Lake Champlain Restoration Project

by Gary Baker

Pictured below is the Baker’s newest (and hopefully last) acquisition, a 23’ 1933(?) Lake Champlain, Vermont Rescue/Patrol boat. I recently purchased this boat on eBay and spent the Thanksgiving holiday driving almost 3,000 miles round trip to New Hampshire to pick up this latest project.
I have been working on boats virtually non-stop for the last six years. Since being interested in boats and boat shows, I have known that somewhere there was a boat that was unique enough to suit my fancy and affordable enough to own. I finally found that boat.

LakeChamplain.htm_txt_12Baker2As a cruiser, it is significantly narrower than Olderthanus, our 23’ 1947 Chris Craft Express Cruiser. The beam is only five feet wide narrowing at the transom to only 4 foot 3 inches, making for a close seating arrangement for those in the stern. The cabin has room for two berths, still containing the original ceramic sink and toilet, each with a hand pump like the water well on grandma’s farm. Speaking of original, although you can’t tell it from the photos, all of the original hardware — bow and stern lights, poles, chocks, steering and instruments — everything I can think of to look for, was included. That alone makes the boat worth the trip, knowing what replacement 30’s hardware costs. Although you can’t see it in the photos, there is a permanent wood windshield that is removed and will need to be rebuilt. Over the windshield is a six foot long hardtop, on which are a horn, searchlight, and running light. All are there and in relatively good, and all salvageable condition. I was amazed that someone had carefully saved all the parts intending to start the restoration and they were included and saved with the boat. It makes for a better and more authentic restoration. I felt at any time I would be stopped at the border for removing a statewide treasure.

LakeChamplain.htm_txt_12Baker1This boat is powered by a 25 hp Universal Motor Model BN 4 cylinder inboard. This model motor was initially built in 1933 and was built until mid WWII and was used in thousands of lifeboats and smaller military vessels. It has a cable steering with a giant transom mounted rudder that may or may not be original. Looks to be a slow, but steady boat. Watch out Dr. Bob. On inspecting the bottom, it appears that once in its life it had a professionally installed plywood bottom installed, as the plywood appears to need only a little sanding and a couple of coats of bottom paint.

To the best of my knowledge, the boat is older than plywood, the basis of my supposition of bottom replacement. The trailer alone was worth the trip — also a 1930’s wood and metal trailer. Mounted on what appears to be a Model “A” axle with leaf springs, coil helpers and lever shocks this trailer made the 1400-mile return trip with hardly any effort, once the correct tires were installed. Although I had arranged to have new tires and tubes installed prior to my arrival, after only 40 miles one had rolled off the old rim, at night, in Concord, NH. That doesn’t mean anything unless I add that a rescheduled NASCAR event was to be held the next day and even at the going rate of $200 per night in a Super 8 there were no rooms available.

Setting out on the wrong-sized bald spare to the next town 50 miles through the mountains at 30 mph on a Friday night was not an experience I would care to repeat. Needless to say I lucked out, if you can say that the need to purchase another set of modern tires AND new rims this time was lucky. At least this is a keeper boat and trailer. By now I have more in the tires and wheels than the boat.
Having never been to that part of the East, I had a wonderful time. En-route I passed the territory of many ACBS Chapters — North Coast Ohio, Finger Lakes, Adirondack — and at one time was only three hours from the ACBS Headquarters. I even saw many of the lakes and bodies of water that we read about in Rudder and Classic Boating, coming away with a much better appreciation of why there is so much boating activity in the Northeast. The weather was way better than I had a right to expect sweater weather at the end of November. My only advice to others making that trip concerns toll roads. As I set out, my wife Kathy filled the van with all manner of change in anticipation of toll roads. Change? No-way. No toll was less than $4.50, just crossing New York State cost over $20 one way.
I am looking forward to both keeping and restoring this boat. Dannenberg be damned, I will save every last piece of original wood from the cabin top and keep all else that is good as is. It will be fun to use, is easily trailerable, and a strong candidate for the “weirdest” boat trophy in 2003 at the Rendezvous.