In the post-WW II era, Chris Craft began to make their boat designs more elegant and, to my eye, classier. Riptide IV, owned by Jane and Kevin Heffron, is one of the nicest examples of this post-war shift at Chris Craft. Their 1948 Chris Craft 25 utility is anything but utilitarian. While the design does have convenient walk-throughs from the front cockpit all the way to the aft bench seat, the 25 utility shouts comfort and styling that are somewhat unique for the time.
From the varnished foredeck with art deco air scoops and chrome spotlight, to the elegantly cushioned seating, to the rounded engine box, Riptide IV exemplifies more modern styling with an emphasis on comfort. Raked burgee and yacht ensign staffs add to her modern lines. In my opinion, the pre-war Chris Crafts were less stylish compared to the designs introduced in 1948 and thereafter.
The August show at the Clayton, NY, Antique Boat Museum focused on classic Chris Craft designs. Riptide IV was shown with several other utilities in the McNally Boathouse. Her curved and flared bow sections were distinctive to me, from the pre-war Chris Crafts. We see some European design features in a more sensuous and curvaceous bow that reminds one of the Italian Rivas. My article for the Thousand Island Sun on Rivas reported on the exciting designs from the Italian builder. Likewise, the design changes that Chris Craft incorporated are subtle – but showed European influence.
This is not to say that Riptide IV has lost its utility as a boat. She retains the steel-lined bait box that came when delivered in 1948. The 25 utility also has generous freeboard to keep passengers and anglers safe and secure. Her six-cylinder Chris Craft M-class engine produces 175 horsepower and is original. The Heffrons were able to verify this from the 1948 paperwork from Chris Craft. The engine serial number matches the original invoice from George Mercier Co., in Clayton. Lastly, recognizing the outstanding overall condition of Riptide IV, it is easy to see why the Heffrons received an award at the August 2022 ABM show.
Jane and Kevin divide their time between their lovely home, River Oaks, on Wellesley Island, and a residence in London, England. Their love of boating led them to purchase a classic wood vessel for use on England’s River Thames. The Heffrons purchased and restored a 1936 Andrews Slipper launch, which is designed to create little wake since there are speed limits on the river. She is named Peau Neuve, which translates into "getting a new skin", and is a reference to the amazing metamorphosis that the boat received during the Heffron-sponsored restoration. The restored launch is powered with a smallish 40-horsepower British engine, which Kevin calls her “putt putt”. So, whether in the Thousand Islands or in London, the Heffrons can boat in fine style.
Riptide IV has been in the Rippeteau and Heffron family for many years. This Chris Craft was originally delivered to Mercier’s in Clayton (the local Chris Craft dealer) in January 1948. It was purchased by a family in Chippewa Bay, who enjoyed her for many years, until Jane’s father purchased the 25 utility in the 1960’s. With the purchase, Jane’s family had years of fun fishing, cruising, and water skiing from their home on Wellesley Island. Age finally caught up with Riptide IV, and Jane and Kevin stepped in to finance a badly needed vessel refit, which was done by St. Lawrence Restoration. The result is stunning, to say the least. The original green seat cushions were badly faded according to Jane, so she found some buttery, dark green leather in London and had both of their boats upholstered in this same material. So they feel at home in both boats, regardless of their location.
The Chris Craft 25 utility has a forward bench seat behind the chrome-rimmed windshield. The helm station is to starboard. A center-line walk-through gets passengers to two mid-cockpit seats, which feature the soft leather cushions. Going aft is a walkway to port that gets passengers to the upholstered engine box and back to the two aft seats. Under the port aft seat is the bait well, and to starboard we find a storage locker. There is plenty of space for family and friends to find a comfortable seat either while underway or at the dock.
Jane graciously allowed Riptide IV to be taken out of her protective boathouse for a photo shoot. As I stood on the dock and watched her carefully back out Riptide, it was apparent that this lady of the River is not only quite particular about their family Chris Craft, but she is also a proficient helmsman. Kevin and I not only admired how she handled Riptide in the River chop, but also saw her big smile as Jane drove their Chris Craft classic at cruise speeds up and down the St. Lawrence. After the photo shoot, Jane carefully eased the 25 back into her boathouse slip just in time to avoid a badly needed rain shower. It was a fine end to a lovely River morning.
By Rick Casali
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