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Port Arthur Yacht Club member builds wooden boat with beer tap, wine bar

Kelvin Franks is from California and lives in Louisiana, but he feels very comfortable with his Southeast Texas friends.

In fact, you could call Port Arthur Yacht Club his home away from home, and it’s all about the camaraderie.

“They are great people,” Franks said. “They are just down to earth. We were members of a couple of yacht clubs in Long Beach, (California) and they were kind of hoity-toity. That wasn’t our style at all. These people are really nice. I like the area. The sailing is real good.”

It took Kelvin Franks more than four years to build Drift Wood, which he plans to bring to Port Arthur this weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Weather permitting, Franks will join many of his seagoing friends for today’s Blessing of the Boats at the yacht club on Pleasure Island Boulevard.

He hopes the day presents the perfect opportunity to use his self-built wooden boat.

Franks worked on it for more than four years, officially unveiling it for the first time in the summer of 2020.

It sports a Glenn L design mirroring a 1934 cris craft hull, featuring an interior and deck of his own design.

Every board in it is mahogany.

The boat features a mercruiser 120 inboard engine that is center mounted.

“I boarded out and put a high performance cam in it,” Franks said. “So I’ve got about 130 horsepower. The boat is 15 feet long, six feet two inches wide at its widest. It has two bucket seats in the front and a bench seat in the back.”

Building it was a labor of love, but now it’s stocked for fun, easily pulling skiers.

When ready for a break, the boat features an on-board beer tap and a back seat that has a wine bar.

Franks uses a four-wheel wagon instead of a typical street trailer to bring his boat from Louisiana to Port Arthur.

“I have a winch inside of a 20-foot cargo trailer and I roll it up in there,” he said. “That keeps it out of the weather, and I can launch it from a regular launch ramp or I can three-point lift it with my harness and crane.”

Franks jokes that he doesn’t remember his initial inspiration for building the boat. He just remembers having extra time during some contract work and got interested after searching the Internet for old boats.

Today, Franks lives in Duson, Louisiana, just west of Lafayette with his wife, Ginny Duplin.

Kelvin Franks said his boat features a Glenn L design mirroring a 1934 cris craft hull. (Courtesy photo)

Blessing of the Boats

Port Arthur Yacht Club member Judy Walters said the fun starts at 12:30 p.m. today for Blessing of the Boats.

Weather permitting, more than a dozen boats will be decorated for parade. The Sea Scouts begin the event with a flag raising at the marina.

Father Sinclair Oubre will lead a short prayer on land, then get on a troller boat for the basin, where the boats will be parading and Oubre will continue blessings with Holy Water.

“After the blessing, we will probably do one more round of the parade and go back to the Marina,” Walters said. “Then we will open the gate and if people want to come by and peruse around the marina, talk to our members and look at the decorated boats, they are more than welcome.”

Walters said community spirit is important for the club, something she said Franks contributes in large quantities.

She describes him as comical and hard working.

When he used to have a larger boat, named Cajun Drifter, Franks was known for taxing anyone who needed pass through shallow water.

His services were for others.

“He would take his boat to Galveston once a year, and if you didn’t want to sail or take your own boat down there, he would say, ‘Come on, you can stay on Cajun Drifter,’” Walters said. “He would have so many people, he couldn’t tell you who was on his boat. He was always there if you needed help with your boat. He is very friendly and very caring. He is always involved with the club.”

Chance meeting

Franks and his wife sailed from California through the Panama Canal and eventually docked in New Orleans, where they tended to repairs on their boat.

A chance meeting with a couple from the Port Arthur Yacht Club led to group dinners and an eventual invitation to spend time in Port Arthur.

“We went to Port Arthur for a weekend and loved it,” Franks said. “The Yacht Club is a great place with good people. We had that boat for three years there and sold it and bought a 52-feet power boat and had it there for four years. We just sold it last year so we’re down to this one wooden boat now.”

One boat, but a lot more friends.