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.
I too have a 56 Cruisemaster. Acquired in 2012, I cleaned it up and soda blasted it in and out. Reproduced all 39 pieces of wood, coating each with 3 to 5 coats of polyurethane spar varnish. Then had trouble with painting it. Decided not to for now, after 5 years of waiting for the paint guy to be ready. Mounted a Honda 45 (1992 vintage), new helm and modern steering. Now it’s time to try it out. It has not been in the water since 1975! I plan to convert the original evinrude 25 to electric some day. Still have to add paneling, headliner, upholstery, electrical, and redo all those windows and screens. I already remanufactured the marine toilet, but will install that with a tank or two eventually. This boat will be like an Airstream that floats.
Brent J Pounds
I missed your comment earlier, but sounds like a great project. I'm not sure when my Cruise Master was last in the water, but it's been a while. The Malibu hadn't touched the water since 1985; pulling it through the invasive species check station in Oregon was interesting; they went through the whole procedure even though it clearly wouldn't float. Do you have any photos of yours? Are you active on the facebook groups? I've seen a few pictured there that are in bare aluminum.
Darryl K Bentley
I just stumbled upon this site while researching a boat that I am about 99% set on buying. From what I've found on line, I think it's a Cruise Master 21 ft. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to find there are others restoring one of these boats. I sincerely hope I can stay in touch with all who visit this site. I'm just an old retired cop in NE Georgia. But I'm 10 minutes from Thurmond Lake in any direction !
Brent J Pounds
There's a couple fairly active facebook groups for Lone Star boats (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1666653946890952/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1636978789870329/) and one for vintage aluminum boats (https://www.facebook.com/groups/892120464219258/). I think that most people from the Yahoo group have moved over to there. Regrettably I have been distracted by other projects and having yet started on the Cruise Master.
Hey Darryl, I am also in NE GA and may have found a Lone Star Cruise Master, near lake Hartwell. I am going today to verify and see if it is for sale. I own a Feathercraft Ranger III, that I hope to have in the water next year. Are you working on the Cruise Master? I would love to see what you have and what you have done if that is okay.
It took years to restore, but now it is operational. It’s a good camper, like an Airstream that floats. I wish you luck on whatever project you choose.
Brent thanks for the HIN info actually a 54
I am also in Colorado brighton I have says 1960 cruise master I think it's actually a 55 currently in the process of restoring it ..I found window cranks that are pretty close on swissco web sight .
I am looking for a outboard cruisemaster. I am in wisconsin and willing to travel if anyone has one for sale.
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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.