Dennis & Donna F 1953 Chris Craft 19' Racing Runabout

What's in a Name: "Miraculous Recovery of Mahogamous Affair

In 1986, my brother-in-law bought an old wooden boat that was sitting under a tree in the mountains above Lake Meade, Nevada. He paid all of $250 and intended to restore it. Two years later, he was transferred to Long Island, hadn’t touched the boat, and didn’t want it anymore. The deal was, I pay the trucker for his detour to my house in Indiana, and the boat was mine! What a deal! I immediately accepted! My wife Donna kept insisting that he “Just Burn It”. She was out voted 2 to 1.

Three weeks and about $500 later, this boat was sitting in my driveway. Donna was right, he should’ve burned it. It was the saddest looking, lopsided thing you could imagine. You could see the concrete driveway through multiple cracks in the bottom. Donna joked that we needn’t worry about it filling up with water during a rainstorm. It was Donna, however, who bought the book “Legends of Christ Craft” to try to identify the boat before I did anything dumb. Not finding the boat in the book, I got the address of the Mariners Museum and the phone number of “Pete Henkel”, whose boat “Climax” was on the Cover. I sent pictures and a letter to the museum with the engine numbers. They indicated that the motor was originally installed in a 1953 19’ Chris Craft racing runabout 19R-455. They sent pictures, a hull card and blue prints of the boat. The pictures looked like my boat (well, roughly speaking).

I then called Pete Henkel to see if he might want the hardware before burning the boat. Pete emphatically stated, “If it’s really a Chris Craft racer, you DO NOT BURN THE BOAT! You restore the boat, or you sell the boat, but you DO NOT BURN THE BOAT!” After much conversation, Pete convinced me that I could restore it, even if I had not done one before. He spent many hours on the phone over the next couple years explaining how to do the job, recommending books on restoration techniques and parts suppliers. Suffice it to say, “MAHOGAMOUS AFFAIR” exists today because of this interaction with Pete.

The restoration work took 4 years to complete. This boat had been badly HAMMERED. I eventually found the hull number (19R-455), verifying that the racer indeed matched the engine numbers. My racer now has new engine stringers, a restored frame, a 3M 5200 double bottom, and book-matched side, deck and shipside planks. All hardware was re-chromed, all instruments restored, the motor rebuilt, and new upholstery and trailer were procured. The name ”MAHOGAMOUS AFFAIR” was coined by Donna, who hadn’t seen me for much of the 4 year restoration project, which was done in our garage. She assumed I was having an affair. I was, with the boat, hence the name. The whole package hit water for the first time since ??? on June 26, 1994. I believe I was actually blushing with both fear and embarrassment at my utter excitement of driving this new boat as fast as it could go across our local lake. The roar of the engine, the wind, the splash, the speed. I felt like that 10 year old kid in 1952 at the Dells. I guess some of us just never grow up!

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