The Center of Family Fun for Over 81 Years

By Susan Conroy, ACBS Member

“Cruise all day for less than a dollar spent on gas.” That introductory sentence was about a 17-foot cruiser, with blue prints available, in the April 1939 issue of Popular Science. It sounded good to my dad, Hubert Lee Hayes. At the time, he was teaching at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana. As an experienced sailor, he was enjoying the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver.

The cruiser plan had a shallow draft that would allow beaching and it could also navigate many places where a larger power boat could never travel. The plans showed two bunks, a deck and the possibility of even using a sail. Dad liked the look and special features of the boat and decided to build it.

So he found a building and began the project. He ordered mahogany boards, 15 gross of brass screws, buckets to soak and then bend the boards and all other needed materials.

Dad had learned skilled carpentry from his father, who was a building contractor in Lenoir and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. He was excited to begin this special project in a building at the academy. After his teaching assignment was finished he would work on the boat during the evenings and weekends. After about two years the boat was complete and ready to launch. Dad built a trailer and off my parents went to Lake Maxinkuckee. Family and friends were awestruck at the beauty and workmanship.

The boat was always such an important part of our family life that we needed to live right on a body of water. So, from 1945 till about 1953 (by this time my parents had relocated to Schenectady, New York) we enjoyed frequent boat trips on the Mohawk River. A typical evening would include my mother baking a spaghetti type casserole wrapped in newspaper to keep warm. She’d put it in a wicker basket with carrot and celery sticks, cookies for dessert and lemonade to drink. 

In the summer our boat would be trailered to Schroon Lake, New York, a nine-mile long and one-mile wide crystal clear lake nestled between Lake George and Lake Champlain. Our nautical adventures continued on our family’s log cabin on the eastern shore.

In the 1970s, Dad passed away in Florida and I drove down to retrieve the boat and bring it back to Schroon Lake. While I had needed to comfort family members at the time of Dad’s passing, I had not taken time to deal with my own grief. So that summer I sanded and sanded as the tears flowed. I had flash backs to the years of working and riding on the boat and I realized anew that, indeed, it was a one of a kind work of art with flawless craftsmanship.

So, in the 1990s, with teenage children who wanted to help, we all set to work to sand, re-stain and revarnish the top of the boat. When it was finished, we all had pride and enjoyed using it at Schroon Lake.

But then the unthinkable happened. After a hard week of Adirondack rains the boat sank up to the portholes. We weren’t exactly sure why, but apparently the bilge pump had failed. One morning during the rains, I woke up to see the boat completely filled with water. I called the marina, and they soon came to pump the boat out. The boat was removed from the water and stored in a barn for about ten years. I made several attempts to find a wood boat expert who could expose the leaks but nobody was able to tackle the job. 

Larry Turcotte, GarWood boat builder and author, Susan Conroy.

Finally in the summer of 2018 we met Larry Turcotte of GarWood Boats, and low and behold, his business of building and rebuilding custom boats was located at Brant Lake, the very next lake to Schroon. I begged him to come take a look at the boat and prepared a booklet of the boat’s history. Would he be willing to restore the boat during the winter months?

My husband Allen and I were absolutely joyful when he agreed to do the work. So, we trailered the boat to the GarWood factory and then several times went back there to see the progress. The first step was to turn the boat upside down and work on the bottom. Once the bottom was secure, we felt certain restoration would continue.

True to the GarWood Company’s fine reputation, Larry Turcotte and his staff did a masterful job restoring the beauty of the solid mahogany wood and the navigation ability of the Hubert Lee. It seemed only right to name the boat (which had never had an official name) Hubert Lee.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Hubert Lee looked like a big boat to me. But so many years later it seems like a small wood treasure amidst the predominance of the composite boats popular today. Regardless of size, we are so honored to once again be riding the sparkling clear waters of Schroon Lake in this boat, beloved by our family and appreciated by passers-by.

Boating with the Hubert Lee is certainly a tribute to Dad as the builder, but it is also an activity that is readily enjoyed by several generations in our family. In this world of busyness and obligations, it is a privilege to be able to retreat on a boat. 

On the Hubert Lee we experience mountains, waves, sunrise and sunsets, camaraderie with family and friends, fun “dips” in the water and even maintenance. These nautical activities on Hubert Lee are fun and make lasting memories for us all.


  1. Very nice story and boat. one comment about the submersion, a boat never sinks because the bilge pump fails. Boats sink because water comes in.

  2. Such a fi e story! And we all know that Larry has a great reputation in the boat building/restoration business.

  3. Susan,
    What a wonderful story about a great homebuilt boat. I understand completely the connection with the family’s boat, because I have been slowly restoring my father’s homebuilt boat he designed himself. Like your boat it is a tribute to my Father.

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