Our DesignersOur ProjectsOur Stories posted by Nan Tofanelli

We have lived in our house on the lake (at Cal Park) for fifteen years. We are right on the water and we have a dock but other than a little sail boat and a canoe, we have never had a real boat that holds more than two or three people.

                      A rare photo of both of our little boats on the water at the same time.

A neighbor of ours has a great little boat. We have always admired it from afar (our deck). It kind of looks like something Popeye would captain. They use it most nights around sunset and putter around with a glass of wine or two and de-stress after their busy day at work.

                                           Greg and Darlene on the Emily Jewell II

Something about that little boat is just right for our lake. We got the bug and started looking on Craigslist for our own little craft. We needed a summer project. Our friend, Jim, suggested that we look for a Dorsett...a small fiberglass boat that we could convert to using an electric trolling motor (our lake doesn't allow gas powered engines because of the noise). Dorsetts were first produced in 1955 by a small company in Santa Clara California, and they made boats until 1970. The designer of the Dorsett line was Raymond Loewy, a famous industrial designer who also designed the Studebaker Avanti, the 1950's Greyhound bus and the redesign of the famous CocaCola bottle.

                                                 From the 1961 Dorsett brochure.

After a few weeks of searching we found one that suited our budget (cheap) and wasn't too far way to retrieve. We drove to San Juan Baptista one Sunday and picked up our boat. A 17 foot long, dull colored, fifty one year old piece of fiberglass that we weren't even sure would float. We were a little embarrassed by its condition driving back to Chico but convinced ourselves that it was cute, a classic... and with a little elbow grease would be proud looking craft on our lake.

                                The new boat owner and Hugo, one hour after purchase.

We immediately started to work on it. We buffed it and polished it, replaced the rotting wood deck and painted the inside. Our close friend and craftsman made bench seats for it and our upholsterer made us cushions.



We purchased an electric motor, batteries to charge it, life jackets for our grandkids, marine carpeting for the floor and flotation cushions for adults. Before long we were ready to put it in the water.

Would she sink or swim? On a windy day with help from our son-in-law, John, we took the plunge. After ten minutes and no tell tale sign of water inside, we cast off and cruised to our dock.

We have now become nightly boat people. After dinner we gather our iPhone, wireless speaker  (another boat purchase) and a few glasses of wine (with acrylic wine glasses...purchased for the boat) before we settle onto our sporty blue cushions with white piping and we join the other nightly boat people who share our lake. The nights are cool on the lake even when it's +90 on shore. Why did we wait so long to buy a boat?

People say that the two best times in a boat owners life is the day they buy their boat and the day they sell it! I can't even imagining selling our proud little 1961 Dorsett Catalina. It has already become part of our family. I can even imagine our grandkids spending the night in the little cabin when they get a little older! Even Hugo likes it and he is not at all fond of water.

Summer project...done! Well almost, there's always something else to do. How about some new windows and a horn and a spot light and glass holders and...a name!  Any suggestions?


Post A Comment

Your Name: *

Your Email: *

Your Location:

Your Website:

Please enter the phrase displayed below:  

Comment: *

Please notify me of follow-up comments.

Sue Matheson



Robin cullen


Rick and Nan- Don and I both had Dorsetts on Lake Tahoe and both of them were turquoise.  Can’t tell you how much we loved them.  I caught my first big Mac deep line trolling at 10 with my dad off Bliss State Park.  Big lake or small lake, the Dorsett will steal your heart and help make family memories to last a lifetime.

Sara Tofanelli-Barroso


I like it Sue!

Nan Tofanelli


Hi Robin
So good to hear from you! How old was your little Dorsett? You can come to Chico for a ride with us any time!

4 Comments | Post A Comment