By Jane Larson, Glacier Lakes Chapter & friend of Geraldine

The 2019/2020 winter was not kind to all parts of the United States. Heavy snows followed by rain followed by more snow and wind hit upstate New York in particular. And it hit an extra hard blow to Joe Sabo when the roof of a storage building collapsed on his beloved Geraldine. Nature’s harshness splintered poor Geraldine.

Many of you know Geraldine. She’s a beautiful picnic boat created from a 1945 Motor Whale Boat. She survived being stationed with the Coast Guard at the DeTour Reef Light House in Michigan, as well as being abandoned in a farmer’s field. She was reborn into a picnic boat twenty-some years ago at the hands of her caretaker Joe, a Master Mechanic at that time for Palmer Johnson in Sturgeon Bay, WI. A beauty queen with a hand built wooden bimini frame created by Joe, Geraldine has won many people’s choice awards, including at the 2019 International Boat Show in Alexandria Bay, NY. The frame was envisioned by Joe who used the Palmer Johnson equipment to bring the picnic boat back to life. The specially created frame, which took over 6 months to create, has survived thousands of trailer miles as well as nautical miles.

Joe had lovingly, like many of us, put Geraldine to bed for the winter in a storage building. She usually spent the winter in Joe’s garage, but Joe had made room for her baby sister Compass Rose, a new construction boat project that Joe planned on finishing. Geraldine was tucked away in a safe place, or so Joe thought. With blustery winds, heavy snow and rain piled up on the roof of the storage building and that last punch by Mother Nature on February 12th brought the roof of the building crashing down on to Geraldine. If the gussets hadn’t been made out of chip board, perhaps the roof wouldn’t have collapsed. If the trusses hadn’t been rough sawn pine lumber, perhaps the roof would have held. If the roof had been shoveled as in the past, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. The roof had held for over 20 years so why now? There are many questions that can be asked, but they don’t change what happened.

Geraldine’s hull is still intact. She’s a strong old dame! Her engine appears sound and Joe is already planning an even better bimini frame with curves in the side profile to match the sweeping curves of the sheerline. The Coast Guard buttons will gleam again! The varnish will proudly shine. And Joe’s mourning will ease. It’s a new chapter for Geraldine. She has survived much in the last 75 years. The trip home to Sturgeon Bay, WI this summer is postponed for a while, as are other shows. But like the Phoenix rises from the ashes, Geraldine will rise from the rubble. Stronger, more beautiful and forever loved.

Post script: Joe has been waiting to hear from the Hagerty Insurance Company and has been working with Reuben Smith of Tumblehome Boatshop in Warrensburg, NY as well. With the latest covid-19 epidemic, information is on hold, but an OK to move ahead with repairs recently came through. Joe will be social distancing with Geraldine. Stay well, everyone!

1 Comment

  1. This is very sad! My wife and I had the pleasure of an evening cruise in the Adirondacks with Joe and his wife (and Geraldine, of course). What an inspiration and a testament to a dream and craftsmanship. The varnish on Geraldine set a new standard that I have yet to live up to. We hope to see her again walk away with the “People Choice”, which she deservedly does quite often. Good luck Joe. Our sympathies are with you. She will return even better!
    David and Lena Kuhfahl

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