Runabout is any small motorboat holding between four and eight people, well suited to moving about on the water. Runabouts can be used for racing, for pleasure activities like fishing and water skiing, or as a ship’s tender for larger vessels. Some common runabout boats are bow rider, center console, cuddy boat and walkaround.
The first runabouts appeared in the twenties, and were made from wood, varnished on the surface, using for propulsion a powerful outboard motor.
The hull was designed more to plain on the water than “cutting” it. The boat evolved in time to a new design, in which the rudder control has been moved to a steering wheel and the engine has been allowed to go into reverse gear, with a remote lever.
One of the first runaboat builders was John L. Hacker, from Hacker Boat Company. He invented the “V bottom”.
After that, the runabouts were attached windshields and powerful engines built for pure speed, up to 125 HP. Other builders appeared on the market, like Chris-Craft, who modernized the design, using plastic and fiberglass.
First European runabouts were built by Carlo Riva of the Riva fame. Riva became a leading manufacturer of small racing boats. Riva raced himself many of them, and he also started to build pleasure boats. Riva became a worldwide success and the brand was sought by stars like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren or Peter Sellers.
Now the firm is owned by the Ferretti Group, Carlo Riva sold in the seventies.
After that, Carlo Riva became part of the Monte Carlo Offshorer, the first production runabout, with an improved stability.
By 1960, wooden powerboats had become rare since most new vessels used fiberglass or other lightweight materials. In addition, the art of boat-building in wood has been largely lost since it requires far greater individual skill. Nonetheless there remain a few notable exceptions, perhaps most famously the Hacker Boat Company, the oldest motor-boat builder in the world which continues to produce magnificent mahogany boats on the shores of Lake George, New York.
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