At the 2018 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance held May 5-6, 2018, at the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, Texas, Gary Cunningham displayed his 1940 Chris-Craft 22-foot Sportsman Sedan named Les Cheneaux.
The Algonac, Michigan, Chris-Craft plant delivered this beauty to the EJ Mertaugh Boat Works in Hessel, Michigan in the spring of 1940. Mertaugh’s is the world’s oldest Chris-Craft dealership, having been established in 1925, in the historic Les Cheneaux area, and is still in business. They are the primary sponsor for the Classic and Antique Wooden Boat Show and Festival of the Arts held in Hessel, Michigan, in August of each year. This is the largest wooden boat show in the world – hundreds of wooden boats enter every year – and thousands of attendees make the annual trip to scenic Hessel.
Les Cheneaux (French for “the channels”) takes its name from the many narrow passages, or channels, between the thirty-six islands of Les Cheneaux, discovered in 1679, by the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.
Jonathon Reus and his team at Macatawa Bay Boat Works in Saugatuck, Michigan, did virtually all the restoration work on Les Cheneaux. MBBW completely restored the boat from the keel up, including a new 3M-5200 no-soak bottom with new chines, keel, stem, frames, knees, frame tie, Okoume inner bottom, solid African outer bottom, book-matched mahogany decks and top sides, mahogany hull sides – all attached with 3M-5200, linoleum flooring, show quality paint and varnish, modern classic gauges, restored steering wheel, chrome, German Hartz canvas top, headliner, green leather upholstery, cabin top cover, and a matching green custom twin axle trailer.
When recounting the provenance of Les Cheneaux, Gary explained that the second owners of the boat did most of the restoration work, also at MBBW with Jonathan Reus in charge. They re-christened the boat Diva and used her in Saugatuck for five or six years.
They sold the boat to a buyer in Connecticut, who re-christened her again, this time as TRE Hugger, and kept the boat sitting in a damp basement for six years.
Gary had been looking for a Chris-Craft sedan after having completed a barrelback project with Jonathan Reus. He found TRE Hugger for sale on the Internet and then counseled with Jonathan about the boat. Jonathan knew everything about the boat, and between the two of them, they figured out a way to purchase the boat and bring her back to Michigan.
Jonathan personally traveled out to Connecticut on Gary’s behalf to inspect the boat and finish the negotiations for the acquisition. He then hauled her back to Michigan, to complete the work necessary to not only put her in show condition, but also get all the paperwork and registrations correct to regain her original registration numbers in Michigan.
Plans are to show Les Cheneaux only three times in 2018:
- Keels & Wheels, Seabrook, Texas, May 5-6, 2018
- Hessel Boat Show, Hessel, Michigan, August 11, 2018
- ACBS International Boat Show, Port Huron, Michigan, September 14-15, 2018
Both Jonathan and Gary are proud of Les Cheneaux and take a great deal of pleasure in the fact that they have preserved such a remarkable boat.
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