Here’s a dual award winner, a rare Century inboard boat, that was recognized at the 2021 Antique Boat Museum Boat Show. This boat show has been held every year (except 2020 due to the Covid pandemic) in the 1000 Islands town of Clayton in upstate New York. One of Clayton’s signature attractions is its prestigious museum collection of classic boats.
She was judged and recognized as both the “Outstanding Century” as well as the best “Preserved Classic Utility.”
This 18-foot 1963 Century Sabre is named Heaven on a Sunday. Ray and Ann Mc Dowell bought her at auction in 2014, and Ray named the boat to include his wife’s maiden name. This boat is definitely one of the family and shares an outbuilding at home with a classic Chevy car. The boat’s home port is in Pennsylvania.
Ray was in love with this gull-winged hardtop boat and paid $1000 more than his planned maximum bid to finally buy her from Mike and Suzanne, the boat’s third owners. She is a rare boat today. About 50 were made in 1963 by Century Boats in Manistee, MI. Now only two 1963 Sabres are listed with the Antique and Classic Boat Society in its annual ACBS directory that is available to all members.
The special fiberglass deck and gull-wing hardtop on a Sabre model was an early use of fiberglass in Century Boats as it moved away from wood. This boat is still categorized as a wood boat, however, since the sides and bottom are made in the traditional fashion from mahogany planking over oak frames.
Prior to Ray’s acquisition of this boat, Wooden Boat Specialties (now Wooden Boat Restoration) had installed a new bottom (2008) and a marina had rebuilt the 327 cubic inch AMC Gray Marine 238 HP engine and transmission. Interior and hardware upgrades were also done in 2008, with varnishing done in 2012. Since then, she has been revarnished again, along with additional engine work.
This 238-hp engine had the highest horsepower with its 327-cu. in. “Fireball” engine that was available at the time from Gray Marine. These engines started to show up in Century Boats in 1958. The engine was also offered in Rambler (AMC) cars from about the late 50s on. In this Century boat, this is a straight inboard, center mounted engine with a shaft drive in contrast to a vee-drive set-up.
The “utility” category refers to boats with an open, walkaround layout. In other words, there’s space between the front and rear bench seats with room to move around the engine box—as opposed to a two-cockpit arrangement that has a deck in between the front and rear seats, covering the boat’s engine.
The “utility” layout was used by Century boats throughout its range of models to make it easier to water ski and move about the boat while away from a floating pier. Alternatively, Chris-Craft tended towards the two-cockpit deck plan in 18-foot boats where changing seats or donning water sports gear was best done tied to a floating pier. The choice of layout depends on how you see yourself using your boat.
Unfortunately, the Gray Marine engine was mistimed when rebuilt and would not run under load. The Century Boat Club suggested Nick Arnone as someone who could help Ray. They got the engine’s timing straightened out and she now runs like a classic should.
Nick is a member of the Harveys Lake Chapter of the ACBS, which holds its annual classic boat show in August of each year. Chapter president Josh Bryant and the N.E. PA/Harveys Lake ACBS Chapter invited Ray and Ann to be regular members and participate in their meetings, regular events, and the annual boat show. Thanks to the support and camaraderie of Josh, Nick, and the other members of this chapter, Ray and Ann did become members.
By the way, Harveys Lake is a natural lake in Luzerne County, PA. It has a surface area of approximately 621.5 acres. By volume, it is the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania; by surface area, it is the second-largest lake in the state. It is a lovely glacial lake surrounded by hills and is the source of Harveys Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River.
By Chris "Seabuddy" Brown