By John Vorhies, North Coast Ohio chapter

The week before the Huron Annual meeting/show in September of 2018 the 1939 Chris-Craft triple we had owned for 27 years was sold.  We surely enjoyed the many show and events that we participated in with Sashay. She was certainly a beautiful preservation piece. We found ourselves using her less and less fearing potential damage to this original craft. Kim and I made the decision that it was time to do something different.

The plan was to take all winter to look for our next special boat, something we would feel a little more comfortable using and traveling. Had in mind an XK-22 or 19 or similar fiber classic. We’ve always taken time with important decisions. Takes me a year to buy the next vehicle.

So here we are at the Huron show enjoying everyone else’s boat. It was Saturday the last day of the show and planning to leave midafternoon. We were taking the last look around the docks and walked up the hill to the “For Sale” area. There was a boat that just arrived. Looking from below it looked like a Riva Ariston. As I got closer it was an Elite Craft Riviera.  A fiberglass inboard designed to look like a 50’s classic wood runabout. A good friend, Gil Maringer, who was at the show was very familiar with Elite Crafts having restored two of them. He came over and looked it over and talked with the Owner.  Gil’s initial impression was that it was in excellent condition just need some TLC to bring it back to like new condition. Another big plus was that it was a newly designed 1988 model with the deeper V 20’ dual cockpit model with the bigger Ford 351 engine. All of the original documentation was preserved. About 400 Elite Crafts were produced from about 1980 and the early 1990’s.  They have recently restarted production in the Orlando, Florida, area.

The owner, Don Andrews, said he had just decided to sell. Turning 85 he felt it was time. By now the Elite Craft was getting a lot of attention. I told Don that I was interested and would get back with him. Kim and I were heading out to return home. My wife who is very good at reading my mind said as we were walking away that if you think that is the right one you better leave a deposit.  She said it won’t be for sale very long.

We went back to Don and gave him what was in my wallet and told him I’d come back the next week for a sea trial. Gil and I went back to take a closer look and take her for a ride. An hour later we hooked her up and headed home.

Spent many hours over the winter cleaning, buffing and correcting some mechanical issues. She came out looking like a new boat.  Everything is original, showing no wear or damage. She was shown at Alex Bay annual meeting and received a lot of attention and recognition.

Can’t tell you how many people have asked “how many coats of varnish”.


  1. Hi John & Kim,
    A great story! Pat and I certainly enjoyed seeing Sashay at many shows over the past years and look forward to seeing Elite for the first time! Congratulations!
    Many of us can thank Gil Maringer for his guidance and assistance with antique & classic boats. He helped us purchase and restore our 1954 Chris-Craft racing runabout.
    Much like a classic car or a piece of heirloom furniture that has been in the family for years, making the decision to sell can be difficult, but also rewarding when you move on to next challenge. I’m sure the 85 year young seller of Elite felt the same way. His reward is knowing his boat has an excellent custodian.
    Bill & Pat Locke
    Chautauqua Lake Twin Tier Chapter, ACBS

    • Dave Smith. founder of Elite Craft was a master in illusion when he came up with Elite Craft first built in Michigan
      When he moved the Company to Central Florida he set out to perfect his design and more important the quality of the fiberglass finish to have the impression that it was a highly varnished wood boat. I first saw the boat at the Miami boat show in 1985, and was so impressed I ordered three Elite Crafts and set up a dealership on Lake Lanier in Georgia as part of my Porthole Nautical Antique and Gift business. They sold out that summer.The modification that added the V hull greatly improved the boats ride and handling.The quality of the interior and added power made this ” Vintage Classic” a absolute winner

      I was always sorry I didn’t keep one for myself. Dave and I struck a great friendship that lasted until his death 5 years ago.
      Fortunately his son Eric learned his father’s secret process of creating the varnished wood appearance. He worked side by side with his father, kept an owners group for this one of a kind jewel and with new investors has resurrected the production following the interruption of the business following his father’s untimely death.
      Having grown up when the classic woodies were at their peak in the 50’s to the early 70’s Dave continued the passion for those of us that loved the woody look but sometimes detested the hours spent varnishing, scraping, caulking the bottom and then soaking the boat before launching.
      Those that are lucky to have his boats know that it is one of the few boats that is actually an investment as the used boat market price is almost double the price of the boats I sold in the 80’s

  2. Wonderful story by John and we were fortunate to have a 30 mile boat ride in the Elite on Keuka Lake, in Hammondsport New York in July of 2019.

    A group of around 20 NCO members and their boats, attended the Wine Country Boat Show. It was a real highlight of the weekend for John and Kim to take us on that beautiful Elite boat on a ride from Hammondsport to Branchport and back.

    Thank you for sharing the story John!

  3. John and Kim,
    I sure enjoyed reading the “rest of the story” of how you obtained the “elite” boat. When we show our boats at the I-X Center I always take time to show people my boat and then I go over to your boat and show them yours. You did a great job. her.

  4. Your EliteCraft looks Great. We also have an EliteCraft 1980 edition. It has been a wonderful boat and easy to maintain. Please see ACBS October 19, 2020. “The Look without the Labor”.

    • Ken,
      Thanks for your note and for mentioning the article about your boat. Some how I missed it.
      Just recently saw that Elite Ctaft is back in business. The prices are a lot higher than 30-40 years ago. $100K for the 20′ Riviera.

  5. Congratulations on the purchase of the elite I’ve known Don or for many years as we have cottage’s not far from each other in Michigan on the St Clair Flats was part of building his Cottage if you ever have any contact with him ask him about the guy that walked on his ceiling

    • William,
      If you would like contact infomation I would be glad to share. Did hear from a family friend about a year and a half ago that his wife wasn’t doing well.
      Don was a very interesting invidual.

  6. Bill,
    Sure good to hear from you and hope you and Pat are doing well.
    Gil sure has been the “go to” guy for many of us. He doesn’t hesitate to drop everything to help a friend. He and Cheryl are doing well. We both plan to be at the anual meeting show in Vermont.
    John and Kim Vorhies

  7. Great story as to how you bought your Elite Craft. I’m in process to bring an Elite Craft 1986 Ski Elite Craft back to life. I purchased from Elite Craft when the changed warehouses and the sold quite a bit of inventory that was stored since they stopped production. I had also heard they were starting up production with boats in $100,000 range. Seems a bit steep to me but I’m feeling better about what I’ve spent so far. Mine was one of the boats they took to boat shows and only has 16 hours on it. In 2021, I was the first person the boat was ever titled to from the factory. Basically a New-Old-Stock, but sitting in a warehouse not being used 35 years, still takes its toll. I have the 350 small block Chevy and it’s running well (after $2k anyway). Pretty much just need to rework flooring and side storage. Original vinyl was really nice quality and cleaned up like your experience. Fiberglass like new after a good wax. Chevy engine could use some chrome or dressed up a bit it sure looks like more than 15 hours on it. The Ford engines seemed to age better cosmetically when you see them for sale. I’m also in Ohio but with the semi V hull this is definitely a lake boat. Bringing them back to life is a big part of the fun. And $200 a ft length for restore is a lot lower than a typical wood boat restore of $1000 a ft or more. Enjoy your boat 🚤!

  8. Earlier this month we attended the ACBS annual Meeting at Bay Harbor Michigan which is near Petoskey and Charlevoix. Learned some interesting history. Sitting in our Elite Craft waiting for the judges to come around a fellow named Bill Bluett asked if i bought the boat from Don Anderson from St Clair Flats which I did. He said that Don was his wife’s uncle. Don had told me that a family member were the original owners and the husband, Joseph Peterson, was killed an airplane accident and eventually the wife, Dorothy, sold it to Don. The Peterson’s name is on the original delivery document.
    The Son in Law, Bill Bluett, said that the family vacationed and kept the boat on Walloon Lake just a few miles from the show site. He also sad that Joseph was killed in a flying accident on Lake Charlevoix that is right next to Walloon Lake in 1991 3 year after taking delivery of the Elite Craft. Bill went on to say that Dorothy kept the boat for about 20 more years. He said she would get it in the water annually but only used it a few hours each summer. He also said that she always put towel on the carpeting and seats to protect them and absolutely no food or beverage in the boat. This history helps explain why Elite still looks like the day it was delivered 35 years ago.
    Bill also said that Don had passed earlier this year (2023) at 89. His wife Joyce preceded a few years earlier.

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