The Perfect Woody Boater Morning In Northern Michigan – Aboard Sassafras

It’s finally summer in Northern Michigan and fellow Woody Boaters Allen & Debbie Willey are lovin’ every minute of it. They own “Sassafras” a classic 1947 Chris-Craft U-22 that was built on a very special day, according to Allen. Here’s how Allen & Debbie like to enjoy their wooden boat.

Allen said…

Well, it’s all good. I love to wake about 6:00 AM, grab a cup of coffee and go down to my dock and start up my U-22 “Sassafras” and motor the lake shore in Northern Michigan’s Mullett Lake. Most mornings the lake is calm and smooth….. The low rumble of the sweet six is incredible…. Loons coohing and ducks fishing in the early morning hours on a smooth lake is incredible and they dont hear me coming…. All the noise is behind you, its the best time to cruise. Last week I was within 10 yards of a mother loon with 6 chicks on her back and 4 swimming behind….quite a sight….like Golden Pond.

Bow flag flying at 6:45 am headed out for the morning coffee circle, this is as good as it gets!

Then evenings about an hour before dusk with the 1st mate Woodie Boater Babe (my wife Debbie) we make the trip again….. or go across the lake to dinner……. ”Life Stylin” Judged shows are just a place to oogle those other boats. I bought mine to use it…….

I was a 1972 Chris-Craft Commander 47′ owner for about 12 years. I had grown up on a 1957 wooden Chris-Craft on the Sassafras River that empties into the Chesapeake Bay. My grandfather would take me to his Newspaper office on Saturday mornings and we’d leave for the boat about 9:30 AM. It was a 20 minute drive to the boat. I would help swab the decks and stuff… Later my Grandma would meet us and off we would go out to the Chesapeake around Rock Hall, Maryland and then anchor for the night. Morning would bring the smell of cinnamon buns and a day on the river. So “Sassafras” became the name.

The 1947 U-22 was a search for a wooden boat with prospects of a Lake House and downsizing from the 47′ Commander.  I began my search and looked at several out of town. Remembering a white boat I had seen a few years earlier when I was following a 17′ Runabout ad in the newspaper, I searched through some old pictures.  I thought it might have been it, but at the time I had no interest in a utility. This boat was about 15 miles from my home in Michigan.

I drove over to where I remembered the gentleman lived and knocked on the door. He remembered me and we began to talk about it and he confirmed it was indeed a 1947 U-22. He was now in his 80’s, owning the boat for sometime and realizing it was a lot of boat to load and unload only going to shows.

He agreed to show it to me and when that day arrived he handed me the hull card for the U-22, and to my amazement it was built the same week I was born…  So I had to have it.  So we have been the new caretakers of the boat for about five years now and we use it on Mullett Lake on the Inland Waterway, near Cheboygan. The rest is yet to be written.

We need to continue to spread the word about the Woody Boater Lifestyle and draw in more people to preserve these treasures. Thanks for your and Matts diligence and efforts to keep it rolling.

Allen & Debbie Willey – Fellow Woody Boaters

Another great story about the history and life of a classic wooden boat, and how it’s still being enjoyed on a daily basis thanks to Allen & Debbie. Getting the opportunity to hear first-hand the stories and history of these old wooden boats is just amazing to me. Thanks for sharing your heartwarming story with us here at Woody Boater.

Heck – I just realized it’s 5:40 AM in Michigan and I better get this story published before Allen leaves in his U-22 for his morning coffee cruise!


Story Update – From Allen Willey

Funny story, as I rounded the cove on Western Burt Lake a few years ago, I see this 1947 white sided U-22 sitting bobbing on a buoy….. 6:30 am. I moved in closer and it was my exact boat ……. With the accessory bimini top, named “Jiminey Cricket”.

I circled a few times slowly and no one stirred from the cottage… took a few pics and left. I returned later that day and met the owner. An elderly lady who said her father bought the boat originally and used it for years….. He has since passed and the grandkids prefer the fiberglass go fast stuff… So each year they soak it, launch it and it bobbs 10 weeks a summer. What a decoration huh?

So there is two of us on the lake……..

Thanks Allen – These white sided U-22’s are coming out of the (white) woodwork over the last few days… It’s great to see!


23 replies
  1. Jim Godlewski
    Jim Godlewski says:

    Great story. Sounds like a perfect way to spend some good times. Gota love the woodie alarm clock. I’m up….

  2. Texx
    Texx says:

    We are trying to send Matt a subliminal message via Woody Boater to convince him to buy a cool white sided U-22.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I am willing to bet that if you can find a white sided U-22 in good ready to enjoy condition for under $10k, Matt will be all over it.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      doubtless he will be, as long as it is water-ready.

      The painted U 22 is really growing on me – nice and unique, very well balanced aesthetics in my view anyway.

  4. Texx
    Texx says:

    If there’s one out there, Matt will find it. He’s like a wooden boat sniffing hound dog and will surely pick up the trail soon…

  5. Tarry
    Tarry says:

    Great story and boat. We named our 17′ 1940 Barrelback Sassafras. After the point that we live on at Indian lake, OH.

  6. Dave Pickard
    Dave Pickard says:

    My “almost” first boat was to be a 47 blue Rocket beautifully restored and I won it eBay for a great price, unfortunately it was “sold” privately before auction ended? But anyway I have always loved to painted CC’s of the 40’s, just the right amount of paint and varnish. I think I’m talking myself into one…

  7. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    Great Story. I really like those white sided boats. Century made a Deluxe Utility during those same years mahogany was scarce with cedar planking painted white. There was one on the small lake in southern Wisconsin that I grew up on. I’ve only ever seen 2 of those since.

    As to a Michigan morning: In Wisconsin this morning it will stretch to reach 55 under cloudy skies with an ongoing threat of rain. Boating weather? Of course – that’s what the coffee and outer wear is for.

  8. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    When I was a kid in the late 50’s my family spent summers at the lake. In the morning we would cruise over in our ’47 Blue Rocket to my aunt & uncles dock, if the coffee pot flag was flying, they were up. We would dock & have breakfast. After several hours of visiting, we would cruise home. Often one of my parents would ski over and the other one would ski back.

    Great story Texx!

  9. allen
    allen says:

    Funny story, as I rounded the cove on Western Burt Lake a few years ago, I see this 47′ white sided U-22 sitting bobbing on a buoy…..6:30 am…..I moved in closer and it was my exact boat …….with the accesory bimini named “jiminey cricket”. I circled a few times slowly and no one stirred from the cottage…took a few pics and left. I returned later that day and met the owner….an elderly lady who said her father bought the boat originally and used it for years…..he has since passed and the grandkids prefer the fiberglas go fast stuff…so each year they soak it, launch it and it bobbs 10 weeks a summer…what a decoration huh? So there is two of us on the lake……..

  10. Phillip Jones
    Phillip Jones says:

    Matt your’e getting sleepy sleepy sleepy. On my command you will just do it (B on B) are ya ready?


    U can now open your eyes go get in you new white side, without a bucket and go have a wonderful day on the water. :):)

  11. Alex
    Alex says:

    Matt: Ok, now I’m getting worried.

    “DNA about to be all over?”

    And all this talk about “the lifestyle.”

    Am I the only on paying attention to what’s going on here? Is the “real” story about to break?

    And I thought this was a family blog… Or PG-13 at least.

  12. Kim Kadimik
    Kim Kadimik says:

    We just took our 1947 U-22 “Mr. Whire” for his first ride of the season Thursday. Nothing like a U-22 one of my favorite boats.

  13. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Great story Allen, almost felt like I was there. Cinnamon buns, coffee and early morning start up on the lake. Ahhhhhhhh. Love you u22 painted white.

  14. Texx
    Texx says:

    Morning Pre-Cruise Check List.

    Life Jackets…check,
    Fire Extinguisher…check,
    Ace Hardware Bucket…check,
    Cell Phone…check,

    Cinnamon Buns…double check.

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