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The Winnish, owned by LeGrand Cramer, one of Lake George’s first Auto-Boats

The Winnish, owned by LeGrand Cramer, one of Lake George’s first Auto-Boats

Lake George and the Invention of the Auto-Boat

By Anthony F. Hall

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The fusion of automobile and boat reached its apotheosis in 1959, when Chris Craft released its Silver Arrow in the same shade of metallic blue that Chevrolet applied to its Corvette and added a flared fin copied from a Buick.

That’s what boat builder Everett Smith told an audience last summer when discussing the evolution of the Auto-boat at the Tumblehome Boatshop in Warrensburg, which hosts evening talks about boats and boating throughout the year.

According to Emmet Smith, Everett Smith’s son and until recently the curator of the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, the Auto-boat emerged in the first decade of the 20th century, “driven by new technology and growing enthusiasm for the automobile.”

As Smith wrote in “Auto-Boats: the advent of the modern runabout,” an article that appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Woodenboat magazine, these long-decked, displacement-hull boats “clearly showed the automotive influence in design and lay out, with their engines forward, passenger compartments with built-in, forward-facing seats situated behind windshields, automotive steering wheels and controls and often convertible tops.”


Auto-Boat Example Number One: The Number Boat


An perfect example of the early Auto-boat is the Number Boat, described by Everett Smith as “an elegant gentleman’s launch.”

Designed in 1909 by Charles D. Mower and built by Leyare Boat Works, the boat was commissioned by members of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club for one-design racing.

Twenty boats were completed (each one identified by its number – thus the name, Number Boat), allowing the club to sponsor races that hinged on the skills of the drivers rather than on the relative merits of the competitors’ boats.

Races were held in 1910, 1911 and 1912. Of the original 20 boats, only a few survive.

Everett Smith, however, has begun building replicas of the Number Boat, and one of those, Number 22, has been purchased by a Lake George resident, John Kelly of Assembly Point.


Auto-Boat Example Number Two: The Silver Arrow


Lake George boaters can also view the Silver Arrow, “the sports car of the waterways,” as Chris Craft termed it.
Although only 92 of those boats were manufactured, one of them happens to be owned by Bolton Landing’s Buzz Lamb.

“During the winter of 1998, I found out that an airline pilot in Phoenix, Arizona owned nine Silver Arrows, so I gave him a call.  I bought the boat sight unseen. In November of 1999 I began a complete restoration and launched the boat at Norowal Marina in the spring of 2000 and took it for its first ride on Lake George,” said Lamb.


Origins of the Auto-Boat on Lake George

In fact, Lake George residents have had the opportunity to see almost every iteration of the auto-boat, as well as its precursors and its successors.

That’s because Lake George was “the cradle of motor boating,” as Herman Broessel, an owner of the boat and car manufacturer Simplex put it.

Buzz Lamb’s 1959 Silver Arrow

In 1906, the Lake George Regatta, which in previous years had featured row boat races, sponsored a contest between motor boats owned by Broessel, his neighbor on Bolton Bay W.K. Bixby and LeGrand C. Cramer. Two years later, the Lake George Mirror boasted that practically every boat house on the lake had a motorboat.

Broessel and the other Lake George boat owners would have been familiar with one of the inspirations of the auto-boat, the Ellide.
The Ellide: Forerunner of the Auto-Boat

The Ellide, built in 1897 for Sagamore investor E. Burgess Warren, was a steamboat built for speed, capable of reaching 40 miles per hour. Her 80 ft hull demonstrated clearly that speed was a function of length. As late as 1904, the Ellide still held world speed records, and Warren was still exhibiting her at local regattas.

That same year, Broessel’s company built an engine for the Vignt-Et-Un, a gasoline-powered speedboat whose hull resembled the Ellide’s, and according to Everett Smith, one of the first speed boats to be called an auto-boat.
Lake George Launches

Broessell, Bixby and the others were no less familiar with what Emmett Smith calls “the small power launchs that preceded auto-boats – with displacement hulls powered by steam, electricity or naphtha, well-suited for seeing sights and socializing.”

“One way to sum up the differences between auto-boats and the launches that preceded them is this: the early power launch was about being somewhere; the auto-boat was about going somewhere – and fast.”

Those launches, like Bixby’s electric-powered St. Louis, featured open cockpits that possessed, according to an Elco catalogue, “all the comforts of a summer cottage piazza.”

Lake George was also home to naptha launches. Unlike the steamboat which it replaced, was light and easy to handle. No special license was required to operate it. Thus, the naphtha launch became popular very quickly.

By the turn of the century, naphtha launches were common on Lake George. Some were excursion boats, such as those owned and operated by the father os onetime Lake George Supervisor Alden Shaw. The majority, however, belonged to summer residents. Dr. Abraham Jacobi of Bolton Landing owned one. Harry Watrous, the perpetrator of the Hague Monster Hoax, owned two, as did Colonel Mann, the New York magazine editor who was the butt of the hoax. (Mann’s own magazine, by the way, poked fun at the rich for taking the accoutrements of soft living into the Adirondack wilderness, naphtha launches included.)


From Auto-Boat to Modern Runabout


The early auto-boat was characterized not only by distinctive automotive features, but also by their displacement hulls.
Once those hulls became obsolete, the auto-boat was transformed into the modern runabout, a historical moment that can also be said to have occurred on Lake George.

In August 1914, following the victory of “Baby Speed Demon” over “Ankle Deep” in the first Gold Cup races to be held on Lake George, the racing world was introduced to boats that plane above the water, rather than moving through it. The inventor of the planing hull was none other than Chris Smith, the founder of Chris Craft and the designer of “Baby Speed Demon,” who, in response to a remark to the effect that his boat were not long enough to displace enough water to travel at top speed, said, “Displacement? I don’t care about displacement. All I need is enough water to cool the engines, that’s all.”

Little more than a decade later, George Reis added a shingled bottom to one of those new boats to create El Lagarto and bring three Gold Cup races to Lake George.

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Women recreating on Lake George, circa 1917. Photo by Fred Thatcher, courtesy of Bolton Historical Society.

Women recreating on Lake George, circa 1917. Photo by Fred Thatcher, courtesy of Bolton Historical Society.

Women, Boats, and Lake George

By Hallie Bond

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

“As to ‘physical exertion,’ there is no such exertion known here. It is the laziest of all imaginable places….” So “Adirondack” Murray appealed directly to women, even those “fragile or delicate,” in his 1869 Adventures in the Wilderness. In those decades after the Civil War, Murray was not alone in feeling that women—at least upper middle class city women—were delicate and fragile. Not only were they supposedly far less strong than men, but they were supposed to conserve what energy they had for the female functions. Bearing children and keeping a genteel home was her highest and best duty. She could breathe fresh air on gentle strolls, but that was about it for exercise. As Murray pointed out, though, “tramping is unknown in this region. Wherever you wish to go, your guide paddles you.” The Adirondack region was ideal for women. They didn’t even have to walk to enjoy the scenery and breath healing “air odorous with the smell of pine and cedar and balsam.”

Women did come in increasing numbers to Lake George in the 1880s and 1890s. Perhaps they were encouraged by Murray’s book, but also about this time doctors and the popular press began to encourage them to improve their health and fitness, the better to bear healthy children and keep up with their domestic duties. At Lake George, comfortably lodged at one of the hotels or camps now ringing the lake, women began to exert themselves. Rowing a boat was ideal—women could get into the vessel with relative ease in their long skirts, and even mild exertion opened up to them the lake and its glorious scenery.

A century and a half ago, each region in the watery US had its own boat type, built for local conditions by local builders. On Lake George it was a transom-sterned vessel that became known as the Lake George rowboat. Fishing guides used them, boat liveries used them, summer folk used them, and by the end of the century they had become essential for active—and sociable—women.

At one time or another in the first half of the 20th century, Lake George was home to 13 camps for girls. The earliest two, Camp Ronah and Glen Eyrie, were founded in 1910.

In the 1880s and 1890s groups of young people would engage a small steamer to tow a flotilla of Lake George rowboats past the hotel, each boat decorated with colored Japanese lanterns. Groups in boats would row out onto the glassy lake of early evening to sing and strum their ukuleles. Both scenes were lovely entertainment for the aunties and grannies rocking on the verandahs as well as the young ladies and gentlemen themselves. Hotel boat liveries and boathouses at private camps were stocked with the craft. Some lucky young women had their own special boats. John Boulton Simpson, one of the Sagamore Hotel’s owners, had F.R. Smith and Sons of Bolton Landing build a custom boat for each of his daughters. Their names, “Helen” and “Fanny,” decorated the elaborately carved stern seat backs.

A few adventurous women adopted a different sort of boat and began, literally, “paddling their own canoes.” One of them was Mary B. Bishop. Mary’s husband, Nathaniel Holmes Bishop, was a cranberry grower in New Jersey, but he was known among canoeists for his trip in a paper canoe from Troy, New York, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Bishops had a camp on Lake George, and it was at his suggestion that a group of canoeists met on the lake in August, 1880 and formed the American Canoe Association. Mary and seven other women, mostly sisters and wives of members, were involved right from the beginning, and by the end of the century the ACA program included races specifically for women.

Even if they came with “their men,” women at early ACA meets had to camp in their own area, and couldn’t visit the other parts of camp between nine in the evening and five in the morning. (Camping apart kept women from catching the men taking their early morning dips in the buff.) “Squaw Camp” became the social center of the camp, especially in the evenings around the campfire.

As they took more active roles in boating, women also simplified their dress. You can hardly imagine a woman trying to win a canoe race restricted by a corset. The “New Women” of the turn of the century abandoned tight bodices and voluminous skirts when out on the water, and by the 1920s sensible active women were wearing straight skirts several inches above their ankles or even (gasp) knickerbockers and stockings or leggings.
The New Woman wanted health, fitness, and independence for her daughters as well as herself. The result was a flourishing of “sleepaway” camps in the Adirondacks where girls could spend the summer supervised by trained female educators. Paddling a canoe with another girl (or seven other girls in a 25-foot war canoe), girls learned teamwork. Paddling or rowing by themselves, girls learned self-reliance. At one time or another in the first half of the twentieth century Lake George was home to thirteen camps for girls. The earliest two, Camp Ronah and Glen Eyrie, were founded in 1910.

The Horicon Sketching Club.

As boating became an acceptable sport for “the gentle sex,” some women, just like some men, yearned for really fast boats. The very first time the speedboat championship came to the lake in 1914, a woman owned the winning boat. Paula Blackton, who owned Baby Speed Demon II, was a pioneer woman in the film business as well as a pioneer woman in speedboating. At the second Gold Cup races held on Lake George, in 1934, a woman actually drove a speedboat. Delphine Dodge Baker in Delphine VII couldn’t catch George Reis in the local favorite El Lagarto, but she finished all the laps averaging 59 miles per hour in the first two heats.

By the 1920s outboards were reliable and cheap enough to appeal to boaters of all levels of skill and outdoorsiness—even women. Sexual stereotypes persisted, however. Thinking that female strength (or lack of it) would keep women from outboarding, the Penn Yan Boat Company, touted its little twelve-foot-long, 67 pound Cartopper outboard boat in 1942 by saying “actual tests show that the light end of a 60 pound boat (about 25 pounds) is the absolute maximum that a woman can be expected to handle.” they wrote. People puttering around Lake George in such a rig probably assumed that the man would run the motor, conforming to the old stereotype that things mechanical were beyond women. They would have been confounded if they saw one of the region’s outboard races. Doing very well, thank you, and servicing her own motors would have been Anne Jensen, “nurse at night, speed queen by day,” as a 1951 article called her. Jensen, who was an RN at the Flushing hospital but spent as much time in and around Schroon Lake as possible. She competed against men (sometimes her own husband) and fueled the Evinrude “alky” on her C-Service runabout with castor oil, alcohol and ether—all liquids that were used in her nursing, as one magazine pointed out.

Today, you’ll find women in any and all vessels on Lake George. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a regatta in a time warp? What would Mary Bishop say about the women paddling SUPs in their form-fitting tops and skimpy shorts? She’d probably disapprove of the clothing, but she would certainly approve of the paddling.

Hallie E. Bond is currently the Director of the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College. She also served as Education Director and Curator of the Adirondack Museum from 1983 until 2012. She is the author of “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks,” among many other works.

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Walt Grishkot’s 1961 photos of the Adirondack Yachting Club on Lake George. Members included John Alden Beals, Bill Busch, Jim Kiernan, Dr Ed Lawrence, Richard Chase and John Hayes. Today Former Bolton Supervisor Zandy Gabriels owns his uncle Jim Kiernan’s Yankee class boat. Another Yabkee class boat, the one owned by John Hayes, is now owned by Lake George Park Commissioner Dean Cook.

Walt Grishkot’s 1961 photos of the Adirondack Yachting Club on Lake George. Members included John Alden Beals, Bill Busch, Jim Kiernan, Dr Ed Lawrence, Richard Chase and John Hayes. Today Former Bolton Supervisor Zandy Gabriels owns his uncle Jim Kiernan’s Yankee class boat. Another Yabkee class boat, the one owned by John Hayes, is now owned by Lake George Park Commissioner Dean Cook.

Hard Water Sailing on Lake George

By Hallie Bond

Monday, February 22, 2016

Why can’t we revive iceboating on Lake George as a low carbon winter sport? On “the fastest free ride on earth” you use the power of the wind and the friction-free surface of the ice to whiz across the lake at speeds well over 100 mph.

An iceboat is the pared down essential of a sailboat. There’s no need to keep the water out (you hope), so the “hull” is just a place to sit mounted on a lengthwise center plank crossed by a thwartships “runner plank.” Steel blades (“runners”) are what you run on, and there is one at each end of the runner plank and, in modern bow-steerers, one at the bow which is rigged to a steering wheel.

As the name implies, stern-steerers had the rudder at the stern, just like a “soft water” sailboat. This was the design used by the Dutch down in New Amsterdam when they first started sailing on ice in the eighteenth century, and was the type of boat sailed by moneyed folk of the Hudson Valley in the late nineteenth century. As early as 1900, Lee Putnam of Hague had a stern-steering iceboat. The sport didn’t catch on locally, though, until the bow steerers appeared.

The heyday of “hard water sailing” on Lake George was the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Adirondack Ice Yachting Association had nine boats on its roster. Hardy souls like “Scrubby” Beals from Assembly Point, Merle and Elisabeth Smith from Cotton Point, Bill Busch of Canoe Island Lodge and Glens Falls traffic superintendent Chan Rowan met whenever they could to race—which, however, was usually only a dozen days each year. Beals remembered that the very best season was 1960, when there was a whole month when the lake was covered with ice like a pane of glass.

With ice like glass, ice yachts regularly hit 140 mph. Because of the airfoil effect on their sails and the negligible friction on their runners, they actually sail faster than the wind. The NOAA website’s wind chill calculator won’t take speeds greater than 110 mph. Perhaps there are some things you are better off not knowing. It feels about like seventeen below on your face going 110 at the fairly balmy temperature of 15F, so bundling up to the eyeballs (and covering those with goggles) is essential. The Smiths started iceboating when they married in 1955, just after the Korean War. They bought full suits of army surplus gear: lined, canvas knee length coats, gauntlets that pulled up to the elbows, goggles, hats for the head and felt pacs for the feet.

Today, iceboaters wear helmets. The dangers of iceboating go beyond frostbite. Assuming you could avoid open water, you need to watch for pressure ridges. A stern-steerer can safely jump these hazards, but a bow steerer will nose dive and be smashed to splinters. We know that there are plenty of thrill seekers out there, and we now have much improved cold-weather gear; what happened to the Lake George iceboat fleet? Since the 1960s, snowmobiles have dominated the winter scene on the lake, and they not only pack down the snow on their trails over the ice, but pose a significant risk for high-speed collisions. The ice along the shore is compromised in places by bubblers installed to keep ice from damaging docks and boathouses. Even if iceboaters could find a place on the lake with sound, smooth ice, they face the prospect of shorter, warmer winters with less reliable weather patterns in a world where the climate is changing so rapidly. We will probably never again see a fleet of sailboats flying across the ice of the Queen of American Lakes.

Hallie E. Bond is currently the Director of the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College. She also served as Education Director and Curator of the Adirondack Museum from 1983 until 2012. She is the author of “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks,” among many other works.

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The Whip-Po-Wil

The Whip-Po-Wil

The Boats of A.L. Judson

By Anthony F. Hall

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

After Gar Wood won the 1915 Gold Cup Race on Long Island and carried the cup home to Detroit, A.L. Judson said, “I’m going to bring the Gold Cup back east. That’s where it belongs.” Judson meant that it belonged on Lake George.

 A president of the American Power Boat Association and a commodore of the Lake George Regatta, the sponsor of the lake’s first motor boat races on the lake, Judson is, nevertheless, a relatively obscure figure.

 He appears to have been the president of a chemical company when he first started spending his summers at the Sagamore. He did not purchase a house in Bolton until 1918, when the Sagamore sold him one of the Green Island cottages. That house had been owned by Bishop E.M. Stires and was bought by Peter Kiernan two years after Judson’s death in 1923.

 In 1909, he launched the Whip-Po-will, a 45-foot pleasure boat that was capable of speeds of 20 miles per hour. As Judson himself is reported to have said, he made his pleasure boat a speedboat.

George Reis and A. L. Judson

As president of the APBA, Judson helped organize the 1914 Gold Cup races on Lake George. That year, a boat owner from the south threatened to build a boat fast enough to defeat Count Mankowski’s Ankle Deep in the 1914 races. In response, Judson organized a syndicate that included H.B. Moore of Heart Bay and W.K. Bixby of Bolton Landing to build a raceboat that would keep the Gold Cup on Lake George in the event that Ankle Deep failed to win the race. That boat, the Hawkeye, set an unofficial world’s record on Lake George in 1914, but performed poorly in the Gold Cup races of 1914 and 1915. To wrest the Gold Cup from Gar Wood and bring it back east, Judson needed a new boat.

           That boat was the Whip-Po-Will Jr. a 28-ft single step hydroplane built by the Beebe brothers, once partners of Chris Smith.  In the autumn of 1917, the boat set records on Lake George, reaching speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour.  That may have been of some consolation to Judson, since the Whip-Po-Will Jr. had capsized at the Gold Cup races in Minneapolis earlier that year.

 By 1918, Judson was ready for another shot. He entered the boat in the Gold Cup races held that year in Detroit.

 George Reis was serving in the US Naval Reserves. The government gave him a furlough so that he could go to Detroit and pilot the boat. “Gentleman Jim” Kneeshaw, a resident of Bolton Landing, was one of the mechanics.

           According to ‘Speedboat Kings,’ an early biography of Gar Wood, Whip-Po-Will Jr. was a threat to Wood until the third heat. “We have one more heat, fellows,” Judson is reported to have told Reis and Kneeshaw. “And a chance to get the Trophy if Wood cripples his boat. The way to cripple it is to make him open up his throttles and keep them open. It’ll smash his skinny boat to pieces. Our boat is heavier, stronger. It can stand it. Wood’s can’t. Keep crowding him.”

The Whip=Po-Will Jr.

            Gar Wood had the same strategy. He told the pilot of one of his boats, who also happened to be his brother, “Take Detroit II across the line first and keep it there till it smashes up. Detroit III will take it easy.”

            Detroit II and Whip-Po-Will Jr. pressed each other until the Lake George boat caught fire and Detroit II broke down. Detroit III glided across the finish line to win the race.

            In 1920, Judson took Whip-Po-Will Jr. to England to compete for the Harmsworth Trophy. In a trial run, the boat’s engines backfired, igniting gasoline and setting fire to the boat. Reis and Kneeshaw jumped into the ocean to save themselves. Gar Wood picked up Reis, and Kneeshaw was rescued by a passing motorboat.

            All that could be salvaged of Whip-Po-Will Jr. were the engine’s cylinders, which, local legend has it, Reis and Kneeshaw used to smuggle scotch back to America, then under Prohibition.

            The destruction of Whip-Po-Will Jr. put an end to Judson’s hopes of bringing the Gold Cup back to Lake George himself. But by giving George Reis valuable experience, he helped make it possible for Reis to accomplish that feat in 1935 and 1936 with El Lagarto. James Kneeshaw returned to Bolton Landing, where he continued to work as a boat mechanic. He died in the early 1960s.

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F.R. Smith Pulls Antique Boats Back into Service for Weddings and Chartered Tours

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 17, 2015

As the economy recovers, some of Lake George’s small luxuries are returning. Among them: antique boat rides.

F.R. Smith and Sons, the venerable marina in Bolton Landing, returned its Hackers and its Gar Wood to its livery fleet about ten years ago, but then placed the service on hiatus until recently, when its owners noticed there was a renewed demand for the classic Lake George experience.

“The antique boat charters ebb and flow with the economy. As the economy began to revive, we noticed that we were receiving more inquiries from the Sagamore about our antique boats. We now offer rides and tours upon request,” said owner Robin Smith DeRossi.

F.R. Smith’s drivers use El Lacayo, a Gar Wood pleasure boat once owned by Gold Cup racer George Reis, the Mickie, a Hacker that belonged to the artist and writer Elsa Steinback and another Hacker, the Miss Sagamore.

“We get calls from people who want to see the lake but who don’t want to get on a tour boat or rent a boat themselves,” said DeRossi. “They may just want to circle Green Island and see the Sagamore from the water or circle through the Narrows. Sometimes the requests are more specific, such as a wish to see a house owned by their grandparents or a place their families rented when they were children.”

Scott Andersen, F.R. Smith’s general manager and a co-owner, added that he and the other drivers “can you take places where no other charter boats go. And we can tell you a lot about what we’re showing you.”

The boats and drivers are also in demand for weddings, used to ferry bridal parties or the couple themselves to and from the reception or even just for photographs.

DeRossi knows first hand the boats’ appeal for that type of occasion. Pictured here are her stepdaughter, Laura DeRossi and her husband, Jack Sousa, in Miss Sagamore. They were married in 2010 at the Lake George Club.

F.R. Smith’s provides boats for approximately ten weddings a year, said DeRossi.

“The antique boat service is unique to us,” said Scott Andersen. “It’s the kind of service we provide because we like to do it, because it makes our business even more visible and because it increases our contacts. Because we treat people well, we know they’ll be back to see us about everything else we offer – from water taxis to rental boats, to boat sales and service.”

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EJ Salamone and Johnny Saris

EJ Salamone and Johnny Saris

E.J. Salamone, 18 Year Old Bolton Speedboat Racer, Named “Rookie of the Year”

By Buzz Lamb

Monday, June 15, 2015

The fascination with boats started early in life for EJ (Edward John) Salamone.  The 18-year-old grew up around boats.  He passed the Boater Safety course when he was 11 and when he turned 14 his dad, Ken, let him take out the family boat by himself. The family boat at the time was a 22-foot Donzi powered by a 425 hp engine.

It wasn’t long before EJ’s fascination turned to fast boats.  The Salamones became friendly with Jason Saris and his son Johnny, 22, at Performance Marine in Bolton Landing.  The Saris father and son team races in the Offshore Powerboat Association circuit and are the 2013 and 2014 World Champions.

In 2013, the Salamones accompanied Jason and Johnny to a race on Long Island.  Ken was the navigator on the Saris family’s 32-foot Cobra raceboat during the race.  It was a first for Ken and, according to EJ, his father enjoyed the experience and decided to get involved.  “We wanted to become a father and son team, just like Jason and Johnny,” EJ said.

Ken Salamone sought advice from Jason about which boat would be the best fit for them.

“Jason recommended a 30-foot Superboat because they are built specifically for racing in the OPA circuit,” EJ said.  They named the boat RUFSTR which, according to EJ, is a homonym for “Are You Faster”.  Performance Marine built the 700 hp, 572 cubic inch engine and rigged Salamone’s boat with an IMCO SCX outdrive and had it ready for the 2014 racing season.

The Salamones towed their new boat to Atlantic City in June of 2014 and entered their first race.  “We had about an hour-and-a-half of practice driving time before the race,” EJ said with a grin.  “We placed third out of eight boats.  Not a bad showing for our first time out.”

Over the course of the summer and fall of 2014, they entered races in St. Claire, MI, Port Huron, MI, Detroit, MI culminating with the National and World Championships in Solomons, MD in October.  EJ said they placed third in every race they entered.  “There was a trend,” Johnny Saris said with a chuckle.  “That was not meant to take anything away from them because they ran so consistent all year and not a lot of people can do that,” he said.

The Salamones compete in Class V, which limits the boat size to 30-feet and a maximum speed of 75 mph.  The race course is 5 miles long and they complete seven to eight laps in the race.  According to EJ, the most difficult challenge in the race is staying one mile an hour under that 75 mph speed limit.  “My dad is the throttle man and I’m the driver.  I have to read the water conditions and keep the boat in the best possible position as we race around the course,” EJ said.

At the awards banquet in Atlantic City in February of 2015 the Salamone’s learned that they finished third overall in points.  They were also surprised when EJ was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” trophy at the banquet.  “That was the first time they have ever done that,” EJ said.

EJ said he and his father learned a lot last year and plan on applying that knowledge in this year’s events.  “At the start of the race you try to get the boat in the best position.  When you’re at the 2nd turn you’ve got to find the best line.  The key is to keep the boat level and steady,” he said.

EJ and Johnny have become very good friends and Johnny, who has been racing since he was 16, is constantly giving tips to EJ.  “He gives me advice about how to handle the water conditions and other boats wakes.  He also gives me tips about the strategies used by the other racing teams,” EJ said.

EJ said they plan on entering every race during the 2015 season.  “The first race is May 31 in Barnegat Bay, NJ,” he said.  EJ said he and his father look forward to many years of powerboat racing.  “When our fathers get too old to do it anymore, EJ and I will team up,” Johnny said.  “We’d make a great team,” EJ added.

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El Lagarto Coming Home to Lake George Area

By Anthony F. Hall

Saturday, June 6, 2015

El Lagarto, the Lake George boat that won three Gold Cup races, two of them on its home waters, will be exhibited locally this summer  for the first time since it was donated to the Adirondack Museum in 1963.

Tumblehome Boatshop will display El Lagarto in its new showroom from July through September, when it will be an additional attraction of the Lake George Gold Cup Festival, the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the 1935 races that will be held in Bolton Landing  from September 17 through September 20.

George Reis, El Lagarto’s owner, won the 1935 cup by defeating other legendary boats.  Hotsy Totsy II, Delphine IV and Notre Dame, in a series of races in Bolton Bay.

According to Reuben Smith, the owner of  Tumblehome, a series of programs about El Lagarto will be held throughout the summer at the showroom, which is located between Warrensburg and the Glen on Route 28. Plans also include parading El Lagarto through Bolton Landing, past Reis’s boathouse to the Sagamore,  displaying it later at a site accessible to the public.

“El Lagarto won’t leave the Adirondack Museum for another thirty years, so this is a historic moment for the boat, for Lake George  and for everyone who cares about the heritage of  Gold Cup racing,” said Smith.

“It makes perfect sense to show this boat to the Lake George community on the anniversary of the 1935 Gold Cup Races,” said Todd Happer, a spokesman for the Adirondack Museum. “We’ve been entrusted with preserving a part of the story of El Lagarto for decades, and now we’re happy to share the boat with an event that has so much community support.  It helps keep the story alive.”

The Adirondack Museum is  reviewing several proposals to broaden  El Lagarto’s exposure to the public while on view in Warren County, said Happer.

Teri Hoffman, one of the organizers of the Gold Cup Festival said, “We are incredibly grateful to the Adirondack Museum for its support. Generations of folks have never seen El Lagarto. They may have never known that it’s been right in our backyard.”

Prior to being displayed in Tumblehome’s showroom, El Lagarto will undergo conservation and preservation measures in Smith’s boat shop.

According to Todd Happer, a long-range conservation plan for the Museum’s boat collection was recently completed. With that assessment in place, the museum has a better understanding of what is required to conserve El Lagarto.

“It’s a pretty sensitive job; everything that is done will be done with the  conservators’ approval,” said Smith.  “As boat builders, we’re fascinated by El Lagarto’s design and technology, which enabled it to achieve the speeds that it did, so we’re  very excited to be involved with this project.”

El Lagarto was built in 1922 as a runabout by John Hacker. When Reis found her  three years later,  she was known as a boat that no one could  keep right side up. He rebuilt  the boat, adding  the steps or shingled bottom that caused it to leap 75 feet in the air before hitting water  and, with a  new supercharged Packard engine,  to  achieve speeds of 86 miles per hour.

El Lagarto won its  first Gold Cup at Detroit  in 1933. Reis’s victory at Detroit brought the Gold Cup races to Lake George in 1934, and kept them here in 1935 and again in 1936 when the crown passed to Horace Dodge’s Impshi.

“El Lagarto was the most important powerboat of the 1930s,” said Teri Hoffman. “It not only won three consecutive Gold Cup races, it was the boating equivalent of a Triple Crown winner, capturing the Gold Cup, the National Sweepstakes and the President’s Cup.”

Reis retired from racing in 1937. Gold Cup racing had ceased to be the gentleman’s sport  it had been, and was soon to be dominated by professionals  and corporate-sponsored boats.  But Reis continued  to spend  his summers  on Lake George,  using El Lagarto  as a runabout. He died at the Glens Falls Hospital  in 1962 at the age of 73.

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Jim DeNooyer, Jr., and daughter Lindsey

Jim DeNooyer, Jr., and daughter Lindsey

High-Speed Boating in Lake George: A Family Affair

By Buzz Lamb

Monday, June 1, 2015

Four Boats in Recent Performance Demos Featured Fathers and Sons – and One Daughter         

No fewer than five entrants in the 5th Annual Performance Weekend boat display in Lake George Village contained crews of parents and their off-spring.  Apparently high-performance boating has turned into a family affair.

Jeff Jacobs and his two sons, Eric and Michael

The May 16 demonstration in Lake George Village drew a variety of hot-boats from near and far.  And, it drew a variety of crew members as well. This type of off-shore boat requires at least two persons to compete. It takes a driver, a throttle man (and sometimes a navigator) to pilot these missiles around the race course.

The father/son team of Jason and Johnny Saris, winners of two consecutive World Championships in 2013 and 2014, brought their 32-foot Cobra to the demonstration.  They were joined by the father/ son team of Ken and EJ Salamone.  EJ, 18, was named the Off-shore Powerboat Association’s (OPA) 2014 Rookie of the Year.

Jeff Jacobs and his two sons, Eric, 21 and Michael, 15 blasted around the course in their 24-foot Switzer.  The Jacobs family competes in the OPA circuit as well.

Ken and EJ Salamone

John Landry, 73, from Ontario, Canada utilizes his 22-year-old grandson Kyle as the driver in his 42-foot Fountain.  Landry’s craft is capable of speeds of at least 125 mph.

Most notable of the parent/child combination were Jimmy DeNooyer, Jr. as throttle man and his 16-year-old daughter, Lindsey, piloting “Killer Bee”, a 24-Skater catamaran powered by twin 240 hp Mercury outboards.  Jimmy DeNooyer was the 1988 American Power Boat Association’s National Champion in the outboard division.

DeNooyer said he eventually sold the boat and got married.  “Fifteen years later I bought it back,” he said.  “That was in 2008.  I thought it would be fun to get the back and put it on Lake George,” he said.  Lindsey said she started piloting the boat about three years ago.  “She’s fearless,” her father said.  “100 miles per hour is OK with me,” Lindsey added.

There were seven boats in the first heat including “Killer Bee”.  After completing five laps around the tri-oval course Lindsey steered the boat back to the dock.  “That was my first time running with other boats,” she said.  I was a little nervous because of all of the other people on the course.”  Lindsey said she would feel more confident during the second heat.  “It was fun and definitely worth all the practice,” she said with a smile. “The best part is to be out there racing with Dad at my side.”

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Upstate Boat Show Celebrates 10 Years

By Buzz Lamb

Friday, March 20, 2015

Summer can’t come soon enough this year for some folks.  The 10th Annual Great Upstate Boat Show returns to the Adirondack Sports Complex on March 27 for a 3-day run.

Here’s a chance for you to wash away those winter blues and make plans for some summer fun.  According to Roger Phinney, Executive Director of the Eastern New York Marine Trades Association (ENYMTA), visitors to the show will get a rare opportunity to compare boat brands side-by-side at competitive bargain pricing.  “There will be a wide array of models on display that boaters of all ages and lifestyles can enjoy,” Phinney said.  “Bring the whole family to see 60 different boat brands and over 175 boats on display at the show.  It’s truly a one-stop shopping experience.”

“Whether you’re interested in water-sports, finding a prize catch or just cruising around, there’s a boat for every budget and lifestyle.  This show provides people with the area’s largest selection of boats and dealers, making it easier to gather information to put together the right decision for you and your family,” said Phinney.  “We recently did a survey of dealer inventory and counted over 1,500 boats in-stock and available for spring delivery,” he added.

According to Phinney, several area boat dealers have put their heads together and come up with some very innovative ways to tempt potential buyers who attend the Great Upstate Boat Show at the Dome (Adirondack Sports Complex) in Queensbury March 27 – 29.

Phinney said a couple of new motivations to buy a boat will be the “Sign & Save” incentive and the “Crack-the-Vault” contest.  With “Sign & Save”, boat buyers (at the show only) will receive a coupon for an additional two percent off when they sign a contract to purchase a boat.  “Buyers at the show will also earn two chances to win $25,000 in our new Crack-the-Vault contest,” Phinney said.

“We’re building on the success of last year’s show in that we’re going to have even more to choose from”, said Phinney. “Customers want to see the latest gadgets and features and are always interested in new innovations. We expect the new models will have a lot to offer”.

Here are some of the reasons why Phinney says now is the time to buy that boat.  Manufactures and dealers are brainstorming ways to get people into their showrooms.  Many value-added services and support enticements are being attached to boat purchase prices giving today’s buyer a distinct advantage.  And, dealers are aggressively pricing non-current inventory, doing whatever is required to move those boats off their lots pronto.  Some go as far as pricing select models at or below cost, realizing the longer they hold on to it, the worse the eventual bite to their bottom line will be.

The rise in interest (not interest rates, which are lower than last year) is on the retailer side of the equation, not necessarily the buying-public side.  But, due to various aggressive selling tactics, those who waited to take the plunge may have hit the jackpot because the equation may just balance out as the boat buyers come out of the woodwork, so to speak.

No longer is it business as usual in the marine industry.  What used to work is history. Aside from the monetary aspect (saving big bucks on a boat purchase now) a potential buyer needs to look at the other facets of owning a boat.

Geographically, we live in an area of the state where no one is more than an hour away from a body of water.  Boating is not only a way to escape the doldrums of everyday life but is a social event as well.  “Time with family and friends is a large part of the boating experience,” Phinney added.

Phinney said the U.S Power Squadron will have a boating simulator available at the show.  “There’s a steering wheel and controls connected to a TV simulator so you can test your skills at docking or maneuvering a slalom course,” he said.           Phinney said there will be daily seminars and the New York State Boater Safety Course will be offered at the show.

“There will be over 20 lifestyle vendors at the show as well,” he said.

Daily admission to the three-day event is $8 and children under 12 are free.   Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.greatupstateboatshow.com/”www.greatupstateboatshow.com  for a $2-off coupon and register to win an iPad Air or Go-Pro Camera.  Location: Adirondack Sports Complex, 326 Sherman Ave., Queensbury, NY 12804.  Times: Friday 10am – 8pm; Saturday 10am – 8pm; Sunday 10am – 6pm.  For more information or any questions, call 518-791-0070.

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Bolton Racers Bring Home Second World Championship

By Anthony F. Hall

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saris Racing, a team composed of father and son Jason and Johnny Saris and Vern French, has returned to Bolton Landing from October’s offshore power boat races in Solomons, Maryland with its second consecutive World Championship title.

“It was a really great event, with huge crowds and more than fifty boats racing,” said Johnny Saris, a senior at SUNY Albany. “There were five boats in our class, but three classes raced at the same time, which takes the experience to a whole other level. It’s electrifying.”

The Bolton Landing team won its trophy with the same 32-foot Cobra with which it won last year’s championship.

Built in 1982, the boat is powered by twin 650-hp engines which were built by Performance Marine at the start of last year’s racing season.

Jason Saris helped turn the original into a raceboat almost thirty years ago, when he worked in Fort Lauderdale. After twenty years in use as a pleasure boat, it was bought and rebuilt for racing at Performance Marine.

“Over the years, I had told Johnny that it was a special boat, one that I was impressed by when I rigged it. He located it in Maryland, where it had been dismantled and had sat for five years. After twenty years in use as a pleasure boat, it was shot. We bought it and rebuilt it here in Bolton Landing,” said Jason Saris.

“My memory didn’t fail me; the boat proved itself,” said Saris.

Despite the fact that it was the oldest boat in its class, it was among the best, said Johnny Saris.

“It handles really well, especially on turns in calm waters, which gives us a huge advantage,” said Saris.

Jason Saris noted that it is also a well-balanced boat, giving it an edge in rough waters.

“You could certainly build a bigger, faster boat, but it fits the niche of the class in which we race almost perfectly,” said Jason Saris.

“We start with a good boat; the rest is up to us,” said Johnny Saris.

“The boat doesn’t have a mind of its own; you have to have a driver who knows what he’s doing, and as a driver, Johnny knows the fastest way around a course,” said Jason Saris.

Saris and his father have been racing together as a team since 2009.

“Until 2008, no one under 18 was eligible to compete,” said Jason Saris “But fortunately for us, the OPA Racing Organization changed the rules so that someone as young as 14 can compete as long as he’s accompanied by a parent or guardian. ”

In 2010, Johnny Saris became the youngest speedboat driver in history to win a sanctioned World Championship race when the team competed in the Offshore Powerboat Association’s Orange Beach, Alabama meet.

He is now among the youngest, if not the youngest driver ever, to win two world championships.

“Johnny becomes a better racer every year. He goes from strength to strength. He makes it look easy,” said Saris.

Last year, Vern French joined the team as an on-board navigator and crew chief.

“Vern monitors the engines’ vital statistics as well as what’s going on around us. That allows Johnny as the driver and me as the throttleman to focus on our jobs without any distractions,” said Jason Saris.

“Vern is a big part of our success,” said Johnny Saris. “As a three-man team, we’re now a well-oiled machine.”

However good the boat and however skillful the team, future world championships are not guaranteed, said Jason Saris.

“If we knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t bother to race,” said Saris.

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