The Boat At The Table

Romance Across Three Generations,
Ten Boats, And A Bunch Of Engines

By Pat Piper

photo of Hydrolpane boat Go-Go Girl

When Brian Maloney realized the lady he had been dating was "the one," he took her aside one evening and decided the time had come to lay his cards on the table.

"You're going to have to deal with boats," he began, "and if you can do that, we're going to be all right." Now, 11 years later, Mr. and Mrs. Maloney are doing just fine. So are the boats, all 10 of them. Maloneys and boats go back three generations. Brian's father, Steve, grew up in Key West and remembers watching his father work on Evinrude outboards. Steve's wife quickly understood that her husband and boats were a package deal. His father, before him, was no different.

Today, however, boats have taken a larger seat at the Maloney table.

"We have some hydroplanes in a shop about 35 minutes from our home in Tallahassee," Brian says matter-of-factly. "Half of them are restored and the other half, well, they're a work in progress." The Maloneys have traveled to New York City, Kentucky, Ohio, and throughout Florida buying boats, three of which were built by the renowned Henry Lauterbach, including a 28-footer he built in 1969 named Go Go Girl that sits on its original Lauterbach single-axle bunk trailer.

Hydroplanes are the NASCAR of the water. They are built for speed and literally skip across the surface when the throttle is pushed forward.

Steve Maloney explains it this way: "When I'm driving a hydroplane, all of my senses are working at the same time. You feel the heat of the engine because it's in front of the helm, you smell the odor of the fuel, you are reacting to the speed aspect since Go Go Girl clears the water at 70 miles an hour and I've had it running at 130 mph flying just six inches above the surface." One other thing to know about hydroplanes: When the hull has reached a speed lifting it out of the water and the touchpoints (the prop and the back of each sponson, a wing-like attachment on the hull) are the only parts of the boat below the surface, the top half of the propeller is actually out of the water. In hydroplane lingo, this is called "prop riding."

"It has a feel of no other kind of craft on the water," adds Brian. "As you are driving and you take a turn, the boat takes a slide. You feel the back end coming around and you slide around the turn. There's no other boat that can do that. It's an exciting feeling."

"I can remember sitting in class as a kid and thinking about a boat race," says Steve. "Boats have always been a part of our family and my dad, who is 85 now and has a collection of more than 70 antique outboards, had built a runabout that we'd race in Key West. I know I should have been paying attention to the teacher but my mind was always on boats." In 1970, Steve and his brother bought an inboard hydroplane and started winning races throughout south Florida. "I got exposed to all the old-timers," Steve remembers, "and these were folks racing boats during the days of Gar Wood." For the reader not familiar with Gar Wood, he built classic boats throughout the '20s and 30s, including a number of hydroplanes named Miss America. In 1921, he raced the Havana Special train along the Atlantic coastline from Miami to New York in a boat he built. Gar Wood beat the train by 12 minutes.

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