"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Boat refurbishing project went off course, but finally makes it to the dock

By on December 22, 2019 in Uncategorized with 1 Comment
The shop walls and roof are all opened up the night before the boat moving company came to haul the Lisette to Anacortes, creating a dramatic photo of the Lisette at rest.

Lise and Len sit at a new table and bench seats specially built to the age and style of the boat. Previously, said Lise, there was just sort of a card table there. Cabinetry above and below decks were created in the dovetail design, keeping with the tradition of the boat.

By Len Pugsley

In 1992, my wife Lise and I purchased a 1931 wooden boat that had a ton of history — including during WWII — and thought I would refurbish it in my backyard shop in East Wenatchee and then relaunch it in all of its floating glory.

I envisioned us motoring around Puget Sound on our restored 34-foot classic but rugged showpiece of the past.

And then life intervened in the form of a bad traffic accident, a lost job and years of rebuilding a career. But finally this past summer, we reached our goal and relaunched the Lisette.

Here’s our story, a piece at a time:

© My wife Lise and I purchased the boat in 1992. 

© The boat was designed by Elmo DeMartini in 1929 as a senior class project in marine architecture class while attending the Annapolis Naval Academy.

© DeMartini’s father was an architect and builder of many of the beautiful classic homes built in San Francisco following the earthquake and massive fire in 1906. 

He also sponsored the LaBrussi yard, premiere builders of the Monterey fishing trawlers made famous along the California coast. 

© When the elder DeMartini saw the boat’s design, he decided they should make a few but with the Great Depression happening the market for pleasure craft was limited so they only built four of that design in 1931 with the Monterey commercial fishing trawlers remaining their biggest product. 

© The four DeMartini boats were built to heavy commercial standards with 1-inch thick Port Orford Cedar on steam bent oak frames on 9-and-one-half inch centers fastened with hot dipped galvanized nails.

© This boat was the DeMartini family boat in San Francisco when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. 

With the United States immediately declaring war, it began building the world’s most powerful navy. 

Movers have just pulled the boat out of Len’s shop, on its way to Anacortes.

Part of any Navy involves smaller craft to transport personnel back and forth between larger ships and the docks with the ship captains and officers needing their own boats. 

© Another need was to have picket boats, which would motor back and forth 50 to 60 miles offshore with a good radio looking for enemy activity like ships or submarines.

© One of the first Naval actions involved officers touring the local marinas to commandeer boats for picket and launch duty as in “we want this boat and that boat over there” and with total war going on, it was a done deal.

© Our boat was selected as a captain’s launch and was also fitted with long-range tanks in case it was needed for picket boat missions. 

It served through the war hauling ship captains and officers to and from. 

Undoubtedly given its location it probably hauled most Pacific ship captains and officers sometime during the war. 

The boat as Len and Lise purchased it.

© Of the DeMartini boats, this is the only one left, as one was run over by a big ship on night picket boat patrol and one ran into the Oakland Bay Bridge at night running in fog without lights and another was lost in a storm off the coast, so ours is the lone survivor. 

© At the end of the war, the Navy replaced the gas engine with a new engine, gave the boats a fresh paint job and returned them to the owners in 1946.

© Our boat was owned by two different owners in the years just following the war then by a friend of DeMartini named Ramp Harvey who kept the boat in the San Francisco area for sport fishing off the coast. 

In the early 1960s, he had the side of the saltwater cooled engine blow out, almost sinking the boat many miles off shore and spent many hours at night creeping back to the bay under very reduced power. 

© Ramp was a diesel engine dealer and on a trip to Canada found a similar sized boat with a six cylinder General Motors Bedford diesel engine. He liked the installation, ordered the Bedford, then spent a good year plus installing that engine and transmission. 

Ramp was very right as the Bedford is very good.

© We purchased the boat and Ramp gave me Elmo DeMartini’s phone number. 

Back in the water after 17 years. The big question: After being on land for so long, would the boat leak?

Elmo was in his 80s, not in good health and was happy when I told him it would not get away on my watch. We kept the boat in Poulsbo for five years then moved to Anacortes for the next five years.

© The boat needed some big maintenance, electrical work, interior cabinetry and work on the hull so I had the boat hauled home. 

We took the roof off the shop, hired a crane to pick the boat up from the truck that hauled it over and placed it in the shop, then put the shop back together.

© We planned to have the boat home for repairs four or five years but we hit a big elk at night near Cle Elum, then the oncoming car head on, putting us all in the hospital and me in a coma on life support for a month with many broken bones, pneumonia three times, a staph infection and a bleed on my brain. 

© So there I was halfway through a bigger than anticipated project when we had a bad car accident.  

I lost my job flying for Stemilt, worked very hard to recover and found another much better job with McDougall and Sons.  

During that time I needed to concentrate on my new job and put the boat project on a slower pace, but realized I needed to finish the boat before I got old and died and Lise needed to sell the house with an interesting project in the shop.

Glen Fischer and Len paint the hull. It had been stripped down to bare wood.

© Retiring at the end of July, my friends Rick Ruffle (who also grew up in the neighborhood), Glen Fischer and I took the shop apart and stripped the boat and painted the hull. We cut down trees and removed fences to make room for a moving truck and trailer. 

© We did the move on Aug. 1, with the truck driving to Anacortes and lowering the boat back into Puget Sound after 17 years drying out in my shop. 

There were those who claimed the boat would never swell completely enough to seal the hull to control the leaking and at first it leaked way too much. 

We installed another bilge pump and I learned some priceless tricks to help seal up the hull until it swelled. 

The leaking stopped on the third night with me kind of sleeping on board. 

The bilge pump only comes on now for around one second every 20 to 30 minutes pumping maybe a liquid ounce. Not bad at all.

© So with the boat floating nicely in its slip at Cap Sante Marina, it, was time to clean up the shop.

Rick Ruffle and I put the roof back on, fences back up, insulation back in place and added a garage door before winter. Sure is good being retired. 

We’re now fitting the boat out for the upcoming season boating in the San Juans. 

 Len Pugsley was born in Wenatchee, grew up in Oregon but when he and Lise were married, they moved the next day to Wenatchee. Along with rebuilding a 13-foot outboard runabout, he has also rebuilt two airplanes.

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  1. Bob Mathison says:

    Nice to read your story about your boat! You are multi-talented!

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