Marine News from the Great Lakes

A Living Legend I Call My Friend

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2018
By: Captain Dennis J. Mykols

Happy New Year, and, with a new year, a new focus for this column: “Interesting People, Places, and Events” (that are only found in the world of the classic boat hobby). This year, I will write about why this hobby is special and different from your everyday boating experience. My goal is to encourage some readers to join in the Classic Boat hobby.

When I first joined the local A.C.B.S. Chapter in 2010, one of the first people I met — and still the most interesting person I know — was Mr. Chris Smith, the grandson of THE Christopher Smith, founder of Chris Craft boats. Over the past several years, we have had many interesting discussions of his younger days working many different tasks in the Algonac plant.

As a teenager, he seemed to have one of the best jobs in the world: water testing Chris Crafts, those coming out the back door of the plant, on the North Channel of the St. Clair River. One story he shared was about when he and his brother were coming in too fast off the river into the narrow basin, and the throttle stuck. Fortunately, with all the experience Chris had at this young age, he simply spun the boat 180 degrees and headed back out into the river, giving them time to fix the problem.

On several occasions, I have had discussions with Mr. Smith when I was interested in buying various boats; a 1959 Silver Arrow, when I was wanting to know the different aspects of a Lyman and a CC Sea Skiff, and when I did buy a 1959 Lake ’n Sea. His insights as to what to look out for, and providing a historical perspective into these various boats, were fascinating and invaluable.

Mr. Smith has always enjoyed sitting on the dock beside one of his current beloved custom Chris Crafts to answer questions from the spectators visiting classic boat shows. He and his daughter, Joy, have authored several hard-covered books. One of my favorites is “Building Chris-Craft: Inside the Factories”, written by Anthony S. Mollica and Chris Smith, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the pre-war Chris Craft plants and tons of interesting photos are included.

Mr. Smith turned 90 years old in 2017, and, while he has cut back on the number of boat shows he attends, he still loves working in his wood shop. In 2016, he set out to custom design and build a boat with his great-grandson Zachary Baum. They completed it last year and named it 1489 The Legacy Continues. The “14” and “89” represent the ages of the two builders!

Our Water Wonderland Chapter has been blessed to have this icon, and many of his family, active in Chapter activities.

This is one example of the benefit of joining A.C.B.S. and a local chapter. I will write about many more throughout this year — stay tuned.

Meanwhile, get out there and enjoy all the winter boat shows around the region; many will have a classic boat display. Talk to one of the members about joining in the fun! Remember, you do not need to own a classic to join!

This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

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