A SURVIVOR FROM THE BARNS
& BOATHOUSES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
One day I received a phone message, from a woman named Nancy, who wanted to sell her boat, a Hacker Craft. I didn’t call her back immediately, as I assumed it was a Hacker built in the past 30 years at Lake George. I’ve found those boats are difficult to sell. But my friend Scott Robinson had referred Nancy to me, so I eventually returned her call and was amazed to learn that, in fact, the boat was 85 years old and had been in her family since new! She explained the boat was the NANCY from the Les Cheneaux Islands in Northern Michigan. I actually remember the NANCY from my days in Michigan many years ago, as I grew up there where the seeds of my passion for mahogany speedboats became indelible.
With a fellow named Chuck Letts and a few others, I was a founding member of a Michigan antique boat club, which predated the founding of ACBS. Chuck was an organizer of the first Hessel Antique Boat Show and proudly exhibited his father’s 1930 HackerCraft. Letts’ boat was a sistership to the NANCY, an identical Hacker, locally famous for it was purchased new by Sewell Avery, an industrialist and the head of Montgomery Ward for his daughter’s 16th birthday present around 1928.
A couple years after NANCY arrived, maybe 1931, his son Jack was about to turn 16. Reportedly, Sewell Avery made a wager with marina owner Gene Mertaugh, that if a fancy new Chris Craft could beat the NANCY in a race, he would buy the Chris Craft for his son Jack. The Chris won the race that day and became a birthday gift for Jack Avery. Named the JACK, that Chris Craft ran in Les Cheneaux Islands for many years. After WWII, the JACK was sold to Michigan Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams’ family and is still running in the islands today. The NANCY stayed in Avery’s family for 85 years and passed from his daughter Nancy to his Granddaughter, also Nancy, who moved east from Michigan over twenty years ago and brought the NANCY with her. They had NANCY in the water for a wedding 5 or 10 years ago, but over 85 years she has been used very, very little.
After speaking with Avery’s granddaughter Nancy, I went over to have a look and found one of the most original, unrestored and unmolested Hacker Crafts that I have ever seen. We agreed that I would broker the boat for her. For a month I looked for a local Winnipesaukee enthusiast, to no avail. Then people from California began tripping over each other to buy the boat to take West. At the last moment, NANCY was sold to a collector with a summer place in the Adirondacks and I was asked to do a major preservation/restoration project on the boat.
After many years in storage, NANCY needed some extensive maintenance, including pumping 40 gallons of sludge from the fuel tank. This completed, the owner asked me to bring her across the Lake to await his visit. So on the appointed day and time, I had to drive the NANCY across the Lake in a torrential rainstorm of biblical proportions. I wasn’t scared in that crossing, but I was very “concerned”. I will long remember that crossing in NANCY as she purred along thru the mass of rain, barely making out the islands as they loomed up from the wall of gray. The NANCY is a survivor from the 1920’s, a “Barn find” of extraordinary nature, having a provenance rarely seen today.