Mystery Boat Part 2 – Still Searching For Clues On This Unusual Wooden Race Boat

A few weeks ago we were contacted by some folks who recently discovered an unusual wooden race boat (or should we say gentleman’s race boat) which had been stored in a barn since the 1950’s. The new owner of the boat was interested to learn more about the boats history, the era it was built, the designer or builder, etc. Unfortunately at the time, we only had a few photos of the boat, and very little knowledge to include with the story.

We reached out to the Woody Boater community in search of any information on the boat, and received some great feedback which, unfortunately was mixed in terms of determining it’s original power configuration, original or existing stern construction and possible links to the boats designer or builder. (Click here to see the original Woody Boater story and comments)

We also reached out to a few contacts we had to ask if they could provide any information or thoughts on the mystery boat for the owner.

Peter Breen from Peter Breen Antique & Classic Boats Co Ltd commented…
I have been shown this boat before. This style boat was built by nearly everyone for a short period of time throughout the late 20’s and early 30’s. Without some kind of family history involvement, you are just guessing. There were a lot of the smaller shops that built some absolutely fabulous one off boats. The bigger shops throughout Canada didn’t build outboards, with the exception of Peterborough. If I ever run across anything I will let you know – Peter.

Harry Wilson, from Miss Canada fame commented… (prior to seeing the photos of the single step bottom – below)
I am not familiar with the mystery boat, but I think I see a couple of influences beyond a possible van Patten connection. The square cutwater bow & lift reminds me more of early Ventnor 225 hydros, such as Mortimer Auerbach’s Emancipator III & IV (1934 & 1935) or Zippy Too. It does not appear that the bottom is stepped. The power could have been a PR Johnson or the like. My guess is this was the work of a garage builder, someone who had a better understanding of aerodynamics more than of hydrodynamics. Certainly, the streamlined above-water work is beautiful… a bit like John Hacker’s Curlew designed for Fred Burgess of Lake Joseph & Toronto in the 1930s. Sorry I can’t be more help – Harry.

Doug Van Patten, son of Naval Architect and noted raceboat designer Douglas Van Patten commented…
The mystery boat looks like a minature “Scotty”. If the fairbody lines were extended it would be a double ender,
like “Scotty”. That and the fact it was found in a barn near Detroit leads me to beleive it is a John Hacker design from the late nineteen twenties to the early nineteen thirties. The lack of instruments on the dashboard and the coaming abaft of the transom stern leads me to conclude that the mystery boat was designed and built as an outboard – Doug

Thanks to Peter, Harry & Doug for your comments – We appreciate you taking the time to help us with the search.

We also received some inquiries from our viewers asking for additional information on the mystery boat and we requested some additional photographs from the owner, which we recently received and are shown below. To assist with the search, we have also included the following comments (below) which were posted on the original story recently for clarification from the owner.

A.J. Commented… To clear up a few details on this particular boat:

1. It was found in a barn in central Massachusetts, not Detroit. It has been placed in the barn in the 1950s. The owner had died in the late 90s. His son knew nothing of it’s origins other than a vague recollection that it came from NH but was not sure.

2. The boat measures 14 feet. The cockpit is big enough for 2 adults. The steering wheel was moved at some point from the right to the center.

3. The boat is constructed with brass screws.

4. There is a hatch forward of the cockpit. This hatch can be completely removed and is latched from beneath.

5. Although I’m not an expert, the stern seems to be have been modified by someone at a later date for the outboard. The construction details on the back do not match the rest of the boat.

6. The boat had very little or no time with the outboard engine. This is based on the lack of wear where the control cables rub against the hull. There is very little indication that the cables had moved much at all.

Hope this helps, Regards, A.J.

As shown below, it appears that the boat originally may have had a twin opening hatch forward of the cockpit, which had a latching assembly.

A shot of the original bow lifting eye / mascot and cutwater.

A good shot of the unique bottom planking design / layout.

And these two shots of the single-step hull configuration.

We now know that the hull number is 320, not sure where this is located on the boat.

The rear section of the forward cockpit.

The existing center location of the steering wheel, which may have been relocated from starboard side to accommodate the cable steering (which it currently has as shown below) for the outboard or to center the driver in the cockpit… Just a guess of course.

This photo shows where the original steering wheel, etc may have been located – starboard.

And some existing cable steering assembly.

Some structural components on the hull planking forward of the cockpit.

And finally some type of fixed fin that was found on the boat, were not sure of the exact location.

Here’s a nice shot of Ethyl Ruth IV, a beautifully restored 1934 27’ Hacker Gold Cup Race Boat, a John Hacker design from the similar period. To learn more history on this legendary race boat you can click here.

Ethyl Ruth IV

So if you think you recognize some aspects of this boat or have any further information that we can pass along to the owners, I’m sure they would appreciate it when they begin the restoration process.

A few things to also note on this boat.

1. The boat is not for sale.
2. We do not know the historical value of the boat.
2. We do not know the owner or the current location of the boat.
3. We understand that since the original story was published, the owner has received a number of inquiries from people interested in buying the boat. Woody Boater has had no involvement in terms of providing information to buyers, restorers or dealers, and are not directing these people to the seller – as we do not know the owner, the owners contact information, zip code or even the current location of the boat.
4. Any additional information or comments on the history of the boat from our viewers can be posted in the comment box below or e-mailed to and I will gladly see that this is forwarded to the owners representative who by the way is the person we received the recent photos from.

We are simply trying help the owner / owners representative locate accurate historical information on the mystery boat as requested.

(You can also contact me by e-mail at

11 replies
  1. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    I have no idea. The font on the 320 hull number does look like the font stamped into my 1957 Lyman. I am sure it is just a coincidence. Cool boat though.

  2. Stuart Bailey
    Stuart Bailey says:

    You might figure out your mystery by finding out who owned your boat. I have a 48 Chris craft deluxe runabout R-17-1301 Registration # NY2973AV that i have tracked back to all but one owner an old widow that’s deceased …?? from Wilson Harbor NY. In 1956 the boat was sold by her to a club member and used with Youngstown ski club.This tracking took many phone calls all over the country ,but all persons infoe lead me back through 5 to 6 owners.The Niagara Gazette news paper research department produced pictures of the ski club and there sat my boat surrounded by members and pictures of a ski show.This effort to find the owners was done due to the history of the boat to me was an important part of the boat its the boats soul. If your boat is a type of race boat there might have been a race club perhaps the news papers have photos or infoe on races.Your boat has many metal castings are these numbered and if so can this be a way to figure out the type of boat you have.Perhaps the garage you took the boat from still holds the key to your mystery.Good luck hope you find the boats soul . Stu Bailey

  3. Alex
    Alex says:

    Wow Texx. That came mighty close to legalese toward the end. You forgot these three.

    1. SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.

    2. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

    3. No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Blog.

    4. WoodyBoater agrees that it will not discriminate against anyone because of sex, race, color, marital status, national origin, religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, preference of boat make, material, or vintage, or expression or age except by minimum age and retirement provisions, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification, and unless an individual is wearing orange deck shoes.

    Other than these, I think you got ’em all.

  4. mike p.
    mike p. says:

    I am currently reading “A CENTURY OF OUTBOARD RACING” and boats similar to yours are discussed, especially the bottom style including the step. Many of the pictires resemble features your boat has, but not your exact boat. It appears it is from the early 1930’s. Many boats were built and raced only one season, or only a few times and the owner set it aside and to build another boat with with modifications, the evolution of design was in full swing then. Enjoy your project.

  5. Matt Walker
    Matt Walker says:

    Interesting artifact. It would appear to be an outboard, but what kind and what vintage is difficult to identify. My guess would be that this boat was probably a refit of an inboard and refit in the 1960s as a retro looking hull. Probably had a 75 HP Knickerbocker or thereabouts. The boat was probably a 20 knot cruise and with poor planing abilities. The 320 number on the keel may have been from a production boat, and the entire assembly was probably cut down from a larger inboard. I have seen some strange things and this is one of them.

  6. Mark Larson
    Mark Larson says:

    There is a Bruce N. Crandall design very similar to this little beauty but with the -boat tail- stern, its a 1936, same half round topsides, I see its mahogany on oak frames and the hardware and craftsmanship tell me its no 1off home built, i cant see any engine beds ahead of the steering station without photos into the hatch/cockpit area, the lapstrake/clinker bottom is unusual but testing shows this traps air reducing wetted area =more speed. my father was a boat builder in New Jersey and I may build something much like this hull. I’ll keep researching this find.

  7. Mark Larson
    Mark Larson says:

    I found this here in woody, just a coincidence the name, but modify the transom for an ob. and, , “Boondoggle” a 1939 16ft Falls Flyer Speedster is the rarest of the rare, one of only two single-cockpit inboards ever built. Built of steam-bent oak frames and cedar strip planking covered with fabric, it’s sleek and fast. Power is provided by a forward mounted 90HP Gray Fireball.

  8. Mark Larson
    Mark Larson says:

    from another site, Larson also did some lapstrake as on the mystery boat , the bow is a little different but not much, there may be evidence of fabric covering still on the mystery, larson made variations of the flyers inboard and outboard some just 2 or 3 models produced. notice dash and wheel, forward hatch and cockpit shape, and rib spacing ect,

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