Sister Ships

Southwind as she was found at Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro, California in January 1998.

53 ft ELCO Motor Yacht was custom designed for the 1939 New York Motor Boat Show, built at the ELCO plant in Bayonne New Jersey in 1938. 

She has been:

Do-Ho (as a maid) by Mr. & Mrs. Howard Johnson of Howard Johnson Motor Inns & Restaurants fame.

Alchade (1940) by Alanson Deuel, owner of the Niagara Falls Gazette and radio station WHLD, who moved her to Buffalo, New York where she served coastal duty on the Great Lacks during WWII.

Southwind (1946) by Joseph Barry Lodge Mr. Lodge is reported as the Vice President of Dwight Lumber, the builder of Dee Wite Runabouts, was responsible for four Dee Wite models featuring the “Lodge Custom Torpedo Stern”, and owned a engine manufacturing plant, Lodge Motors.  

Southwind (1950) by Morris Barney Dalitz. Mo Dalitz was the leader of the infamous Mayfield Road Gang, owner of a legitimate laundry business, and custodian of the millions of Teamsters funds built Las Vegas in general and the Desert Inn Resort, specifically. Southwind was the official hospitality boat for the Desert Inn Resort and would eventually find a new home on Lake Mead

Southwind (1957) by Marian Hicks, a gambler and well known builder of the El Cortez and builder/owner of the Thunderbird Casino. Marian had Southwind repowered with her present pair of 671 Graymarine diesel engines. She was moved to San Diego, then to Newport Beach, then to Los Angeles.

Southwind (1983) by Vlad Worotko who leased her to Stephen J Cannell Productions for the TV series Riptide about three private investigators who lived on a boat. The series lasted 56 episodes until the fall of 1985. After the series was cancelled, Southwind sat for 10 years in San Pedro California until eyesore complaints mounted and forced a sale.

Riptide (1997) by present owners Dennis Ballard and Peter Riess moved her to Wilmington California where restorations included: removing and replacing all decks and cabin tops, stripping and refastening top sides, rebuilding the worm-eaten keel, rebuilding the port engine, stripping white paint off the trunk, completely rebuilding the pilot house and that was just the exterior. Inside the two stripped multiple layers of wall paper and paint, removed the royal blue shag carpet, stripped and varnished all surfaces, had new cushions and blinds made, added mechanical refrigeration, groomed all electrical out and installed new. Five years from start to finish.

Riptide is Captain Peter Riess and Dennis Ballard's second restoration. The first was a 1941 Chris Craft 34’ Deluxe Enclosed Cruiser.

Riptide has berthed in Port Orchard, Washington since 2010.

The fully restored Southwind, rechristened Riptide, 1939 Elco, 53 feet. Captain Peter E. Riess and Dennis Ballard, owners and caretakers.

Beginning at bow, there are crews quarters with upper and lower bunks. A large “butterfly skylight” now replaces the ladder and hatch to the foredeck. Aft of the crews quarters in the galley, the original icebox has been converted to electric refrigeration. Up a curved staircase to the large salon which features a large buffet, L-shaped settee and the original dining table which had rattan chairs around two sides. At the aft end of the salon, two staircases: one up to the pilothouse, the other to three staterooms, a very large head and a large tiled shower stall. The aft cabin spans the transom and provides the owners with full-sized bed, a large dresser, and a cedar lined locker. The pilothouse is new and closely matches the design of the boat. Aft of the pilothouse is a sun deck.

Betty Jane's sister ship, Irresistible, 1954 Chris Craft Corsair, 45 feet. Note the difference between years in the hand rail and port navigation light on the deckhouse roof. Irresistible berths in LaConner, Washington where heat is needed evidenced by the stove pipe rising out of the deckhouse roof in the forward starboard quarter. She's got honest-to-God deck rails instead of Betty Jane's life lines running the length of the decks. And she's got a swim deck off her transom. 

Mental Pause—

“High Ambitions and no Knowledge”

This was my first glimpse of a 1960 Chris Craft Constellation, 36 feet. In response of a newsletter posting for River Queens which featured a picture of Betty Jane all wrapped up for Winter 2019, the owner of this craft, Mr. William Hammond, replied with a tip:

“You must allow for ventilation to prevent rot.” he wrote. “We use those 3 - 4’ long styrofoam swim noodles placed over the gunwales and tied off from the life-lines placed about one every 6’ or so all around the boat.”

A discussion started as discussions do about boats by boaters that led to how he came by his boat. I’ll let him tell it:

“My Love Affair with Wooden Boats began with my Mother’s stories of time she spent as a child and throughout her high school years on the boats of her friend’s parents. She grew up in the Upper Penninsula of MI in the small town of Munising perched on the shores of Lake Superior. Her Father was the Service Manager for the only new car dealership in town and as such was often called upon to do engine work on the boats that came into the Bay.

“It lay dormant for many years until in the early ’80s my Wife and I invited my Parents to come to the Antique and Classic Boat Society’s Show in Port Huron. Because of the proximity of the Great Lakes there are always a goodly amount of Cruisers at this show. That year was no exception.

“As we were strolling along the long line of Cruisers, mostly Chris Craft, my Mother remarked to me that she had always wanted one of these Chrises. I was struck by this and so I began making regular trips to Port Huron and haunted the Boatyards and Marinas looking to see what might be available and affordable. Well, I never found a suitable candidate then.

“Life intervenes and my wooden boat dreams are put aside as I set about raising a family. Nearly 30 years transpire and I’m working away and wishing I had something to do as a stress reliever. I was idly perusing eBay on evening when I chanced to look through the wooden boats that were listed. This is where I first saw her. Floating at her berth looking so smart and at a ridiculous price to boot!!

“I put my first bid on her, after 10 days of anguish over deciding to bid on her or not, with only 10 minutes left in the auction. There were a flurry of bids in those last few minutes but my last bid with only 2 seconds left was the successful one!!

“What was I thinking?!?! Buying a 36’ 50 year old boat sight unseen?!?! Well it was such a leap that I was dumbfounded for the better part of a day. But then I decided to try and find out if she was a ‘pig in a poke’ or indeed my desire! I contacted a Surveyor out in Seattle and arranged for her to be surveyed. His report helped to allay my worst fears but did also open my eyes to what needed to be done.

“One engine did not run. She hadn’t been out on a cruise in 10 years. Her owners had used her like a weekend getaway and had not cared for her as she needed. Her electrical system barely functioned and none of her navigation lights worked. Her steering was frozen. She needed a complete refinish. Since she was in water the report noted nothing about anything below her water line. He did, however, pronounce her sound, pending an “out of water inspection”.

“At that point I was committed and completed the sale!! I had my Surveyor make arrangements to have her pulled and readied for shipment. He was to also complete his Survey of her once she was out of water. And he found her sound again but in need of a new bottom paint job. But I had a SOUND Chris Craft all Mahogany 36’ Cruiser!!

“I ended up hiring a shipper out of Texas to bring from Seattle to Michigan. It was a nerve wracking 8 days waiting for her to arrive. She arrived on my Birthday!! When I finally told my wife about her she asked me ‘what were you thinking?!?!’ I replied to her; ‘Well you know how women go through menopause? Well, I had a mental pause!’ That of course became her name.

“We had high ambitions and no knowledge!! A deadly combination! We started in with no real plan but began by sanding!! Every wooden boat owners nightmare!! Sanding!! Never ending sanding.

“About 10 days into our project the Marina staff told me about a Boatwright in the area that I might want to contact. So we did and brought him on board to make the work go faster. He finished the stripping on the Hull in just a couple of days. I was stunned by the beauty of that Mahogany Hull and left it that way for about 10 days while I decided if I wanted to finish it natural or paint it. We had stripped off 13 coats of paint and found that despite a couple of different color changes the color scheme we found her in was her original color scheme. I eventually decided to put her back as she was originally.

“Our boat had been modified from how she left the factory. She was originally an Express and was completely open from the helm to the transom with a hardtop over the helm area. At some point in her life an enclosed wheel house had been constructed under an expanded hardtop. This made her more usable in unfavorable weather conditions. It was done in all mahogany and nicely done at that. We decided to keep her that way.

“We got the steering freed up and working. One of the rudders was bent and we got that corrected. Because the boat had been used in the Ocean it had been equipped with enclosed cooling. We had no idea if it was in working order or not. We could start and run the starboard engine but not for any length of time because we could not get the raw water pump to work and the only cooling provided was the small amount of antifreeze in the jackets and small tank.

1961 Chris-Craft Constellation 35’ showing the original configuration of the bridge (image courtesy of her owner, Doug Waggoner).

“We got the Portside engine pulled and found that it was seized. So we took it to be rebuilt and we’re pleasantly surprised to find that there was no major damage and that she was seized because water had gotten into her and rust was holding one cylinder in place. We replaced the ignition system on the 283 with a Petronics electronic ignition system. We then had 2 working 185 hp engines!!

“That took us through the first 3 years. Then illness presented itself and I have not yet been able to get much more done on her. My health is improving and I hope this year to get back to work on her. So my story is a “Work In Progress” but it sustains me!!”

It is work that sustains us all, Mr. Hammond. Spring is coming and I’ve already started my materials list. Betty Jane is out on the hard for her quadrennial out-of-water survey. She passed with fewer defects than she’s ever had in Dale Harris’s and my eighteen year ownership. I hope to put a shine on her hull as you have done of Mental Pause. Happy launch to you.

Special Note: River Queens: Saucy boat, stout mates, spotted dog, America is a proud sponsor of The Antique & Classic Boat Society’s 2019 International Boat Show.