A Penny For John Baas’s Thoughts!

Another weekend below zero. Another weekend of snow. Fact is, hell HAS frozen over! And we live there! I wasn’t going to let the weather keep me from doing something on the Correct Craft Atom Skier I shared with you last fall. So far, it has been a bilge cleaning affair. The pellet stove will get the 16 x 24 shop toasty in a couple hours. The bucket of TSP stays warm on top the stove while I scrape and scrub 59 years worth of goop and ick from the bilge. I was going to ask Matt to have Woodyboaterville chime in with their workshop heating methods and tricks but then something else happened.

I found something in the bilge of the Atom Skier. Now I’m wondering what cool stuff our Woodyboater restorers may have found while working on their boats? While continuing the bilge-cleaning operation on the newly acquired 14′ Correct Craft, I removed the last bits of the rotten plywood battery platform. This area is dead center in the bilge under the front seat.

Look closley

Look closley

There, in the organic goo that accumulated over the years was a familiar looking circle of copper. A penny. A 1919 wheat penny minted in Philadelphia. I’m no coin collector but one on-line price guide has my Lincoln cent at a cool 70 cents! Value (or lack thereof) aside, the bigger and more intriguing questions are, how did it get there and how long has it been there? Since this coin was made 36 years before the boat was built, it could have been there the whole time. Or, it could have been dropped by the last guy to sit in the boat with loose chance in his pocket. Considering the weight and profile of a copper penny, it would take considerable jostling to get it up between the keelson and the battery platform.

Even with a bilge full of water, the coin isn’t likely to get “washed” around. Is it? So how did it get there? Let’s flash back to Pinecastle, Florida, 1955. The boys are in the shop at the Correct Craft plant slappin’ together another little Atom Skier. Bill Haley and Comets are rockin’ around the clock on the radio. This particular boat-building crew wants their new baby to have a happy life. One of the guys digs into his work pants and pulls out a “lucky penny”. The rest of the crew nods and the coin gets a special place on the keelson before they add the battery platform. Just then, Bill Haley’s tune ends and the number two hit of 1955, Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford comes on and they break for lunch. Yeah, that’s what happened, all right. As cool as that scenario might be, the penny probably fell out of uncle Lenny’s Bermuda shorts in 1982. However it got there, the Lucky Penny will stay in the Atom Skier. Say, that’s not a bad name for a boat, is it?

John Baas

31 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:


    Maybe you could find a way to mount it to the dash?

    As far as heat goes, the barn I am in right now has non so it is called SPRING. If you believe such a thing exists.

    I do bring parts into the house to varnish since the kids rooms are empty. May need to claim that pirate flag for the Connie.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    The key to a warm workshop is not heat, it is insulation.

    As for the penny, I would think with engine vibration and wave bouncing, it could eventually find its way to the low spot.

  3. Wilson Wright
    Wilson Wright says:

    Atom Skiier and penny story quite interesting….But….What kind of truck did you buy and why ????

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      He didn’t buy it yet.

      Last statement yesterday was a Dodge with a Hemi, need to do more research.

  4. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    Great story. When I was stripping down the floor out of my ’51 Century Imperial Sportsman, I found all manner of matter in the bilge – including a quarter which I promptly removed and then studied it wondering about the story behind it. Alas, I have no idea what happened to that quarter and my current project had the bottom already off when I bought it. Gotta be some great stories out there though about “Treasure in the bilge of the barn boats”.

  5. Redbeardsraven
    Redbeardsraven says:

    while I was gutting out the forward cabin in my 1949 Chris Craft DCEB (so I could get to the 6 frames, keel and gripe that had to be replaced) I came across a 1939 silver mercury dime. It had probably slid out of some ones pocket that sleep in one of the two bunks in there. I decided it was in fact a good luck piece that had to stay with the vessel. while I was reassembling the keel/gripe pcs. I inserted it between them.
    a silver good luck piece to please the great water gods!!

  6. Sean
    Sean says:

    It takes all the pennies I can find in my bilge to keep it clean!!!
    A clean bilge is a happy bilge 🙂

  7. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    According to maritime lore, silver dollars were placed under the mast for good luck. Since no silver dollars were minted in 1967, I keep a Kennedy half dollar in Daddy Had One. It can’t hurt!

  8. Gary
    Gary says:

    A bilge whether it is in a boat or an airplane or that drawer in the workbench or where-ever can be very interesting.
    In our 1937 boat I found a dangly ear ring for a pierced ear. Use your imagination on that.

    Currently 46 and raining, raining since Saturday.

  9. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    My bilge had a good amount of oil, mainly due to Chris Crafts decision not to put an oil seal on the rear where the reverse gear would normally be. I have long wondered if the “engineer” who came up with that design was hired from Harley Davidson or Rover. I am leaning Harley since it would actually spray the oil like the old total loss flatheads that dumped oil onto the chain, and rovers usually continue to leak oil even when not running which this did not.

    Other than that just a few screws and such. No coins and nothing else of interest has shown up yet.

  10. Jim Bell
    Jim Bell says:

    While tearing down my 1965 Sea Skiff I came across a second I.D. plate. This one had no numbers struck on it. The plate used has a bad letter strike on it. One on almost on top of another. I’m thinking the foreman told someone to get a new plate and do it right. They brought the plate to the boat but that must have been as far as they got to replacing the existing one.

  11. Alex
    Alex says:

    -30 F here this morning. But thankfully sunny. The sun returns to the Western side of Michigan around this time each year, after 2 straight months of mostly cloudiness.

    Chimney smoke in the valleys was rising straight up about 20 feet, then abruptly flattening out into a wafer thin canopy. The snow was incredibly crunchy.

    It was beautiful in so many ways, but we’re very weary of it. Not angry, fed up, frustrated, or the like. We’ve passed those markers. Just weary.

    Sorry for the blurry image. I think there was frost on my iPhone.

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Alex there must be somewhere further south you would feel comfortable living. -30 is just plain nuts. I’m weary of snow too, and we woke up to more falling today, but +21 here is positively tropical compared to you. Can you even keep a car outside without the battery dying?

    • Kentucky Wonder
      Kentucky Wonder says:

      -30F is really cold to be living through for a prolonged time. Got any idea where this photo was taken? Supposed near St. Ignace? I hope the snow and ice have melted by the time we get there in July!!!!

  12. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Yes, “Lucky Penny” is a great name for a boat, my 1924 24′ Hacker Dolphin now with a new owner.

    • Ken Miller
      Ken Miller says:

      Ooooooooh. L@@K at those palm trees. Makes me wonder……anybody seen any snow on the gators this winter???

  13. Cliff
    Cliff says:

    When I was living in Maine a ship wright friend of mine told me that it used to be common practice to hide a coin in your boat so only you knew where it was in case it was stolen. You could claim your boat by saying to the local sherrif hey look under the battery box you will find a penny from 1919, that’s the year I was born. I put it there when I first bought the boat. Some times you would put two in case one was found.I have been doing that ever since with all of my boats.

  14. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Yeah, leaving a penny to ID your boat is a great idea! Unless you wish someone WOULD steal your boat…as I sometimes, not often, do.

    As to the copper penny….if it had been dropped in the bilge of an aluminum Rover…she would have sunk. Electro….bad pie!

    John snowed in IN VA Lake Dora soon!!!!!

  15. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    My outdoor thermometer is reading -3 right now. I guess that is 10 times better than what Alex has. When it gets below -25 you have to start worrying about the washer fluid freezing up or the battery not having enough amps to crank an engine filled with molasses like oil. And then the indoor humidity drops to around 0% and you get static zaps all day. It’s like electro shock punishment when you didn’t do anything wrong. Enough to drive a man crazy (see The Shining for example). The weather in Virginia is down right pleasant by comparison.

  16. brian t
    brian t says:

    Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but I am going to thank each and every one of you people that live in such freezing hell holes. Why you put up with that sort of snow and frigid temperature crap is beyond me. Thank you though as it means that you’re not crowding up the place here on the West Coast !!

    East Coast – too crowded and humid. New England – too cold. Midwest – way too cold and buggy. Florida et al – too many gators and snakes. California et al – too boring, crowded and phoney. The Southwest – why live in a desert?

    The West Coast is the best – not too cold and not too hot, no nasty bugs, you can drive your MG or Porsche all year because we do not salt the roads, snow skiing is one hour that way and the beach is an hour the other way. The boat season runs from April to November. We have more microbreweries than anyone else. The only real problem is the occasional Cougar and they usually leave you alone if you buy them a skinny latte.

    Thanks again and don’t get any ideas. Minus 30 – for chrissakes…..

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      It also seems you guys have the best selection of surviving classic cruisers.

      DARN, I may need to move to the Northwest?

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