Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Lyman Runabout Restoration

Restored bow 1955 Lyman runabout
Pleasant Bay Boat and Spar Company has restored hundreds of boats, sail and power, wood and fiberglass, old sentimental boats and ones with fabulous pedigrees. The CG36500 is one of our finest restoration projects.
(See for the boat’s history, and for the restoration story).

Before restoration of Lyman runabout
Last fall we were contracted by owner Dick Boonisar to restore his 1955 15 foot Lyman runabout. When we first surveyed the boat, it was obviously in excellent shape. The frames were all original and intact. The plywood lapstrakes were in near perfect condition. The rivets were sound and showed no evidence of corrosion. It was remarkable that for once we were getting an opportunity to restore a boat without the necessity of rebuilding it.
In any restoration project, it is important to establish a project schedule. We work with the owner on budget as well as restoration goals. We bring into the equation the history of the boat. If it was a yacht then every attempt should be made to restore it accordingly. In this case the boats designers had other intensions.

 In 1951, at the peak of productivity, Lyman runabouts were being manufactured at an incredible rate of 1 boat every 35 minutes. The targeted market: returning GIs. Lyman’s war manufacturing experience had lead to a much more refined production sequence. Otherwise, building 5,000 boats a year would have been impossible. They became the “everyman’s boat”, and everyone wanted one. At the time there were 225 workers manufacturing 6 different models. The 15 foot runabout with outboard was one of the more popular ones.

”Lyman Boats have a long and rich history. Founded by Bernard and Herman Lyman in 1875 as The Lyman Brothers Boat Builders of Cleveland, Ohio, the company quickly became well known for building high quality "Clinker Built" skiffs. Early production centered on small sailing and rowing skiffs. By the early 20th Century the company, known by then as The Lyman Boat Works, was building custom sail and power boats in all sizes.

World War I forced the company to be moved off the waterfront in 1916 and away from the water, the Lyman's reverted to building small skiffs. The idea was to promote a quality craft that was affordable to more than just the wealthy.

During the Second World War, Lyman focused its resources on wartime production. The Boat Works produced several different military craft including pontoons to be used to support floating bridges. Following WWII from 1952 to the early 1960s were the most prosperous for the Lyman Boat Works. However, as other materials became popular, the market for wooden boats evaporated. By mid 1973 the production line fell silent. There were several attempts and owners trying to revive the company but after more than 60,000 boats and nearly 100 years, new Lyman Boats were no longer available.

As we learn the history of the company and this particular boat, it is important to drive the restoration accordingly. This was not a yacht! In fact, as you read the owner’s description below, you can appreciate how it was lovingly used.

"My father bought the boat in 1958 used from a marine dealer on the Bass River in Yarmouth. At that time it had a 1957 35 HP Johnson electric start outboard. The boat was used at Gurnet Pt. in Plymouth. We used it to haul our lobster pots, fish and fun. The Coast Guard even used on occasion to go Duxbury Pier Light.
In the mid 1990's I took it to Virginia re-powered it with a 25 HP Johnson.
I used it go out to the Barrier Islands. I brought it back to the Cape in late 2000 and stored it in my barn until I brought it to Pleasant Bay Boat and Spar for restoration. The boat has never been modified and all hardware controls etc. are original. The only thing that was replaced was one piece of side glass in the windshield. It was built for lake use but it never failed us on the ocean. It got up to plane quickly and could pull a water skier with no difficulty. It was fast and as a teenager I took full advantage of its speed. It took a lot of pounding in a south west wind in Plymouth Bay but was very forgiving."
Dick Boonisar, Owner

Before restoration
The existing interior was in great condition
  So we approached the restoration with the understanding that the boat would continue to be used by Dick and his family, just maybe not pulling those pots.

The boat was stripped of all paint and varnish, scraped and sanded for days, and then sealed. The inside, seats and windshield were sprayed with 6-7 coats of Alwspar M3131 varnish, and then sanded down again. The two final coats of Epiphanes were brushed on. The results are exquisite without being too fussy.

Interior fully restored
After varnishing

One of the stumbling blocks with any restoration is replacing vintage hardware. Fortunately this boat had all its original hardware, which is being re-chromed before we reinstall it.

Windshiel before restoration
There were some parts that we did have to fabricate. Here you can see the before/after windshield. The aluminum trim was not salvageable. We fabricated new stock from 3/8” square aluminum that was milled down to ¼” X 3/8’ in order to match the existing trim, and then bent on a jig that matched the window pattern. Finally it was dry fitted in place, pre-drilled for brass escutcheon nails, then removed, bedded and installed: a two man 16 hour process. The outcome was phenomenal.  I think those guys at the Lyman plant would have approved the outcome but wondered why it took so long.

Windshield after restoration
New windshield trim installed
 By 1951, the Lyman plant was set up for mass production. Jigs and machinery replaced talented boat builders. These were not the days of custom built Lymans that preceded the war. They were in full assembly line mode where every man knew his job and did just that.

Today we work in a different environment when we restore a classic wooden boat. One of the first challenges we have is to understand how it was built. It makes our job so interesting. It also teaches us how different builders solved the same problem, whether it’s about speed or efficiency or construction methods of the time. It would be impossible to match their production times, and as a result, this affects our productivity as we make every attempt to replicate the original work.

We are waiting on the re-chromed hardware, steering wheel and the new 1957 Johnson OB to complete the restoration.

"Helping keep the passion surrounding these "clinker-built" at a high level is the Lyman Boat Owners Association. Founded by Fred Jackson in upstate New York was the original organization, the Lyman Owners Group. The group was short-lived and fell dormant. In the early 1980s Dale Hooper brought the organization back to prominence as the Lyman Boat Owners Association based in Northern Ohio.

Today the LBOA is a nationwide group with over 550 members. The organization is 501c3 classified and dedicated to the preservation of Lyman boats and the history behind them. It promotes and stages over 12 events during the boating season and sponsors "Best Lyman" awards at shows across the country. Most events are fun filled family affairs with activities for all ages. The highlights of the season are the All Wooden Boat Festival and the Annual Regatta featuring a reunion of former Lyman employees and their families. The association publishes "The Clinker", a quarterly magazine full of event updates, restoration stories and tips, historical information, archives, and classified advertisements. The group also produces an all Lyman calendar featuring a different boat each month and maintains a full featured website. The website has up to date information about organization events, historical information, classified ads, and an active discussion forum. The association is run by a group six officers and directed by a board of trustees which are elected at a winter season annual meeting. For more information contact the Lyman Boat Owners Association via the internet at, by phone at (440) 954-4005, or by mail at 3511 Center Rd. Brunswick, OH 44212.”(Extracted from the Lyman Boat Owners Association web site.)

Dick will show the boat at the 13th Annual New England Lyman Show, June 2, 2012

We’ll show it at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic, CT June 30-July1 and at the Cape Cod Maritime Days June 9-10 in Hyannis.

Here are some photos taken this weekend pre hardware:

Cockpit restored

Restored 1955 runabout
Restored 1955 Lyman runabout
Windshiled and forward deck restored


  1. Great run down and history, thank you!!!
    I'm a yachtsman, looking to find a project Lyman myself.

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