MARTINEZ -- The slow, painstaking restoration of Joe DiMaggio's powerboat is in the home stretch.
The sides and triple-layered bottom of the boat have been replaced with milled Alaskan cedar. The keel made of oak and Brazilian mahogany is attached. The bottom of the boat is coated with a protective layer of paint.
Today, the Joltin' Joe is a far cry from the rotted shell it was when the restoration work began three years ago.
"The boat isn't going to bring Joe back, but I can tell you it's going to cement a lot of solid, respectful loving, memories," Ray Raineri, chairman of the Joltin' Joe fundraising committee, told the City Council last week.
"It's coming along, it's getting done. We're at a phase now where we really need an infusion of donations," he added.
The Diablo Valley Lodge of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America is holding a fundraising dinner April 27, at the Shell Clubhouse in Martinez.
DiMaggio was born in 1914 in Martinez. In 1991, he gave the city the 22-foot Chris-Craft boat, a gift from his fans in 1949. Subsequently, city leaders launched a fundraising drive dubbed "$5 for 5: Keep the Memory Alive" to raise the estimated $7,500 to restore the Joltin' Joe. DiMaggio wore No. 5 through 13 legendary seasons with the New York Yankees.
It took three years to raise the money and fix the boat. The city put it on display at the marina in 1994. But after about a dozen years of exposure to the elements, the Joltin' Joe had fallen into serious disrepair again.
Then in 2008, members of the Sons of Italy spearheaded a fundraising drive to restore the Joltin' Joe to its original glory. Since 2010, volunteers from Martinez Carpenters Union Local 152 have been working on the boat, essentially rebuilding it from the frame up with meticulous attention to detail and accuracy. The carpenters put in three to four hours of labor on Saturdays.
Recently, a stroke of bad luck for a boat enthusiast in Michigan turned out to be a lucky break for the Joltin' Joe team. The Michigan resident had removed the original cushions from a 1947 Chris-Craft and stored the boat in a barn which burned down, according to Rick Aldridge, of the carpenters' union. The Joltin' Joe team swooped in and bought the cushions and the boat hardware.
"That is how we acquired the factory cushions for this boat that, still today, have the stamp on them that say Chris-Craft," Aldridge said. "I mean, when we're done here it's going to be just like Joe DiMaggio received it in 1949, at the New York Yankees stadium."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Dinner to raise money for restoration of Joe DiMaggio's boat, the Joltin' Joe
When: 6:30 p.m., April 27
Where: Shell Clubhouse, 1635 Pacheco Blvd., Martinez
Tickets: $30 at White Rabbit Boutique, I've Been Framed, Copper Skillet in downtown Martinez
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