It’s been 20 years since I took on a boat restoration project of this magnitude. The last one was my 16-foot Jersey Speed Skiff Orange Crate, which took four years to complete after being land-locked for 25 years and left exposed to the elements.

The new-to-me 1948 Chris-Craft 25-foot Sportsman.

Needless to say, it was nearly a total loss, but with a new bottom, bulkheads, deck, hardware, paint, and engine, we were off racing in 1995. I retired Orange Crate in 2009 and only bring her out to local vintage events now.

In 2011, I purchased a sister ship to my dad’s 1941 Chris-Craft U22 Sportsman. This new-to-me boat, a restored 1952 Chris-Craft U22 Sportsman, was a throwback to early childhood memories of running the eastern shore of Long Island with my dad. I found ‘52 Skidoo in Idaho, and after several months of negotiations, she left Lake Coeur D’Alene for the Chesapeake Bay.

I’m like most boat owners who never stop looking for the next “have to have it” boat. Well, in early 2013 I started looking for a 25-foot Sportsman (only 208 were built between 1940 and 1950), but for me, a turn-key restored 25-foot Sportsman was cost prohibitive, so I started looking for a project boat.

I found three on the internet—in Ohio, Florida, and of all places, Annapolis. So, the first one I looked at was local, and it belonged to a good friend of mine, Chuck Warner. Chuck’s 1940 was hull #18, and I spent the good part of a day going over the hull and hardware. Over the next few months as I learned more about these boats, I found that after World War II upgrades were made to the hull. I liked the post-war changes and decided to hold off making any purchase until I looked at the other two advertised boats. Over the next year or so I did just that, all the while keeping a look out for any post-war models that may have come onto the market, but none did.

The Ohio boat was a pre-war with a wooden windshield. Chuck sold his boat in July 2014, so soon thereafter, I flew to Florida to spend a full day inspecting that boat. The history of the boat and how it came to be in Florida, by way of Len’s Cove, Ontario, is another story in itself, to be told later.

On August 22, 2014, I became the proud owner of hull #111, a 1948 Chris-Craft 25-foot Sportsman, and had it transported north to Severna Park, MD, and stored it for the winter. In spring 2015 George Hazzard, owner of Wooden Boat Restoration, Millington, MD, reviewed the project and agreed to work on the restoration.

This restoration is not going to be done in a few weeks or even a few months as seen on TV, but I hope to sea trial sometime mid-2017. That said, I’ll keep you posted along the way, with updates on the new no-soak bottom; new Mahogany selected for side planks, deck, and transom; chrome work; coatings; new upholstery; rebuilding gauges; finding a suitable marine engine and rebuilding it; and oh yes, her name. 

By Ralph Cattaneo

Click here for the second part in this series, Return to the Classics: Part II.