Billy Young and his son Stanley handcrafted their first wooden speedster in a small wood shop, on the forested western edge of Flathead Lake, Montana. Surrounded by distant glaciers and rangelands of buffalo, they faced hard times in 1933—and the resources required to build an artisan mahogany speedboat were nothing frivolous. But W.H. “Billy” Young meant business, and along with his wife Dolores and their three children, they built hundreds of superbly crafted, fast, fun boats—and devoted the next 35 years to creating tastefully constructed wooden boats in an era ruled by shapely curves, fins, and the seductive sheers of wood grain.
82 years later, Stancraft Boats, now on Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene, is still in the family—and still launching some of the world’s most sought-after handcrafted wooden speedboats.
Each year, Stancraft turns out about 10 boats under 20 feet and another dozen large custom designs (megayacht tenders and others sport boats) up to almost 50 feet. When they assemble in fleet it’s a testimonial to an era when speed, style and pride of workmanship dominated boat design. And, it’s a reminder that some boats are to be cherished.
In 80-plus years, Stancraft has produced nearly 1,000 wooden boats. From 1933 to 1968, Stan and his dad built over 800 boats, while son Syd launched 300 fiberglass boats and a dozen custom wood boats from 1968 through 1981. Today, third-generation Rob and Amy Bloem have constructed more than 120 wood classics.
A 27’ Low Boy Deluxe carves turns at speeds up to 45 mph. Like most Stancrafts, this boat is fun and practically built, featuring an 8.2-liter direct-drive MercCruiser producing 425 hp. It also has a bow thruster, for agile handling in tight docking spaces.
The Low Boy introduced the use of a starboard-side door for easy entry, and a deadrise that, as it accelerates, lifts and launches the boat smoothly onto plane.
The Missile, first constructed for quarterback John Elway’s business partner, is 35 feet of adrenalin. With Twin 700 hp Vipers this boat took 6,000 man hours to build and cost $750,000. It was clocked at 84 MPH.
Duane Hagadone, a lifelong Coeur d’Alene resident and megayacht owner, wanted a custom 36’ commuter boat to take across the lake to work each summer day. He runs it alone and can be seen with his remote control as he relaxes on the foredeck, singlehanding from one of his custom-made Stancraft deck chairs.
Discovery II, a 30’ Deluxe Sport Low Boy, features a stern-drive engine producing 430 HP and reaching 45 MPH. Built for the Discovery Land Company of African mahogany, it features Stancraft-made custom silicon-bronze cast, chrome-plated hardware.
An overhead view shows the racy stern that caught the eye of hockey great Wayne Gretsky, who convinced the Discovery folks to sell him this speedster. Since then several hockey greats and celebrities have had Stancrafts, and the design has been adapted as a tender to an assortment of megayachts.
Known as the “Whoopie Seat,” there’s no better place to get the thrill of boat speed than in the bow of a rocket like this. Below, the boat’s features include leather settees, a bar, DVD and entertainment center—and enough pizzazz that John Elway had to order hull number two for himself.
Oh Baby! is a 30’ long, single 730 HP Viper engine version of The Missile. It tops out at 55 MPH and sounds so sweet it could seduce a Harley. Stancraft has sent its finest designs, like this one, around the globe. Places graced by Stancrafts include India, Monaco, Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and Lake Cuomo, Italy.
Timeless is a 26’ Fastback with a 625 hp Viper single inboard that hits 53 MPH. The boat’s sexy stern has a torpedo fantail, and sponsons let the driver crank a hard turn at any speed; the boat seems to ride on rails through the most radical maneuvers.
It’s difficult to have much more fun on the water than this, as the chines and flare of Oh Baby! combine with a deep V forward and low deadrise astern for a magically smooth ride. Stancraft boats range from 17’ to one now on the drawing boards at 46’. The prices range from $50,000 to 1.5 million.
When the Gozzer Ranch wanted to transport their refined guests across the lake, Stancraft built a 37’ twin-engine boat with 320 HP MercCruisers. The boat tops 50 MPH.
Speed looks like this. Stancraft uses Mahogany plank on frame, UV inhibiting varnishes, and 5200 adhesive/sealant, along with hundreds of screws and plugs.
From the air Stancraft boats look fluidly shaped for the water, with performance in mind from stem to stern. Cockpits are upholstered in the finest all-weather fabrics and are trimmed with retro gauges, wheel, and throttle fittings. The attention to detail makes these speedboats collectibles.
In the mid 1950s a fire destroyed the original yard—and a dozen boats that gleamed like art deco trophies—but Stanley stuck with it until his son Syd was back from the service. For 20 years Syd, while building wooden boats, also toyed with glass construction. “There was no denying the interest in the 60s and 70s in fiberglass construction, and its production advantages,” explained Robb Bloem, Stancraft owner and husband of founder Billy’s great-granddaughter. Syd produced a fleet of runabouts and small fishing boats until he moved the company to Coeur d’Alene in 1981. There he devoted himself once again to custom building and restoring the woodies that were experiencing a resurgence, following the movie On Golden Pond, which featured a mahogany speedster. “Working with wood is an art,” said Syd Young. “And the extra craftsmanship required rewarded our customers with a sculpted wood-grained boat with a soft, buttery ride… the Rolls Royce of boat handling.”
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