Slàinte – To Life
A restoration that celebrates friendship and health.
Built in November 1946, Slàinte is a 27foot Chris- Craft Super Deluxe Enclosed – resplendent in her gleaming brightwork and original chromed fittings – looking pretty much as she did on the day she was first launched. Hull #507, she’s one of only a handful remaining of the 864 of this specific model that rolled off the Chris-craft production line in Michigan, on the shores of Great Lakes, in the years after the Second World War.
How she came to be cruising around Lake Rotoiti – some 72 years later and half a world away – is a fascinating story, and one that once again illustrates that boat restoration projects are often born in the most obscure, improbable circumstances.
A good place to begin unravelling this odyssey is with her name. It’s Gaelic and derives from the Scottish toast – Slàinte
Mhath – ‘to your health’, a salutation used by her Tauranga owner on more occasions than he’d like to admit. And one usually exchanged with his very good Scottish friend – the chap central to this story.
“A few years ago, when this good friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I asked if there was anything I could do for him. He said: ‘I’d like you to take me fishing on Lake Rotoiti.’
This was a simple enough request, though not ideal in my ski boat. But as it turned out, it was just the excuse I needed to start out on what has been one hell of a process – and I’m not sure it’s ended!”
That ‘process’ was buying and restoring the Chris-craft – a bigger, more comfortable boat which would see the pair trout fishing on Lake Rotoiti in style, grace and comfort, no doubt with a bottle of Scotland’s finest single malt close at hand.
“I found her – online – while holidaying in Rarotonga, killing time surfing the net, as you do. She was another victim of the 2008 GFC, with her then-owner walking away from the restoration project after running out of cash. She was lying in Idaho – at Lake Coeur d’alene.
“The boatbuilder had taken a lien over her – due to the unpaid debts – and he eventually took ownership. About 90 percent of the exterior restoration had been completed – inside she was a mess, just a shell – and after a fair bit of discussion I bought her and shipped her home.” On arrival the boat was delivered to Paengaroa’s Craig Marine (near Lake Rotoiti) for what was estimated to be a 12-week refit. She left the boatyard approximately a year later...
Boatyard owner Alan Craig is something of a timber boat restoration specialist, servicing clients mainly around the central North Island. Lake Rotoiti itself is home to a colourful cult of heritage and wooden boat enthusiasts, and it’s fair to say Alan’s team has worked on the majority of their vessels at some stage.