Winifred, My Dreamboat
by Greg Gilbert
I first spotted Winifred more than 30 years ago, in covered moorage behind Morrison’s fuel dock near the Fremont Bridge on Lake Union. I stared at her longingly, but she seemed to look away. After all, she was “kept” by the Morrison family for more than 25 years.
At the time I owned a beautiful 36’ 1930 Blanchard standardized cruiser, Mer-Na, and she was all the boat I could handle – or afford. Our young family had spent summers on her, cruising north to the San Juans and Desolation Sound.
But after eight years with Mer-Na, family priorities intervened. The kids were growing up and we needed a bigger house, so we bid farewell to our old girl and stood on the shore for 15 years. In all that time, I never forgot Winifred and her graceful lines. At 46 feet, she was 10 feet longer than Mer-Na, with a roomy teak pilothouse and tons of space below.
When Winifred came up for sale, I felt it was time to seize the opportunity. It took almost six months of negotiation, but at last, in August 2000, I became the new owner – make that caretaker – of a 1926 Lake Union Dreamboat.
As those with a passion for wooden boats know, projects have a way of taking more time and money than you first calculated. Winifred was no exception.
She remains a work in progress. Although I have done extensive upgrades to the shore power wire wiring and to the galley and head areas as well as totally restoring Winifred’s shore boat, Fred, with teak seats and floorboards, my vision is to have her completely restored by 2015.
With Winifred’s roomy interior, she has been a dockside gathering place for friends and family as well as classic yacht owners and enthusiasts. The record onboard is 33 people. Over the years, she has hosted countless precious family moments, including the weddings of two of my sons.
And she never tires of welcoming visitors at wooden-boat events. Proud but never pretentious, she offers a window in time, a living reminder of the history and craftsmanship of a bygone era.
A little history: Otis Cutting of the Lake Union Dry Dock Co. designed Winifred for Adolph and Winifred Schmidt of Olympia, Washington. Mr. Schmidt and his brothers succeeded their father, Leopold Schmidt, who had founded the Olympia Brewing Company.
Winifred was built in Seattle by Lake Union Machine and Dry Dock Co. in 1926 as a stock cruiser under the trade name “Lake Union Dreamboat”. Her price tag new: $5,125. She has stayed in the Pacific Northwest all her life.
Winifred is planked with Alaskan yellow cedar below the waterline and vertical grain Douglas fir above the waterline. The planks are 1 ¼” thick and are fastened to 1” x 2” steam-bent oak frames. The pilothouse is solid Burmese Teak.
In 1928, Mr. Schmidt became interested in predicted log racing and established the first “Capitol-To-Capitol” race from Olympia, Washington, to Juneau, Alaska. About 10 boats from various Northwest yacht clubs entered the race. To learn more about predicted log racing, Mr. Schmidt corresponded with Charles F. Chapman, then editor of MotorBoating magazine in New York and author of “Seamanship, Piloting and Small Boat Handling”. Mr. Chapman traveled to Olympia and rode aboard Winifred as an observer in the race.
Winifred, representing Olympia Yacht Club, was the winner of the race in the over 40’ class with the lowest margin of error. [Ed. Note: Predicted log racing is a contest for motor-powered boats where each skipper attempts to most accurately predict the time it will take to navigate a specified course in their boat.]
A comfortable yacht in both calm and heavy weather, Winifred cruises at a little over 8.5 knots and her four-cylinder 4-53 Detroit Diesel burns about 2¼ gallons of fuel per hour. Winifred is now my floating home and the object of my constant attention (or should I say, obsession) .