The Life Of Legendary Boatbuilder Forest E. Johnson, by Capt. Bill Pike (continued)
The Prowler’s Reign
Johnson and I continue going through old photos, admiring Prowler (and Prowler Jr.) race boats, Prowler cruisers, and Prowler sportfishermen, most of them graced with a signature high bow (to better deal with headseas), a relatively low transom (to facilitate bringing fish aboard), and a wonderfully sinuous S-curved sheerline.
“He almost never put a set of boat lines on paper,” says Johnson. “He’d just draw up a profile and a layout. But while he had no formal training in naval architecture, he knew what worked—mostly from racing. One time, I think he won 10 races in just one day! I mean, he loved it—just loved it.”
Love is a compelling and attractive quality. At the height of the Prowler’s popularity, the list of Forest E.’s friends, acquaintances, and clients included celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Sam Snead, Don Aronow, Sam Griffith, Ernest Hemingway, and even the president of the United States, Richard Nixon, who once dialed up during a brief economic downturn to assure himself that his favorite boatbuilder was okay.
“Look at this,” says Johnson with a grin, handing over a photo of a striking young woman in a bathing suit being towed on a slalom ski behind a twin-engine 26-foot Prowler with Forest E. at the helm. “He towed Delores Kipple 200 miles all the way from Miami to Nassau—set a world waterskiing record. The black bathing suit reduced chances of attracting sharks and barracuda in case she fell. The bottom of the ski was painted black, too.”