John and Rebecca Allen, Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes Chapter

In the early days of the Chris Smith & Son’s Boat Co., before the design of the iconic Standard Runabout, Henry Ritter, president of H.G. Ritter Cigar Box Co., ordered a custom 26-foot, rear-drive runabout, contract #4.

Produced alongside the high end Baby Gars in Smith’s workshop, Ritter’s Miss Algonac had steam bent intermediate ribs, back-fastened intermediate ribs on the sides and decks, a red lead painted bilge, and wide ceiling planks with beaded edging in the interior cockpit, features that were ultimately removed in the Standard Runabout design intended to be an affordable yet quality boat for the general public.

Flash forward fifty years and Miss Algonac was found in a Detroit boatyard. She’d been reconfigured over the years and looked much like a Standard Runabout design. Purchased by Bruce Barnard and Mark Mason, during restoration it was discovered she was a front drive boat with an aft cockpit. It was unusual to say the least.

When John and Rebecca Allen purchased the boat in 2018, still a work in progress, she was brought to Muller Boatworks in Sunapee, New Hampshire. Restoration continued, but what to do with the back? As a boat like this had never been seen before, no one knew what it looked like. “We had a lot of the pieces,” says Kathy Muller who co-owns Muller Boatworks with husband Bo, “but we didn’t want to get it wrong.”

Then, Matt Smith of Woodyboater posted some old Chris-Craft photos and there it was—a boat with an aft cockpit—and things started to make sense. “It had small gauges with different diameters and a person in the second seat. This was really important!” Muller says.

Photo credit: Kathy Muller

Allen had two marinized aero engines that needed a hull, a Hall-Scott A-7-A and a Curtiss OX-5, both used in early Chris-Crafts. Miss Algonac’s original stringers, 2-inches narrower in width fit the A-7-A engine perfectly. “We can sand, varnish and redeck, but marrying an engine and old boat is really challenging. If you make a mistake you are compromising a piece of history. It’s a lot of responsibility to make sure all the fittings are as they would have been in 1922.”

“It was interesting to see how Miss Algonac was right in the middle of a custom and Standard Runabout,” adds Muller after extensive research of material from the Mariners Museum Chris-Craft Archives.

Photo credit: Kathy Muller

Miss Algonac is the oldest surviving Chris-Craft, the fourth the company ever produced on the cusp of becoming one of the most iconic brands in history. She, and the company’s founder Chris Smith, continue to be celebrated 100 years later.

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