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Man Building Rare Powerboat From Scratch

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By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — When no one else is around, Dave Hannam makes motorboat noises.

He steps into the middle of the wooden boat he’s building, purses his lips, and start dreaming of future cruises as the sound effects flow. Or, he’ll sit back in his “pondering chair” and muse about finishing the replica of a 1935 Gar Wood Gentlemen’s Speedster he’s dubbed DV8 2XS.

“I’m going to drive it like I stole it,” said Hannam, a 55-year-old Edgewater resident who works at Sarles Boatyard in Eastport. “I get pumped every day (thinking about it). It’s like a little hot rod.”

Since last winter, Hannam has been using part of a shop at Sarles to fashion the boat from scratch. Filled with tools, cans of epoxy and wood, the space resembles a sawdust-covered version of a man cave.

“This is cheaper than therapy,” Hannam said. “It gives me a lot of time to think and it takes all the stress out of the world.”

Hannam works on the boat on weekends, and already has 380 hours into the project since February. He figures to invest 1,500 hours before completing work in early spring – not to mention over $22,000 in supplies.

The Speedster is just a plywood hull now. The finished boat will be covered in mahogany.

“I love the way the old boats look,” Hannam said. “There’s a million fiberglass boats, they all look the same. But wooden boats all look different. You see one classic boat go by and your eyes go to it.”

Only a dozen of the 16-foot Speedsters were ever built and just a few survive, he said. His two-seater will be identical to the original, except for upgrades in weight distribution, electronics and coatings. The real Speedsters could be a bit unstable, he said.

“The reason more weren’t built was because they had too much horsepower,” Hannam said. “They were like a V-8 motorcycle.”

This isn’t to say he’ll be cruising in the slow lane.

His version will actually have a more powerful engine than the originals, but the modern touches will make it a lot safer. The 210-horsepower, V6 he’s rebuilding will be able to propel the 1,600-pound boat at over 70 miles per hour. “That’s the 2XS part,” Hannam said. “That name fits a certain number of things
related to the boat.”

Friends and colleagues are already lining up for rides, but the inaugural voyage is reserved for Hannam and his wife, Ann. “It should be interesting,” she said.

Plenty of others find the construction process alone fascinating. Hannam usually has a steady stream of visitors who check his progress, talk shop, and admire his handiwork.

“To watch the steps and stages is just thrilling,” said Deb Smith, owner of Sarles. “Fundamentally, I think it’s so exciting to be building boats at Sarles again and it’s added a lot to energy to the boatyard.”

Hannam has worked there for 18 months, handling a variety of duties, including restoration. Steve Halbrook, lead shipwright, wasn’t surprised his colleague would tackle such an involved project.

“The world’s full of dreamers,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of stick-to-itiveness.”

Halbrook said Hannam also has to have the ability to envision the finished project while still working on it. “You’ve got to have a mind’s eye. It’s everything in this business,” Halbrook said.

Keeping afloat

Hannam built his first boat when he was just 7 years old at the insistence of his father. He did the same for Hannam’s two brothers.

“He said he did that to keep us out of trouble,” Hannam said.

It worked. Once he finished the tiny boat, he spent his free time sailing on a river near where grew up in Ontario, Canada.

Over the years, Hannam worked a series of odd jobs, including positions in just about every aspect of the marine industry. He first came to Annapolis on a sailing trip, met his wife here, and has lived in the county for the past 14 years.

The oldest boat Hannam’s ever worked on was a 1903 78-foot steel steam-powered tow boat. The oldest wood boat he’s ever worked on is the Speedster. He decided to build it after seeing another replica at a classic boat show in St. Michaels a couple years ago.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s like that house you’ve been looking for all your life.”

There’s no kit for the boat, and Hannam had to write to a New York museum just to get copies of the original plans to work from.

“A lot of people look at it and think it’s a piece of art, even at this stage,” he said. “But it’s not there yet.”

His next task is installing the mechanical systems, including the engine. The last step will be affixing the mahogany. Stretched out, pieces of the wood would measure 721 feet, Hannam said.

“He’s just doing an extremely good job very, very quickly,” said Stephen Maloy, who owns an Annapolis marine services company. “He’s building this boat to be absolutely gorgeous.”

Hannam said he still has plenty to learn, even with a lifetime of experience. He doesn’t mind all the onlookers, though.

“I’m a ham,” he said. “This is my winning lottery ticket. You can’t buy the enjoyment of something like this.”

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://www.hometownannapolis.com/

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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