Running Tabbs is a 1956 Wagemaker Wolverine runabout owned by Eric & Jill Zelman.

The boat was a “barn find” that had been stored in a garage near Lake Anna, VA. The previous owner’s father worked at a marina in Indiana where he paired the boat with a ’56 Gator trailer and an upgraded 40 HP Evinrude with “selectric shift”. When he died the boat made its way to Virginia, had minimal use and was stored in a garage for over 20 years.

The Wagemaker & Gator trailer were completely restored. You’ll love the details of the process as seen in this video:

Here is the follow-up video, much shorter, but what fun to see Running Tabbs in use:

The boat is used in the Chesapeake Bay around the Northern Neck of VA and has been shared at chapter shows in Smith Mountain Lake, VA, Tidewater(Reedville, VA) & Chesapeake Bay (St. Michael’s, MD).

Eric and Jill are not the only boaters to enjoy Running Tabbs.  Maggie the lab mix never misses an opportunity to take a ride. 

How did the Zelmans get into this hobby?  In brief, here’s the rest of the story from Eric:

“I transitioned from selling amusement rides to selling water park equipment in 2000. The Wagemaker project was restored in my home garage in Leesburg, VA. Jill and I built our someday retirement home on the Chesapeake Bay in White Stone, VA where we were married 30 years ago. Last summer, much of my attention was diverted from working on the boats to building a boat barn workshop. Pictures attached. I’m just now getting the 7th coat of varnish on the 1951 U22 (originally delivered to a dealer in Lake George), it has a ways to go. I also picked up a 1962 Lake n Sea and she is going through a full transom, stringer, hull restoration. More to follow on that project.”

In 2015-16, Eric’s company, Rain Drop Products, which is privately owned and nurtures a very entrepreneurial and creative environment, started working with a resort in Hyannis Port, MA on an indoor water park expansion. The owner wanted unique features that emulated the New England coastal area.

“Mmm, could I slip in a woody boat? I worked up a sketch and gave it to our techs for a full cut sheet. A transom sticking out of a boathouse, dual exhaust “pipe falls” that constantly shoot water into the lazy river and per the owner’s request for a large splash effect approx. every 20 minutes,  a 20 HP pump will ramp up and drop approx. 700 GPM over the transom and into the river onto the guests in tubes.”

But even before that, Eric had been a dealer for amusement park rides.  Often testing the newly found old-stock in his own backyard, Eric’s first boat restoration was to make this “wet water boat ride” ready for their son’s birthday party.

From that first boat project to restoring Running Tabbs, and on into present time, life has been quite an adventure.  Here’s one more quote from Eric, 

“The new barn is outfitted with HVAC, floor drains, High CRM (color rendering index LED fixtures) and wall/ portable LED fixtures in the “finish room”. There is a lot more build out to do, lots of time to do it. I have to say, Thank you Jill….. I love my wife!”

Thank you, Eric Zelman, for these great pictures, videos, and interesting story.  And thank you for preserving and enjoying pieces of boating history.  We are eager to see and hear the next chapters!


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