Volume 16, Issue 4 ...................... ..........Newsletter of the Finger Lakes Chapter, ACBS.................................... December 2006

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The Life' & Time of a 1934 Thompson Outboard

by FLC member Doug Adams

During the latter part of the 1800s, and the first part of the twentieth century, going on a summer vacation was much more of an undertaking than it is today. It was not unusual for travel to require long hours on the train, followed by one or more passages booked on a steamboat, and then a transfer to a hotel stagecoach or private carrier before finally reaching a summer's destination. Family businesses frequently provided some of the latter services, using horse-drawn wagons or, if roads weren't available, boats. The Kinne family on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack Mountains ran a steamboat company, ferried passengers to the lake's hotels, and delivered groceries and mail to residents around the lake. The Kinnes were to Big Moose Lake as the Wiles family is to Skaneateles Lake today. On both lakes the mail is still delivered by boat. One of the boats used in the marina's operation was a 1934 Thompson outboard built at the Thompson Boat Company in Cortland, NY. In the 1940s, the Kinnes unexpectedly lost their father to illness, resulting in an immediate interruption in the family's business, so much so that certain financial ruin lay just ahead. The bank came to the lake to foreclose on the marina and its rental boat house, but area residents had other ideas. Just before the bank's lawyer arrived, the residents cleaned out the marina, taking everything -- boats, oars, tools, engines, parts, everything! Even the electrical sockets were removed, leaving the place broom-clean when the bankers arrived. The Kinnes didn't know who took what or where it all had gone! The lake residents had simply split it all up among themselves, and after a time, they slowly and quietly returned everything to a grateful family. Eventually, the Kinnes sold the marina to a Walter Dunn. Today, Dunn's Boat Service is still in operation on Big Moose Lake! As a teenager, my dad, Charles Adams, coveted the boat. When he came of age and had the financial means, he purchased it from the Dunn family -- one of Walter Dunn's first transactions after taking ownership of the marina. Dad ran the boat every summer from the late '40s to the mid '70s on Big Moose Lake. One of my vivid memories is of this boat moored in the boathouse with its painted red bottom and white sides, natural varnished interior, and a 1958 18 HP Evinrude Fastwin outboard engine on the stern. As little kids, we would sit in the boat while it was tied up in the boathouse and pretend to drive it around the lake. In the '60s, the boat's bottom was fiberglassed -- a new modern material back then that was supposed to solve everyone's leaky wooden boat problems. It did, temporarily. In the long run, fiberglass made it worse because as we know now, it trapped water between the wood and fiberglass shell causing the wood to rot. The boat was taken out of the water in the '70s and placed in a storage barn in Cayuga County near Auburn, NY. No one touched it for over 30 years! Then, in 1999, the barn's owner died and we, as a family, had to move the boat. We took it to our home on Skaneateles Lake, and in our basement it began its journey through rehabilitation. The seats and hardware were removed, and on and off for two and a half years I removed fiberglass from the bottom of that boat. What a horrible job! In the course of things, I found a major leak at the base of the bow stem which had channeled water in under the fiberglass. For all the patching someone had done, they had never addressed that principal cause of leakage. The transom had a large crack/split in it -- large enough to put your hand through. And although everyone said it couldn't be done, I did manage to remove the transom intact for future use. In the late winter/early spring of 2003, John Menapace opened his new Skaneateles Wooden Boat Company for the building and restoration of wooden boats. This boat became one of his first projects. Using the original transom as a pattern, John made a rough duplicate which was temporarily installed to hold the hull's shape while transferring the boat to a trailer and moving it safely to his shop on Fennell Street. During restoration, we kept everything as original as possible. Several new pieces were made up in white oak and installed; a new keel and bow stem, a new keelson running the length of the boat to trap the ribs between it and the keel, twelve new steam-bent ribs, and a new transom. New reinforcing was also installed in the bow, and about 25% of the bottom cedar strip- white oak spray rail was installed -- the other original one was salvaged and reused. We were similarly able to reclaim the original floor-boards, and original screws were polished and reused whenever and wherever possible. The registration numbers on the hull were assigned in the 1930s and are original. (It took over a month to hand-polish each number and letter!) And the manufacturer's original nameplate is still attached to the bow deck. A 1958 18 HP Evinrude Fastwin outboard engine was found in Canada in nearly new condition. It even has the original owner's manual from 1958, when it was delivered new, as well as the double-tubed gasoline line. We made a video of all the work done on the boat over three years. Now, it is back to it's familiar red and white colors, though in stripping it, we discovered that it had originally been painted green. In mid-summer 2005, all work on the boat was completed, so we took it straight to the Adirondacks where, late at night in the light of a full August moon, we launched it again on Big Moose Lake. Morning dawned as a beautiful, calm, sunny day and my father awoke to find his boat totally restored and floating patiently at his dock! To say he was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. At first, he wouldn't get in, but once he did, we had a hard time getting him out. Until that morning, he had had no idea about our three-year restoration project! That year, we left the boat in the water in the boat house all summer, and used it as in days gone by. It was not treated like it was old or valuable or a museum piece. We pulled it up on shore and did all the normal things one would do with a regularly-used boat. It held up very well. This summer was it's first public debut (post-restoration) at the Chapter's Annual Boat Show in Skaneateles. Much thanks goes to John Menapace and his workers who did so much! With out his help we would never have achieved our goal. He expertly worked on the boat while putting up with a white-collar client who didn't know what he was about, although he did let me help sometimes! I loved the work, and did the majority of the painting and varnishing, but never anticipated the amount of effort it eventually took to achieve the final result. (Dick Sherwood did!)

Thanks also to: - The Sailboat Shop -- John Jablonski and Schyler Barns for their advice, varnishes and paints, and a new trailer. - My family for allowing me the time to devote to this project. - Jim Orbanek, my brother-in-law, for his expertise. He showed me a way to get all those straight flathead nails out of the transom. - Dick Sherwood, for unwittingly egging me on with this project and the storage in his barn. Many thanks to Doug Adams for providing this story, and for doing so on very short notice. -Ed.

How About the Story of Your Boat? Is there a story about your boat that you would like to share with other vintage boaters? If so, make it a point to contact Dick Sherwood and arrange to put together an article for publication in a future edition of Brightwork. PS It's also a great way to document a boat's history and save it for future generations.