiser in Algonac.
Greg, it’s been a long time, we were at Algonac for the Sea Skiff rendezvous 98? with our 20ft Skiff Wooden Lassie–Gil
I saw this boat at the Dora show last year!
Even was able to meet Gil and talk with him while I drooled all over his boat.
Wooden Lady is a true inspiration to any Cruiser Guy for sure.
Interior shot. Helen was invited aboard at the 2012 Lake Dora show.
Here is a shot of the beautiful swim platform. Always great to see a little cruiser love ! John Richardson of the Manotick club owns “Sunny II”, a mate to “Wooden Lady”.
Damn you Texx! The way you worded the opening sentence I thought Gil was dead!
I managed to capture a few pictures of Wooden Lady at the Wine Country show back in July, but mine didn’t come out like Robert Miracle’s. I also didn’t get a chance to chat much since the little guy had me on a short leash that weekend.
I have no plans to pass soon, I’m having too much fun, I will turn 75 at Tavares in March need to fix the Lady’s makeup before then.
Thanks so much for posting his article. So few cruisers are viewable these days. As a builder of a Glen L Vera Cruise (very similar to this Cavalier), I am always looking out for other cruisers. She’s a beaut! I will use these pictures as inspiration as I continue mine to completion.
Clipper’s Wooden Boat Build
Keep sanding Carl, you will be glad you did. I remember sitting in the hull wondering what the hell am I doing here?
Many of us down here in Sunnyland territory have known Gil for quite some time…He’s an avid boater with a great boat.
Robert Miracle gets great shots and is very generous in sharing. Some of his shots have appeared in prior Brass Bells. Nice story about a good man and his boat.
Thanks Wilson hope your having a good holiday. Gil
This past summer at the Finger Lakes ACBS show, Gil and I were offered a ride on a little speedster called “Mighty Mouse.” As we took off, I decided to record the first thirty seconds or so of the ride on my cell phone. After reaching about 50+ MPH in about 7 seconds, I decided the recording was unnecessary, and holding on for dear life was more important. I then turned off the video,(or so I thought) and held the phone in my lap.
When we retuned to the dock, I reviewed the video, and I did not turn off the video, and the phone was pointed directly at Gil’s face as we ripped across the water at break neck speeds.
Gil’s face looked like a dogs face hanging out of the car window at 70 MPH, and it was quite funny. I think I actually capture him loosing a few fillings. Fortunately for Gil, I deleted the video, otherwise I would have posted it here for us all to see.
That was quite a wild ride thanks to Bill who built that wild thing.
Cool boat. Almost makes me want to buy one… http://www.richardsonsby.com/pre_owned_detail.asp?veh=2145154
GO FOR IT WALT!
“Wooden Lady” sure is a beautiful boat. And it is great to see she is doing exactly what she was built for. Cruisers are a big part of our history and our hobby.
I don’t buy the argument that that they are too expensive to buy, restore and maintain. The problem is they are the Rodney Dangerfield of wooden boats… they “get no respect” because they are not sexy. In Muskoka I have seen people spend well over $250,000 on a reproduction launch or even a “regular” (well, regular for Muskoka) runabout restoration. I have seen similar amounts spent on recreations of “Gentlemen’s racers” that will never race, and are not practical for anything but a diversion from the owners need to make up for something potentially lacking in the gentleman’s own performance department….
If we truly love this hobby/pastime/lifestyle, then we are tasked by our own beliefs with a level of participation that meets our capabilities’. Many of us have only one woody and direct a significant percentage of our resources just to that one endeavour almost to the breaking point. However, those that have greater resources are the members that need to step up and get on board with a true Cruiser Renaissance.
Maybe one becomes the new Bunkie for their $10M “cottage” or gets the most prestigious slip at the YC but, if it’s going to happen these are the people that need to do it. For our part, as those who can only dream… We need to push cruisers up to the next level of prestige and respect. We need to move past drooling over the racer replicas (because they’ve been done) and really see the restored cruiser as the pinnacle of our hobby/sport/lifestyle/pastime.
Cruisers can still have the V10 Viper engines and all the chrome (if you want to go that way), they can plough out a huge wake, hit some decent speeds and make all the same sounds we all love. They have the added bonus of being a perfect place to entertain with Champers and OJ while displaying to the woody world that you are not only powerful, successful, practical and a lover of woodiness but, you also care about ALL of the woody history and not just the flashy “ego boats”.
Caps off to ALL those that undertake a cruiser restoration! And a bigger cheer to those that add a cruiser to their collection or fleet of woodies. We need to support these people at every opportunity, and give respect back to those sexy cruisers which are fast becoming the rarest of our cherished past.
Thank you for the nice compliments Sean, you are right we don’t get much respect from the High Rollers unless they want to sit, relax and have a cocktail on a hot day at a show. The Lady is always fun even at the local watering hole on The St. Johns
I would love to save many cruisers. It seems at least as addicting as runabouts.
I don’t ever see American Beauty getting trailered very far but I do hope to get her in the water in time for the Antique Boat Parade during Boothbay Harbors Windjammer Days this coming spring. (Also the same weekend as Algonac, so if she is not wet I may make the trip to Michigan, with or without Yorktown)
Bless Texx and Gill for this cruiser story….I sometimes feel like the lone cruiser guy left.
Seen that boat several times, best of the Cavaliers out there.
My Seastrake has not trailer…but lordy we do GO BOATING….like day before yesterday!!
Happy New Year Cruiser Fans!
John in Va.
I do know of a 59 Cavalier 25′ Express in W-NY very restorable (may still be there, in a boathouse for years)
Love seeing this Chris, our 1960 25′ Owens Flagship is almost done too…we will cruise the waters of Lake Coeur d alene, Idaho this summer…OOOoo Ya
The more cruisers that can be saved, the better! Nice example of a loving restoration being used as it was intended to be. Having gone down that road a few times now, I can only encourage more to do the same, as the rewards are well worth it!
No, you most likely won’t make money on it, but you’ll spend far less than a new one with similar features will depreciate in the first year, insurance will be nowhere near what that new boat requires, you’ll be saving a bit of history, learn a lot and enjoy it when people ask you about the boat.
Besides, there is nothing quite as satisfying as simply “messing about in a boat”…
That’s what it’s all about, having fun !
Restoring a vintage cruiser goes way beyond a labor of love…it’s lust! You have to be out of your mind to tackle a cruiser but I have done so several times. However, as Dick Dow pointed out, when weighed against the cost of a new boat of the same size and figuring depreciation and insurance, the actual cost of ownership is actually much cheaper…even affordable. Here’s the largest I’ve restored…for myself. She’s been sold now but we used her for seven years in our “vintage wine and cheese cruise” business. Sure, we sold at a loss when compared to our cost of restoration and upkeep but the income from the business allowed us to break even. Compared to the purchase and upkeep of a new 57-footer…well, there is no comparison. Nobody breaks even on a new boat. The sense of satisfaction when I leaned back in the helm seat and steered that Elco with my bare feet was/is priceless. I invite everyone to lose their minds at least once and restore a cruiser…but you might want to start with one a little smaller. If interested, here’s a link to the Photo Restoration Log: http://www.nautilusrestorations.com/main/1940-elco-57/
For you cruiser afficionados, here’s the Photo Restoration Log of a 1958 Chris Craft 32′ Commander we recently restored. http://www.nautilusrestorations.com/main/1958-chris-craft/
In the photo below, that’s Chris Smith sitting in the cockpit.