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by Tom Chillemi

The collection of antique and unusual boats was a popular exhibit at last Saturday’s “Wings, Wheels & Keels” held at Hummel Field in Topping.

In the past, boats have been a small part of the annual car and aircraft show, formerly known simply as “Wings & Wheels,” but this year the billing of “Keels” was added.

Threatening rain may have kept many of the four-wheeled exhibitors away, but the aquatic antiques were well represented.

Deborah and Durwood Usry of Jackson Creek in Deltaville and Richmond brought out their 1957 “Thunder Hawk Junior” made by Larson. With styling from the jet age, the fiberglass hull swoops and rolls, flaring into a fin at the stern. The fin treatment resembles a Plymouth Fury or Buick of the era when America built the best.

The running lights are flared into the fore deck and look like eyes which, when viewed with the one-of-a-kind red and white two-tone paint, gives the bow the look of a face.

Deborah Usry found this darling collector’s item on e-Bay in Florida. Durwood added his rebuilt Mercury Mark 500 outboard motor, rated at 50 horsepower, to complete the package. The stainless steel engine cover is the finishing touch on the 15-foot classic.

Christened “Aqua Belva,” the name pays tribute to Deborah’s late mother, and is a play on the after shave “Aqua Velva,” she explained.

Classic and unusual boats were among the exhibits at “Wings, Wheels & Keels” last Saturday at Hummel Field in Topping. Above, in foreground, is a custom built racing crab skiff. Next to it is a 1957 Thunder Hawk Junior built by Larson. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Crab skiff
Pete Ginocchio of White Stone showed his custom-built racing crab skiff. Modeled after a Smith Island crab skiff from around 1915, it’s long and thin for slicing through choppy water of a race course that has been churned up by boat wakes.

Ginocchio (pronounced like Pinocchio) chose a 1980s vintage Yamaha 500 cc motorcycle engine to power his skiff.

The 4-cylinder air-cooled engine is mounted inline with the boat, so it cannot take advantage of the air flowing through it for required cooling. The engine started overheating, even though Ginocchio increased the oil capacity and added an oil cooler. His cooling solution was to spray fresh water on the rear cylinders.

The racer is complete with homemade exhaust headers, and a rudder arm made from a child’s baseball bat with a motorcycle clutch lever for a throttle that runs wide open when the lever is released.

Tiny racer
The “Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association” started about 2 years ago at Mollusk in Lancaster County, said racer Curt Bluefield.

Today there are about 50 of these 8-foot boats nationwide that are raced by drivers from 16 to 81 years old. The short boat is based on the outboard racer SKUA, a plywood skimmer designed in 1939 by Charles MacGregor.

Racing these go-carts of the water is a family sport, said Bluefield. There are two classes—6 horsepower with a minimum driver weight of 160 pounds or 8-horsepower engines that have a minimum weight of 200 pounds, he explained. “It’s more about driver skill as opposed to speed,” said Bluefield of these boats that top out at about 16 miles per hour.

The next race is Saturday, October 8, at 1 p.m. in a triangle course on the Corrotoman River. The nationals are at Rock Hall, Md., on October 22. Visit for more details.

A restored 1907 launch “Nixie” was admired for its detailed wooden features.

Kevin and Susan Wade of Deltaville displayed their restored 1961 Owens that sported a siren and built-in bow lights. This type of boat was used on the 1960s TV show “McHale’s Navy.”

The wooden 15-foot boat “Dragonfly,” a 1958 Chris-Craft Sea Skiff, drew admiring looks.

A rare Aristo-Craft with its distinctive sliding hardtop was on display. The recently re-powered 1970’s vintage runabout is owned by Michelle and John Rother of Deltaville.

“Explorer,” a replica of Captain John Smith’s shallop built by the Deltaville Maritime Museum to commemorate Captain Smith’s exploration of the New World, was on display complete with costumed interpreters.

These are a few of the water craft that landed at Wings, Wheels & Keels 2011 and embellished the show’s 16th year.

posted 09.29.2011

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