“Zipper” - A Classic Express Commuter

By: Rick Casali

Volume 16, Issue 6, June 2021

Zipper is the flagship of the Antique Boat Museum’s fleet of classic boats.  She is used to reward the museum’s larger contributors (called Friends) for their support of the Clayton-based organization.   We often see Zipper carrying those patrons of the museum on the waters of the St. Lawrence River.   This stylish commuter yacht has stunning lines that harken back to early times in marine history.  Her gleaming varnished mahogany hull, superstructure, and classic lines are hard to miss, as she carries passengers through the Thousand Islands.  She also leads the parade of antique boats on their island cruise around Wellesley Island during the boat show each August.

The Zipper donated to the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, NY. by the Stroh family 

Zipper was donated to the Antique Boat Museum by the family that owned and operated the Stroh Brewery.  She was donated on the condition that Zipper be commissioned and cruised, and not sit inside the museum among the various collections that the ABM exhibits.  So, the staff and volunteers of the museum lovingly care for this commuter yacht and operate her to benefit major patrons. Zipper is also available for charter for sightseeing and cocktail cruises on the St. Lawrence River.

Way back in the 1930’a, the Stroh family commissioned a well-regarded marine architect by the name of Ned Purdy to design a classic commuter yacht.  The design was agreed upon, yet the Stroh family delayed contracting to have the vessel built due to poor economic conditions at the time.  This delay ran on for forty years!    During that delay, the Purdy Boat Works shut down their boat-building business, so the Stroh family had to find a new yacht company to construct their commuter. They chose the Staudacher Yacht Company, which used more modern construction technology to build this yacht for the Stroh’s.  They employed the cold-molded technique, where the wood is saturated with epoxy, which makes for a very strong and long-lasting hull.

This express cruiser has a forward cockpit that can seat several guests and is said to be very quiet as the boat’s engines can hardly be heard.   The forward cockpit reminds one of the rumrunner designs from the 1920’s and 1930’s.   This seating area can be reached through the interior of Zipper and has an intercom back to the helm area.

The main cockpit has seating for about six to eight guests, and a very nice helm station with good sight lines forward and aft.   Varnished brightwork is in great abundance on Zipper.   Everywhere one looks, you see gleaming varnished mahogany.   Very elegant, and a throwback to earlier yachting periods.

The Zipper's classic lines with a curving shear and pronounced tumblehome at the stern make her a standout wherever she goes.

Zipper is powered by two 454-cubic inch V-8 Mercruiser marine engines.   This modern power has the ability to move the express commuter at cruise speeds in the 14 to 16-knot range, which is perfect for appreciating the beauty of the St. Lawrence River.  Zipper has made appearances in a number of ports in the U. S. and Canada.  These include Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, and Lake Champlain.   And of course, Zipper is always a favorite at the Antique Boat Show in Clayton in early August each year, as well as the show in Alexandria Bay.   Her classic lines with a curving shear and pronounced tumblehome at the stern make her a standout wherever she goes.

We are fortunate that the Stroh family commissioned the design and construction of Zipper, and that they chose the ABM to display and enjoy this lovely express commuter. The way her sharp bow effortlessly cuts through the waters of the River is to be appreciated year after year.  Please consider supporting the Antique Boat Museum in a meaningful way, so that future generations can enjoy classics such as Zipper.


Length overall:  41 feet
Beam:  11 feet
Year built:  1974
Designer:  Ned Purdy
Builder:  Staudacher Yacht Company
Hull material:  cold-molded wood
Power:  Twin 454 cubic inch Mercruiser V-8’s

By Rick Casali

Rick Casali is a part-time yacht broker who divides his time between Wellesley Island and Stuart, Florida. He and his wife Anne cruise the St. Lawrence River in a Seaway 24 called "Miss Annie", a 21 center console built in Maine, and a 1950's mahogany runabout called "Rumba". Be sure to see all of Rick's TI Life articles here.  

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 6, June 2021, History, Places, Sports

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