By Deb Patterson
It was a day that would go down in history. Well not world history or even local history, but personal history for Mike Smith, Syracuse.
A maiden voyage of “Smitty’s Legacy” was taken Thursday morning, July 16, on Syracuse Lake. Why was it a big deal? Smith had spent one year and three months building a 15-foot wooden Crackerbox, one of the oldest inboard runabouts. The two-person inboard, unlike its counterparts used for racing in California, has a 215 V6 engine.
“Everything went so well,” Smith stated after a cruise around Syracuse Lake, with the help of family members in a support boat. “I literally couldn’t believe it. A project that takes you a year and three months to do, there’s a lot of steps. Nothing went wrong. It ran great. It turned great. It just did everything I’d hoped.” Only the bottom of the boat was built according to the plans. The rest of the boat was designed by Smith.
Smith was a little on edge as he launched the boat from the Syracuse Public Access. Several friends from Syracuse Cafe came down to witness the event and gave a helping hand. After the boat was in the water, the truck and trailer parked, his first words were — “no water yet.”
With the help of Ken Butt, close friend, Smith climbed aboard and motored away from the pier and into the channel. He made a few laps and returned to the pier, noting a few adjustments were needed along with some tightening of bolts. Relaxing a little, Smith noted he had no water in the seating area and, opening up the engine compartment, found no water there.
The decision to build a boat came about due to retirement and a need for a project. “I sold the business three years ago,” said Smith. “I had struggled not having anything to do to drive me and to learn.” He mentioned the need to build something one morning at Syracuse Cafe. Butt, a long-time friend, suggested he build a boat.
“So we looked around. I found one to restore that I really liked the design of in Tampa. He went down to Tampa with me and it didn’t work out. The boat wasn’t what the guy advertised it as,” Smith said. Butt again suggested building his own boat and gave Smith some websites to look at. He found the Crackerbox plans. “I loved the boat and the design of it. I ordered the plans almost immediately before leaving Tampa. It’s been a lot of fun building and I learned a lot.”
Dave Butler, also a long-time friend, is working on the graphics to put on the side of the boat and putting the name on the back of the boat.
Those who know Smith will understand the name of the boat. “That was my grandfather’s marina, Smitty’s Boat Livery in Johnson’s Bay,” Smith said. “David and I have such fond remembrances of our grandfathers and the things they did to make us what we are today and make our dads what they were.”
Smith remembers “watching grandpa building boats and fixing boats, restoring boats all his life.” Smith even helped him pump gas at the marina. “I needed to say something about it. It’s Smitty’s Legacy. Enough people on the lake … still remember Smitty’s Boat Livery.”
Just in case you forgot or didn’t realize it, his grandfather’s real name was Forrest Smith, but was always known as Smitty.