By Dave Zinnecker member of the Southwest chapter
My earliest childhood memories always included boat and boating. My father was a wooden boat builder who worked for his oldest brother, at Red Head Boat Company in Houston TX. When my Uncle retired, Dad was more or less forced to go into business for himself. He moved a couple of miles down the road and began manufacturing boats he called Zinn Craft. I was five at the time.
I grew up around the boat shop. I loved the environment there and spent all my free time skiing. By the early 60’s I was working in the shop during summers, starting very young when all I could was sweep and carry out the trash. Later I did a lot of refinish work, delivered boats around town, and helped the more experienced carpenters building hulls. I distinctly remember helping build the hull for AWOL VIII in the summer of ’64. It was the last inboard my father made and one of the last Zinn Crafts made.
I got back into boating after many years away. I would sometimes think about the possibility of finding an old Zinn Craft, preferably an old inboard to restore. I routinely searched the Internet for Zinn Crafts, but without much success. Then in October 2002, I came upon an article written to a boating magazine from someone restoring a Zinn Craft and was seeking information. I knew immediately from the description it was AWOL VIII. Only two boats were outfitted with the 280hp Gray Marine engine.
I responded right away. The owner, Bob Schweinle, whom I clearly remember from my time in the boat shop while his boat was being built still owned the boat. Bob had passed the boat to his nephew. I began to talk with him about selling the boat to me which he declined. However he did offer to send me pictures. Bob was disappointed when he went to take the pictures and learned that a boat had been in a warehouse for the past 40 years and was now being stored in a carport and suffering the weather damage. He wanted it protected and restored and he knew that I was ready and willing. At that point he agreed to sell.
In April of 2003, I drove to Houston to meet Bob and purchase the boat. It was in very good shape and the engine/hull had a total of only 95 hours of run time! I had no idea if there were significant issues to deal with that were not readily visible and I was primarily concerned about dry rot or engine problems. The engine had not been started in 20 years.
It wasn’t until January that I had the opportunity to begin work on the restoration of the boat. A couple of cracked ribs to repair and the rest was just cosmetic. I was amazed at how easily the engine turned over by hand! I had good compression on all but one cylinder.
As it turns out, there is very little of the boat that is not original, including the gauges, windshield, steering wheel, trim, and even the prop! I had the interior reupholstered exactly as it had been and I had all the chrome redone.
The restoration of the boat was an activity that brought back rich memories from another time. As I lay underneath the dashboard replacing some wiring, I recognize the penciled handwriting of Dad’s foreman where he had labeled terminal blocks. As I pulled off some of the rear deck vinyl, I discovered a pencil sketch of my fathers showing how the upholstery was to be fitted around the covering boards. Because of these and many others, I was reminded of my father’s craftsmanship and attention to detail. And I was sorry to see the project end.
When I decided that tracking down a Zinn Craft would be an endeavor, I had no idea it would be an adventure. If I’d been asked if there was any particular Zinn Craft of the 1100 made that I would like to have, that boat would be it! I hardly believe it’s a coincidence. The boat is a reminder of another time and of a very dear and special man who built a great boat.