Restoring watercraft fulfills dream of Pa. pilot

April 02, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Larry Pedersen loves to run his hands over the smooth mahogany deck of a Chris-Craft motor boat, something he gets to do a lot since he bought one of the classic runabouts in 1987.

Pedersen, 50, a corporate jet pilot and wooden speedboat enthusiast, found his 1939 Chris-Craft "Barrel Back" in Hagerstown. When it was new, the 16-foot boat sold for about $1,500. Pedersen said he wouldn't take less than $30,000 for it today.

Much of its Philippine mahogany planking on the outside and its framing inside had to be replaced and refinished. Pedersen rebuilt the boat's 130-horsepower engine and had the craft's bright metal rechromed. He and his brother, Dale, his partner in the boat, along with a woodcrafter from New York state, finished the restoration in 1992.

He takes it to antique boat shows, but mostly he just loves using it.

"It's a boat. It's supposed to be in the water," Pedersen said.


His love for boats and canoes made from wood doesn't end with the Chris-Craft. He has restored two other speedboats - a 19-foot, 1954 Century lapstrake hull and a 1965 Dunphy 17-footer that he uses as a family pleasure craft.

Hanging from the rafters in his barn are a finished rowboat, a 1952 PennYan wood and canvas canoe in perfect condition and an unrestored 1909 Old Town canoe. Also hanging and awaiting restoration is a 1935 Tillman sailing sloop.

The 1920s to 1940s were the heyday of wooden boats. Fiberglass and aluminum, with their carefree qualities, replaced the wooden boat-building technology almost overnight in the 1950s.

Pedersen laments the new technology.

"If God had wanted you to have fiberglass boats, he would have made fiberglass trees," he said.

Pedersen's day job is piloting corporate jets for a Winchester, Va., company. He flew helicopters in the Vietnam War.

After his discharge he returned to his native New York for about four years until he landed a job in 1981 as a corporate pilot for Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa. He lives in the hamlet of Five Forks, about five miles north of Waynesboro, with his wife Linda, who is also fond of wooden boats. The couple has three grown children.

Pedersen's love of boats is lifelong. His father came to the Finger Lakes region of New York in the 1920s from Denmark, where he kept a small farm and worked for boat-building companies.

"I grew up around boats like these, but I could never afford to buy one. I always said someday I'd have one and someday is now," he said.

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