Being faithful to historic style
The Red Baron, first known as Zimmie and the yacht favored by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for getaways, sits at Collier County's Goodland Boat Ramp, waiting to be dismantled.
Craig Jones of Marco Island originally thought he would restore the once 63-foot beauty, but bringing the launch on land at Goodland damaged the delicate hull beyond repair.
"The initial intention now gives way to ultimate reality," Jones said of his changed project of saving historical parts and making it into a 40-foot boat.
Zimmie was built by Stanley Donough, a West Coast Sears executive in 1935. Donough made the first, historic transcontinental radio call aboard Zimmie to his U.S. headquarters on the East Coast.
During World War II it saw service as a recovery boat for practice torpedoes launched by submarines. It was renamed Cee Bee III and underwent restoration in the 1950s. Built in Seattle, it roamed the Pacific Northwest waters for years before being sold to Gerhard Bechtold who moved it to Miami in the early 1990s. He named the boat the Red Baron.
Bob Self of Isles of Capri later purchased the boat and kept it on the canal behind his West Helo Street home. In 2006 a tree fell on the boat and cracked the hull, partially sinking the boat. Self did not have the ability to repair the Red Baron and gave it to Jones in 2008.
It stayed there for six months before Jones towed it to his boat dock at his home on Marco Island. Neighbors complained to the city and the boat was moved to a boat dock at a home in Goodland, near Stan's Idle Hour.
Jones arranged to have the boat taken out of the water and towed to the now-defunct Old Cypress Market off U.S. 41 where he would do restoration. That's when the real trouble began.
Jones had determined the waterlogged vessel weighed about 35 tons. It was later determined it weighed more like 45 tons.
Jones customized a trailer to pull the boat from the water, using a truck provided by Dwayne Thomas of Marco Island. However, Jones' trailer couldn't hold the weight, leaving it stranded half way up the ramp.
Alligator Towing out of Fort Myers then gave assistance, but as the boat was moved onto land at the Goodland Boat Ramp the waterlogged hull snapped. It has been sitting on land at the boat ramp for about three weeks.
Jones said the county has been very understanding, allowing him to dismantle the boat at its present location. It will take about three weeks to do the work, placing authentic materials and fixtures into a shipping container.
Once at the Old Cypress Market location work to build the new, smaller vessel, that will be faithful to the style of the original boat, will begin, Jones said.
While no longer an historical restoration, Jones will allow young people who want to learn about boat building to assist.
He expects the boat will take 18 to 24 months to build, at a cost of about $100,000.
Jones and wife Bronwynn came to Marco Island 12 years ago from Tasmania, Australia where he was a coach builder, recreating pre-World War II auto bodies.
He owns the Marco Island Small Engine Repair Shop on Front Street.