From 1961 until 1980, our Whaler had a 33-, 28-, and a couple of 40-horsepower engines (all pull starts). It took us water-skiing, “surfing,” on picnics, on trips into Lake Erie, around Grand Island, and escorting swimmers across the river. Countless friends and family members learned how to ski behind that boat. My brother even used it to commute to crew practice.
Not only was the Whaler a great motorboat, but it was also a rowboat, which came in handy whenever the motor conked out. I’m sure that was another feature that appealed to my dad.
By 1980, our 1961 Whaler was in dry dock, without a motor. The engine had been stolen and the boat somehow worked itself loose and went floating down the Niagara River. Miraculously, we found our Whaler in the weeds about two miles from the edge of Niagara Falls on the northern tip of Grand Island, six miles downstream from our dock.
After I got married and moved away, my mom sold the boat to a high school student who had been pleading with her to sell it to him. I’m sure he had a lot of great times on the old Whaler, too!
In 2000, when my husband and I moved back to Buffalo, we had four children, ages 6 to 12. My mom still had the family house in Canada, and I was longing for a Whaler. As it turned out, my husband’s uncle had a 1962 Whaler (key start) from Collins Marine that was sitting in a boatyard in Maine. So we went up and brought the Hopeful Start back to Western New York.
For 20 years, we have been enjoying boating on the Niagara River again on our “new” Whaler. All of our children, cousins, friends, aunts and uncles have skied, wake-boarded, and tubed behind her. We have rescued sailboats, fished and totally enjoyed just riding in the ’62 Whaler.
During the summer of 2020, we were on the U.S. side of the river due to the COVID-19 travel ban. We launched and skied not far from where we found the old ’61 Whaler, and met a lot of Whaler fans with their own stories to tell.
Today we have a 40-horsepower Mercury two-stroke that really flies. The whole family gets up slalom, even the 170-pound+ boys. The Whaler’s small wake is perfect for skiing.
And of course, my dad was right… We all love this boat!
Story by Sara Burke Potter. Photos courtesy of Grove Potter.