1954 24′ Shepherd V-drive Runabout
August 21, 2018
I never had the desire to own a boat larger than 20’ before a fateful day on the St. John’s River. It was during the north bound Sunnyland Chapter cruise in 2006, that my 1939 20’ Lyman encountered the tail end of a north bound tornado between Palatka and Green Cove Springs. The tornado crossed the river directly in front of our path and set in motion a series of headlong waves that almost filled the boat. Sensing the trouble I was in, I turned the boat west toward shore, so that my passenger and I would have a chance to swim to shore if necessary. This was a big mistake because now the waves were coming from astern and crashing over the transom flooding the boat even more. Nearing shore, still afloat, I turned the boat south away from the storm to run parallel with the shore just in case we went down. During the time it took for all this to transpire, the tornado moved across the river and things started to return to less of a panic. We bailed out the boat, turned back in our original direction and proceeded on our path to the Crab Shack for a late lunch.
It was after that adventure I determined that a bigger boat was in order if I was going to do the river trip again. Smaller boats do work in big water but I guess I was looking for a little more comfort as well. The search for a bigger boat led me to a former member who was selling a 24’ Shepherd with twin V-drive Chrysler 105 H.P. Aces. He had acquired the boat years before at the Clayton auction. At first, I thought I could get away with a refinish and be good to go. This turns out almost never to be true. Upon bringing the boat into Gary Scherb’s “Old Time Boat Company”, where I spend most of my weekends working on any one of my boats, I started to remove a few of the interior components. What I found was typical of a 60 year old boat in that the frame work had worked loose and the bottom was showing its age with gaps that would swell if given enough time.
One thing lead to another and somewhere between 8 and 10 years later, I had replaced just about every part and piece of the boat with the exception of about 60% of the basic framework. What wasn’t replaced was removed, reinforced and sealed. The twin motors were replaced with a single 454 which required a complete reworking of the engine stringers and rudder system to accommodate the single motor. The interior was reconfigured to turn it from a Canadian lodge guest delivery boat into a comfortable cruiser. Doug Scherb planned and constructed the custom windshield based around old Hackercraft side panels that Tom Flood had donated to replace the original, now Plexiglas, windshield.
The boat was completed just before the 2016 north bound river cruise and we worked out the kinks as we went along. This was not the best time to learn about the boat but we had a great trip after all that work. My plans are to use the boat on the river in the coming years. My thanks to Gary and Doug Scherb for all of their great advice and help along the way.