by Rob Hennessy member of the Northern California/Lake Tahoe chpater
I grew up on Long Island, New York and enjoyed many days on the Great South Bay and summers at the family lakefront cottage in the Adirondacks. It was during this time that I developed an appreciation for wood speedboats like Chris-Craft and Century to name a few. After moving to California in later years and purchasing a home at Lake Tahoe, My son Jim and I started looking for that special classic wood speedboat.
During our search we encountered a boat brand that we never heard of, a Philbrick. After doing a little research and surveying this 1958, 18′ Utility built by Don Philbrick, we felt this might be the boat to restore. Once we opened the engine cover and saw a big block 389 ci. V8 engine with direct drive, we knew this was the boat for us. After 8 months of restoration efforts, we entered this boat named Candy into the 1988 Lake Tahoe Concours d’ Elegance and won the 1st Place Award in the Utility Class for non-professional restoration. This experience and the joy of using this 1958 Philbrick convinced us that Philbrick was the brand for us! After 10 years the boat was sold to another Lake Tahoe family that continues to use the Philbrick for both show and pleasure. This boat, now named Miss Pickle has also been featured at the Lake Tahoe Maritime Museum.
Before long, we began to search for one of Don Philbrick’s most recognized work of art, both in looks and performance. This was the 21′ twin cockpit powered by a 351 ci V8 engine with V-Drive. This series of boats were a limited production with only 5 built in 1978 and another 5 in 1979. We found and purchased a 1978 21′ twin cockpit Philbrick at Lake Tahoe. The boat now named Dreamcatcher, received some restoration work at the Philbrick Boat Works at Oakland and has participated and won a number of awards at the Lake Tahoe Concours d’ Elegance and continues to this date to be enjoyed at Lake Tahoe.
During the many years at Lake Tahoe we enjoyed seeing some other Philbrick boats including our favorite, the 27′ Triple Cockpit, twin engine boat owned by Alan Furth, one of the most prolific wood boat collectors in the country. This Philbrick was his daily runabout and it still remains with the family and is a common site at Tahoe City.
Neither I nor Jim thought we would encounter another 27′ Philbrick like the Alan Furth boat. To our surprise, we found sometime even more special, the first 27′ Triple Cockpit boat that is the number #1 production model with the Furth boat being #2. The boats have some interior design differences but they are the only two boats of this type that Don
Philbrick built. We were amazed that there were two of these rare boats and that we had the opportunity to purchase boat #1, Miss Catalina. Miss Catalina has twin 280hp – V8 Pleasure Craft Marine Engines, a compressor for the air horns and a large fresh water tank to wash down the boat. The reason for this unique feature is that Miss Catalina was used by the original owner to travel between Newport Beach and Catalina Island. Below the front deck is a cutty cabin for two and a port-a-potty if needed. The hull construction is also reinforced with stainless steel plates supporting the engines and bottom construction to handle heavy sea conditions. Miss Catalina has both beauty and performance that make this Philbrick boat a pleasure to own.
So the boating venture continues for us with another Philbrick restoration project in the planning stages with hopes that it will be ready to participate both in shows as well as for please use in the near future. Our prior boat restoration projects were an exciting experience, but even more so, to do it as a father and son effort. That is what “Dad” finds most rewarding.