"Marc's Corner"                             -by Marc Connelly 

Although I logged well over 400 hours on this project as a volunteer for the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, I wasn't the most involved crewman on the 1982 Atlas restoration project. Not by a long shot. But but I will claim to be among the most enthusiastic members of the team. That's fair enough. Along with a dozen or so other crewmen and women, I was among the core group that participated actively all along in the restoration of the 1982 Atlas Van Lines, working almost every Tuesday and Thursday evening for the past 12 months.

Being a part of the fun and hard work that brought this boat back from the brink of extinction has been among the great adventures of my life.  During the project, I often sent emails, communicating our progress to my oldest and dearest friends - Dave and Sue Hendricks - who moved from Seattle to Guam a number of years ago. Our Crew Chief, who was copied on all of these rants decided that they might make curious reading for our website visitors. And so here we are.

There are certainly many things that I don't know. But certainly, at this stage of my glorious life, I do know a good adventure when I stumble into it. I do hope that you find some vicarious
enjoyment in my- our- good times.

Marc Connelly 

April 9, 2018
"The Ground Shook....The Crew Just Grinned"

Davey my boy, good mornin!
I hope that thie email finds you and Sue half as enthusiastic about life as I 
am this morning. We had another cool ass evening last night at the Museum. We 
fired up the Rolls merlin in the Atlas for the first time, in the workbay of 
the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum. What a fucking trip that was!

Much of the restoration crew has been slowly melting away since we had our 
Atlas / Bud presentatiopn at the Museums Christmas party. That was the point 
where the project felt and seemed to be at the point of completion. I mean, 
there was the boat, looking for all the world as if it was ready to qualify 
for the Gold Cup. Truth be told, there were another 100 little (and big) 
tasks to be performed before last nights big moment. Ron Brown, Jim Harvey 
and Don Mock and a few of the crew have been quietly attending to these 
details for months now.

Harvey built this engine from an esoteric collection of parts that came from 
all over the place. I mean it. Worn parts, remanufactured, scrounged parts, 
dubious parts, new parts- there must be the remenants of at least a dozen 
merlin engines in that motor. Merlins are just that scarce these days. Parts 
is parts, man! Harvey borrowed parts, bought parts, horse traded for them, 
swiped them, raided his secret parts collection for them and generally did 
whatever it takes to build a good motor. I don�t know the facts of the case, 
but there has to be 40 to 50 grand bolted into that hull, easy. 

The restoration crew had nothing to do with the engine. After all, what do 
any of us know about Rolls Merlins, except that the sound, to us hydro geeks, 
is like a great Beatles tune- you just never get tired of hearing it. No, the 
Merlin part of the Atlas saga belongs almost entirely to Jim Harvey.  Crew 
members volunteered to help him all along the way, but he politely declined, 
noting that he had to examine and bless every part� before it went into the 
engine. His 30 years of Rolls experience isn�t something you can just hand 
off to another person. Glen Davis, who was the supercharger guy on the 
original Atlas crew, gave Harvey a lot of important help along the way.

Getting the motor to run took the usual amount of fiddling and anticipation, 
as you might expect. By the time it ran the first time, about 6pm, most all 
of the core restoration crew had arrived to watch. It was great to see Jay 
and Jeff, Steve, Alex, Kurt and some of the other guys I worked with on the 
crew. We were all having a great time- except for Jim. He had the furrowed 
brow of someone who wasnt entirely sure of the outcome. I asked him what he 
expected and he told me that a lot could go wrong. I was tempeted to call 
bullshit on him, because I know how good he is with a Merlin, but his 
concerned expression told me he wasnt kidding. Jim really wasnt so sure about 
how strong this engine might be.

On the first run, there was a small problem. The idle mixture wasn't set right 
when the carb was rebuilt and on a fuel system that is this complex, it meant
Jim had to mash the throttle down half way to get it to run at all and it ran 
pretty rough.  He shut it down and, as we all voiced our approval at the 
brief thunderous overature, Jim made a phone call on his cell phone. The call 
was to Dixon Smith. 

Dixon Smith was just a college kid when he worked on the 1963 Bardahl crew. 
He won national titles with that boat and has had a hand in the hydroplanes 
ever since. In fact, Dixon Smith and much of the original Bardahl crew are 
restoring the 1963 Bardahl right now! Dixon and Jim Harvey HAVE to be the two 
most knowledgable Merlin guys alive, at least as they apply to boats. Jim 
summoned Dixon because Dixon knows the intricate Merlin carbuerator like 
nobodys business. I made sure to stay as close as possible to evesdrop on 
their conversation, which, for the most part, was greek to me. These guys 
talk in Rolls shorthand! 

In a few minutes, Dixon had the safety wires off the carb shrouds and had his 
hands into the guts of the thing, making small adjustments to the rich lean 
settings. We fired it again and almost immeadiately it ran like the 
proverbial Swiss watch. A few more tweaks as it ran and the foot long blue 
flames that licked out of the stacks like the devils tongues, all began to 
match in size and color. The motor warmed up and smoothed out a bit more with 
every small adjustment that Jim and Dixon applied. It was like watching a 
giant beast slowly awaken and come to some kind of elegant agreement with 
itself and the world. Another highly improbable Rolls Merlin was born, 
straight and strong, ready to test its legs. 

As Jim and Dixon shook hands, Jim was finally wearing the expression we are 
all used to seeing. The Jack Nicholson version of Jim Harvey was back! The 
motor ran better than great. It is strong and smooth and it doesn't leak. 
Every crewman there was shaking hands while trying to contain the excitement 
of seeing the beast come to life. In a few minutes, I discovered that my 
thoughts mirrored everyone elses- Now let's take her to the lake!

As Don and I were making some over-excited, semi-coherent small talk in the 
wake of the events, Jim walked over grinning and whispered to us- "Hey, we 
beat the Bud one more time...we ran our engine before they ran theirs" 
referring to the 1980 Budweiser restoration going on right next to us. I 
guess that once you burn to beat the Bud, that desire just never goes away. 
I drove home, cracked open a nine dollar bottle of Merlot and drank a few 
toasts- to Jim Harvey, the Atlas crew, David Williams, Dixon Smith, Don Mock, 
Ron Brown and the Museum. I guess I went to bed a little drunk, but I felt 
great. The sense of excitement and satisfaction still hasn't worn off this 

As Bob Dylan once sang, "I got a poison headache, but I feel alright...�"

We done good...again. 


November 2017

"Working with the Man"         (click here for PDF format version)

December 13, 2002

 In every city worth a damn, there are things going on all the time that are amazing. Almost always, no one outside of those directly involved knows about these things as they happen. And just maybe that�s what makes them so cool. An artist makes a breakthrough in a dingy loft, a songwriter finds a hook in the tiled bathroom of a flophouse downtown. Someone makes a fateful decision and it changed the course of your history tonight. 

 Lurking out there in the corners of the warehouse district, the oldtown neighborhood, the oddball Art community, the Asian community, the industrial district, there are miracles being performed that you and I will  only learn about later. And when we do learn, we will wish that we had been there. Tonight, on this stormy night, catharsis is being forged into artful expression, of almost limitless variety, all over the city. I know this. 

 And that is what I like about a city. It throbs with the workings of Art . All the cities that I have ever been to throb differently, but they all throb nonetheless. Me, personally, I can hear it best late at night when the rest of the din settles down enough to allow that stream of community alpha waves to shine on through. That�s when I can feel it and that�s why I like the nighttime best. Major all nighter stuff is going on out there. You can feel it if you try. 

 On Tuesday, December 10, 2002, at 8:45 pm,when we rolled the Atlas Van Lines out of Jim Harveys shop on her trailer, completed, beautiful, shining in the crime fighting halogen street lamps of South  Park Seattle, reborn into the stormy night light like she had been 21 years ago, we owned the rights to all the major Art throb in our fair city. I suspect that we even scored high on the North American, Inter-Metropolitan Art throbscale that night. I can tell you that we were more than a blip on the International Art throb scale as well. 

 Just to let you all know, I am claiming it in the name of the 1982 Atlas Van Lines restoration crew, the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, and, of course, myself. 

 If you stepped out into the back porch to have a breath of fresh air, or even to smoke a cigarette, and looked out onto the lights of Seattle and though to yourself; �Hmmm, man somethin�s going on tonight...� well, that was us.

 The moving of the boat was, itself an act of being born. Before the fork lift pulled her out of the bay, Jim Harvey pulled a bottle of very old, very cheap champagne out of his frig and broke it over the trailer fender. Some crew members took pictures as we rolled her out, but I couldn�t. The light was perfect for human perception but lousy for any photography.  Besides, the moment was too big not to just soak in. So I just walked along side the trailer as we moved the Atlas over to the Museum proper, in preparation for final fitting and display at the Christmas party with the Museums other huge project: the 1980 Miss Budweiser restoration.

 I couldn�t help but think of Fran Muncey as I walked along there. Shouldn�t Fran be here for this coolest moment in our fair city? As we slowly swung around the corner of the industrial complex where the Museum and Jim Harvey Motorsports are located, we passed the storage bay for the Museums finished and unfinished works. For me, that was a real moment, turning this gleaming new boat by the weathered hulk of Bill Muncey�s Blue Blaster, as yet unrestored. They stood in stark contrast as we passed in silence.  But, in fact, 11 months earlier, our fresh Atlas was in every bit as sorry shape as Munceys� famous charger. 

 I have already pledged my time to the Blue Blaster project, whenever the money is raised to restore her. (and I fully intend to help raise that war chest!) I personally think that a full ten point restoration, like we have done here for John Goodman�s Atlas Van Lines, ought to happen to Muncey�s boat. This is the one and only point where I differ from the opinion of my crew chief, Don Mock. 

 When that time comes, maybe a couple of years from now, I can only hope that I am a part of a crew that is as inspired and capable and copesthetic as this one was. (I can only hope that it is the SAME crew. But I hope big!) Over eleven months, and through a lot of hard work, there wasnt one hard feeling shared between the dozen or so crew membersthat were my associates. People who were, in most cases, complete strangers to each other and completely unschooled in the art of hydroplane restoration came together as a committed crew and manhandled the task at hand like real pros. Each of us is very proud of our investment and achievement here. All of us are good friends now. 

 Of course it helped just a little to have complete access to Jim Harveys shop to do the job. And to Jim Harvey. And Ron Brown. These guys are only like 3/5ths of the heavywieght hydroplane guys around, that�s all. Ron worked his heart out on that boat and I admire him for it. His standards were our standards, right from the start, period. As a volunteer, whatever I did on any given Tuesday or Thursday night, I did it like Ron would do it or like Ron said to do it. It became a real smile maker amongst the volunteer crew, trying to please (or not displease) Ron Brown. We all came to really appreciate and like this guy. He is absolutely and remarkably capable at anything that he does. And there is nothing about a hydroplane that he doesnt know cold, frontwards and backwards.

 Jim Harvey built the engines and was completely gracious in accommodating this project- especially us volunteers- for eleven months in his shop. I mean, completely gracious. We were supposed to be out of there months ago. We tied up important shop space all through the 2002 racing season and I, for one, never heard him complain. 

 Jim has owned and campaigned this hull in the past and was the Crew Chief of the 1982 Atlas campaign. Jim knows this hull in most of its various incarnations because he performed them. He guided the accuracy for our work and informed it with his constant scrutiny. When our shifts were done, usually around 9pm, Jim and Ron would often treat us hydroplane geeks to great stories from their racing past. There isnt a member of the crew who wouldn�t walk off the pier for Ron or Jim.
 If anyone thought that our project Crew Chief, Don Mock, was just another hydroplane wannabe, they discovered their error quickly as this project began. Don is one amazing individual. Hell, you would give him that just on the basis of being a consummate jazz musician. But, in fact, he has more force of will than anyone I ever met. Once committed, he turns how he wants it to be� into how it is� better than anyone, just by throwing everything he�s got at it. 

 After breaking his leg badly, right at the worst time, Don took exactly 5 days off before returning in a wheelchair and crutches. And he pretty much worked 60 hour weeks right through that. Even today, almost a year later, he limps and is in pain. But he out worked us all on the Atlas. And, most impressive, he elevated himself from Museum volunteer� to full peer� status with Ron and Jim. It was remarkable to see the old pros like Ron and Jim listen to -and take- many of Don�s recommendations along the way. Don knows as much about the 1982 Atlas as anyone alive. They came to respect him.  It�s hard to describe the full weight of that statement to those who were not there. 

 Obviously, Don has become a good friend of mine. I just have total positive regard for the guy. As volunteers, the crew is generally managed by Don. More often than not, Don would give us our assignments and the feedback on our work. Ive never worked for a more supportive, fair or pleasant mannered boss. Don just has a knack for turning even the most unpleasant tasks into a laugh and making everyone feel like a part of an important mission.  I think it is largely because of Don that this crew got along so well. (That... and the fact that half of the crew were his compadres, hijacked from R/C Unlimiteds, his model boat racing club.)

 As a parent of a grown child, I have learned many interesting things. One of the hardest experiences I ever had was watching my son move out, on to his own. It felt bad to realize that a large part of my efforts as a parent were done now that Peter was on his own, making his own life. For me, that was a biggie. Well, Don and his wife Kathy don�t have children. But lucky Don gets to feel an equivalent set of emotions as he must face turning the daily 
responsibility for the Atlas over to its owner. 

 That boat is Don�s kid, and a pretty darned good one at that. He has a lot to be proud of in raising it up from a heap of aluminum scrap.

 Of course, there is the working crew, like myself. We did a lot and I would like to think that they couldn�t have done it without us, but Im not so sure. There was a lot of talent amongst the working crew though. Im a guitar maker. That didnt hurt. Crewman Lee is a machinist, among other things. Rob is an industrial sculptor, by his own description.  So he became out mold and cowling guy. And so it goes, right down the line. We all knew how to run a sander and take a joke before we even showed for our first day. And that helped. 

 We had a ton of dedication there too. I have over 408 volunteer hours invested in  Atlas. There are others with more hours invested than me.  But, that�s just the kind of kamikaze commitment it takes to own the Art throb rights to a city on any given Tuesday night. 

 I want to stake that claim again. That was just too much fun!


May 15, 2017

Dear Dave & Sue:
 Yesterday, I decided to try to make both the Tuesday AND Thursday evening work sessions this week at the Hydro Museum. I missed last Thursday night and it was like a big hole in my week. I missed the crew, seeing the progress on 
the boat, learning something new about hydro making in general.
 I dont go to the actual Museum shop, but rather next door to Jim Harvey Motorsports, where my crew is restoring the 1982 Atlas Van Lines. (ed note: my crew�- what a laugh!) Jim has a deal with the Museum to use his shop, his expertise and that of Ron Brown, in restoring this boat. This, combined with 
the absolutely kamakaze comittment of our Crew Chief Don Mock, are the primary reasons why this hull is getting the finest restoration treatment possible. Everytime I leave that place, I look back at the emerging new� Atlas in total disbelief. It is coming out so straight, so right on the money, so wicked cool looking! 
 Last night, we bagged� a doubler of 1/16th inch aluminum to the bottom of the boat. This involved cutting two 13 foot pieces of aluminum to complex and tight fitting shapes and then gluing them to the bottom of the boat with Hysol epoxy. It sounds simple enough, but it took seven of us all night to get it done. (And we worked hard!) Once everything was fitted and glued up, we built an airtight bag� over the top of it all and sucked the plastic covering down tight against the bottom, creating a flat, tight fitting bond across the entire surface of the doubler.

 Things are really heating up there in the shop.  Jim has his crew getting his raceboat ready for the 2002 season. His Trendwest boat is all torn apart there in his workbay. Time is running short and he has plenty still to do on his boat to get ready for the season opener. He also has an obligation to this restoration effort that takes up precious time and half of his shop. This second item features a bunch of us Museum volunteers- folks that he 
doesnt really know all that well- eagerly buzzing around the Atlas, creating all kinds of havoc and a bit of restoration too. I am truly amazed that he is so tolerant and accepting of us being there underfoot, using his tools, asking him endless geeky hydro questions. 
 But, over the past several weeks, I have discovered Jim is a born teacher at heart. Patient, accepting of other ways of doing things, fundamentally interested in people, Jim is a genuine good guy. And now I think I understand why: racing a hydroplane around the countryside for 30 years has to knock off your sharp and rough edges. It is brutally hard work with high risk everywhere. You fail a lot. I mean, a lot. You have to love it to ever consider doing what Jim has done over the last three decades. And you have to be very good at dealing with people- all kinds of people- to enjoy any success or self satisfaction in that game.  (Believe me, you see all kinds of people working down at Jim Harvey Motorsports these days and everyone there is accepted whole heartedly.)

 When I walked into the work bay last night, I spied a tortured Rolls Royce Merlin short block, standing on end in the entryway.  The studs were all bent back and rusty, the front end was melted off, the block was all oxidized and packed with dirt. It looked for all the world to be recovered from a crash site in a French field.  A total mess! But every Merlin is precious now, so this one, indeed salvaged from a field, was recovered for the few parts that 
remained usable for our new engine.

 It turns out that this engine did not melt as a result of a crash at all. It melted when Jim Harveys entire trailer burned to the wheels as he was travelling to the first race of the season, some years ago. The boat that we are restoring was hooked to that trailer, but was disconnected just in time and saved by the crew before it too burned to nothing. Imagine that for a moment. You bust your knuckles and your hump all winter just to see it all go up in smoke out on some lonesome highway before you even get to the first race. Engines, tools, everything. Gone. Would you just toss it all in, go home, and get a straight job, or would you soldier on through the season and find a way to make the best of it? 

 I feel a little beat up today from crawling arouund on the Atlas last night. But its nothing like Jim Harvey and his crew must have felt looking at their burnred trailer in the clear light of day. Somehow, they soldiered on. That is one heartbreak story. There are many more.
 Now this old, melted engine- a victim of that fire- has come back to offer a few spare parts to our continuing story. Just like in Guitarville, there are small miracles scattered everywhere in Hydroland- if you know where to look for them.

 I doubt that there are many other owners who would- or could- put up with the Atlas restoration experience in their shop. But Jim seems to be enjoying it all. I havent seen him lose his cool even for a second. He is a lot of fun to be around and the whole crew likes and respects him. Jim is the key figure in governing our restoration decisions. He and the original Atlas crew built this boat in under 100 days back in the winter of 1982. He campaigned it to a national championship in that year as its crew chief, and owned it outright after that for several years after that. He affectionately calls this hull his bad penny� because it just keeps coming back, needing work. So who better to guide its restoration? 
 Although there are many remarkable and worthy associations with this legendary hull, it seems to me that this restoration is fundamentally a tribute to Jim and his career in boatracing.  When it finally hits the water, all eyes and most thoughts will be on Chip Hannauer and the great come back story of the Atlas Van Lines boat of 1982. But this is Jim Harveys boat, regardless of who legally owns it or who drives it. This crew knows that. Though he probably wouldn�t admit it, I�d bet that Jim does too.

 That�s how I see it on this bruised and battered Wednesday morning. Tomorrow is Thursday. (and you know what that means: �Man up, sukka! Play through that pain!�) 

Frankly, honestly, I cant wait...


March 15, 2016

Dear Dave & Sue:
 Last night, I crossed the Prime Meridian, I made the
grade, I arrived, I cracked through the barrier. And all it took was lasagne for 25!

 Every Thursday night, for the past several, I sneak off to the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum shop to work with the Atlas restoration crew. It is a life saver for me, a complete distraction from the adventure of my work day. 4 nights a week, Im rubbing guitar lacquer. And on one night- Thursday- Im spreading Hysol (epoxy for aluminum) all over everywhere! 

 It isnt easy to worm your way onto a restoration crew. Oh, there is plenty of work to do, and it is mostly dirty, nasty, knuckle breaking work too, but not everyone fits into a work crew, I find. There is a certain dynamic involved. The guys are great at making you feel welcomed, but they have a lot of work to do, so it isnt a social event. They cant stop to chit-chat or teach you how to use a screwdriver. It just doesnt work that way. There is a lot of work to do and a very real deadline for getting it done. So it is up to the volunteers to show some initiative and bond up to a crew by showing some value to them. It takes a few sessions before you even get to show value. Until then, you are mixing epoxy, sweeping up, sanding something.

 I think that I have been patient, but it is unlikely, knowing me. I am getting to know Don Mock pretty well. He is the Crew chief� for the Museum on this restoration project. Ive talked about him before. He knows hydros like nobodys business, is a great guy, and a huge fan of the Atlas boat. But he isnt really the construction ramrod on this project. As much as Don knows, Jim Harvey, boat owner, racer and shop owner, and Ron Brown, former crew chief and builder of several Budwieser boats, are the main men. Don wisely defers to them on serious construction issues. They know howa hull is supposed to go together because they have built and raced several of them. Jim is a very affable guy and I liked him right away. (He picked up Marilee Rush out of a bar. How bad a guy can he be?) I still try not to waste Jims time with the many burning questions that I have about his racing history. He was the crew chief for Muncey (and then Hannauer) for this Atals boat that we are restoring in his shop.

 Ron Brown is another deal. He seemed distant to me right from the begginning. He is not a guy you are going to win over with a hearty handshake and a compliment on his past work. So I gave him plenty of space and didnt try to win him over at all. He just works and stops only to answer serious questions. When Ron Brown listens to you, he listens hard. But he often scrinches up his face as he does so, giving the impression that someone just farted. Only after several interactions with him did I realize this was not a gesture of disgust, but an idiosyncratic personal reaction to concentrated listening!

 So, after eating 4 pretty terrible dinners in a row of four succesive Thursdays (They feed the work crews pizza), I volunteered to provide dinner last night: lasagne, fruit salad, that kind of thing. The crews know me now! It helped to break the ice a little with the people that I dont know yet and made the work session a little more homey feeling. There is one brave woman on the work crews and I dont know her yet at all. She even told me it was better than her lasagne!. Three home made lasagnes and a bowl of fruit salad dissappeared pretty quick.

 Jim and Ron Brown were stewing over making some transom reinforcement brackets for the Atlas last night.  They didnt seem to want to make them and yet they didnt ask me to do it right away either. (Im not sure that they get that I can do any of this stuff, yet..) Among other things, it involved drilling holes in the transom, which you dont do unless everything is just right. And it involved fitting some semi weird shapes of aluminum extrusion together tightly. It didn�t seem all that daunting to me, so I asked some questions and then volunteered to just do it for them. And Jim agreed...reluctantly. They kept a wary eye on my progress, asking me why I was doing it this way or that. I made sure that I had answers.  And, of course, I just made the damn parts up for them. Chop, chop, grind, grind, there you go. Well, it seems that I passed this test too. As we washed up to leave, about 9:30pm, Ron Brown uttered his first words to me directly: �That was some nice work on those parts that you made.�  Man, I was floored.
Wow. Ron Brown liked my work. THE Ron Brown! Damn cool!

 Before I went to the work session, I had stopped by Linda Waterfalls house to pick up the Harrison, that guitar I made for George ahilke ago. Linda had been trying it out for me to give me some feedback and now I was picking it up to bring it home to completely reshape the neck. A side hole cutaway Puffy. After the work session, Don Mock asked to try it out. Man, can that cat play! Jesus!  All over the place, all the jazz chording vamps that you wish that you knew, Don has them all down cold!  Man! Don and I dont know each other well enough yet for him to really give me the critique that I�d like from him, but I think that will come. He was complimentary, but not effusive or critical. (Id sure like to know what he really though about it...) It was great to hear him play a Puffy though! Wow! Ill be taking another (better) Puffy to an Atlas work session again soon!

Thursday nights. They rock!