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.
Wow, who knew those beautiful boats were made in Houston. And what a fun way to grow up. We are glad that you found Awol VIII and she certainly looks glad to have found you. Maybe a few more Zinns will pop up now, and I hope we get to read more stories about Zinn boats.
Thanks for taking the time to share the history and photos.
Kent and Skipper
This is a wonderful story, obviously deeply felt. It would be great to see AwolL VII at one of the upcoming big ACBS events at Coeur d’Alene in 2020 or Burlington Vt in 2021
I have a 15 ft Zinn Craft outboard that I’m attempting to restore as much as possible. She is in rough condition which is a challenge. Someone fiber glassed the bottom. I assume it has been run aground a few times. I can not find a windshield, so I will attempt build a wooden frame. ,I have not be able to find a motor with a clear title. So maybe I will have some pictures at a later date. Dwain Munsch
I have one too. mine needs some work as well. My dad bought it in 1958, but he couldn’t afford the windshield so he made his own. the boat still sits on the original trailer. I wish i could say i have the plans he used for the windshield but i am sure it was just drawn out on an old shopping bag and done away with afterwards.
I was in Med School at Baylor University in 1960 and admired the Zinn Craft. ( I had an older Wolverine, cold molded boat). I had an opportunity to purchase one of the 15′ Zinn Craft hulls for about $500–with a hole in the plywood near the bow. I had been working on wooden boats since I was 10 years old, so was able to scarf in a new patch which almost identically matched the grain. I loved that boat and we slalom skied behind it with a 35 hp Evinrude motor and fished all around Galveston Bay. The photo at the end of the article I believe is one of the 15 footers. I take my hat off to you for finding and rest
oring one of the inboards. I have been looking for any information on the Zinn Craft for some time–Thanks for the memory!
What a great story! Classics have that innate ability to bring back memories, but especially so in this case!
I knew Ralph and Betty very well. He built a bridge for Barney Cearley that crossed over his pool. Barney was my neighbor. Just yesterday I found out the current owner is dismantling the bridge after about 35 years. It was still solid but it blocked his view. Ralph was very special. Before he passed I gave him a book that had a section about his PBY aircraft and his crew off the coast of North Africa in WWII.
I remember Barney and the bridge that Dad built. I just saw Betty this last weekend at her home in Georgetown. I also remember the book about the PBY’s and he found what he thought was a discrepancy in some of the history written there. Thanks so much for sharing.
My father, Jim Kizer purchased a Zinn Craft inboard from your Dad. My brother remembers going to Ralph’s house and remembers a boat in the driveway but can’t remember if that was my Dad’s boat or another. My dad starting racing boats in 1968 and sold the Zinn Craft to a family friend. One day while launching the boat at the San Jacinto River, the lift strap the marina used to take boats off the trailers, broke. The board dropped from about eight feet onto the concrete and exploded into a million splinters, so the story goes. We have found memories of that boat. – Keith Kizer
Very interesting info! For anyone interested. Today is 3-23-2022. I recently found a Zinn and it is available for purchase!
Putting it on ebay today. It is fully restored and came out of Texas. It is now in Purcell Oklahoma. It has a 2015 65 hp outboard engine, (four stroke china) . Dependable as the day is long. Bidding starting at just 2500. By the time most of you see this the boat will be gone but if your in time check out ebay! If not oh well, good luck finding another Zinncraft!
Danny in Oklahoma
Here is the ebay link!!
I am listing this for my co worker,, Chris Spears. Owner of top line marine in Purcell Oklahoma.
Do you have any idea of what the boat is worth retail???
We know the engine on the boat cost around 6500.00 but have not a clue to what the boat is worth.
If it does not sell on ebay we will just put it out there for sale. Thank you for taking your time to read this and thank you in advance for any advice on price!
Danny in Oklahoma