Chetek Aqua-Flyer


Chetek Aqua-Flyer Bow ViewChetek Aqua-Flyer Stern View


In the boat shop for a complete restoration is a Chetek Aqua-Flyer 14-58 (14' length along the gunwale, 58" beam over the mid-deck).  I can't be certain of the model year as I could not find identification information other than a Chetek label.  But I think its fair to say that it is a 1956 model simply because the outboard engine is a 1956 Evinrude 30 HP Lark.

The Aqua-Flyer was one of eight different 1956 models built by the Chetek Boat Corporation of Chetek, Wisconsin.  It was a popular runabout, but there aren't very many around anymore.  

The Aqua-Flyer was a favorite of the late author-historian, Bob Speltz, who researched and wrote the seven volume series "The Real Runabouts".  Bob was also the confounder of the Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes Chapter of the Antique Boat Society (ACBS-BSLOL).  One of Bob's personal boats was a 1954 Chetek Aqua-Flyer.  After Bob passed away, his boat was partially restored by volunteer members of the ACBS-BSLOL and later completed by the current owner, Stan Peterson of Mt Dora, Florida.  The boat is now being exhibited at the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum in Arnold's Park, Iowa (see video below by Dave Herbert of his visit... you'll catch a few glimpses of the fully restored Yellow and White Aqua-Flyer in the video).

The Chetek Boat Corporation started building boats in 1947, building primarily cedar strip boats and went out of business in 1965 after a fire destroyed the factory.  One of the founders of the company was Vern Larsen whom, as I understand it, came from the Hemming Larsen Boat Works family, pioneers of the strip plank method of boat building having first built strip planked boats in 1899.  By the 1960's Chetek was primarily building lapstrake hulls.

This 1956 Chetek Aqua-Flyer appears to have been originally painted pale blue and white.  The seat backs appear to have been originally upholstered in pale blue.  It was fit out with the "Deluxe Deck Hardware Kit".  Optional navigation lights included the bow running light with flag pole, an adjustable stern post light, and a bow mounted telescoping spot light.  Four step plates (one on each side of the two cockpits) were optionally installed.  It also has the "Deluxe Steering Kit", and "V-Type" safety glass windshield.  You can see the details of these options in the 1955 Chetek Brochure

Chetek Half-Rib Frame ConstructionThe boat is cedar stripped built using Red Cedar over "Wisconsin Oak" ribs framed in a half-rib configuration (see picture on right).  A boat framed with a half-rib configuration consists of full-ribs running from gunwale to gunwale and half-ribs running just across the bottom spanning the two bilge stringers.  The pattern is a full-rib followed by a two half-ribs.

The decks are laid with cedar planks and trimmed with oak coaming boards.  The seats are built of pine.  The outwales are mahogany, and the transom is marine grade mahogany plywood.  

This is a well built cedar strip runabout for its time.  The ½" by 1-⅛" western red cedar strips were molded to be joined via a bead and cove joint, pressure fitted together with calking, and then screwed (not stapled or tacked) to the ribs.  The keel, bilge stringer pair, stem, ribs, and knees are all made of Oak.  The ribs are ⅜" thick by 1-¼" wide.  The transom was flared and made of 7-ply marine grade plywood with mahogany veneer faces (the best available in that time) and oak cheeks.  There are three good sized oak transom knees joining the transom to the keel and pair of bilge stingers, as well as oak quarter knees joining the transom to the inwales.

The boat appears to be in restorable condition.  The decks are in good shape and need to be sanded, bleached and refinished.  There are are few broken/cracked ribs and a few damaged strips that are in need or replacement.  The stem appears to be in excellent condition.  There does not appear to be any rot in the framing.  The transom needs to be replaced as well as its oak cheeks as they have rotted.  The seats are also in restorable shape.  The true condition will be revealed once I have removed the polyester fiberglass coating that someone applied to the entire exterior surface of the hull, spray rails and all.  Here are some pictures as delivered to the boatshop:

Chetek Aqua-Flyer DeckChetek Aqua-Flyer Dash

Chetek Aqua-Flyer Forward CockpitChetek Aqua-Flyer under deck ribs

Chetek Aqua-Flyer Front SeatChetek Aqua-Flyer Rear Dash

Chetek Aqua-Flyer ribs under mid deckChetek Aqua-Flyer rear seat

Chetek Aqua-Flyer Rotted Transom CheeksChetek Aqua-Flyer broken ribs and damages strips

The boat was equipped with the top-of-the-line, 1956 Evinrude Lark, a nicely detailed, electric start, 30 HP outboard engine.  The engine was taken to Bob Matson of Matson Motors in Ely Minnesota, whom specializes in outboard motor restoration work.  Bob is also the author of the popular book "What's in your Boat House?".  Bob removed the outboard engine, controller, solenoid, and Start/Choke buttons for full restoration along with the gas tank.

Chetek Aqua-Flyer Bob Matson removing outboard engineChetek Aqua-Flyer with 1956 Johnson Lark

Lastly, the project also entails restoration of a vintage Tee-Nee trailer complete with classic 1950's teardrop shaped wheel fenders.   In the 1950's, the Tee-Nee Trailer Company of Youngstown, Ohio was the largest boat trailer manufacturer.




Chetek Boat Corporation

1956 Evinrude Lark Outboard Engine

Tee-Nee Trailers