Wood and Water

by Steve on June 13, 2011

Merlin, Lady Liz, and Patriot

24 cylinders growling out the wet exhausts, a combined total of over 1200 hp turning three bronze screws, 75 feet of varnished mahogany, and sunset on the lake.

Merlin and Lady Liz


An uneventful launching and start-up is always good – especially when your friend has entrusted you with the task because he’s running a little late. I’ve had my hands in a number of engines but a 550 hp marine racing engine isn’t the same animal as a Jeep or Mustang motor. I found myself triple-checking things before bringing her back to life after being winterized last season up in NY. Patriot’s motor had been in hibernation since last fall, properly shut down for the winter. After some fresh high-test mixed in with last year’s stabilized fuel and a new battery to turn the big motor, I muttered a prayer, turned the key and pushed the starter button. I knew she wouldn’t fire right away but I let her turn over a few more times to give the mechanical fuel pump a chance to rebuild pressure in the big Holley carb. After giving the starter a short rest I pushed the throttle forward and then back to just above idle hoping fuel had reached the accelerator pumps in the carb. She turned over a few more times then caught momentarily before dying. There were a few concerned faces on the boat ramp but I was grinning like a cat – I knew what was about to happen. I paused a moment before pumping the throttle again and engaging the starter. She turned over three or four more times before 550 horses rumbled to life gurgling that unmistakable sound of a big cam, big block marine motor out the stainless exhausts. Chills tickled up my spine in the 90 degree heat as I nudged the throttle to a high idle. Good oil pressure, good water flow, no leaks, no smoke. I sat entranced on the edge of the engine compartment, my legs dangling down between the 4″ exhausts looking for any signs of trouble while my mind wandered back to the ’40’s.

Time machine

Still good pressure with good cooling flow and temperature coming up. It was time to slide Patriot the rest of the way into the lake and let him run. Tradition withstanding, Patriot is decidely a “he”.

Patriot cruising Lake Martin

{ 1 comment }

Don June 16, 2011 at 19:53

Steve –

Up here in Michigan, the June summer has finally reached the great lakes. Being 25 miles from where Chris Craft started, we see our share of the old classics. It’s also the start of a series of regional antique boat shows. They’ve dropped “wooden” from the shows, as there are a number of classic FRP boats of various sizes that are three and four decades young.

Here’s a few links to ours:



Best – Don

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