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“World’s largest runabout” on its way to Maine for extensive makeover


CLAYTON — One of the Antique Boat Museum’s most treasured vintage speedboats, the “world’s largest wooden runabout,” is on a road trip to Maine.

Departing from Clayton on Monday morning, the 64-year-old Pardon Me embarked on a 500-mile voyage on a tractor-trailer to the Brooklin Boat Yard, Brooklin, Maine, where it will receive a comprehensive makeover.

Everything from the woodwork to the engine and transmission will be restored to original condition and, in some aspects, better than when it first hit the water in 1948.

Once the $170,000 work is complete, the sleek mahogany beauty will return home to the Thousand Islands in October and be highlighted at the 50th annual Antique Boat Show in August 2014 in Clayton.

“It’s too big a project for us,” museum Executive Director Frederick H. “Fritz” Hager said as the 16-ton, 48-foot-long runabout was hanging from a crane to be placed carefully onto a trailer bed Monday morning.

Initially, the Clayton boat museum started repairing the vintage boat with its own crew, but soon realized the work would take too long and take away too much manpower from other projects.

Of the four quotes the museum received for Pardon Me’s extensive restoration, Brooklin Boat Yard was determined most capable for the job.

The work will not begin until June because there’s a long line of boats in the queue, Mr. Hager said.

Commissioned by the late Charles Lyon, an avid boater of Chippewa Bay along the St. Lawrence River, the ever-so-elegant Pardon Me was custom designed by John L. Hacker, who has been dubbed one of the greatest American boat designers of the 20th century.

From afar, the double-cockpit runabout looks like a rather typical classic Streamline-Moderne-styled watercraft, which normally range from 20 feet to 36 feet in length.

The chrome trim and the white oak framing are certainly in good taste but not unique to this particular boat.

But up close, this “super-sized” speedboat easily dwarfs the largest school bus allowed under federal law.

Propelling the monstrous — for its class, at least — boat across the water at 60 mph is a Packard 4M-2500 engine, a supercharged 12-cylinder engine that originally was developed for patrol torpedo boats during World War II.

“That’s what’s impressive about it. It’s big, it’s loud and it goes really fast,” Mr. Hager said.

He said that because of Pardon Me’s unprecedented size, the transmission was never done right — unusual for a watercraft built by Hutchinson’s Boat Works in Alexandria Bay — but that these mechanical issues also would be addressed by the Brooklin Boat Yard.

Because of its apparent shortcomings, the original owner, Mr. Lyon, ended up selling Pardon Me in 1950.

Its second owner, Richard Locke, a Michigan industrialist, renamed it “Lockpat III” and kept it for more than two decades until he finally sold it in 1976 to a longtime admirer of the boat, Nicholas Beck.

James P. and Lorraine E. “Tony” Lewis, formerly of Beaver Falls, who were among the founders of the Antique Boat Museum, later purchased it in Florida and donated it to the museum in 1986.

The boat was last operational in 2005 but was in the water for display until 2008.

When the Antique Boat Museum gets Pardon Me back, Mr. Hager said, a lucky few may get a ride, but the museum does not plan to offer regular trips.

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