Boat owners restore vintage boats, bringing them back on the water at Lake of the Ozarks.
When Robert Pollack and his son-in-law Jim Mader purchased the “oldest cruiser on the Lake,” they thought they made the deal of a lifetime. After looking at the 1935 25' Richardson located in Gravois Mills, the two agreed it only needed a few months of work and would be out in the water by Spring. Four years and 6,000 hours of labor later, it was once again sailing on Lake of the Ozarks.
From stem to stern, the restoration was a complete overhaul. Armed with a stack of Wooden Boat magazines, their primary resource for information in the 1980s, the two embarked on an adventure to restore the Richardson back to its glory days.
The boat was moved to Jim’s backyard in Stillwell, Kansas where they’d spend many weekends working on the project.
In 1982 it was successfully launched on Lake of the Ozarks.
After the restoration of the Richardson was complete, Bob McQuain became Jim’s brother-in-law. They shared a mutual interest, and from that point on, they were a two-man boat restoration team.
When Bob was young he remembers building a wooden boat with his Dad, establishing an appreciation for the antiques. In the mid-80s he purchased a 1959 Chris Craft that had sunk on Lake of the Ozarks. It was his first restoration project. Ten years later, with additional knowledge and the help of Jim, they had to restore the boat again but were more confident in their skills after traveling to many boat shows together and taking instructional classes across the country to improve their knowledge and technique.
Bob says they both own “plastic boats,” but explains that a sign their workshop reads “If God wanted us to have plastic boats, he would have made plastic trees.”
“We both know the art of wooden boats is being lost,” Bob says. “We are proud to keep it going.”
The second restoration of the Richardson started about 10 years ago when they replaced all of the white oak frames. Rebuilding the frame was tedious. Jim says the construction type has been used to make boats for thousands of years.
“It is truly a pleasure to sustain an old trade,” Jim said. They had to build their own steam box where the oak is placed inside for about five hours before it can be removed, bent into shape and secured in 15 minutes. The bottom planking was redone, the top was recovered and the engine was rebuilt but maintains its original power traveling about 8 miles per hour.
The family now owns several other antique boats: a 1962 28’ Chris Craft Constellation, 1959 17’ Chris Craft Ski, 1952 20’ Chris Craft Riviera, and a 1926 26’ Indian Lake Dart. The Dart is currently being restored while the Riviera is waiting on restoration.
The 1959 Chris Craft Ski gets the most use pulling grandchildren from behind on tubes, skis and knee boards. It stays inside the Gravois Arm only to venture out in the morning before the Lake gets too choppy.
Out on the water in one of their restorations, they’ll get many thumbs up and while docked their most frequently asked question is about maintenance. Since most of the fleet is over 50 years old, it takes 10-12 coats of varnish to keep it in glossy condition every five years but Bob points out most fiberglass boats need a good buffing every five years, too.
1957 Chris Craft 26' Sea Skiff
Growing up in Massachusetts, Steve Bradbury was always around wooden boats. In 2012, Steve and his wife, Elizabeth, were spending the summer in Empire, Michigan when they met Frank Hagerty who was well-known for his love of old cars, boats and motorcycles. That same year, they decided to purchase a classic boat of their own.
They found a 1957 15’ Lyman Outboard Runabout with a 35 HP Johnson Golden Javelin motor. As far as they can tell it is the original package (boat, motor and trailer), as delivered in Boyne City, Mich. in 1957. The boat is called Wood Duck I, and is often seen towed behind the couple’s 1957 Lincoln Coup when they take it on the road to shows.
In 2016 they decided to spend more time at Lake of the Ozarks and realized the 15’ Lyman was a bit too small for a summer of boating. They began to search for something bigger and located a Chris Craft Sea Skiff through a dealer out of Clayton, New York. Sea Skiff boats have a reputation for good handing and performance in rough water so they bought OLD JER that same summer.
OLD JER was taken to Ball Boat Works in Maple City, Mich. where structural repairs and cosmetic work was done until April 2017 when it finally made its way to the Lake.
“We stopped short of a full restoration since we consider the boat a ‘daily driver,’ as a car enthusiasts would say,” Steve said. The boat was renamed Wood Duck II. It is powered by a Chris Craft Model M engine, a 6 cylinder flat-head rated at 130 HP (often called a Hercules engine).
“We enjoy the boat. As reputed, it performs well in rough Lake of the Ozarks summer conditions,” Steve says. “We enjoy boat rides and have fun meeting up with other old boat folks. And it always brings admiring comments from people who stop to learn more about it.”
The boat is stored and serviced at Redhead’s Performance Marine where Steve says it’s probably the slowest boat there and they’re proud of it…
Wood Duck I has never been on Lake of the Ozarks, but Steve says it might be introduced this fall.
1964 25' Lyman Hardtop
Mark Engstrom became interested in vintage boats about 15 years ago when he met someone who restored several of them. His first purchase was at an estate sale — a 1959 Alumicraft. After enjoying the boat for awhile, he sold it to a man from Texas who grew up skiing behind the exact same type of boat.
This summer, Mark found a 1964 25’ Lyman on Lake Erie and loved the way it managed the large waves on the Great Lakes. He was familiar with how a Lyman handles since his good friend and fellow Lake of the Ozarks boater, Skip Langell, also owns one. Skip’s has a convertible top, but Mark was looking for a hardtop. This boat was already in great shape and only needed minor work to get in the water.
The Lyman now sits docked at his home at the 10.5 mile marker.
“What I love most is gathering with others who share the same interest,” he said. “Whether it be wooden, fiberglass or aluminum, they all offer their own style and classic looks. I purchased two of my old boats for less than $800 and put minimal expense, but lots of love labor, into them.” These same boats may sit next to something shinier and more expensive at boat shows, but they still get plenty of attention.
Mark has a 1958 Star Craft Jet Star with a 50 HP Evinrude Fat Fifty engine, and a 1964 Lyman Hardtop Sleeper with a 327 Gray Marine engine. Both are kept at Lake of the Ozarks. His 1960 finned aluminum boat “Texas Maid” is currently waiting to be restored.
Classic Boats LOTO
Vintage boat enthusiasts won’t have trouble finding other boat owners who love to share their stories of restoration fails and successes.
Classic Boats LOTO is an informal group of vintage boat owners, meeting a couple times during the season to have cruises and raft ups. Their goal is to keep the connection and enthusiasm of classic boats alive — all while having a little fun. Most are also members of The Antique and Classic Boat Society (a national group) and are part of the regional chapter Heartland Classics.
All of the clubs hosts special events, workshops, shows and other rendezvous throughout the year.
More information: www.acbs.org.
Looking for one?
Mark Engstrom says he recently purchased a classic 1967 from Raymonds Marine in Gravois Mills, and says there are hundreds more in their yard. Old classics can also be found on Craigslist, at estate sales and on eBay.