By Paul Austin - Dallas, Texas - USA

Classic Boats on White Rock

This day began early at White Rock Lake, here in Dallas. The lake sits as a long oval, over 1000 square acres, fed at the north end by a creek, surrounded by beautiful sloping lawns and stately homes on the hills. You can see miniature ripples as the breeze comes across the water. Trees lean over the lake’s edges like eavesdroppers, as if they heard secrets spoken on the path. It’s a place for concerts, marathons, strolling, sailing, and picnics. Several years ago I heard Peter, Paul, and Mary there, as I sat high upon a grassy hill when their acoustic guitars and natural voices lifted in woven harmony.

This past Saturday the Wooden Boat Association of North Texas held an event which brought many of their member’s classic motorboats to the lake. The Association is a great bunch of guys and wives and kids who share their experiences, knowledge, and boats with each other and the public. And it was a perfect day.

Early on when your Out There Reporter arrived, the air was just chilly enough to make setting up comfortable. I took a picture of the Back Up Consultation Committee (BUCCos) here in action. Advice was flying like feathers from a frightened bird, I think the guy standing there has been saying the same thing since 1957, a year he probably remembers well. You can’t see her, but the wife is already in the boat as the Buccos back it into the lake. She’s not the Leap-Onto-the-Deck style of mate.

By now the Leukemia Foundation, the Corinthian Sailing Club and a few vendors had set up their tents. Naturally, after they’d done all the sweaty work, a cool breeze came up. As the guys from WBA brought their gorgeous mahogany motorboats down the ramp, everyone gathered. Some of these motorcraft were built in the last century.

They are all beautiful, the creation of many hours. One was a 1975 Century. Another was a Chris Craft Capri named Cigarette, which was built with batten seams. What caught my eye was every single one of the bungs had the grain lined up with the grain of the topsides. Then some foreign guy in sport coat—a sight which caused some good-natured booing—came to deliver some sort of message from the Mayor. I don’t know the mayor so I listened in on one of the WBA members tell a younger fellow how to get started in boatbuilding. It was the old craftsman teaching the young lad, a nice sight.

Along with the Dads and Granddads were the wives and kids. I met Charlie Lockhart and his two girls aged 1 and 3. I had the privilege of telling Charlie what a perfect boat Elegant Punt would be for them.

Then I saw the star of the show. This is Bob Cutler’s little skiff, A Little Dinghy. As soon as I saw it gleaming in the sun, I came over to it like it was a movie star stepping out of a dream. Bob said he saw the plans for it 15 years ago in WOOD BOAT magazine. He’s only put it in the water 4 times since then.

I took a close look. Bob said it was made of three layers of 1/16” plywood. It is a combination sailing and motoring dinghy. The deadrise from the bow to the midsection is about 8 degrees. The flare of the topsides is 12 degrees. But from the midsection to the stern it becomes perfectly flat.

It has plenty of rocker for sailing and rowing with that flat after run for motoring. Bob has put a mast step and centerboard trunk in, but he’s never made a sail. The stern gathers the sides together more so than most sailing dinghies. This may be to help the rowing by reducing wetted surface astern. Bob has polished silver oarlocks and a nice little engine. It’s just beautiful inside and out.

What surprised me about it is the seam where the plywood planks join is at the midsection, not where the planks are straight. The seam has a seam backing, like a vertical batten but from the outside you could never tell. Possibly there was an option to cut the hull in two, for storage.

Now with the boats and folks here, with men munching on hot dogs and the wives collected in the shade, serious conferences began. While they did, this guy came by. I once had a buddy who did this, too, but it was on New Year’s Eve at midnight and he got arrested. This guy didn’t even get a citation. But he did give rides to several giggling kids who waved at their parents like they were never coming back.

I thought this might be a mid-50s Valiant. When he drove back up the boat ramp with no trouble at all, he got a standing ovation. Of course, everyone was standing at that point, anyway.

I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave, but we all did. I had to make a token appearance at my job, the kids were dozing off in naps, and the Corinthian Club women needed to clean up the food and refreshment areas. We all said our goodbyes, and we'll meet again, and give me your phone number, and who did you say you wrote for? Duck...who?

Paul Austin

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