Town of Hudson man has a long history with the classic boats
To those of a certain era and maybe some young more recent aficionados, there is nothing like a wood inboard boat for elegance on the water. And the top of the class among these rare old vessels is the Chris-Craft.
Those mahogany-hulled beauties with the white oak bow stem and the throaty rumble of the engine through straight tail pipes defined the pinnacle of style in its day.
Doug and Mary Marcou, Hudson, have a long history with classic boats, in particular Chris-Craft. They are from Wabasha, Minn., and were high school sweethearts in the class of 1948. After a two-year stint in the Army, Doug returned home.
"I started out as a dock 'wolloper' in Wabasha," said Doug, 79, during a recent conversation in his town of Hudson home.
In 1956 he became the harbor master at the marina in Afton, Minn., where he managed 185 slips. He refinished boats, sold them and did about everything -- but "don't call me a mechanic," he said. He won top salesman award in 1972 for Minnetonka Boat Works and worked his way up the company ladder.
"We lived at the Afton Marina for 25 years," he said. And all his life he's had a soft spot in his heart for wooden hull Chris-Craft inboards. "Minnetonka Boat Works was the second oldest Chris-Craft dealer in the world," he said.
The Chris-Craft was a truly finely crafted boat. "They were made out of Philippine mahogany, and all the planking (for one boat) was made out of one tree," Doug said. "A Chris-Craft had double planking from the bottom up to the water line. A Century (a rival wooden inboard) had single planking and leaked like a corn crib."
Also, the boat maker had a special grade of Philippine mahogany. "Chris-Craft grade mahogany was the very best," he said.
One sad scenario in the history of the noble vessels is when fiberglass boats started making inroads in the 1960s; it spelled the end for some fine old wooden boats. "Some of the wooden Chris-Craft that were taken in on trade were burned," he said.
"I always loved Chris-Craft even though my family could never afford one. When we finally bought one of our own in 1962 or '63, it was a used boat," Doug said.
When the company was sold in 1985, Doug and Mary moved to the Hudson area. Doug started to pick up wooden boats and restore them for re-sale. He currently has three inboards in the shop including a 1958, 22-foot Century with a 140 hp flat head Chrysler engine; a 1965, 21-foot Chris-Craft Super Sport with a 210 hp V8 engine, one of only 40 made that year; and a 1966, 22-foot Chris-Craft Sea Skiff, also one of only 40 made that year.
They are all beautifully restored and ready for re-sale. He said most of the boats he has restored he bought, fixed up and sold. He didn't refinish boats for the owners very often. When asked how many boats he's processed in Hudson, he couldn't even come up with a ball park figure, there have been so many.
"Mary said once, 'We're the only people who have eight boats and never take a boat ride,'" he said. The couple celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary in May.
The casual observer may remember one special Chris-Craft from the 1981 movie "On Golden Pond." One scene showed a boat hitting a rock reef and suffering severe damage. "That was a 1950, 22-foot, Chris-Craft Sportsman," said Doug, "but when they filmed the collision they used a junker."
A Web search on the movie turned up quite a bit of information about the boat. One account said that four Chris-Craft boats were obtained for the movie but only three gained film time.
Another account said one of the boats was owned by a Twin Cities man and sold this year on eBay.
Doug and Mary's son, Doug Jr., has a one-man shop in Colfax where he does boat restoration full time. Mary is noted for some fine upholstery work in the boat interiors she and her husband have done.
Doug is a true aficionado of the Chris-Craft. His eyes light up when he talks about the craftsmanship used in building the legendary boats. No other boat cuts the same profile on the water, and nothing sounds like a Chris-Craft's throaty engine rumble through straight pipes when idling alongside a pier or climbing up to full speed.