When I wanted to buy a boat, it had to meet certain specifications. I wanted it trailerable, a cuddy cabin, and to have the lines of a classic fiberglass. Little did I really know then, on what I had purchased. I bought the boat from a man in Surrey (B.C.) who would rather be golfing. The hull was in very good shape while the topside was not bad. The Johnson motor was not well looked after but ran O.K. He told me that it was motored from California. He also told me that it then got registered to another owner in Canada. It was, he thought, a 1970s vintage. "Right", I thought. I launched the craft in 1990, and every time I tied up, people wanted to know "What year is it?". All I said was "I was hoping you could tell me".
This was a definite mystery to be solved. I really wanted to know too. How does one go about researching Bell Boy when the Tacoma (WA) plant closed in 1982? Leo Krenzler, the company president, was nowhere to be found. I showed photos of the boat to many people, hoping for some results, but to no avail. No one could identify her. I had been asking everyone in the industry for 2 years when I decided that the only way that I was going to find out was to start writing U.S. boating magazines in the hope that someone (and more hopefully, someone from Bell Boy) would recognize her. SEA MAGAZINE, BOATING WORLD and PACIFIC YACHTING were the first to publish a photo & story asking for help in identifying her. Many months had passed and still no answers...
One day in 1992, I was at Yeager's in Bellingham (WA). I thought one of the old-timers there might know. There was an old guy in the shop who said "Jeez, I don't know but Russ Wells will". It turns out that Russ was the sales manager for Bell Boy and was doing the Boat Show in Seattle the next month. Needless to say it was a long month! I greatly looked forward to meeting Russ at the Auburn Sports marine booth in Seattle. I drove down from Vancouver (BC) to the show, found Russ and showed him a picture of the boat. Russ said "Very interesting, well I started with Bell Boy in 1960". He went on to say that "This boat is even before my time and wasn't built by our plant in Tacoma. It was built by the original Bell Boy plant at Bellingham Shipyards in...(yes, yes...please tell me, I thought) THE MID FIFTIES". WOW! When asked if he knew anyone who could give the exact year/model he responded with "no, I don't...I don't think that anyone is alive anymore"...Sigh!
I phoned John Schennick at Pacific Yachting, and he said to phone Max Whitcombe in North Vancouver (BC). I phoned Max, sent him a photo and received a response stating that the boat was built between 1955 and 1958. Since it had been slotted into a few years, it was off to the Vancouver Public Library. I hoped to research magazines in these years, and locate an article or advertisement that would prove it's year. Bingo, Bingo, Bingo!! SEA and PACIFIC MOTOR BOAT magazines had the proof! In the Nov. 1956 issue was an ad for "The new for 1957 Bell Boy boats". This one showed my hull design. Only one full page ad of my 16' model was found in the many 1956-1957 monthly issues that I researched. A month later, I received a letter from SEA magazine stating that they had received a letter from a Mr. Art Nordtvedt who had seen the published article/photo and had responded to them. The letter stated that he was the production manager for Bellingham Shipyards, and was currently the president of UNIFLITE boats. The letter confirmed my boat to be a 1957 Bell Boy Express. I was able to contact Art Nordtvedt and he agreed to meet with me in Bellingham. It was quite the experience to meet the builder of SECOND NATURE. Art was an older man with a lifetime of boatbuilding experience. He told me that it brought back quite a few memories of yesteryear, and he was very excited to see many of the photos I had brought down to show him. I learned quite a bit from our meeting and it is condensed on the "Known Facts" page.
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