Faultless: Knockdown Boat: Valley Boat and Engine of Baldwinsville, N.Y.  built 1904

I got a call from Bud Brackett (Me. Classics Inc.) who had been a big help to me a couple of years ago with his marine hardware and engine abilities. He wanted to know if we would consider replacing some frames on a turn-of-the-century “kit” speedboat for his friend  John Perkins. I of course said sure, and Faultless arrived on a trailer. Bud and John were doing the mechanicals, while John Thompson and I could do the frames:

Built: 1904                      Knockdown Boat: Valley Boat and Engine of Baldwinsville, N.Y.                L. O. A.: 21’ Beam: 4’

 By speedboat I mean she looked like she would do 14 knots maybe, long and extra skinny, lots of tumblehome aft. Best of all was the power plant, a shiny green and polished brass 1915 Palmer Model Q2, 2 cylinder, 2 cycle, 4 hp make and break, coupled to an actual reverse gear from I don’t know where but a thing of beauty. Bud and John had restored everything, including the brass shift lever that enabled one to make the boat go Forward by pushing the lever Forward and not the other way around. As the story goes Faultless was the only boat ever built to the kit production run, after which the factory burned to the ground. Same for the Palmer: it is the only known Q series (model 1214) to be built during the entire year of 1915. I also right off thought they were making it up about being a kit. No one could ever precut all those pieces and have them fall into place so perfectly. It’s not the way a wooden boat goes together. I of course was proven wrong.

 Faultless was in excellent shape, having spent her entire life in a boat shed out of the weather. There was a sensitivity to destroying a perfect time capsule every time you went to work on her. And as these things go, once we replaced the frames amidships, it was a good time to: replace the keel with one featuring a back rabbet along with a bunch of floor timbers, replace the engine beds so they were actually making contact with the hull, followed of course by new pine ceiling, floorboards, bulkheads and seats; refastening, recaulking and fairing up the hull, etc, etc. As of this writing (Fall 2013) there are a few more bugs to work out but it hasn’t stopped John from putting in about 12 hours running around the lake and doing the old boat circuit: Mystic Seaport this Summer and maybe Clayton, N.Y. next year.

 The most successful part of all this was John’s steadfast refusal to listen to our typical stain/varnish/shine finish habits, insisting that we just leave her alone and put the old pine tar/linseed oil slush to everything in sight. This more than anything preserved her original patina, and lets her stand out from all the rest of today’s decadent showpieces.

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