As the old C.W. McCall song goes, “I was thumbing through the want ads in the Shelby County Tribune, when a classified advertisement caught my eye. It said take immediate delivery of a ‘57 Chevrolet half ton pick-up truck…”
Well, if you substitute Craig’s List for the tribune and a ’56 Lone Star Cruise Master for a ’57 Chevy, you’ve got a pretty good indication of what happened to me. About a year ago, I came across a Cruise Master while aimlessly searching Craig’s List for trouble. It was in Wichita, KS and included a 115-hp Mercury “tower of power” for the princely sum of $700. I’d never really considered buying a Cruise Master before, but after some consideration I discovered that I had to have one.
Unfortunately for me, after I had come to this conclusion, I gave the seller a call only to find that it had been sold the day before. Never the less, I now had a quest and I was on the search for a Cruise Master to take up some room in my yard, bust my knuckles on, and cuss at. I set up a search warning on eBay and for the next several months did regular searches on my favorite Craig’s List conglomerater, SearchTempest.com.
I found a few possibilities, but they were either too far away or too dearly priced. Eventually my efforts paid off and I found a nice Cruise Master in Oklahoma city. After a little haggling, I was the proud new owner of a 1956 Lone Star Cruise Master with two motor mounts, one for a single engine and one for double engines, and three outboards (two matching 35-hp Johnsons and one 75-hp Evinrude). It was a prime candidate for my next project.
The previous owner had started work on her, but had moved on to other projects and needed to clear up some space. He had already removed the old transom and replaced the aluminum sheeting on the transom. He worked in aircraft maintenance and his work looked exceptional, thought he may have gone a little overboard with the rivets on the join to the new sheet.
The Cruise Master was billed as “the Queen of the Lone Star Fleet” when it was rolled out in 1954 and represented a big departure from their smaller fishing boats. Targeting buyers looking for a large weekend cruiser for relaxing on the water, it was a 21-ft long cabin cruiser that provided a lot of space and amenities.
The Cruise Master remained the flagship of the Lone Star Fleet until they discontinued the model in 1961. An inboard version was offered in 1955 and ’56, but the majority of the Cruise Masters, like mine, were powered with outboards that were hung on brackets that placed them about 2-ft to the rear of the transom. They boasted standard features like built in berths, a head compartment, built in cabinets, hinged cabin windows with screens, and navigation lights. There were also several options available, including the flying bridge windshield and a head that pulls water from the lake and, as was apparently legal in the 1950s, discharges its waste right back into the lake. My new project had both of those options, but the head had been removed at some point (the stand pipes still remain).
I can picture her already in the stately “Newport Green” over “Seagull White” paint scheme with a mahogany interior and teak and holly flooring, cruising out to the San Juan Islands with my wife and son. It will hopefully be the perfect weekend cruiser to do a couple nights in some beautiful location, but it’s a long way from that point and I’ve got a lot of cussing and knuckle busting to do before then.
Work on this project will be slower, since the boat is currently located in my parents back yard in Colorado. Thus far I have only managed to clear everything out and do a quick inventory. The hull appears to be reasonably sound, but someone has liberally coated several seams with silicone, which is going to be a super awesome to get off, and there is one rib in the bow that was cut through to expand storage, which I will need to beef up structurally. The hull was media blasted to bare aluminum and the bottom primed, though I think the primer is suspect and I might end up removing it; the deck and super structure still have a nice layer of flaking paint and I have purchased a sand blaster attachment for my pressure washer that I hope will make quick, easy work of getting everything down to bare aluminum and ready for paint. There are countless other projects to keep me occupied for the next year (or more), but that will all have to wait for later.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Brent Pounds has over a decade of experience in the maritime industry and has been involved in recreations boating since he was a child. See the About section for more detailed information.