When Wellcraft Marine bought Excalibur Boats, Bob Long, then president of Wellcraft, remembered his first meeting with Donny Wadeck. “He had his head down working away in the engine compartment of a boat,” said Long.
Wadeck died one week before his 60th birthday this past Monday after a battle with melanoma. After Wellcraft bought Excalibur, he worked for Wellcraft for decades. He was respected throughout the industry for his knowledge of all aspects of boats, especially for his ability to set up offshore go-fast hulls.
A Scarab man to the core, Wadeck ran with Bob Christie in his 26-foot Scarab Christie’s Photographic Solutions (shown here during the 2015 Super Boat International World Championships) in the mid 1990s. Said team owner Christie on this former cockpit partner, “He was good because he was humble.” Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“He was a very good employee and we became very good friends,” said Long, who was the president of Wellcraft for 17 years. “He became part of the family.”
Every year Long would take a new Wellcraft to the Bahamas for a week or two. “We would always take Donny along. I would drive, but if things got rough, I would pass the wheel to Donny,” he said.
When someone dies, it’s common to try to think of glowing superlatives in remembrance, but with Wadeck, perhaps Team Scarab president Larry Smith—who is well versed in superlatives—described Wadeck best with this simple statement.
“He was one of the good guys,” said Smith.
From my first stint at Powerboat magazine in 1991 through my time testing boats for Boating magazine in the first decade of this century, Wadeck was a constant presence at Wellcraft. Whether we were running a Scarab at the Powerboat Performance Trials or I was testing a boat with Wadeck for Boating magazine, we knew the boat was going to be dialed in and ready to run.
I enjoyed spending time with Wadeck because we were just two guys who appreciated a boat running at its best. We didn’t talk much. We just enjoyed the ride. It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized how much I learned from him.
I used to keep a list in my head of guys who, if given the opportunity, would be a great throttleman in one of the elite classes in offshore racing. Wadeck was one of those guys. From the Scarab Thunder series that was unveiled at the Miami Boat Show to the first Scarab poker run edition 43-footer, Smokin’ Joe, to working with Tom Gentry and Richie Powers to fine-tune the 43-foot Scarab, Gentry Eagle, Wadeck made them all run to their fullest potential.
He was the consummate team player, always ready to factory-backed Scarab race teams in offshore racing, such as Nigel Hook’s 26-foot Scarab, Archer Marine Scarab. Wadeck even helped Craig Archer dial-in the 31-foot Scarab, Team Archer Marine, that I drove with Archer throttling to the American Power Boat Association Western Division Championship in 1995.
“Donny carried the Wellcraft brand very well for many years,” said Dan MacNamara, owner of Team Archer Marine in Costa Mesa, Calif. MacNamara drove for Hook for a season. “He would bend over backward to help anybody. It was never about accolades. It was about supporting his people.”
For many years, Hook was the lone competitor to fly the Wellcraft banner and he appreciated the support he got from Wadeck.
“Donny was integral to our success with Wellcraft Scarab between 1993 and 2004,” said Hook. “He had a sixth sense on how to make a boat run very fast. And he was relentless and dedicated in that pursuit. There was only one clock he watched and that was when the race started or when the customer was to pick up the boat. Donny always had an admirable loyalty to his family, company, team and friends.”
In the mid 1990s, Wadeck ran with Bob Christie in his 26-foot Scarab and canopied 30-foot Scarab, Christie’s Photographic Solutions, in the Offshore A class.
“He was good because he was humble,” said Christie. “He was always willing to listen to other people’s input. He could throw it out or keep it, but he always learned from it.”
Most recently Wadeck was the customer service manager at Yellowfin Boats. I would run into him every now and again at the 10th Street boat ramp in Sarasota. He always took the time to walk over and say hello and every time I saw him I was always reminded of just how good a guy he was.
Rest in peace, Donny Wadeck. You were one of the good guys in performance boating.