Living Legends Part 3

In the process of designing my boat, I was looking around at classic wood boats and came across some Raveau boats.  They have beautiful lines, simplicity of design, and are built for speed. I found them very inspirational.  The photo below is  a 20′ Raveau driven by Steve Koenke, with a 65th anniversary special edition Mercury 200 hp engine.  It reached speeds in the mid 70’s.

Raveau 20 - 2.jpg.jpg

These boats were first designed and built by Marcel Raveau who moved from France to Long Island, NY in 1929.  By the mid 1940s, he was establishing a great reputation, as his boats were consistently winning the Albany to New York Marathon.  In 1959, Marcel moved to Sarasota, and Bob Walwork got a job as his apprentice at the Kiekhaefer Corp (Mercury).  They tested the Raveau race boats at the Mercury Saltwater Test Base in Sarasota, FL and also at Mercury’s Lake X Test site near Orlando.  They mostly built the boats during the week and raced all over the state on the weekends during the early 1960’s.


Bob had driven his first racing boat, a Jacoby midget hydroplane, when he was eight, and got “hooked.”  By age eleven, he started racing in the American Power Boat Association races, leading to a lifetime of sport and pleasure boating.  In his teen years, he worked at a family marina in Penn Yan, N.Y. and developed a love for the mahogany runabouts.  In 1951, Bob joined the American Power Boat Association, and was Northeastern Divisional Champ in the “JU” Class for three years.

Bob married his wife Donna in 1960 and went racing the next day.  The photo below shows where one of his friends got some lipstick and wrote “JUST MARRIED” on the side of his boat.  Finished third that day….first race he lost!


After three years with Mercury, Bob left to work again with Marcel Raveau, building, experimenting, and racing.  During this time, he had racing victories in the prestigious Orange Bowl around Miami Beach, and in the Orange Bowl Six Hour and Nine Hour Endurance races.  The photo below shows Bob testing a 17′ Raveau with a 150hp Mercury.


After Marcel retired and returned to France, Bob continued building the boats until 1965, when he became General Manager of Fitchett Sales Co. distributing several major fiberglass and aluminum boat line.  In 1974, he became VP at Manatee Boat Co. supervising production of around 1500 boats a year.  In 1984, Bob started working with Stingray Boat Co. in Hartsville, SC designing and prototyping new models, where they patented the new Z-Plane bottom.

Bob is now finally trying to retire and in the process of moving out of his shop where he has been working for the last 28 years.  Originally, he opened the shop to do prototype work for other boat companies.  When a longtime friend talked him into building a Raveau again after about 30  years, it was so much fun that he eventually stopped the prototype business and started building Raveau boats again. Since 1995, Bob has built 35 Raveau boats in this shop.

In January 2016, I was privileged to visit Bob at his shop, make a new friend and witness history in the making.  The last Raveau is a 25 footer, which hasn’t been in the water yet.  His enduring efforts to preserve a classic design while improving hull performance are appreciated by many owners.


Meanwhile, regardless if this is my last boat or not, I have enjoyed being a part of the wooden boat builders fraternity.  They have a passion for the craft, and respect for anyone who tackles the challenge to build one.

My most recent challenge was filling all of the screw holes that I used for holding parts together as the epoxy was setting. Since I had used wood washers and then removed all of the screws, the holes were only around 1/8″.


 I experimented with several wood putties, a mix of epoxy with wood dust, and some end grain dowel rods.  None of these methods worked out very well for me, because I did not plan to use a filler stain.


Eventually, I settled on making wood plugs of from the cutoffs of the wood I had used for the boat.  It seemed more likely that over time, the wood plugs would age the most consistently in color with the other veneers.  I drilled the screw holes in the  mahogany parts out to 3/8″, and made 3/8″ face grain plugs.


There was a fair bit of color and grain variation, so I made plugs from a variety of areas of the wood, to match as well as possible, and placed them temporarily in the holes.  Then I removed them one by one, injected the hole with glue and tapped the plug in place.


I decided not to drill out the maple holes, and left them the 3/16″ size that they were originally.  I tried end grain plugs, which were always too dark, and finally came up with a way of making small face grain plugs. I made 1/4″ square cross grain cutoffs about 5″ long.  Then I put them in my drill and turned them on the sander to create tapered plugs.  The end notched stick helps to stabilize the turning piece.


When they were about 1/8″ at the point, I stopped the drill, and cut off about 1/2″ for an individual plug.  Then I injected the holes and glued the face grain plugs in place.  Below you can see both the 3/8″ mahogany and the 3/16″ maple tapered plugs.


The next step was cutting them off with a flush-cut, pull-stroke saw, and sanding them flat with the surface.  This I repeated around 500 times and after sanding with a special hinged, variable-angle fairing board, they began to retreat from being so noticeable.


After more fairing and sanding, it was time to put the seats and gauges in temporarily to see where the boat is headed.


Next step up will be taking the boat out the wall where you see temporary framing. . .


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