When Aloha Pontoons, a widely respected name in boat manufacturing, held a contest to find the oldest Aloha in existence, it is doubtful anyone expected to find one dating back 50 years, but that's what happened.
Ivan Daes is the current owner of a 1962 Waco party barge that was originally purchased in the early 70's from his neighborhood. When interviewed, Ivan's son Rick reminisced about his childhood growing up in Kentucky.
"My father was always renting a fishing boat to take on Kentucky Lake," he remembered. "We had an old 1.5 Elgin outboard motor, and he'd hook it up for our trips."
From there, Ivan built his own boat, a 14-footer, after buying a hull. After putting a 33 Scott-Atwater engine on it, the boat became the fastest thing on the lake in 1957. From there, it was a short jump to waterskiing.
"I learned how to ski behind that boat," Daes said.
Twin skis gave way to a single, and Daes became an avid slalom skier.
"Of course, back then the slalom ski was as big as a surfboard," Daes laughed.
Daes doesn't remember exactly how many people his dad taught how to ski, but recalls entire families would come to the lake to learn how.
"Not many people back then had boats, and back then, 33 horses was as much as anyone had," Daes explained.
The Daes family became even more entrenched in their boating lifestyle when Ivan bought a lot on Lake Hamilton, Ark., with the intention of building a lake house.
The initial building was a 12- by 24-foot house, with one story. It has since been expanded with a back room and a second story, and now measures 24 by 24 feet and has a great sun deck, facing the lake.
"As the family's needs grew, so did the house," Daes recalled.
It's no surprise that the Daes family, as steeped in the boating life as they were, would be one of the first to buy a pontoon boat. The Waco 1962 `toon was a way for everyone to spend a day together on the lake, and with six kids, there was need for a lot of room.
For years, the Daeses would load up the ice chest and just cruise up and down the lake.
"We didn't have a trailer for it, so we couldn't take it from lake to lake," Daes said. "We'd drag tubes behind it for the kids."
In 1985, a tornado went through Arkansas and flipped the 'toon upside down right in the middle of Lake Hamilton. Ivan went out into the water and righted his ship, but discovered the top and side rails were a complete loss.
"The deck is the original, but we've had to replace parts here and there over the years," Daes said.
Every 10 years, the family does a complete restoration, including new decking and carpeting. The most recent job was in July of last year.
"Beige did a better job matching the new rails," Daes said.
Ivan never did buy a more powerful boat, but Rick found his way into a larger ski boat in later years, to take his younger brothers skiing just like his dad took him. He has since sold it, but a younger sister owns a boat, the better to carry on the family tradition.
"We're constantly running the party barge now," Daes said. He plans on removing the current awning and expanding it for better coverage.
Daes does sometimes move the 'toon from the lake, and has to rent a trailer to do so. The pontoon width is narrower than you'll find on current models, so the boat has to be cranked up onto the trailer in an unconventional way, which leaves the pontoons dangling a bit on the sides.
During the summer, Daes and his family take the party barge out almost every weekend. When interviewed, he was planning on a weekend of bass fishing, capped off by a big fish fry to celebrate the beginning of the new boating season.
Learn more about Aloha Pontoons at www.alohapontoons.com or call them at 501-753-2866 for more information about this long-established pontoon builder.