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Restored Kaama Raceboat To Debut In New York City Poker Run

Participants and spectators on hand for tomorrow’s New York City Poker Run on the Hudson River will get a glimpse of something not seen on the water this century. Thanks in large part to the Saris family and their crew at Performance Marine in Bolton Landing, N.Y., the original 38-foot Kaama Larry Smith-designed Scarab raceboat will be back in action as part of the National Power Boat Association-produced event’s poker-run fleet.

A completely updated blast from the past will be in the mix at tomorrow’s New York City Poker Run. Photos courtesy of Performance Marine.

The 38-footer is the property of Thomas Jewsbury, who owns homes in Old Forge and Alexandria Bay, N.Y. Jewsbury purchased the V-bottom, which the famed Betty Cook ran to national and world championships with throttleman John Connor, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some 15 years ago.

Jewsbury is no stranger to vintage Scarab renovation projects. In the early 2000s, the now-retired, 64-year-old Rochester Gas and Electric company lineman restored the second-season Miami Vice television show’s 38-footer, which he eventually sold.

“That is my last project,” he said, then chuckled. “It’s been a long haul and I’m not a millionaire, so it took me 15 years.”

Each of the boat’s “period-correct” engines produces 700 hp.

The project took its final leap toward completion a year ago when Jewsbury brought the former raceboat to Johnny and Jason Saris and their hard-working crew. The boat arrived with its exterior complete and its 575-cubic-inch engines semi-installed, but that was it.

Because maintaining historical accuracy was imperative for the owner, Performance Marine—the home of Saris Racing Engines—replaced their original Kinsler fuel-injection systems with electronic versions and tested the updated mills on their in-house dynamometer. They also went through the classic V-bottom’s Speedmaster No. 3 drives.

“The engines run great and make about 700 hp per side,” said Johnny Saris.

The Performance Marine team started from scratch with engine-compartment rigging, which began with custom-fabricating motor mounts. They also rebuilt the 38-footer’s single-row, three-person bolster(an outside vendor handled the upholstery) as well as its new dash for the “period-correct” instruments. Though their internals have been replaced, the raceboat still has its original Kaama Marine steering rams.

Kaama’s single three-person bolster has been recreated.

“I can’t even guess how many hours we have into it,” Johnny Saris said, then laughed. “There isn’t one bolt on the boat we didn’t touch.”

Come tomorrow morning, Jason Saris will throttle the 2023 version of Kaama on the Hudson River among a broad mix of more current pleasure boats. Jewsbury will be behind the wheel alongside him. For the patient owner of the historic raceboat, the moment will be 15 years—and a whole lot of money invested during them—in the making.

“You could buy a new boat but there’s nothing quite like this one—Kaama has a good pedigree,” he said. “I’ve always liked things that nobody else has.”

Jason Saris (above) and his son, Johnny, had the 38-footer at their shop for a full year.

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