This is the updated story of a former Glen-L boat builder and the resurrection of a Malahini build. As you can see, it is a little long but in short, the continuation of a project has begun.
I became a forum member in February, 2010. I was just getting started on a Chesapeake Light Craft kayak build and having one of those Zen-like experiences that happens when you are under the influence of Okoume dust and epoxy fumes. I soon became enamored with wooden boats. It didn’t take long until I found this site and became fascinated with hand built wooden boats powered by internal combustion.
Just after joining the Glen-L Forum, I made a few posts in the small outboard section. I was interested in the Zip. It could be constructed in a garage, powered by an outboard and there were plenty of others building them. I had found the kayak build very enjoyable and relaxing. I was feeling confident. But this was a different animal and I was not sure I would stick with it. I eventually decided not to start on another project that may go unfinished and abandoned the idea.
The last couple of weeks in Jan, 2011, I have come back to the Glen-L forum, made a few Malahini posts, and asked quite a few questions about clear coating vs varnish, trailers and motors. I even signed up for the 2011 gathering pledging to have a Malahini in tow. However, there is no build thread attributed to me and I’ve made less than 40 posts total...what gives you may wonder. So now, as Paul Harvey used to say: “It’s time for…the rest of the story”:
Going back to those original Zip posts:
March 2, 2010, I inquired about a Zip that I found for sale in IL. I thought it was a nice looking little boat and I was thinking I could buy it and make some mods to fit my tastes. Don Witherspoon of Florida built it. I don’t even remember how I know that (I think vupilot told me). I inquired here on the forum about Don and his Zip. There were some members who remembered him…especially Chris, aka vupilot, but I could not find anyone who knew how to reach Don. I wanted to buy that Zip and had some questions for it’s constructor. I was unable to get any information from anyone about Don. I couldn’t find an email address for him anywhere on the forum and eventually put it behind me.
Life moved on and I almost forgot about the Zip. But, as these things happen, I went back to the site that had Don’s Zip listed and it was still there. I confirmed with the broker that it was indeed still available and in good condition. Then I started looking around here again. Since I had previously written off the idea of building a boat from the ground up, I thought an abandoned project would be right for me to finish. I was thinking that something that had the frames finished and the hull started could be nice. I looked at the For Sale section and happened to see a post about a half built Malahini for sale on ebay. The auction had been over about a month, but the link still worked. The boat did not sell. I clicked on the ask seller a question button and it allowed me to ask the following simple question: “Did the boat sell?” I got an answer a day later telling me that he still had the boat and it was a project started by his late father. After a couple of emails, he signed his name: Don Witherspoon. A light went off in my head. I knew that name and sure enough, it was the same name I had inquired about back in March, 2010. However, I realized this was Don Jr. I had told him earlier in our email string that I was also looking at a Zip in IL. In an instant, it all came together. Now, I was able to tell him that I just realized his father also built the Zip I was looking at. Folks, I have to say at that moment, I had a feeling that buying this boat was my destiny. I even told my wife that this was my destiny.
Don and I sent a few rounds of email and I overwhelmed him with questions. He told me I was going to have to call him. I did and as they say, the rest is history. I am now the owner/semi-builder of Don’s Malahini.
So what happened to Don Sr? He built the Zip assisted by his son back around 2005. He caught the boat building virus and wanted to build another. He sold the Zip and started the Malahini. He actually constructed the boat all the way to the finished hull and deck stage. That includes the paint on the bottom and a finished deck minus clear coat.
Don Sr had been a restorer of hot rods, muscle cars and I believe boats for many years in Florida. Don Jr says: “He was a helluva guy” and I believe it. I’m told, he once restored a Gull Wing Benz, which was worth millions. He was very skilled and had really gotten into building wooden boats. Around Christmas 2006, Don was diagnosed with cancer. In February, 2007, he was gone.
The Malahini sat in his shop for a while until his son, Don Witherspoon Jr, took it to his home where it was stored in his shop. Don Jr. had planned to finish the Malahini, but he is running two businesses and just did not have the time. Don Jr. and I both had envisioned a 1950s Chevy-like interior with some tuck-n-roll upholstery and that is what I hope to do.
The hull and deck were completed and the bottom was painted. It simply needed to be sanded and clear coated. A friend of the Witherspoons who is a professional auto painter painted the Zip and the Malahini. Since the boat was ready for the final coating, Don was able to strike a deal with him for sanding and clear coat. I paid for that work and it will be sprayed on Jan 29-30…if the air is not too damp.
Now it is probably obvious why I’ve been asking about trailers, motors and clear coat. All I have to do is add the waterline stripe and deck hardware to complete the exterior. The interior is almost a blank slate. The big things I need are a motor, interior and a trailer. Most of the time, the boat will be kept in our covered slip on a FloatAir lift. In the offseason, I think I’ll just take it out and seal it up.
The boat will be delivered to me from FL within a couple of weeks. I have attached some photos and Don Sr himself is featured.
A few photos of Don Sr at work
Don Jr taking the boat from his dad's house to his (18 miles). Don assured me he would be using a much nicer trailer to transport the boat to Atlanta
The first purchase I'll be making after the hull/deck...I have to start somewhere. It is not quite a cool as a banjo wheel, but it's also $250 less expensive.