By Ronda Little member of Norhtern California/Lake Tahoe chapter

My husband, Bill, and I purchased Bleach Blond in April 2007. We were not new to boating but were totally inexperienced with wood boats. When Bill decided that he really wanted a wood boat, we joined ACBS before we even found the right boat to purchase. When we found Bleach Blond, we knew she was the one for us.

Bleach Blond is a 20 foot, 1954, Chris Craft Riviera with a Mercruiser-230 HP, 8cyl engine. She was the 259th Riviera built of a total production of 266 Rivieras which were built between 1950-1954. This boat was built in the Cadillac, Michigan plant and was completed March 13, 1954 and was then shipped to Chris Craft Motorboat Sales in New York City. The original owner purchased the boat in New York City for $3940.00 and then had it shipped to Lake Winnipesauke, New Hampshire. Many years later the boat was discovered in a barn in New Hampshire. After 12 years in storage it was purchased by ACBS member, Steve Burton who towed it to California. He spent 5 ½ years performing a complete restoration before it was launched again in March 2002. He was awarded the trophy for Best Owner Restoration at the 2002 ACBS South Lake Tahoe Show. When Steve Burton had the opportunity to take a job in Abu Dhabi, he needed to sell Bleach Blond, so that’s where we came in. We were looking for a boat and the timing was perfect.

As I mentioned before, we were total newbies when it came to wood boats and our first boat show at Bass Lake in May of 2007 was almost a disaster. Bill thought it would be cool to tow the boat behind his 1950 Mercury. It was a good idea in theory, but not so much in actuality. Bass Lake is near the southern entrance to Yosemite so to get there is somewhat of a climb. The old Mercury wasn’t up to pulling a heavy boat and overheated quite a few times, so a trip that should have taken 2 ½ hours, took five. Once we got there, we had to launch the boat which involved more catastrophes. Fortunately, that’s how we got to meet new friends from ACBS. We had lots of help and did eventually get the boat into the water.

Over the years we participated in many ACBS Northern California/Lake Tahoe Chapter events. Besides Bass Lake we regularly attended yearly events in Clear Lake, Lake Tahoe and the California Delta. One of Bill’s most exciting moments was when we were at the South Lake Tahoe Show and were invited by the editor of the Chris Craft Magazine, The Brass Bell, to be in a photo shoot. We were totally thrilled when we received the fall 2009 edition and found that we were on the cover. It was such an honor and we were so excited!

Sadly, Bill passed away in January of 2012, so Bleach Blond hasn’t had much use since then. I don’t take her to ACBS events anymore, but I still go as often as I can and ride with friends. I still love riding in the beautiful wood boats and I especially appreciate and cherish the friends I have made in ACBS.

2 Comments

  1. Ronda, Thank you for the story about your CC Riviera, Bleach Blond. Congrats to Steve Burton on the great restoration and you and Bill for ending up with a wonderful classic as a first boat! I came close to possibly seeing Bleach Blond it in the Cadillac plant. Only a few years later as a teenager we were pulling new CC models including the great Riviera’s and Capri’s from the Cadillac Plant and pulling them back to Leighton’s Boat House in Portage Lakes OH. At one time we likely housed and maintained a dozen or more Riviera’s at Leighton’s. My wife Jan and I are proud members of the North Coast Ohio (NCO) Chapter of ACBS even while we reside in Yorba Linda CA. Our daughter Molly ODell and husband Dave are also members of the N. CA/Lake Tahoe Chapter and they reside in Truckee. We are all frequent Sierra Boat visitors and admire their dedication and capabilities for preserving treasures such as your Bleach Blond. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories. George and Jan

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