Old Guys Building Boats: Ray Moran
by Mike Freige
Mike Freige here, we spoke last week about our common friend, Ray Moran. Ray was born in 1921 and stays young building wooden boats from Glen-L. I am going to send you a few images of Ray that you may find interesting or of use for your article.
Ray was born in 1921 in East Los Angeles. He grew up during the depression, working with his dad and brothers in the family business making trunks. With the automobile just catching on, Ray's dad did a good business making trunks for Model T's and A's. Ray learned how to make "something from nothing" scavenging wood from whereever they could to make the fabric covered trunks. Ray's dad always told him to "put the bad wood on the bottom where it won't show".
One of Ray's first "original" designs was an outboard hydro pictured below with Ray at the wheel in Long Beach Marine Stadium, 1942.
Ray joined the Navy during WWII and his carpentry skills were soon recognized. He was immediately made an "Aviation Carpenter" and was stationed in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. When he wasn't making tent floors for officers, he was trading his beer coupons and home made "raisin wine" (that he fermented in the used nail kegs) for bits and pieces to make sailboats.
One of the sailboats was made from a torpedo shaped bomb casing, had a plate steel keel, and a sail made from old parachutes. This boat sank with Ray and another sailor on board. They were rescued, butt naked, by a passing supply ferry and returned safely to their island base. They were embarrassed but lucky to have been picked up quickly from the shark invested tropical waters. Ray is on the left in front of a grass hut below.
Through his 30's, 40's and 50's, Ray stayed busy working, raising a family and building a house with his own hands. He still had time to squeeze in building a Glen-L Hot Rod in the early 1950's. Ray was working as a fire department mechanic. He couldn't afford a v-drive, but he figured out how to adapt and modify a power take-off from a fire truck to make a transmission with reverse, neutral and two forward gears.
When Ray retired he was 65 years old. He built another Glen-L, this time the Glen-L 14 sailboat. Ray kept this boat in Los Angeles harbor and sailed it regularly. When he tired of the boat, he stripped the hardware, sawed up the hull, and put it out for the trash man to haul away.
When Ray was 70, he started on another Glen-L, this time another power boat, "Cracker box". Ray built the boat with construction grade plywood scraps and thus dubbed the boat "Scrap Box". Ray powered the boat with a potent 327 Chevrolet and ran the boat several times in Long Beach Marine Stadium.
Law enforcement harassed Ray about excessive speed, noise, and no transmission. Ray installed a transmission but was unhappy with the boat after that. Frustrated from being harassed by the harbor patrol, Ray pulled all the hardware out of the "Scrap Box" and contemplated his next move.
Ray was now 76, and he decided he would build Glen-L's "Miss Mist". Rumored to be a fast hull, he used nearly all the hardware from his "Scrap Box" and built this new boat naming her "Scraps". We maiden launched Scraps in 1998 and the rumor was true, this is one fast 18 foot boat. She rides high and soft like a classic lady and makes beautiful turns.
Built in 1998, Scraps has been in a slip in Los Angeles harbor since. We haul her annually for paint and maintenance.
In 2001, Ray resurrected the Cracker Box, cut to a lower profile, with a fresh deck and a 283 Chevrolet with direct drive again.
I have Scrap Box now. I upgraded the hardware replacing much of the fabricated marine gear with Glenwood marine hardware. The boat is solid, fast and fun. At right is an image of a "blast" in Los Angeles Harbor in December of 2003. Remember this boat was built ten years ago with construction grade plywood, but is held together with Glen-L two part epoxy and fiberglass. No signs of stress or deterioration yet.
This is Scraps in February 2004 after her annual haul out for paint and maintenance. We still keep her in the water in a slip in Los Angeles harbor. We didn't want to ruin her lines with the auxiliary motor bracket, but we also didn't want to risk being run over by a container ship should we lose our main engine while cruising Los Angeles harbor.
This boat has been in the water for 5 years now and is holding up nicely. Again, construction grade plywood with Glen-L two part epoxy and fiberglass holding things together.