The Restoration Corner, by Don Taylor
The Mister T III Boat Restoration Project I was fortunate to spend my teenage summer years in a family that enjoyed wooden boats. The boat most dear to me was a 1956 Chris Craft 22 ft. Continental named after my mother, The Pearl. My father pretty much walked away from the family boat after my mothers passing in 1964. Since I was the family member that maintained the boat, my father turned the boat over to me and my family. My two children learned (as I did ) to water ski behind this beautiful piece of mahogany. I bribed my children to help me restore The Pearl. You help me refinish the boat and I will take you to Florida this winter. Well, it worked! We renamed the boat Mister T. My father loved the boat after the restoration. After many summers of skiing, and lots of maintenance, I decided to part with this family heirloom. The fiberglass replacement just never fulfilled my dreams of wood boating. It had deep gunnels which sufficed the need for small grandchildren. Once the grandchildren grew, so did my dream to return to a wood boat. Not just any wood boat. My heart had been set on a locally built Streblow boat. I had seen these mahogany thoroughbreds on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin all through my teenage and adult years. In February of 2001, I purchased a 1970 Streblow custom wood boat. This twenty three foot beauty had history. A gentleman from northern Illinois, William D. Wallace, had ordered the boat custom made from Streblow Custom Boats Inc. of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mr. Wallace was a partner in a silver mine with John Duke Wayne. They decided to name the boat HI LOW SILVER, a very fitting name. They operated the pleasure craft on Lake Delevan in Wisconsin, for over ten years. With the drop in the price of silver in the early 1980s, the partners decided to sell the boat. Larry Streblow and son Randy purchased the boat and returned it to their factory in Kenosha. The Streblows remodeled the craft into the boats of that era. They removed the front deck-mounted breather, which was replaced by teak strips on black vinyl in place of the king plank. The same design was modified on the rear deck. Upholstering and carpet were also replaced. The Streblow family kept the boat for personal use for a few years until it was sold to Gregg Liebovich from Rockford, Illinois. Gregg had to be the perfect wood boat owner. He kept the boat for eighteen years on Geneva Lake. Every year Gregg would say to Randy Streblow, Randy, add a new stereo, replace the steering wheel, replace the wood dash, replace the gauges, and finally replace the engine! I could not have asked for a more perfectly maintained boat. I was blessed to be the owner of this wonderful piece of art. I would later hear from other Streblow boat owners that you dont own your own boat, you merely have a long term lease with the Streblow family. You know this to be somewhat true when you watch the Streblow personnel retrieving their boats around the Geneva Lake shoreline for winter storage. Over one hundred of these fine boats are returned every fall to the Streblow facility near Williams Bay, Wisconsin. A thorough inspection of each boat is made during the winterizing operation. Boat owners are notified of any dings, damage or maintenance problems. Thus, winter work can be scheduled. Believe me, you dont want your boat seen with any imperfections! At the time of this writing, I am preparing to load my boat for its annual journey back to Mount Dora, Florida. I am one of very few Streblow boat owners that have received permission to work on my own boat. Are you now sensing the lease concept? Yes, I received the blessing to refinish my boat. In some circles, this is called refresh the boat. I attempted to refresh the deck of the boat prior to the Mount Dora show last March. My first mistake was to try refinishing it in my boathouse. This is a no no. In early March, pollen is prevalent. It does not mix well with varnish. Unfortunately, I was committed. The finished product was not one that the Streblow people would have approved. After the Mount Dora Wood Boat Show, Mike Yobe agreed to help me refinish my boat. Remember it was back in the 70s when I worked on the old Chris Craft. Mike, being the great craftsman that he is, gave me the rules. He meticulously mentored me through the complete operation. I was fortunate to have a friend with a huge barn, tools and good lighting. He was gracious enough to invite me in for my learning experience. Since I was planning to take the boat back to Wisconsin for the summer, we decided to do the work in two phases. Thus, I began removing all of the trim from the rub rail up. Phase one would be to strip the complete upper deck and transom. This is the area that is most time consuming. We would plan to complete the lower portion at the end of the fall or before the 2007 Mount Dora show. Mike walked me through the operation. After removing all of the stainless and chrome trim, we thoroughly masked the boat so the stripping residue would not do damage to the sides. We both worked feverishly on the stripping and sanding, which was an educational process. The more recently built Streblow boats were constructed without the conventional teak ladders that adorned the transoms for decades. Therefore, I decided to customize my boat to match the newer, more modern boats. A few years ago, I had previously removed the lower half of the teak ladder and replaced it with a hidden stainless steel folding ladder. Now was the time to remove the upper portion, which was secured through the transom. By so removing, it gave a cleaner look to the stern and transom. A few mahogany dowels answered the question in short order. Where the moisture had penetrated under the finish, Mike lightly bleached those areas, which had turned black. After all the sanding was completed, the boat was thoroughly cleaned. (Wiped with a damp thinner rag) Streblow had furnished us with their special mix stain. We decided to use the Streblow stain on the entire boat, windshield, sides, transom and cover boards, except for the decks. Mike thought that a contrast might be more appealing. So we used a lighter stain on those areas. I might suggest that it is wise to purchase extra paper for masking off areas not to be refinished. When the paper gets moist, it is a good idea to replace it. That was my job! Now had come the time for the varnishing operation. That was quite simple. Mike did the varnishing and I did the wet sanding. Mike prefers the roll and tip method of varnishing application. The first few coats went on without any wet sanding. Thereafter, I got more education. Just knowing that we were getting closer to the finished product made the wet sanding process a more exciting task. Finally, the final coat, number eleven, was applied. We could now see the rewards of our labor of love. I lightly sanded the sides and Mike gave them one coat of varnish to get me through the summer. Then it seemed to take forever to reinstall all of the hardware and trim. I was so afraid that I might dink the new finish that I took my time cautiously finalizing. I want to thank Mike Yobe and Jack Rouse for their help. John Wayne would be impressed with the revitalization of HI LO SILVER! Note: Don Taylor has created a website to illustrate Streblow boats. The site displays many of Streblow boats and pictures from wood boat shows over the past four years to include the Minocqua, Wisconsin; Geneva Lake, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin; and Mount Dora, Florida boat shows.