Welcome to my blog, where I plan on sharing everything on this side of the Severn river.
March 17, 2021
This is a story of breathing new life into an old boat. Not any old boat but a rare 1969 Bertram 20 “Baron” speedboat which only about 40 or so were ever built. One story says that 20 or so were sold to the Germans leaving roughly 20 in the U.S. My brother, John Kaiser Jr., acquired the boat back in the late 80’s. It was in fairly good shape, mechanicals were solid but the hull and decks needed work. OK it really needed a total facelift. But John ran the boat for the next 25 years or so with only minor issues, all the while knowing at some point in the near future, this boat will need a rehab.
The decision to do the job came after the boat “sank” while on its trailer (or on his lift, I’m not sure). The engine, electrical and all mechanicals were submerged. It was clear a new engine, wiring was needed. So why not take this opportunity to do the whole job? This was 2011.
John has been a yacht broker in the Annapolis area since 1988. He began working with Interyacht and eventually began his own yacht sales firm called Yacht View Brokerage. He sold anything that floated and could pass a survey. He also knew that each sale was a new relationship. It wasn’t long before the listings came to him and he was the selling agent for a wide array of listings. In the yacht brokerage world, you want to be the listing agent. The buyers (and their agents) come to you! Never to be content with the status quo, John grew his business, made countless friends along the way and has had a wonderful career selling boats.
For all who have known John Kaiser Jr., he is the quintessential bachelor. He has had a small number of what would be called “serious” girlfriends over the years. Of course those close to him would say “Now… THIS is the ONE!!” trying to encourage him to finally “settle down.” But that was not be, that is until he met Jackie. I think maybe I knew before the others, but she turned out to really be “The One!” John and Jackie were engaged in 2019 and got married the summer of 2020. With the Covid restrictions in place, they had their ceremony on the lawn of his house on the Severn with just the two of them and their dear friend Janet officiating. You can imagine how upset (another adjective comes to mind but not fit to print) I was and his close friends were when we learned of this incredible moment! We would have worn space suits and gas masks to witness the wedding of John Kaiser!! We eventually forgave them; I mean this is John; Mr. happy, energetic, sincere, devoted, true to his whole self. And he just united with Jackie, also one of the most perfect human beings anyone will ever know. Jackie, unlike John, knows what needs to be done and when. With a huge smile and incredible kindness, she makes things happen!
The old Bertram 20? Unfortunately, John had all but forgotten about his awesome old boat especially now with Jackie in his life. Years before he got married, in 2011 he handed the boat over to his friend Rick Smith, owner of Smith’s Marine on the Severn so that it could get a total restoration. At that point, the boat exterior needed to be stripped inside and out, new hull stringers installed, stiffening stringers laid in, new decks and hatches fabricated, new transom built along with all of the cosmetics that are involved. It took Rick two years to get through the major structural work. He operates a busy boatyard and this was meant to be a filler job so it took time. Once the heavy lifting was completed, the boat remained in the yard, upside down so it didn’t collect water, with all sorts of parts that were either rebuilt, re-chromed, or simply removed and stored around the yard. The boat and its parts remained in storage for the next 8 years. Each time the subject of the Bertram 20 would come up, John would always reply “Oh… he will get it done soon, I’m not worried.” But we knew deep down, he wanted his boat back.
You should know that Smith’s Marine is the principal yard where John refers his buyers and sellers. With each passing year that the Bertram was not worked on, it only got busier in the yard. Surveys, repairs, sea trials and closings were pretty much constant. The more time went by, the less important the restoration became. But you know how there’s that nagging feeling that won’t go away?
Now enter Jackie. She quickly became aware of how much this old boat meant to her husband. Also enter John’s brother Dave. I have operated a full service boatyard in Massachusetts with my wife’s family for the past 33 years. I have said to John these past 7 or 8 years since the work stopped on his Bertram that we would love to finish it off for him. (See above for John’s standard response) Jackie pulled me aside while we were all having lunch not long before Thanksgiving 2020. She asked if we could bring the boat north and finish it. I mean all it needed was for the hull topsides and bottom to be filled and faired, the decks and cockpit to be faired, all surfaces to be primed and painted, windshield and all upholstery to be replaced along with the engine, transom shield, wiring, plumbing, instruments, controls and steering, seats, upholstery, cockpit floor, lights, electronics. I mean how hard could that be? I immediately agreed. We had a super busy off-season already lined up and the last thing we needed was another involved job. I ran it by my son, Ned (he and I are 50/50 partners in our business). He immediately agreed and we moved the boat into the shop right after Christmas. Now enter Graham and Cam who would spend the next three months sanding (by hand using a long board and lots of shoulders), priming, applying Awl Grip and tending to all of the details needed to restore this old classic. Since the boat would be kept on a lift, the entire bottom also needed to be treated as a finished surface to match the rest of the near perfect hull.
To further complicate matters, we decided early on that this project would be a complete surprise for John. I feel the worst for Rick who had to keep John’s curiosity at bay, basically telling him once again that the boat is in another workshop ready to be worked on. Luckily Jackie was able to keep him distracted but Rick really did take it on the chin. If it were not for that, the surprise would have been lost. They say it takes a village. In this case we brought in multiple professionals to get the job completed. I felt pretty guilty that here we were doing a full restoration, making a hundred various decisions, and John was not consulted once. The only info we had was from Rick that John wanted the hull Vivid Red and cockpit Oyster White and a black racing stripe down the middle. Other than that, we were on our own. We tried to keep the boat as original as possible but tossed in some modern features such as an Edson wheel, Garmin GPS, composite dashboard, Aqua Traction foam decking and powder coating the windshield, seat pedestals and trim tabs. Ten years ago, John had already purchased a new Mercruiser 383 cid “Stroker” engine. We did re-use the Bravo II outdrive but did purchase a new transom assembly. For the most part, there is not one piece on the boat that has not been replaced.
Now for the presentation. How to give the boat back to John and knock his socks off. Recall John and Jackie were married back in August 2020? They never did have any sort of reception. Also Jackie’s birthday is April 14, so why not celebrate both? On April 18, 2021 we planned a relatively small family and friends celebration for John and Jackie. They planned the day themselves so no surprise. As the gathering went along, John started asking “Where’s Dave and Jenn?” We were stuck in traffic, very convenient excuse, right? We were actually at Smith’s, along with Ned, Graham and Cam, getting the boat cleaned from its road trip from Mattapoisett, MA. We launched the boat and ran it about a mile from John’s house, going back and forth creating something of a sight. John, being ever so perceptive, was looking out over the river saying “man, that boat sure looks and sounds a lot like my old boat…” At that time, we turned toward shore at near top speed and flew into Herald Harbor on that Ray Hunt bottom and, with Ned driving, made a near perfect landing at the dock to cheers and tears. Johnny finally had his old boat back! Thanks Jackie for making this happen!!
This has always been my favorite boat!
This boat handles like a stunt plane!
Thanks to my awesome wife Jackie, my amazing brother Dave and his son Ned and their two restoration/finishers Graham and Cam for doing a "10" job and completely surprising me!