Tim Jones first saw the Skagit Saratogan 31 at the Seattle Boat Show in 1957, when he was 11 years old. He took one look at her sleek lines and fell in love. Three decades later, Jones came across the boat’s sister ship, built in 1959. It was hull number three, the last one built. Jones bought her, embarking on an epic 20-year restoration. In October he finally relaunched his rare vessel, which is homeported in Friday Harbor, and she’s been turning heads ever since.
Tell us about your boat’s name.
Working on a single restoration project for over two decades gave me a long time to think of a name. Over the years, I thought of many good names which I logged into my computer. On launch day, I still hadn’t picked one. There were lots of challenging facets to the restoration, but picking a name was more difficult than naming my own children.
A common reaction of the public seeing the boat is,”That’s sweet.” When I expressed my difficulty in picking a name on the Northwest Classic Boat Club website, more than one member suggested naming the boat after my daughter. “Beautiful boat, beautiful daughter … name it after her,” was the typical response. So I combined “sweet,” the typical reaction, with Zoanna and came up with “Sweet Zoanna”!
Tell us the story of how you found your boat and what makes it special to you.
I saw the sister ship at the Seattle Boat Show in November 1957 and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I was 11. The memory of that boat stayed in my mind until the summer of 1987. I was gassing up my Volvo station wagon in Anacortes and noted an interesting boat at a repair yard next door. Month after month, gassing up, I’d see that boat.
Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I went over to have a look. I was surprised to see the Skagit logo and knew immediately what it was. The big fiberglass Skagit was in tough shape, but the lines and proportions were impressive. More months went by and then gassing up in the late fall of 1987, a “for sale” sign was taped to the bow. I thought, oh, oh! I know what this means.
What’s the history of your boat?
The Skagit Saratogans were designed by Howard S. Roberts. Howard was the head man at Skagit and oversaw the construction and management of the boats and the company. Skagit Plastics was a small upstart company in LaConner started up in 1954. Skagit was owned by Gene Dunlap, who also owned Dunlap Towing, a tugboat company in LaConner.
I don’t know of anyone famous owning a Saratogan, but actor James Arness (Matt Dillon on TV’s Gunsmoke) liked the boat and tried to get Skagit to give him one in exchange for the notoriety and advertising. Arness, 6’7″ tall, liked the boat’s 6’3″ headroom. Skagit said no. Probably a big mistake, as Skagit ultimately went under in 1961.
The Saratogan was built as an upscale deluxe boat to compete with Chris Craft’s top-of-the-line Roamer steel cruisers. The 31 Saratogan and 35 Roamer look very similar.
What do you like best about your boat?
The Saratogan has a lot of nice qualities — among them, it’s not too big to get underway on a whim. She has great lines and proportions. Love the original color scheme. She’s well-built, very smooth and soft riding. Turns heads everywhere!! Last of the Art Deco designs from the 1930′s. I call it Art Deco in Fiberglass.
What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it? Would that have changed your mind?
I sort of knew what I was getting into on the purchase of the Saratogan. It was a derelict. It had no machinery. A bare hull.
I had done all of the restoration facets individually on other boats, including modifying and repowering my own towboats. Nonetheless, the scope of the Saratogan restoration was a challenge and really pushed my fabrication skills. I have hand-fabricated (is there any other way?) about 40 percent of the boat you see today. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
How does your significant other feel about the boat (be honest)?
I was married 20 years and have been divorced 14 years. She once called that Saratogan “that crappy old boat.” It might have been an issue, but we had many other more serious issues. Today, I’m thinking the Saratogan IS my significant other!
Why did you choose to put in Volvo diesel engines?
I like diesel power for a number of reasons. It is very dependable and has great low-end torque, perfect for pushing boats, and best of all, no gasoline on the boat. Better fuel economy, almost as fast, lower CO2 and much lower carbon monoxide emissions, to name a few reasons. The engine color matches the teal hull color.
I repowered my towboats with Volvo diesel engines, had good luck with them and decided to use them in the Saratogan if they would fit. One of the TAMD41s probably would have been enough power as the boat will plane now on one engine, but the boat was built as an express cruiser, so I wanted it to go fast again. It does!
What’s your favorite story involving your boat?
Having a connection with the boat from my childhood is really special. Having a picture of the boat at the boat show in 1957, with me in the picture, is a terrific back story. It was fate to own the boat.
Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.
Fitting a pair of six cylinder inline diesel engines into a boat that was designed for 1950s low profile V-8 engines was a real challenge. I didn’t want to raise the deck.
The gas-to-diesel repower required replacing the engine stringers, changing the shaft angle, going to down-angle reverse gears and casting and machining new struts. The mechanical part of the restoration was quite involved and took years to complete. Worth it in my opinion, as the TAMD41 diesels are very smooth and powerful. Diesel also powers the galley stove, so the boat is always warm inside.
Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?
As far as cruising is concerned, I want to spend lots of time exploring the Canadian Gulf islands. I want to take it around Vancouver Island, up the Inside Passage to Alaska and see Glacier Bay. Thinking also of putting it on a truck and taking it down to the Sea of Cortez … spend three or four months of the winter there fishing and generally kicking back and enjoying the warmth and beauty.
If someone gave you $10,000 that you could only spend on your boat, what would you do with it and why?
I’d purchase lithium ion batteries for the electric drive system, which are about half the weight of lead acid batteries.
How long do you plan to own the boat? What would it take to get you to part with it? What advice would you give to the next owner?
Sort of an unfair question, having just gotten it the water after a 20-plus year restoration. I plan to own it the rest of my life. No plans to part with it at any price.
Next owner (probably my kids): The Saratogan is a piece of history, rarer than a Tucker 48. Take care of it. Some day it will be very valuable.
If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why?
Having been in the boating business for 30-plus years, I’ve seen many handsome boats. I’ve always admired the 32-foot Sea Sport catamaran.
If I had unlimited resources, I’d like to build a stretched sister ship of the Saratogan. About 45 feet long, very low and sleek. A pair of 1000 HP MTU engines … 60 MPH+! Oh, yeah!
I stretched a picture of my boat in Photoshop. It looks VERY COOL!
Realistically, I’d like a nice offshore cutter sailboat, about 42 feet.
What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had?
What’s the best part of having the boat in the water after 22 years/6,000 hours of working on it and dreaming of that day when it finally floats again?
The reaction of the public to the boat has been very gratifying and has made all the labor, expense and sacrifice worth it. There is a steady stream of people coming down to the float to look at, ask questions and in many cases, photograph her.
I posted pictures on Northwest Classic Boat Club and recently on Fiberglassics. Some of the comments are priceless. Here are a few that make my day every day:
Magnificent; Fabulous; Beautiful; SWEET; Thank you for bringing this boat back; Absolutely beautiful; Stunning,11500 pounds of Stunning!; One of the most beautiful boats on the water today; Gorgeous!; She is a beauty; More pictures please; WOW; and the accolades keep on coming….
What can I say?
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