by Kevin Maltby member of Glacier Lakes chapter
Aragonne is a 1938 Chris Craft 17’deluxe Model 818 with the KB 121hp engine. There were 23 model 818’s made in 1938 and Aragonne was the last one built in July of 1938. She was sent to Madison Wisconsin on July 11, 1938 and was used on the Wisconsin River in the Dells area.
I am the 4th owner, and according to the gentleman I bought the boat from she had a hard life. The 3rd owner bought the boat from a farmer whose land bordered the Wisconsin River where he found the boat sunk and abandoned. The farmer dragged it home put it on blocks, took it apart, and pulled the engine and hung it in a granary. That’s the way the 3rd owner found it except it had fallen off the blocking and pushed the rudder thru the bottom of the boat. When I got the boat home and cleaned all the parts and junk out of it I saw that at one time she had been on fire too!
Restoration was quite a challenge. All previous owners had worked on the boat, taking more of it apart; so when I started working on her I had quite a jig-saw puzzle. She had the usual problems of rot, cracked frames and chine, oil soaked wood, a bottom you could see light thru, and decking that was paper thin and not to forget the damage when she fell off the farmer’s blocks and pushed the rudder thru the keel. She does have the original engine, 75% of the original hardware (missing hardware was replaced with original CC pieces), and maybe 60% of the original wood left. The restoration took us with the help of my wife, daughter, father, and father-in-law 6 years to complete. Restoring a boat when working full time, raising two children, and remodeling and maintaining a house is a monumental task! But with the help of my family, became a rewarding experience with a beautiful outcome.
We use Aragonne mostly in the Three Lakes, Wisconsin area where we have a cottage. The Three Lakes area has chain of 17 lakes with perfect water for these old beautiful boats and there are a good number of woodies taking residence in the area. She is currently getting a fresh coat of varnish but hope to have her back on the water this summer.