by Brian Loos member of ACBS

In the year 1952, my father, Arlyn Loos, then only ten years, was tasked by his Cub Scout den leader with preparing a personal life motto – a formidable assignment. Even at such a young age, he decided on “Stick to the project until it is finished, and do it well.”

My father, Arlyn, abided by his life motto with a demonstrated modus operandi to plan with detail, execute to the highest quality, and finish progressively ambitious projects – especially woodworking projects. With the money he earned on multiple paper routes, he purchased hand tools and eventually his first woodworking equipment – a beautiful art deco Sears Craftsman drill press that to this day, he still owns.

When Arlyn graduated from college, he married my wonderful mother, raised three kids, and led a productive career as a vocational school teacher. All these he did while running a side business as a remodeling contractor in the summers.

In many ways, I found that I followed in his footsteps. I graduated college as a mechanical engineer, progressed into international project management, and discovered the joy of woodworking.

And for many years, my father and I worked on many challenging projects. And just as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Big jobs go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones,” – we decided to tackle our most aggressive project yet – the full restoration of a circa 1950s mahogany runabout. So, in 2006, on my father’s birthday, we came across a Chris Craft Riviera near our home in Houston, Texas. The boat was originally built in 1952, the same year my father had committed to his life motto.

Mahogany runabouts are quite rare in southern Texas, especially compared to the Midwest, where we grew up. We’ve always loved the barrel-bowed runabout design, its two-toned stain finish, king plank deck patterns flowing right into the transom, and the dual-cockpit layout forward of the inboard engine compartment. And of course, the most beautiful contoured hull lines of the era. So, without hesitation, we purchased the grey boat for just $6,800. When the following day, another party offered us $15,000, we respectfully declined. We were fully committed to the restoration of this classic Chris Craft.

The project took more than a decade. Yet, not to be deterred, we persisted, working in fits and starts while honoring Don Danenberg’s restoration techniques. For instance, the Rube Goldberg steam bending contraption was a crazy, unsafe mess, but it worked like a gem. And through the journey, we had “hull flip” parties, each were a grand affair of family and friends that remained with us as some of the best memories. Gladly, we never took shortcuts. My father’s workmanship was always remarkable – an instinctive boatwright he is.

We did take creative license to a few design elements on the runabout while remaining true to the original design. For example, the incorporation of dual engine exhaust in the transom and brightwork placement on the deck lent itself to a balanced port/starboard aesthetic that we desired. Also, in lieu of a blonde stained king plank, we chose a more harmonious two-tone stain of black walnut and red mahogany. And with regards to the original seating configuration, a fore/aft seating in a single large cockpit – we chose to incorporate a dual-cockpit configuration with an integrated wall separating the forward and aft seating. My father-in-law, Ray Butler, shoehorned the engine and all mechanicals into the boat. He also wired the entire vessel inclusive of a beautiful symmetrically gauged, mahogany dashboard.

And after about thirteen years, satisfied and amidst great fanfare, we completed the restoration of the Riviera hull #R-18-708. On May 19, 2019, in Cypress, Texas, she was christened on the Towne Lake recreational lake at our lakefront home. We named our runabout, “Swept Away,” after the tropical resort where my wife, Jamie, and I were married. The name felt most suitable. As she, the runabout, evoked great feelings whenever we embarked several times a week for sunset cruises.

All the credits and endless kudos belong to my father, Arlyn Loos, and my father-in-law, Ray Butler. Together we put in thousands of hours, working to restore the runabout. We stuck to the project until it was finished, and we did it well.

3 Comments

  1. That is a beauty! I too love these Humphrey Bogart boats. When I was a kid, in about 1958 or so, we lived in Long Beach, CA. My Mom and stepfather had friends with boats, and wouldn’t you know, one of them had a 19ft. Chris-Craft that they would sell to us cheap since they were getting a much larger, a 42ft Chris.
    We used it in Long Beach and nearby Newport Beach for a year, and it was a struggle to keep it running. My stepfather was an electrical engineer, and he had some engineer buddies who would come over on Fridays after work and fiddle with that Chris-Craft Gray Marine straight six engine. For every hour of running took three hours of tweaking things to keep it running. The decision was made to rebuild it.
    We took it somewhere to get the engine rebuilt, brought the boat home and took it off the trailer in our backyard using floor jacks, wooden beams and sawhorses, then proceeded to sand it down to bare wood, inside and out. Every weekend was a work-on-the-boat-party, with one couple staying over most of the time. It was my job every day after school to wet down the hull to keep it from shrinking. It took at least a year, maybe more, but the engine went back in, beautiful and freshly painted, and after some minor touchups, it was ready to have the redone seats put in. While my stepfather was towing it to the shop one Monday morning on the way to work, the trailer hitch separated from the hitch ball. The trailer, with the boat on it, went into a concrete storm drain. The impact tore the engine loose and sent it crashing through the bow, tearing a 7-foot hole in the bow. It was dragged out by a tow truck, plopped on the trailer and brought back to our house, where it sat in the backyard for over a year until someone bought it just to get the engine, which was undamaged except for a cracked exhaust manifold, easily repairable. That was it for wooden boats. A year later we had a fiberglass runabout.

  2. Brian & Jamie took myself & my wife Fiona out last September – it had been very thundery & raining heavily. Luckily the weather cleared in time for us to see & appreciate fully, both the beauty of the boat, and the “quality without compromise” approach, which Brian’s family had unfailingly adopted to restore the boat’s originality appeal and grace. It is awesome!…thanks & congratulations to those who contributed to this spectacular restoration.

  3. I like Mr. Loos’ moto. Restorations take skills and tools, but primarily they take passion and time. I have spent the better part of the last year doing a second full restoration of my Chris-Craft which I have had for 37 years. My goal is to have her done by mid May for the Lake Lure NC Boat show. In this restoration I am fixing everything that I feel was not right, including her trailer. Now retired, I plan to sell her and turn my attention back to boat design and construction.

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