Gallery 5 -- Merrimac
Merrimac, an exquisite 45-foot motor yacht built by the Astoria Marine Construction Company was launched on August 27, 1938, and is now owned and painstakingly maintained by George Beall. George is pictured at Merrimac's helm below. Topped with a fly bridge, Merrimac bears a custom "brow" over the reconfigured windshield--the personal architectural signature of Joseph Dyer himself, who owned Merrimac for many years.
The History of a Proud Northwest Wooden Boat
by George Beall
During her sixty-plus years of plying the waters of the Pacific Northwest, Merrimac has developed a strong following of admirers and her 1930's elegance continues to draw attention. Merrimac, a unique cruiser for her day, was coined "The Million Dollar Yacht" in the early 1940's because of her quality craftsmanship, innovation and features such as a shower in the bow, leaded glass bookcases and original fixtures. Merrimac has enjoyed excellent stewardship with several long-term Oregon owners, who maintained her in yachtsman condition. This classic wooden yacht has never undergone a complete renovation, thus Merrimac has never missed a year of cruising.
The cruiser originated in the late 1930's as a Bay City Boat Inc. kit boat -- 2200 Series Heavy-Duty Round Bottom Cruiser. The kit was ordered by Walter "Mac" McCrea, a well-known yachtsman and past commodore of Portland Yacht Club. All of the parts and lumber were shipped from Bay City, Michigan and arrived in Portland Oregon heaped in a boxcar. As the story goes, the first boat builder hired to build the cruiser opened the boxcar door with horror and immediately turned the job down stating the project was much too big.
Undaunted, McCrea went West to Astoria Marine Construction Company, (AMCCO) and struck a deal with owner and marine architect Joe Dyer. The agreement stated that Dyer would use the kit as much as possible, but the cruiser would be built the "Astoria way" thus he redrew the boat and used a great deal of Wolmanized lumber from the local mill. The Bay City Boat Inc. catalog, original kit drawings and revised AMCCO drawings are still kept aboard the boat. Since his death, Dyer and AMCCO have become recognized as some of the highest quality West Coast boat builders. In fact, Dyer is currently the only marine architect featured at The Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Construction of the boat began in early 1937 and MaryMack was launched August 27, 1938 at the AMCCO yard on the Lewis and Clark River in Astoria, Oregon. Shortly thereafter, in 1942, the cruiser was pressed into service. Like most other large cruisers of this vintage, she was painted gray and converted into a patrol boat -- according to local lore, a 50 caliber machine gun was mounted on her foredeck. for several years, MaryMack patrolled off the Oregon Coast out of Nehalem Bay.
After World War II efforts, the cruiser was purchased by Charlie Wegman, a Portland construction business owner. He renamed the boat Dee Dee Jo after his girls and cruised her until approximately 1950. Under Wegman's stewardship, the gray paint was removed.
Horace Williams, a Portland restaurateur and owner of the popular Tik Tok restaurant, purchased the cruiser next and renamed her The Princess. Williams maintained the boat until 1953.
In 1953, the cruiser returned to her place of origin and became Joe Dyer's personal yacht, which he renamed Merrimac. Dyer added the flybridge in 1953 along with his trademark brow over the reconfigured windshield. From bow to stern the bilges were wrapped with ironbark to protect the yacht from floating debris and ice and the original Chrysler Royal Crown engine was replaced with a Buda diesel. During his 19 years of ownership the yacht cruised throughout the Northwest.
Merrimac was purchased by Jim Stacy, a sawmill and tug boat company owner from Astoria, in 1971 and the name retained. Stacy maintained and cruised the boat for 23 years with log books showing trips circumnavigating Vancouver Island, cruising the San Juan Islands and trekking as far north as Alaska. During these years the boat was re-powered with its present engine -- a 450 Cummins V-8.
The current owner, George Beall, acquired Merrimac in October of 1994. Beall, a golf club and real estate owner from Portland, is the first owner to use the cruiser as a classic yacht and revive it to its original glory. Fortunately, the boat has always been maintained to a high standard and continues to be refurbished to an even higher grade of maintenance inside and out. With attention to original design and upholstery, hunter green carpet, varnished mahogany, and polished chrome. Much of the interior remains original, including hand water pumps in both heads and fixtures throughout. The original solid mahogany galley table -- for years hidden under a layer of Formica -- was recently restored to its original luster and embellished with gold leaf design. Today, Merrimac is a splendid example of Joe Dyer's work and AMCCO's legacy. The classic cruiser is moored at Portland Yacht Club in the original house specifically built for the boat.
Merrimac is a member of the Antique and Classic Boat Society and the Pacific Northwest Classic Yacht Association.
Designer: Bay City Boat Inc./Joe Dyer
Builder: Astoria Marine Construction Company, Astoria, Oregon
Length: 45 feet
Beam: 11 feet 6 inches
Draft: 3 feet 6 inches
Original Power: Chrysler Royal Crown
Current Power: 450 Cummins V-8
Construction: 1 3/16" mahogany carvel plank on 1 1/4" x 1 7/8" bent on on 9" centers; decks 1" spruce
Home Port: Portland, Oregon