By Mary hursh
Once a boater is tuned into the melodies of an MCL Chris-Craft motor with 175-horsepower fed by two Zenith carburetors, or the deep but mellow tone of a 325-horsepower Cadillac Crusader fed by two four-barrel Carter carburetors, the sound from a radio or a CD player would just be thought of as static in the air.
On any given Sunday in the summer, at least 20 wooden boats and as many as 30 have made the wide circle around Lake Wawasee in what has been deemed the “Thunder Run.” Cottage owners and boaters always wave at the parade. which makes one lap in a counter-clockwise direction from Conklin Bay. The parade has almost become a tradition at the lake. Bill Coon; Jeff Guyas, owner of Wawasee Slip; and Luke Knecht and his wife; Jeanne; are the founders of the event.
Because boating is such a dominant part of life here, the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum is currently featuring a display case full of bow and stern poles, ensigns and burgees used on some of the many wooden boats owned by area residents.
Bud Hursh, a long-time wooden boat enthusiast, created the display for all to enjoy. He also included books on classic Century, Garwood, Chris-Craft and Dodge boats.
A classic wooden boat is equipped with two flagpoles. The rear flagpole is known as the stern pole, which also serves as a white navigation light mounted on top of the pole. It has a clear glass globe. The front burgee pole normally is located in a socket on the front bow navigation light. The burgee is shaped like a pennant.
The ensign (flag) displayed at the museum is called a “yacht ensign.”It is a 13-star (Betsy Ross flag) with a fouled anchor (an anchor with a rope snaking down the middle ) in the center of the union.
Originally the yacht ensign was only used on documented vessels of specific classifications. The ensign is now flown on all recreational boats rather than the national flag.
The ensign and burgees along with their stern and bow poles on display at the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum are from pleasure boats manufactured during the Golden Age of boating. “Of course we are thinking of the age of the wooden boats. Wooden boats are precious and unlike anything else. Once you are smitten by the sounds, feel, look and smell, there is no going back,” said Hursh.
The bow and stern poles with their ensigns and burgees displayed at the museum are all in use today and were borrowed from the following boats: a 1948 Chris-Craft 17-foot Deluxe Runabout; a 1952 Lyman 13-foot Outboard Runabout; a 1956 Chris-Craft 18-foot Skiff; and a 1960 21-foot Century Coronado. “The uniqueness of the ensigns, burgees and poles has the effect of the finishing touch to floating art from a time not forgotten,” said Hursh.
When a flag pole is lost or broken, replacements can sometimes be found on various old boat sites on the internet. Some stern poles and globes are just not available and must be fabricated.