by Bill Garrecht member or the Smith Mountain Lake chapter
My love of wooden boats began as a young boy, who spent my summers at my Grandparent’s home on Greenwood Lake, New York. Located within walking distance of their home, was Greenwood Lake Marina which I would often venture down to, in order look at the boats kept there. The irony of all this is that original paperwork, for the Water Lily, shows that it was delivered new, to Greenwood Lake Marina on July 27,1955. I may have seen her there.
It was in 2009 that the idea of actually taking on a restoration project peaked. My good friend Larry Tarves, mentioned he had a 19’ 1955 Chris Craft Capri in need of a total restoration. He mentioned that the boat, at that time, had been in dry storage for approximately 35 years. Larry had kept all the original parts and accessories, including the original KLC Hercules engine and gauges. I decided this would be the perfect project boat and purchased it from him. Thus began the restoration of the “Water Lily”.
With the help of SML Chapter members, the boat was rolled over. I then began the task of carefully removing the planking on the boat. I used these planks as templates for the new ones. My daughter Lily, who after school and for whom the boat is named after, was instrumental in helping to remove the over 3000 brass screws in the planking. She also helped me with putting some of the new planks on and created a good portion of the wood plugs used on the screw holes. I replaced any bad and broken frames with new 7/8” mahogany, along with some of the rear framing around the prop shaft.
The next step I did was to fit 2 full sheets of plywood to each side of the bottom frames. the plywood was then covered with 1/2” mahogany which was bedded down using 5200 adhesive and 1-1/2” silicon bronze screws. The boat was then turned right side up.
I now began the process of removing the sides. I made new battens out of 1/2” mahogony. I book matched the lumber on the sides ,which entailed ripping one piece of lumber in half length wise, planning each piece to 1/2”, and using each in the same location on both sides of the boat. I created a steam box in order to bend the boards in place. Each side board, on both sides, was done one at a time. This helped in keeping the hull in its original shape.
The hardest part of doing the boat was the top deck. The whole deck had to be reframed using 7/8” mahogany. I then planked the deck in new mahogany wood using the old wood as templates again. I made the deck seams using a trim router. The worst part was the sanding of the boat as it was quite a physical task. I bleached the entire outside of the boat which helped the stain achieve a more uniformed look. The center of the boat was not stained and achieves it beautiful yellow color from the coats of varnish applied.
My friend Alan Frederick, was instrumental in the rebuilding of the boats original Hercules KLC engine. I was fortunate that the engine was in excellent shape to be rebuilt. The fuel pump, carburetor, starter, water pump and generator were all rebuilt. All the boats hardware was sent out to be rechromed, the stainless was polished and the original gauges were rebuilt and rechromed. I restored the original steering wheel myself. This boat had its original, rare 1955 Capri windshield. I had the chrome on it rechromed and I polished the windshield myself, bringing it back to like new condition.
Larry had saved remnants of the boats original interior which made it easier to match up the upholstery design and color to its original black alligator,gold and white. I had Barb Enslow, of Barb’s Upholstery Shop do the interior. My Wife Sue and I did the dash board and the crash pad together. I installed the flooring myself.
I have to thank my good friend, Tommy Hilliker of Vintage Marine, for his endless amount of technical advice and support. Thanks also to Larry and Alan for their help and advice as well.
The Water Lily took her maiden voyage, before completion, in October of 2018 where she remained bone dry and ran beautiful. She hit the water again after completion, in the late spring of 2019. It was a thrill to finally be able to drive her around her home port of Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. She participated in the 29th Annual Antique & Classic Boat Show in 2019 being listed as the featured boat. This was quite an honor and receiving the “Claude Watson Craftsmanship” Award was thrilling. The best part though, was sitting in the passenger seat, watching as my daughter got to drive her namesake for the first time.