Boating – June 2019

(C. Jardin) #1



he remaining artifact of Frank’s Folly is an aluminum propeller
hanging over the door at the Lake View Inn. The boat name is
hand-lettered on the blades in red fingernail polish, I suppose
because Frank’s wife found that little brush so handy. The story of
Frank’s Folly is one of thrift and perseverance, or perhaps cheapness and
stubbornness, that begins in a dusty barn.
After his Uncle Lester passed, it was Frank Kohn’s responsibility to clear
the property, and among the items left in Lester’s barn was a dirty fiberglass
runabout and, resting on a pair of sawhorses, a Johnson Stinger 75 outboard.
Frank delivered both to Dan
the Outboard Man, who called
a day later.
“I have good news and bad
news,” Dan said. “The out-
board is a runner. But the
sterndrive has a cracked block.
Lester never got it winterized.”
Over a beer at the Lake
View, Frank pondered his sit-
uation. He was in possession
of a 17-foot runabout with a bad sterndrive, and a vintage outboard motor.
Selling the boat seemed unlikely. Even disposing of it would cost him money.
“Too bad you can’t just hang the Johnson on the boat,” Wally joked from
behind the bar. The next morning Frank was at the marina.
“I’ve seen it done,” Dan said, “but it’s not cheap or easy to do it right.”
Cheap and easy, of course, were at the top of Frank’s project check-
list. Undeterred, he asked Dan to pull the engine and drive, and went to

visit the high-school shop teacher,
whom he hoped would see the edu-
cational value in executing a cheap-
and-easy conversion of his boat to
outboard power. The senior class
accepted the challenge.
Woodworkers traced a template,
cut plywood to fill in the transom,
and then glassed over the outer sur-
face. The welding class created a
bracket from aluminum flat stock.
The inside of the reinforced tran-
som was supported by struts bolted
to the sterndrive’s engine mounts.
Dan, wary of liability, reluctantly
helped hang and rig the outboard.
A class outing was arranged for
the maiden voyage of Frank’s Folly,
a boat name conjured by doubt-
ers at the Lake View. The boat was
launched, the engine started, and
Frank dropped the throttle. The
little runabout proceeded to por-
poise like an act at SeaWorld. Dan
just shook his head, having predict-
ed this weight-distribution issue. It
was one of the farm kids who had a
solution. Since the old outboard was
sucking pre-mix from a portable
tank, the boat’s built-in tank could
be filled with Rim Guard, a beet-
juice extract used to weight tractor
tires. At 11 pounds per gallon, this
placed 220 pounds amidships, and
the little boat settled down.
So, it wasn’t pretty. But it worked
well enough for Frank to sell “as is” to
a guy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsu-
la, minus that old prop. Frank covered
his costs, and the kids learned that
sometimes cheap and easy are good
enough—as long as you sell it fast.

He was in possession of a 17-
foot runabout with a bad stern-
drive, and a vintage outboard
motor. Selling the boat seemed
unlikely. Even disposing of it
would cost him money.

Making the best of a barn find.

BOATING (ISSN 0006-5374) (USPS 504-810), June 2019, Volume 92, No. 5. ©2019. Boating is published nine times a year (January/February, March, April, May, June, July/August, September, October
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