by Dallas Cooley member of the Blue Ridge chapter
Best I can recollect, my love for boats began as a kid hanging my head over the bow of my grandfather’s Lazy Days houseboat on Lake Lanier. Watching the V-hull slice through the water with the roar of twin V-8’s was euphoric. The tradition continued with my father’s houseboats. Being a deckhand was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. I was adopting the language of the adults when the cigarette boats would thunder by “wasting gas,” but deep-down longing for a ride. Years later, I purchased a 15-year-old cabin cruiser, but hadn’t loved the boat. It was unappealing and missing character, and it lacked design lines that later I discovered were abundant in antique and classic boats.
Attending a few Blue Ridge Chapter ACBS shows, and talking to the experienced guys, I was learning valuable information like “you can become a millionaire messing around with old boats, you just need to begin a billionaire,” and “if you’re not wanting to work on the boat, buy one already restored.” Unwisely discounting some of that advice, and not being much of a mechanic or craftsman, I thought I would just have a modern boat built with classic features. Discussing this possibility with Doug Morin, the owner of Morin Boats of Bay City, Michigan, he patiently said “Dallas, you’re all over the place, I’m having a hard time visualizing the boat you are describing, perhaps you could gather a collection of photos highlighting aspects of what you like.” I agreed, so I collected photos of classic boat features, boats roughly 30’ long, with a roof to beat the heat, high flat bows, great sweeping lines. Then, in the summer of 2016, a little publication called Bone Yard Boats arrived with an interesting boat that seemed to check off all of my desires. To top it off, my wife Leslie glanced at it and said, “you should get it.” With the wife’s blessings, I called Dave Watts at Little Rock Boat Works and bought the boat immediately (sight unseen), without fully comprehending the cost associated with transporting a 30’ steel hull boat from Rice, Minnesota, to Gainesville, Georgia.
Once in Gainesville, I hired Paul Crisp of Golden Era Restorations, from Ellijay, Georgia, to commence helping me refit the boat. Paul was just as excited as I was about the project and about my naming her REDEMPTION as I figured Jesus redeemed me and I would redeem the boat. He helped me secure a restored period-correct Chris Craft V-8 to replace the Chrysler V-6. Just as our planning was complete and the work was to begin, Paul unexpectedly passed away. I was heartbroken as he and I had become great friends while working and planning the buildout. With encouragement from Kathy, Paul’s wife, to finish the project, I reached out to Jim Moores of Moores Marine in Beaufort, North Carolina. Jim was known for working on such classics like Honey Fitz, the private pleasure yacht of five presidents, beginning with President Truman, and then Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. With a little persuading, Jim said “I’ll do the job if I can work on it in between the big Trumpy’s,” so off to Beaufort, North Carolina, REDEMPTION went.
REDEMPTION is a 1956 Safticraft made in Morgan City, Louisiana. Amazingly enough, the son of a previous owner who spent his childhood on the boat reached out to me and shared stories, like his dad paid $3,000 for the boat in 1966, naming it STEVANJO IV, and fascinating information like this photo of the boat new named NAMREN (Herman backwards), after the original owner Herman Nehls, a banker in East Detroit, Michigan.
Currently, REDEMPTION is at Moores Marine with exciting progress. That said, I feel like we are on the homestretch. Jim often reminds me this is not a boat restoration project, but a boat buildout, and I’m grateful to have such dedicated professionals a part of the project of bringing REDEMPTION back to life.