by Tim Roush member of the Blue Ridge chapter
According to the bill of sale, Buttercup, a 17-foot Century Resorter, was delivered to her original owner in Defiance, Ohio in 1962. Where and how she spent the intervening years I have no idea, but I first saw her in the summer of 1996. In truth, she was not ‘Buttercup’ at that point; she would earn that appellation later. I had recently returned to Hamilton, Ohio after a 16-year stint in the Navy. I missed being near the water and thought a boat might be just the thing to ease the transition. As I walked into the local dealer, the little Century sat front and center, upstaging the fiberglass models all around her. I inquired as to the price, but the salesman informed me that she belonged to the shop owner and was on display only, not for sale. I viewed this as a most egregious form of ‘bait and switch’ and left disappointed.
In truth, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for in a boat. My practical nature dictated something relatively new, low maintenance, and easy on the pocketbook. Buttercup was none of those things. But I thought she was beautiful and, at least by her appearance, well cared for. For some reason, and in spite of all reason, I wanted that boat. I spoke with Jack McCarthy in Cincinnati who had recently done her restoration, and he assured me she was in good condition. After a few more visits, a little cajoling, and a bit more money than I had originally planned to spend, I became the proud owner of my first, and to this day my only, classic boat. To say I was a neophyte would be a gross understatement. I had much to learn about wooden boats and Buttercup was going to teach me.
Despite my inexperience, the Resorter proved to be seaworthy, reliable and, thankfully, resilient. For the next 5 years she towed our kids on tubes and wakeboards over the waters of southwest Ohio. In 2001, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Settling into a waterfront community north of the city, she became a summertime fixture on Mountain Island Lake. By 2008, however, she was starting to show her age. The bilge pump was running too often and too long.
It was a late summer Saturday when my son, Matt, and I launched her in the cove near our home. I began cruising in slow circles waiting for him to park the truck. By the time he came walking down the ramp, I noticed that the stern was sitting much too low in the water. By the time he reached the dock, the rear deck was practically awash. Hurriedly, he returned with the trailer and we managed to winch her out bit by bit. Once the water was drained, it didn’t require a nautical engineer to figure out the problem. After a cursory inspection of the transom, it was clear that a major repair was in the offing.
About three years before, Pat Crusse at Lake Norman had done some engine and carburetor work on her, so I asked him to come and take a look. The mechanicals were good and the stringers were salvageable, as was the wood above the water line. Most of the rest was soft. After a discussion of wishes and practicalities (an oxymoron where wooden boats are concerned), we committed to a complete rebuild. She was stripped down and the salvageable pieces were set aside, the rest were used as templates. New frames were cut and the old ones were sequentially replaced on the new keel. After framing, the battens were attached and the hull was double-planked with West System on the bottom, sides and deck. I also wanted to restore the factory color scheme, so Pat did some detective work and a new upholstery kit was ordered in her original ‘Dusty Jade’ and ‘Bright White’. Gauges were rebuilt, new wiring installed and the engine was reconditioned. Months later, as the finishing touches were being applied, Pat remarked that she didn’t have a proper name. In light of her near sinking, I decided to christen her ‘Buttercup’, after the Navy’s damage control trainer in Newport.
The rebuild took almost 2 years, but was well worth the time and effort. Since then, we have moved once again, this time to our retirement home in the mountains of North Carolina. Lake James has been Buttercup’s home since 2010 and will hopefully remain so for many years to come. The kids are all grown, with families of their own. Now, when they come to visit, it’s the grandkids who clamber aboard to take turns at the helm. Another generation of boaters who will learn the ropes from Buttercup.