LACONIA – The day the Sachem was quietly launched into the water at the western ramp of Irwin Marine was a moment the Kiedaisch family will remember for a long time.
As the water reflected off her white sides and the sun highlighted the topside mahogany woodwork, the completely restored 1952 27-foot, semi-enclosed, custom-made Chris-Craft came back to the only home she's ever known – the waters of Paugus Bay and Lake Winnipesaukee.
For owner Gary Kiedaisch, the Sachem's launch was a family affair with the promise of many hours of boating on his and his family's favorite lake. His son Seth, an artisan woodworker from Andover, had done the entire restoration.
For Irwin Marine owner Jack Irwin, the boat's restoration and launch brought back memories of his halcyon days as the largest Chris-Craft dealer in the country and of May 16, 1952, the day he sold the boat to one of his best friends, Louis Cushing, who was the owner of the Quarterdeck Motel on the Weirs Boulevard.
Irwin said Cushing had recently built the Quarterdeck Motel and used the boat to take his guests on trips around Lake Winnipesaukee.
"She was a party boat," Irwin said, noting that she had been specially designed without a cab so her passengers could enjoy the sunshine.
Custom designed with twin 95 Model K inboard engines, Irwin remembers how they would race the boat on Sundays in the handicap races that used to be held on a triangular race course delineated with buoys between Weirs Bay and Meredith Bay.
"Being semi-enclosed, she was a great boat for Lake Winnipesaukee because of her design," Irwin said.
He recalled he had a tough time special ordering the boat, and was only able to succeed because of the size of his dealership on the lake. He also said that Cushing was the second owner. The first owner had it less than a year before returning it to Irwin's.
"This was an expensive boat," he said noting that in 1952 the boat cost $9,000. "A boat like that would cost $100,000 today."
Fast forward about 55 years and Gary Kiedaisch, the CEO of Igloo Products Corp. and Gilford resident, was driving down Route 3 in the Weirs section of Laconia when he spotted an old wooden boat sitting on a corner lot belonging to Charlie Gaff – a local boat mechanic and restorer.
Gaff said he had owned the boat for about two years after purchasing it from one his best friends, George Bartemus, who he thinks bought the boat from Cushing around 1972 and also used it exclusively on Lake Winnipesaukee.
He said the craft used to be named the Cruisin' Lady.
"If George could see her today, she'd bring tears to his eyes," Gaff said.
"It was almost in ruins," Kiedaisch said, speaking about the first time he got a close look.
But since Kiedaisch's passion is wooden boats and restoration – the Sachem is his fourth - he said he recognized the boat had a unique design.
"An open runabout with great lines," he said.
Kiedaisch said he worked out a deal with Gaff to purchase the boat, but when he brought two different wooden boat restorers to look at her, both said she was "too far gone."
He said one restorer warned him that if he went to move her, she would likely fall into pieces.
But Kiedaisch had one card left to play and that was his son, Seth, who had studied woodworking at the College of the Redwoods Fire Furniture under master woodworker James Krenov, a Russian immigrant who taught that woodworking was as much philosophy as it was craft.
"In a weak father-and-son moment he agreed to do it," said Kiedaisch.
He said he held his breath as the boat was successfully lifted on to a flatbed and taken to Seth's workshop in Andover.
Seth said the only words he could think of when he first saw the boat on the trailer were "Holy crap!"
Seth, who is admitted into the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, did some research about the style of boat and visited what he described as a sister ship. An added bonus was that Jack Irwin had the original specifications of the boat in the archived files at the marina.
He said it was from the research and the spec sheet that he realized the sides of the boat had been painted white.
The restoration project took Seth two years. Still needing to keep a roof over his head, he said he worked on it between jobs.
"My kids are about a foot taller now than from when I started," he quipped.
"I had her flipped in my workshop," he said, adding there was only about a half inch of clearance space between the hull and his shop ceiling.
But he kept at it, at one point building his own steam box to gently bend to curves of the wood to mesh perfectly with her lines. He rebuilt the transom, added a new deck, and put a whole new bottom on her.
"Everything else is as original as it could be," he said.
Seth said even the brass strip on the bow of the Sachem was reworked and reinstalled.
With all but the finishing touches finished, the Kiedaisches moved the Sachem to Muller Boatworks on Lake Sunapee for the mechanical work.
Kiedaisch said the original engines were taken out and sent to an engine rebuilder who in many cases had to find obscure parts and in some cases had to make them to order.
He said the fuel pumps were converted from 6 volts to 12 volts and Muller Boatworks did all of the rewiring and the electrical work.
Three days before the 41st Annual Lake Winnipesaukee Antique and Boat Show, started by Jack Irwin and his late brother, Jim, the Sachem slipped into the water.
Kiedaisch said he named her the Sachem because his wife Cindy graduated from Laconia High School whose mascot is a Sachem. He said she also went to Camp Sachem on Lake Winnipesaukee when she was a youth.
On July 26, Sachem was awarded First in Class for her size and category and later named High Point Boat – or Best in Show.
"This is a great honor for me," Kiedaisch said.
Because of the honor, Kiedaisch said it'll be a while before the Sachem is housed permanently in the first boat slip at Channel Marine – the same slip rented by his grandfather in the 1940s.
He's been invited to participate at the 50th Annual Antique Boat Show and Auction in Clayton, N.Y., along the St. Lawrence River this weekend, and he said Seth has hauled the Sachem there.
While Kiedaisch's plans are to use the boat on Lake Winnipesaukee with his family, like two other boats that he's restored, the Sachem could one day end up in one of the many boat museums in the country.
His 1930 Chris-Craft is housed at the New England Boat Museum while his 1950 Penyan is in a museum in California.
But for Kiedaisch, the Sachem is more than a boat, it's a family project as well as affirmation of his lifelong friendship with Jack Irwin, who sold his parents one of their first boats in 1959.
"I've known Jack my whole life," he said. "He's just a wonderful man."