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Family Cruiser touches 4 Generations

compiled by Larry S. Chowning

For a boy growing up in Urbanna in the early 1940s, bare feet, short pants, a crab net, a ripe home grown tomato on a sandwich and a wooden skiff were all part of “summertime on a stick.”

Video shot and edited by Mike Kucera.
Bob Montague’s love of wooden boats goes back to those gentle summer days when as a boy he would visit his grandmother’s home in Urbanna. When he got so he could swim well enough, his grandmother gave him his grandfather’s 16-foot cypress skiff.

It was in need of repair so it was taken to Southside Marine in Urbanna where the seats, stern and other features were replaced. When Bob was asked what name he wanted painted on the stern of his boat, he told the man he wanted it named Mermaid. When he came to pick up his skiff, she was named Murmaid. This was the beginning of Bob’s lifelong love affair with wooden boats that has lasted to this day.

Bob’s father was a general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and in 1954 the Montague family moved to Urbanna and set up housekeeping in his grandparents’ home known as “Sandwich.” The home is the old colonial tobacco customs house near the foot of Virginia Street.  Bob lives there today and his land touches Urbanna Creek and Jamison’s Cove.

Wooden boats have a way of bringing out emotion and passion within people. Bob Montague of Urbanna knows about that. When Montague and his father bought a brand new 1954 Owens Cabin Cruiser, little did he know the boat would be a part of his family for the next 55 years and bring pleasure to four generations.
The forward light and mahogany decking are nice features on this 1954 Owens Cruiser. Since she was first built in Maryland, the vessel has had one owner and one home port.
Before moving to Urbanna, one of the conditions set by Bob’s mother was that the family needed to own a boat. So, Bob and his father purchased a new 1954 Owens 21-foot Cabin Cruiser and named it Montezuma, after his father’s Marine heritage.

The Montezuma has been a boat-mark on Urbanna Creek for the last 55 years and has played a significant part in the boating life of the Montague family through the years.

The vessel has a plywood hull with a varnished mahogany top and stern. She was originally powered by an inboard four-cylinder Flagship Marine engine. The family used her for water skiing and bottom fishing.

On one of Bob’s most memorable trips aboard Montezuma, Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell (Chesty) Puller was along for a day of fishing. “After catching a few fish, it came time to pull the anchor, which was my job,” said Bob. “As I started to heave in the anchor, I dropped the rope in the nettle infested river and then jumped in the water to retrieve it. 

“After successfully accomplishing that task and climbing back on board, General Puller proceeded to pronounce me a hero,” said Bob.  “Coming from him made it an indelible memory for me to associate with the boat.”

When Bob’s father retired from boating in 1968, he gave Bob his share of the boat. Bob then converted her from an inboard to an outboard vessel and renamed her after his childhood skiff, Murmaid.

Her first outboard was a 100 hp Johnson, and Bob and his family used her several times to cruise from Urbanna to Alexandria and back, a run of 155 miles. Montague is an attorney in Alexandria and also has a home there.

“These were big events in the life of my family and over-nighting on her was fun,” he said. “She had a V-berth, toilet, kitchen sink and alcohol stove.”

This 21-foot Owens Cabin Cruiser has been a part of the Urbanna Creek waterfront since Bob Montague and his father purchased the boat in 1954. Montague (above) recently had the wooden cruiser restored by Joe Ortiz of Port Haywood.
In 2006, Murmaid began to take on water and Bob needed to make a decision either to purchase a new boat or put money into his old one. He opted to go with tradition and completely refurbish the old Owens.

Bob hired Joe Ortiz of Port Haywood in Mathews County to do the job. Ortiz replaced the bottom frames and stringers with new white oak planks, rebuilt the mahogany stern and installed a new engine. Since the beginning, she has had six engines.

“She has never looked better and will probably outlive me,” said Bob. “I’ll be proud to pass her on to my grandchildren.”

Incidentally, when it came time to paint the name on the stern, Bob had her renamed Montezuma, but the family calls her Murmaid-Montezuma.

posted 08.27.2009

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