1940 Chris-Craft 19’ Custom Runabout
Mark and Laurie Yahn
December 6, 2021
As a boy in the 1960’s, I boated with my family on Seneca Lake in Central Ohio, and also on the St. John’s River and Harris chain of lakes after we relocated to Florida in the early 1970’s. My dad kept his boat at the Dora Marina during my high school years, which allowed me ample opportunity with family and friends to explore the lakes.
My wife Laurie and I married in 1980, and in 1982, we bought our first boat – a 23’ Chris Craft Scorpion – which started a long line of fiberglass boat and yacht ownership (mostly Sea Ray’s from 28’ to 55’) over the next 30 years.
For many years, I had my eyes on wood boats (primarily Chris Craft runabouts), but I guess I thought they would be too much trouble. After we sold our last large Sea Ray in 2012, I purchased a Cobalt 296BR in 2014, which is a large bow rider with a bit of a retro look. In its promotional video, the Cobalt was paired with a wooden runabout in an attempt to showcase their similarities. That video rekindled my interest in wood boats and two years later, at the Sunnyland show in 2016, I purchased a 1942 17’ Chris Craft Special Runabout, which turned into this new hobby we all love so much. This boat was restored by Brian Keene, who was formerly with Antique Boat Center and is currently with Motor Boat Garage. Brian did a nice job with this boat, but I had a desire to take it to the next level, which Doug Scherb at Old Time Boat Company helped me accomplish.
Once I owned one of these treasured boats, I began subscribing to several publications and attending multiple shows around the country, and I soon found another boat that I wanted to own. At the Sunnyland show in 2017, Katz Marine showcased a 17’ Chris Craft Custom Runabout with orange joints and pigskin interior – the same year they brought the Cobra named Feisty to honor Terry at the show. I began asking around and watching for a 19’ with the same characteristics only to quickly learn how rare these boats are.
I located one that might be available in the fall of 2017 in Hammondsport, New York and followed that lead to its owner, Dale Pedersen. I spoke to Dale several times that fall and visited him and his boat in January 2018. Dale had owned multiple wood boats for years, was active in the Wine Country Chapter of ACBS, and was a participant at various shows and a winner of multiple awards, several of which were for his 19’ Barrel Back. Dale claimed that “Unchained Melody”, was not only his favorite boat, but from its delivery to its original owner, Dr. Comfort (shown in the photo to the right on Keuka Lake), it was coveted by multiple other families on the lake and never left those waters. Unfortunately, like many other wood boats, regardless of their rarity and value in later years, they ended up on their side in a barn, and this boat – though now beautiful again – was no exception. A gentleman by the name of Bud Shaw purchased the boat from Dr. Comfort’s descendants around the mid-to-late 1980’s.
Dale, with the help of Doug Nichols and John Frey, completed a full restoration of the boat in the mid 1990’s, keeping with a double planked (canvas and packing compound) bottom system, along with traditional decking and hull sides.
The engine was completely rebuilt by Larry Pederson, Dale’s brother, and the electrical system remained 6-volt. Dale and I spoke several times during 2018 and finally arrived at a price we could both live with in the fall of that year. The boat was delivered to Old Time Boat Company in Tavares, FL the week of our annual meeting in November 2018, and renovation work began in May 2019. I promised Dale that I would restore the boat correctly to its glory of the show-winning 1990’s, and I believe that Doug Scherb and his team of Ed, Oz, Gary and Ingrid did a good job of that. Of course, the boat was completely disassembled, with a new 5200 based bottom with mahogany diagonal planks used for the inner bottom and mahogany longitudinal planks installed for the outer bottom.
The deck and hull sides were in good condition and left traditional and all of the plating was in great shape. It was simply polished, then reinstalled. Gary located new pigskin hides early on in Michigan and as usual, provided important historic guidance along the way. The engine appeared sound, but it still received a rebuilt carburetor, distributor, and water pump, with new hoses, belts, wiring and a 12V conversion and fresh paint. Doug laid down numerous coats of varnish over well-sanded decks and hull sides and matched the orange deck joints and boot stripe paint perfectly. James at Boathouse Canvas turned the new hides into a beautiful, period-correct interior, and the boat sits on a custom trailer built by AmeraTrail of St. Cloud, Florida.