Who knew  - 21’ Chris-Craft Cobra found on the other side of the pond

Serendipity is an illusive concept and when it presents itself, one finds great value and benefit, not sought by ordinary means.  It has intervened in my life many times and each time my path is altered.   Having graduated from University in the 1980’s, I began to plot my course in Life.  “Set sail through unchartered waters, behold sites unseen and find passion in life, without compromise”, was my mantra.  I’d searched far and wide in my young life for some semblance of meaning and realized the box I had chosen to live in wasn’t big enough.  Time to step out.  My chosen Port of Call…London, England.  My Mission…define my role in life by refining my inherent talents.  I obtained an Ancestry passport which allowed me to live and work in the UK.  The flight from Vancouver to London in 1987 proved to be a steppingstone as I soon realized I was about to settle in a World class City where one could study just about anything.  I assembled a list of interests that were in line with what I valued and promptly contacted a variety of Training Centres.  I decided to take the Train to Lowestoft, NE of London and arrived at the International Boat Building Training Centre (IBBTC), a world-renowned College for Wood Boat building.  It was a summers day and the Boat house doors were open.  I was overwhelmed by what I saw within. Graceful lines and glistening paint, curled shavings carpeting the floor and the sight, smell and sound of wood enveloping the exquisite shapes.  I pondered, “Where has this been all my life?”  Without hesitation, I enrolled in the school and on graduation, gained my apprenticeship.  I went on to work for Jack Chippendale, a highly respected British boat builder.  In my free time I ‘d scour the countryside for sites of interest.  One day, I ended up in the Lake District, North of Liverpool, after hearing about the Lake Windermere Steamboat Museum (now called the Windermere Jetty).  The museum had amassed a collection of Steam powered Launches but also retained a few Classic motorboats, specifically a 1937, 16’ Chris Craft Special Race Boat.  The Windermere Motorboat Racing Club supported racing on the lake throughout the 1920’s-1960’s. 


1955 Chris-Craft Cobra 21' - Hemi 


When we think of “messing around in boats” one cannot help but bring the British to mind. They are legendary for their unique ability to make their mark on the water.  Historically, British vessels were innovative and State of the Art but often very fast.  British Motorboats were no exception and with the advent of mass-produced internal combustion engines, the race was on to beat the competition.  There has always been a nautical rivalry between England and the USA.  In 1903, Sir Alfred Harmsworth offered up a trophy to recognize achievement in Motorboat Racing, not between boats or drivers per say, but between Nations.  One has only to reference the epic battle on the water between Garwood’s Miss America and her rival Miss Britain in the 30’s. This decade set the stage for Motorboat racing on both sides of the Pond.  Chris-Craft wanted a piece of the action and actively marketed its product all over the world, including the UK.    


I returned to Western Canada in the early 90’s and began restoring Classic Mahogany speed boats. By chance, early in my career I found a 16’ Chris-Craft Special Race Boat race within a 2-hour drive of my Boat Works. Unlike most of the painted Special Race Boats, this boat was ordered by a Canadian in 1937 who insisted it be stained and varnished.  I sold it to Dave Lobb who went onto restore it as “Rascal.”  Since then we have restored and brokered countless Classic Speedboats and the demand remains very strong.   About a year ago, we were contacted by young couple in the UK who wanted us to sell their Classic Chris-Craft. When told the boat used to race on Lake Windermere, we got rather excited.  Once I learned the boat was a 21’ Chris Craft Cobra, stored in a barn and not used for decades, I was virtually on the next plane out to the UK.  I learned the Hull number was 50 and the original Chrysler Hemi V8 was still in the boat.  It was imported new into the UK by Mr. Brooker who was a member of the Windermere Motorboat Racing club.  In addition, it was part of a fleet of boats that escorted “Teal”, the Queens Launch, across the lake in the mid 50’s to celebrate her Coronation.  The young couple had inherited the Cobra, had no use for it but wanted the boat to go to a good home.  They insisted we find a suitable buyer who would have it restored at Absolute Classics Marine. 

It took us a year, but a local client stepped up, delighted at the prospect of seeing the Cobra roar across the water.  We arranged to have the Cobra loaded into a container late last year, transported to South Hampton and then loaded on the container ship, MOL Experience.  The ship crossed the Atlantic with stops in Savannah Georgia and Venezuela, through the Panama Canal, on to Los Angeles, Seattle, then Vancouver with an ETA of February 1st, 2020.  We will see the Cobra at our Boat Works in early February. Restoration will begin forthwith with a goal to return this Cobra to “As delivered condition.”


Most of us would be fortunate to be able to say we have seen a 21’ Cobra up close and personal. Some are privileged to own one of the 50 built, but not many happen upon one without actively looking.  Serendipity strikes like again.