by Shirley A. Ramaley
In the 1950’s and 60’s the pleasure boats in the waters around
Seattle, Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington, were made of
wood. Fiberglass boats were not common like today.
My dad always had boats. He started with one that washed up on shore
near his house on Puget Sound , when he was a boy. He rebuilt it and
named it “The Pup.” From that time on, he was never without a boat.
When I was growing up in Seattle , Dad’s boats were thirty feet, or a
little more, in length. They were lovely cabin cruisers that easily
slept four people. The “head” or bathroom was in the bow. A small
galley was located right next to it. Bunk beds were usually across
from the galley. A hide-a-bed in the cabin or stern was used for
seating during the day, and sleeping two more people at night.
I loved sleeping on that hide-a-bed in the stern, when I was a kid,
along with a friend. We’d be lulled to sleep by the rocking of the
boat. My family spent most weekends on our boat.
I learned how to throw one end of the rope to the tender at the
Seattle locks, and then fasten my end correctly to the stern or bow.
As the water height in the locks changed, I handled the rope, slowly
letting it out or taking up the slack, depending on which direction we
were going and if the water was going up or down. My mom or dad was
usually on the bow, and I was in the stern.
Those boats required work. Every few years they had to be dry-docked.
They were hauled out of the water to remove barnacles from the hull.
The mahogany on the boats needed care, as all wood does. We varnished,
wiped and sweated taking care of those boats, but even as a kid, it
was a labor of love.
Dad kept his boats in tip-top shape, from the engine to the cabin and
the deck. Heaven help the person who didn’t treat that wood correctly!
One time a friend went to kick a hatch closed and my dad yelled,
“Don’t you do that! On this boat everything easily fits where it
belongs.” Dad showed him how to gently lower the hatch, and it slipped
quietly into place.
Dad, another man, his daughter, and I were in a sudden storm one year,
in the early 50’s. Our cabin cruiser was tossed around like a toy as
waves higher than our boat churned around us. My dad rescued a
fisherman on that trip, whose own boat had overturned. We hauled him
aboard our cabin cruiser and managed to travel to calmer water on the
leeward side of Point no Point in Washington State . Our wood boat
came through the storm like a trooper, with no damage.
Today my brother owns a 42 foot wood, Chris Craft, built in 1964, a
beautiful old boat, with Honduras Mahogany. If you look around in the
water today you’ll find many older wood boats still in service. They
A well-kept wood boat is beautiful, more inviting, insulates well
against heat and cold, and absorbs engine noise better. Of course, the
fiberglass boat lovers have their reasons for loving their boats too.
But in the 50’s and 60’s, the boats were wood. Many still cruise the
waters today, looking beautiful as always, and providing pleasure for
their owners. Every time I see one I think of going through the locks,
fishing in Puget Sound and the lakes, sleeping in the stern at night,
and having fun with my friends, in the 1950’s and 60’s. Those were
fun-filled memories, never to be forgotten.
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