The Speedboat Ride Of A Lifetime

“Miss America IX” is unique in many ways, her history, her records, her famous designer & builder, her awards… But for us, what makes “Miss America IX” special is the fact that unlike most other vintage 80 year old race boats, you don’t have to go to a museum or arrange to get in to a private collection to see her in person… You can see her and HEAR her on the water at one of the many antique & classic boat shows she attends each year.

Mr. Charles Mistele has owned “Miss America IX” since 1970 when he and his father Harold discovered her resting atop a flatbed truck in Algonac, Michigan. This year Charles Mistlele is once again planning to take the beautifully preserved 1930 30′ Gar Wood Hydro-Plane to selected boat shows around the country, to give folks the opprotunity to see her doing what she was designed to do – Go fast.

Gar Wood and “Miss America IX” defended the Harmsworth Trophy for the United States against the British challengers in 1930 and 1931. In 1931 on Miami’s Indian River, then powered by twin Packard V-12’s, with Gar Wood at the controls and his riding mechanic Orlin Johnson beside him, “Miss America IX” became the first boat to exceed 100 MPH topping out at 102.256 MPH.

Image Courtesy of Charles Mistele's web site

I had the pleasure of first seeing “Miss America IX” in person at the 2010 Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival in Florida and later the same year at the Clayton Antique Boat Show in New York state. She attracts a lot of attention where ever she goes, and for good reason…

Miss America IX - 2010 Clayton Antique Boat Show

The 80 year old single step hydro-plane is now powered by twin Chevrolet big block V-8’s developing 550 HP each, with the upswept exhaust pipes designed to resemble the exhaust from the original twin Packard V-12 power plants from the 1930’s. “Miss America IX” returned to Florida for the 2011 Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival, and thanks to the calm winds early Saturday morning, we were blessed to hear her out on the water, doing what she does best – Going fast. Hearing the sound of those twin big block Chevrolet V-8’s at full song was like music to our ears, even though we were standing on the dock… That morning Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club President Terry Fiest took the wheel which was a thrill for both Terry and his good friend Charles Mistele.

Miss America - 2010 Clayton Antique Boat Show

Last year, during the 2010 Lake Hartwell Antique Boat Festival, Charles Mistele invited Chris & Alan Smith to go for a ride aboard “Miss America IX” and thankfully for us, Robert Miracle was there to capture some great photographs of the historic ride. This was a special event for both Charles Mistele and Chris & Alan Smith, and just a few days ago Robert & Linda Miracle finally decided to share the photos of the historic boat ride on their Miracle Photography web site, and they were kind enough to share some of their photos with Woody Boater for today’s story.

Chris Smith called “Shotgun” on nephew Alan Smith so Alan got the middle seat, and off they went for “The speedboat ride of a lifetime!”

Faye Smith, Alan’s wife helped us describe the speedboat ride that day… She wrote –

The day was spectacular and the Hartwell Wooden Boat Show was in full swing. “Miss America IX” floated calmly at the end of the dock. Suddenly the dock was a-buzz with excitement. History was being made, well; at least “some” of history was being sort of repeated. The two “Smith Boys” were again going to ride in a Miss America.

Not being able to conjure up the original “Smith Boys”, we had to make do with Chris Smith (the grandson of Christopher Columbus Smith) and his nephew Alan Smith (the great-grandson of CC Smith). Chris and Alan donned the required life vests and pretended to be sardines and sandwiched themselves, along with Chuck, into the seats of that awesome boat.

When asked about the first impression of their ride, the first word out of each of them was LOUD, second came the word FAST! Chris said that he felt the history of the family in that ride and having a sense of what it took to achieve that first Miss America record, it made the ride all that much more meaningful. All Alan would say (tongue-in-cheek) was that “Next time HE (Alan) gets the outside seat!” Think that might be a hint?????

Thanks Faye…

Afterwords, Chris Smith (left), Charle’s Mistele & Alan Smith (right) had fun describing the experience together on the dock, where it was a little more quiet…

Thanks to Charles Mistele for making this all possible… He has created a great web site dedicated to “Miss America IX” – There you can learn the entire history of the boat dating back to the 1930’s, including original newspaper articles from the period, how it was found and repaired by the Mistele’s over the years and also the 2011 boat show schedule. It makes for some great reading, and if you are planning to attend any of the scheduled boat shows, Charles always has some great stories to tell about “Miss America IX”.  You can check out the web site by clicking here.

Thanks again to Robert & Linda Miracle for sharing their photos with us, and we wanted to let everyone know that the Miracle Photography web site was recently updated to allow folks to purchase and download images directly from the site, which is certainly more convenient in today’s digital world. The Miracle’s are really working hard to attend the boat shows and events, and we should try to support them so they can continue to bring us these beautiful photographs. You can go directly to their Smugmug web site by clicking here.


12 replies
  1. randy & ginger
    randy & ginger says:

    Faye & Texx,

    What a great story!

    The dock was certainly buzzing with the excitement everyone felt as Chuck, Mr. Chris & Alan headed out onto Lake Hartwell on board Mss America IX.

    Nobody moved, the just watched and listened…

    Bob & Linda, once again, thanks for your pictures. You make our stories come to life!

  2. Rick
    Rick says:

    Right now I’m feeling a little inadequate with my little B engine. LOL Beautiful pictures of a great boat.

  3. ARRRGH!
    ARRRGH! says:

    I join many others in applauding Chuck Mistele for saving this national boating treasure, and escpecially for his and Diane’s generosity in sharing Miss America IX with us in person at the many boat shows on their schedule. Check out the website: The Miracles’ photos are the cream on this wonderful cake!

  4. Bob Miracle
    Bob Miracle says:

    The marriage of Miracle Photograghy with Woody Boater has been a wonderful experence for Linda and I. It has been great to work with Texx and Matt, and we look forward to photographing future boating events for you to enjoy through our eyes. We are happy to be able to provide downloads of our photos as an added convenience to the classic boating community, and we hope you will like this added feature. Thanks for your continued support.

  5. Bob Miracle
    Bob Miracle says:

    Do you want a thrill of a life time. I want to tak e you on a ride in Miss America IX. Go to the web page for Miss America IX. Go to video’s and then click on Photo’s and short Video from a ride in Miss America. Click on Ride Along.
    These are the video’s that I took while riding in Miss America at the 2010 Lake Chatuge show.
    Don’t forget to turn up the sound on your computer a little!!!
    It’s the next best thing to being there.

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    I agree Alex, very cool… I mean hot… Well you know what I’m trying to say!

    We set the images up for this story so you can enlarge them slightly, providing even a better view of what Robert Miracle captured that day. If we could only capture the sound…

  7. Connie Selin
    Connie Selin says:

    I had the great thrill this past weekend at Lake Geneva to sit at the wheel as Chuck got her ready for me to “start”. The captain of this fine ship shares her with such delight. Thanks, Chuck and Diane. See you in Table Rock next fall!

  8. Postmarc
    Postmarc says:

    I agree with Connie–Chuck was the perfect host and retold wonderful tales of Miss America IX’s rich racing history to anyone who came to see her at the ACBS show in Lake Geneva. The 7AM “wake-up call” on Saturday she gave to the Resort before making her way out for a few runs on the lake gave a hint to the power in those engines. Thanks to Chuck & Jim for making the 1120 mile trip to be a part of this great show, made even better by the living history of Miss America IX.

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