by Paul W. Esterle - Newark, Deleware - USA

There I was, wandering around the yard at Bay Boat Works. I was looking for a likely subject for an article I was doing on building a half hull model. I turned a corner and there she was. She was unmistakable – jaunty bow, exaggerated sheer and, most of all; she was a double-ender (to the layman a double-ender is a boat pointed at both ends).

I was surprised to see her there; after all, her normal habitat was the wild surf and treacherous bars in Oregon and Washington. Rivers and bays like the Columbia River, Tillamook Bay, Yaquina Bay, Siuslaw River, Umpqua River, Coos Bay and the Rogue River. All these areas have bars subject to extreme conditions, swells and tide rips.

What is she? She’s Jeanette Rae, a Bartender 22. A Bartender is a wooden boat designed by George Calkins back in the fifties. George was building wooden surf dories for the coastal fisheries in Oregon and Washington. These boats were rowed out through the surf and then back into shore. Being double-ended with flaring bows, they were much less prone to swamping and being pushed off course in the breaking surf.

George reasoned that these principles could also be used in a powerboat. He began doodling boat designs and came up with the first Bartender design – the same model that was sitting in the yard at Bay Boat Works. They were built of wood ribs and stringers with plywood hulls. Inboard gasoline engines drove them through a prop shaft and propeller with a single rudder aft for steering.

George eventually developed a 26-foot and 29-foot design, but the 22-footer was the most popular. He built them in his shop in Delake, Oregon and also sold plans for homebuilders. The design proved so popular that the United States Coast Guard and the Australian Coastal Service used them for patrol and rescue boats. As the demand for wooden boats diminished, George sold the business. He still provides an occasional plan or two for homebuilders, though.

You can now understand my surprise to see one of these boats here on the Chesapeake. I spoke to the fellow working in the boat and learned it was being re-powered with a brand new engine. The fellow turned out to be Victor DiMarco of Bay Performance. Victor put me in touch with the owner, Mark Johnston. After a quick call to Mark, I learned that he was going to take delivery of the now re-powered boat the following Tuesday, so I arranged to meet him at the boatyard for an interview.
I showed up on Tuesday at the appointed time and learned the story behind this unique boat from Mark, his brother Eric, and their father, Tom.

The early years of the Jeanette Rae (named after Tom’s wife) are clouded. As far as the family can tell, she was built in 1969. The Johnston’s purchased the boat from a Rehoboth Beach fisherman. This owner told the Johnston’s that he used it to go out to the Canyons to fish, carrying extra fuel to supplement the twin 18-gallon tanks installed. At this time, a 283 Chevy engine powered the boat.

A Bartender 22 in surf.
A USCG Bartender Patrol Boat.
A Bartender 22 headed out.
Jeanette Rae before restoration.
Jeanette Rae before restoration.
Jeanette Rae before restoration.
Victor at work installing the new engine.
Jeanette Rae up on blocks in the Bay Boat Works yard.
Victor DiMarco admiring his work.
Mark Johnston – is he happy or what!
Sea trials 1.
Sea trials 2.
Sea trials 3.

After running the boat for several years, they put her into storage in 1984. She began to deteriorate, as do all unused wooden boats. Eventually, it was decision time. Eric Johnston suggested gasoline and a match as the best way to “restore” her, so bad was her condition. The final decision was to completely restore the Jeanette Rae, though.

Work began by stripping off the entire rotted and delaminated plywood hull. By May of 2001 the final piece of the original cabin was disassembled and reconstruction could start. Several new frames and some new stringers were required. Obviously all new exterior plywood hull planking was required. By August of 2001 this important milestone was reached.

Work continued on the rebuilding and reconstruction and by January of 2002 the new cabin was in place and new paint and varnish had the Jeanette Rae looking like a new boat. Wiring began in February, as did the process of getting the replacement engine ready for installation. This time, the power plant was to be a Chrysler 318.

From here, things began to move a little more quickly. By April the new engine was installed and the boat made ready for shipping to her new home, the Charlestown Marina. Finally, after spending from 1999 to 2002 being rebuilt, the Jeanette Rae was re-launched on May 10, 2002. On May 23rd, they fueled her up, and headed out to the bay for the first time in years.

All was not completely well, though. She was plagued by various engine problems that made boat trips less than totally enjoyable. Finally the decision was made to repower her for the third time. The boat was delivered to Victor at Bay Performance to work his magic on her.

The Jeanette Rae was going to be fitted with a brand new Marine Power 5.7L Vortec engine, pumping out 325 horsepower. The old engine was pulled and the new one dropped in. Only minor alterations were required to the exhaust system and engine bearers. It took Victor only about 15 hours to pull the old engine and fit the new one in place.

We all met at Bay Boat Works on a cold and slightly drizzly Tuesday afternoon. It would be Mark, Eric and Toms first look at the new power plant. As Victor showed off his installation, it was hard to tell who was grinning more. Victor and Mark climbed aboard and fired up the new engine; ready to head out to show Mark how she handled with her hardware.

Tom, Eric and I headed out to the gas dock to watch as Mark and Victor ran back and forth at various power levels. It was impossible to miss Mark’s grin. After a couple of photo ops and some practice runs, Victor pulled up to the dock and jumped off. Eric climbed on board and the Jeanette Rae headed off to her berth at Charlestown.

Was the rebuild and repowering worth it? If you look at it from a purely monetary perspective, the answer is, maybe not. But after meeting the Johnston’s, learning about Jeanette Rae’s history and sensing the family’s pride of accomplishment in a job well done, who couldn’t agree that it was well worth it.

The first three photographs are courtesy of the Bartenders Yahoo Group.

Paul Esterle
Freelance Boating Writer
Capt'n Pauley's Place
The Virtual Boatyard


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