By Jody Lapham, Lake Champlain Chapter

Foreword: It looked and smelled a lot like firewood.

When I was a boy, my brother and I spent a great deal of time on Lake George at my aunt and uncle’s camp there. I will never forget the parade of elegance that began at dusk most every night. Silently, or almost so, when compared to a Chris Craft, a number of old launches would slip out for an evening cruise. One of the boats was a 27-foot Fay & Bowen Long Deck Launch. I was impressed with how it made so little wake, and how its bow majestically sliced through the water. It was such a beautiful boat with superb lines. Later I realized that these old folk’s regattas may have been the first booze cruises.

Reality Sets In

I prowled around and soon discovered that the only one I could afford was grey wreck. I bought a beauty for $4,500. Experts told me that hull numbers could be found all over the boat, on the keel, or chine, the gas tank mount, under the seats, the engine hatches, etc. These places had all been rebuilt, rotted or crushed. At first no hull number was found. There had been a jack placed between the keel and the ground. Snow load and rot had combined to drive the keel upward past the chine and the chine rail. The remaining wood was a mess. There was a huge hole in the hull. There were places one could see from port to starboard.

One winter day I went to a chapter work shop in Ticonderoga. There I met two really experienced guys, Bob Melrose and Henry Jordan. Bob was the marketer, and Henry was the blood and sweat. I knew instantly that these were my guys.

Victory Snatched from the Jaws of Defeat

I decided to go ahead with the restoration, without a hull number. On the morning of delivery to Melrose Marine, I chose to clean things up. I found a curved stick with the numbers 696 on it. It looked like it had been a hatch support. There was another identical stick still on the boat, screwed to the inside of the hatch. I unscrewed it and found the letters 696 unweathered!

Henry released the stresses in the hull by cutting all athwart ship pieces added on the original hull. Then Henry and Bob installed 54 steam bent white oak ribs, in place of 108 joined at the keel. These were fastened with 4 or 5 Fasteners per rib in whatever of the remaining wood would accept a screw. After installation of a new rib, Henry would look down the Hull To make sure it was fair. Then 1/4 inch Okume and fore to aft planks bedded in 3M’s 5200. The hull work was finished with the exception of the propeller shaft hole, which I was personally scared to death to attempt. Bob and Henry to the rescue! After this she was installed in my barn where she received a Chrysler Ace engine, 14-foot drive shaft, sole, ceiling, new steering, wiring, hardware, and umteen coats of varnish.

























  1. On Lake George’s East side Kattskill Bay, in the 50s, I recall those hushed evening cruises, putt-putting away. The F&B nearest us was a double-ender that was purposely painted like a battle ship, gray, everywhere, and it sat out in the open beside an even more elegant weathered Chinese-styled boat house (up-turned roof corners with painted yellow eaves!) All gone now….Thanks for the recollection and saving an old gem.

  2. Great story and thanks for saving her. Is she now on Lake George or Lake Champlain?

    Ray and I must have been in the same neighborhood. Just across the bay from the “pagoda” boathouse was Holiday Point owned then by my best friend’s family. Dean “Sr.” had an F-B in the boathouse and we actually waterskied behind it!

  3. Jody;
    I spent most of my summers as a youth – now I am 84 – on Raccoon Island, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Our cottage on Raccoon Island faced the mainland where a boathouse included two Fay and Bowens. They were beautiful boats that graced the water going forward so gracefully and cutting through the water with ease and no spray.
    My father bought a 1936 19″ barrel back CC in 1945 and it was in our family for many years. 25 years ago I towed the CC to Indiana, have had it restored twice by exceptional craftsmen and it continues to be enjoyed at Grandview Lake in Indiana.
    Thanks for the memories.

  4. As Vermont neighbors we enjoyed watching Jody (and friends) bring this boat back to life. And taking an early ride in it. They, but especially he, can’t be praised enough for saving this beautiful watercraft. And praise to Diane, who had the patience of Job.

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