Drew Becker had a secret.
Drew lived in Charlevoix all his life. After spending a year away at college, he longed for the water and the boats that cruised there. An only child, he went to New York University to honor the memory of his parents who died years ago. But his passion for the charming “woodies”– the Hacker Crafts, Chris Crafts, and Garwoods– far exceeded his interest in classes and books.
Drew wasn’t sure whether his skill as a boat mechanic was passed down through the generations, but the locals swore it was so. His fascination with his great grandfather, legendary boat mechanic Hank Becker, was a constant source of curiosity for Drew, and the town folk as well. The old man spent his days and nights tinkering around the wooden boat house, the same place Drew spends his time today.
He was a bearded old curmudgeon with a grumpy disposition and a face like a worn ball mitt. Not the marrying kind, Hank had girlfriends on every shore. He fathered a son, Drew’s grandfather, who he grew to know and adore. Over time, the boy became an integral part of the Becker family tree.
When Hank learned of a career opportunity on the water, a sales job of sorts, he tuned up his Hacker Craft and embarked on a new adventure. The old man was also a bit of a drinker. He was outraged at the passage of the 18th Amendment in the winter of 1920. Rather than just complain about the injustice of Prohibition, he fought the new law in his own private way.
Hank already had the perfect boat. The first Hackers were manufactured in 19o8 in the town of Lake George, New York. With its revolutionary V-hull, low profile design, and an aircraft engine, the 26-footer was the ideal craft for speed and discretion. That meant alot to Drew’s great grandfather as he ran cases of English gin, and French champagne down from Canada to Chicago, with a regular stop at Charlevoix.
There was a private late night ship that ran from Lake Charlevoix to Boyne City where Detroit politicians, wealthy businessmen, and their “dates”could enjoy a cocktail or two. The Keuka was a 75-foot party barge that entertained from nightfall till dawn. Never mind that Hank Becker cut the booze with water. He was a businessman, after all, and every bootlegger did it.
On his late night runs, old Hank was a pro at running in the dark, in the fog, and with no port or starboard lights to make him visible to another craft. He quickly learned the tricks of the trade, like how to use old motor oil to splash the hot manifolds. With excessive heat, smoke rising above his boat could give away his location, and he was not interested in a career change or time in jail. Hank liked being a rum runner, risks and all.
Ships that ran whiskey carried as much as $200,000 worth of liquor in a single run, but the breakneck speed and the smooth ride of the Hacker suited him fine. The profits of a successful trip on a larger boat meant splitting the money among the captain and crew. Hank, however, preferred to work alone and keep every penny for himself. He did, and that’s where the secret comes in…
To be Continued…
*This story is based on some true events, however, has been fictionalized and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© 2012, Shoes for an Imaginary Life. All rights reserved.