Posted on: January 13, 2014 | No Comments »
In the late 1950s and 60s, when mahogany runabouts like Chris-Craft and Century were popular, I was mesmerized. I just knew I had to have one. So, in 1960, my father downsized plans for a deluxe utility runabout and built me a beautiful 16-foot ski boat with a mahogany deck. At the time, I was skiing competitively and that custom-built boat gave me plenty of power for ski practice.
I owned the boat until 1972, when my husband Buddy and I decided to sell it and purchase a no-maintenance fiberglass model. We sold the ski boat to Robert Newman and it remains in his possession to this day. Robert and his wife both skied recreationally with the boat, and when their son Rick came along another dedicated skier was added to the family.
Years later, though I had not seen nor heard from Robert since selling him the boat, I ended up meeting his son Rick at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. Rick told me of his ski adventures with the Huckins 16-footer and how it traveled with the family each time they moved to a new city. Our chance meeting occurred during Huckins’ 75th anniversary year, so I invited Rick and his dad to bring Li’l Monster down to Jacksonville for the party. My father Ken Archibald was still alive at the time and he was thrilled to see the boat he had built in such great condition. Naturally, I was equally delighted to run Li’l Monster again after all those years.
Jumping ahead to 2011, a year I will always remember, I received a special phone call from a friend who informed me that her husband Charlie, a quadriplegic, went waterskiing. Moreover, he had skied behind my old boat, Li’l Monster!
While processing this remarkable news, I got a call from Robert Newman, who explained that he donates use of his boat annually to the Anchors Away Program. This volunteer organization uses watersports to liberate and empower people with mental and physical disabilities. Hearing this sent chills down my spine and I promised myself that I would be in attendance the following year. As fate would have it, I later received a call from Charlie informing me of the date he would be skiing with Anchors Away. When that day came I drove from Jacksonville to South Carolina in hopes of surprising Robert.
On the morning of the event, I first glimpsed the familiar shape of Li’l Monster as she pulled a disabled skier. Throughout the morning I helped skiers get set in the water and was in constant awe of their talent. When Robert came in with Li’l Monster around lunchtime, I walked right up and said, “Nice boat!” Caught completely by surprise, he needed a few seconds to recognize me, but once he did I was welcomed with a big hug. After we watched everyone ski throughout the afternoon, I had the opportunity to ski with my old boat again and it was glorious. As the memorable day came to an end, I informed Robert of Huckins’ upcoming 85th anniversary party and I made him a proposition: If he would bring Li’l Monster back to Jacksonville for the 85th anniversary event, I would personally refinish the boat’s mahogany. Robert graciously agreed, and now I am covered in mahogany dust!
The refinishing of Li’l Monster is being done not only to thank Robert for keeping the boat in perfect shape for over 40 years, but also to benefit the latest generation of skiers to be pulled by her at the Anchors Away Program. And, who knows, maybe next year Robert and I (and Li’l Monster, of course) can spend a day teaching his 7-year-old grandson Tyler and my 5-year-old grandson Wesley how to ski.