Labor Of Love Restores Classic Boat

A local man restored a 1954 Chris Craft to sail it on the Toms River. (Photo courtesy Scott Bruett)

PINE BEACH – After years of work, and thousands of hours marked with joy and frustration, Scott Bruett was finally ready to lower his restored boat into the water. It was literally a sink or swim situation.

(Photo courtesy Scott Bruett)

Scott Bruett, an engineer by trade, let many of his weekends and nights be absorbed by the restoration of a classic boat older than he is. He took it for its maiden voyage on June 17. He said he felt some trepidation. After all, there was a lot of time and money tied up in restoring a boat that could not float on its own when he bought it. Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry.

“It all went just fine,” he said.

Bruett lives in Millstone, just outside of Jackson. Born and raised in Pine Beach, it made sense to launch from there.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I had always raced and sailed on the Toms River so I wanted to launch it there,” he said.

The journey started in 2014, 60 years after the boat had been first constructed.

“I had been wanting to restore a boat for a number of years,” he said. He had performed some makeshift repairs but he wanted a bigger project.

He admits it’s not a project everyone can do. You need a certain size garage to be able to turn a 3,000-pound boat, and take the motor out. So, first they had to build a detached garage.

(Photo courtesy Scott Bruett)

“I was looking for a boat with a problem and I found it,” he said. He was able to go up to New Hampshire and found a 1954 Chris Craft U22. He and his wife drove up with a trailer with the hope that this was the one to buy. They took it on a test drive (An electric pump kept it afloat) and decided that this was to be his big project. He credits his wife, Jennifer, with the patience to endure his passion project over the years.

After getting it home, he had to strip the boat down of all the parts that no longer worked. He had to source the mahogany wood, down to the species, that made up the hull so that it would be an accurate representation.

The first year and a half focused on removing parts and trying to figure out what was needed.

During the next year, he cut the lumber, and refastened the hull with hundreds of silicone bronze screws. The keel, chines, ribs and bottom planking were hand crafted to meet original measurements and took hours to fit. The bottom was restored with two layers of mahogany sealed with 3M5200 sealant inside. He sanded the sides and top to bare mahogany. Caulking was removed, and these parts were taped and reseamed. Then, multiple layers of varnish were put down. The Model K engine was stripped down by a company in Wyckoff, rebuilt and given a fresh coat of paint. He tried to use New Jersey companies for all the parts, when possible.

(Photo courtesy Scott Bruett)

A single article can’t sum up all the work that was done over the years, but suffice it to say, it was a challenge that kept him going. There were some upgrades that were not original to the vehicle. The engine was given a performance camshaft and a 12V electronic ignition system. The boat was also rewired to be up-to-date with modern safety concerns. Also, an automatic bilge pump and engine box blower were installed.

Thousands of man hours later, he was able to take it for a spin again. This time, renovated.

“It was a really cool experience,” he said.

It qualifies as 60 percent restored, and he hopes to show it under the Classic Restoration categories in historic boat shows.

Originally named Lindy, he christened it Seraphim after the highest order of angels, as a dedication to lost family members.

And yes, he’d say he’d do it again.

(Photo courtesy Scott Bruett)