If you went to a winter boat show in the late 1950's, you might have seen a startling new boat, the original Boston Whaler 13-footer. Deciding to buy one then was not quite the same decision as it is today. You didn't know you were buying a boat that would become a classic. You didn't know you were buying a boat that would last 40 years. You didn't know you were buying a legend.
In the late 1950's, the Boston Whaler boat and brand were exactly the opposite of what they are today. The boat was revolutionary. It was very, very different from all the others on the market. The company had no track record, had never made boats before, and was not a household name. Marketing didn't sell the boat. Reputation didn't sell the boat. Internet websites didn't sell the boat. The boat sold the boat!
Fortunately, there were enough buyers who could see how useful the boat was, how well made it was, and how safe it was, that the Boston Whaler company got off the ground and became the most famous boat builder in America in the last 50 years.
These days we call people who buy the initial products of new technologies "early adopters." Mike Gephart was fortunate to have a grandfather who was one of those guys, an early adopter. Mike's grandfather bought a 1959 Boston Whaler, hull number 2033. And equally as fortunate, that boat is still in his family in 2002!
Mike tells the rest of the story:
"My Grandfather bought this 13-Sport in 1959 to use for fishing at his cabin on Leech Lake in Northern Minnesota. Over the years, my sister and I learned how to water ski behind the Whaler, we caught our first fish from this boat, and we used to fight over who got to sit cross-legged up on the bow and hold onto the Norman pins while we flew around the lake. For as long as I can remember, we've always just called it 'The Whaler.'
"The Whaler sat in the harbor tied to the dock all summer and in the fall Grandpa and my Dad would pull the motor off and haul the Whaler up on shore and flip it over. There it would sit for the winter.
"When my Grandpa sold his cabin in 1975, he gave the Whaler to my Dad and a 16-foot Alumacraft to my Uncle--not too tough to figure out who got the better deal. The Whaler made its home at my Mom and Dad's house in White Bear Lake (Minnesota) until 1981. My Dad painted the outside of the hull and did some minor cosmetic repairs sometime around 1975.
"In 1981 my parents bought a house on a lake 60 miles west of the Twin Cities, where the Whaler spent the next 18 years of its life. Dad made the decking, anchor and trolling motor mounts for fishing, but mostly the Whaler sat on a dilapidated old trailer in his garage with a bunch of junk stored on it.
"In 1991 or 1992 I remade the console from the original, except I made it a little wider for a drawer. I used the Whaler a lot for the next five or six years, mainly for crappie fishing and bow fishing for carp.
"My Mom and Dad built a new house and moved off the lake in the fall of 1999. In July of 2000, I got a phone call from my Dad telling me to 'come and pick up your boat.' When I got there he had loaded up the boat with everything they were trying to get rid of.
In August of 2000, I called Chuck Bennett at Whaler to get some info on my boat and he told me about this website, continuousWave. I found the website and spent the better part of a day going through it. That night I pulled everything out of the Whaler. The next day I called a boat shop that I knew had just finished painting another 13-foot Whaler and had mine painted inside and out.
"The next spring I went to the lumber yard and picked out some mahogany and made new thwart seats and side rails. I sanded down the old console and attached it to the new side rail. I sanded down the steering wheel and painted it. I bought a new rub rail and installed it using the methods described in the REFERENCE section. I restrung the wire rope and pulley steering and sanded and buffed out the norman pins. The old 30-HP Evinrude kicked to life after a little coaxing and with a new gasket I made myself--no small feat considering it had not run since 1996.
"The maiden voyage was a hot day in July, 2001. The wind wasn't too bad, maybe 10-15 MPH. After a 10-minute fight on the beach with both kids about wearing their lifejackets, we loaded the Whaler with gas tanks, coolers, towels and food. There simply was not any room left. And as we idled out onto the lake, we hit our first big wave. Everything and everyone went flying. I looked at my wife and she said (bless her soul), 'It's nice but we need a bigger boat.'
"She's thinking Bayliner; I'm thinking 18-20 Outrage, classic of course. Talk about your 'six foot-itis.' We'll see.
"At any rate, I'm going to repower this year. I don't think the Evinrude is going to last. A guy at work rebuilds engines and is going to sell me his 1959 Mercury 40-HP Mark55a.
"I just wanted to say thanks to jimh for all of his efforts on this website and the goldmine of knowledge from everybody. It made my restoration that much easier."
A very young Mike Gephart with his Grandpa at Leech Lake, Minnesota, 1963.
"My Grandpa had a cabin about 20 miles northeast of Walker, Minnesota. If you look closely you can tell I'm not happy about something. I think it was that Grandpa wanted to come in and I didn't."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-01
A Forty-Year-Old Whaler
"This picture is from August 1999. I had just found the website. The day after I found the website I went out and tore everything out of it."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-02
"I actually had to put the deck back in it so I would have before and after pictures."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-03
The bare hull is ready for a trip to the paint shop.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-04
Hull Number 2033
A painted stencil identifies the hull number.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-05
The boat after a new exterior coat of Awl-Grip. The very unusual hull shape is well shown in this view. Also note the stabilizer fins on the sternmost portion of the hull.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-06
Quality bronze hardware can still be restored after 40 years.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-07
"For 42 years, these are the only motors that have been on the back of this Whaler. The motor in the background is the one in the picture of my Grandpa and me back in 1963. It's a 1955 Evinrude 25-HP Big Twin Electric. I bought the one in the foreground in 1990 for $300.00. It's a 1956 Evinrude 30-HP Big Twin Electric. By the way the 30-horse still runs."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-08
As Good As New
Back from the paint shop, the hull has been restored to its original color scheme. The trailer has seen improvements, too.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-09
"Back in '91 or '92 when I remade the console, I used the original console as a template, only I made it a little wider to accomodate a drawer. When I made the new side rails and thwart seats last summer I had gone to the lumber yard and spent about $150.00. I was able to find two pieces long enough and wide enough to keep the thwart seats as one whole piece. The console didn't look that bad, so I sanded it up and attached it to the new side rail."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-10
Rub Rail Replacement
"Here I've finished varnishing the mahogany and am attaching the rub rail. I might add that I used the tips in the REFERENCE section to the letter--Worked great. I'm sure I'll hear about this, but I only put three coats of spar varnish. For the rub rail, I used 3-inch galvanized sheet rock screws and a bunch of clamps. When I got to the curve in the front, I used a heat gun."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-11
Rub Rail Insert
After the rub rail track is screwed in place the rubber insert is added.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-12
Stain and varnish turn the interior into a finished product.
"This is the original Kainer steering wheel. The only thing missing was the dust cap for the center. I made one out of a piece of 1/8-inch stainless steel."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-13
The restored wire rope and pulley steering is faithful to the original.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-14
"In between these pictures I also got the boat off of the trailer and set it on packing pads in the backyard. I added another crossbeam to the trailer, I also put new poly rollers on and made some bunks for it. I then lifted the boat back on the trailer."
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-15
The 1959 Whaler is reborn!
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-16
In about 40 years perhaps children of these children will be able to reflect on boat rides their Grandfather gave them in this Classic Whaler.
PhotoCredit: Mike Gephart - Reference: 51-17
For more information on the classic 13-foot Boston Whaler, see articles in the REFERENCE section of the website.
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Copyright © 2002 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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This article first appeared February 10, 2002.
Last modified: Saturday, 19-Mar-2005 00:10:13 EST
Author: James W. Hebert