Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Colortran Mini Crab Dolly

                 The ingeniously designed and versatile Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.
I'm sure we weren't the first to discover that underneath the trap-door of the platform where the CO2 bottle rests, is a nice area for storage. You can stowaway small things, i.e., keys, tools, cell-phone, wallet, etc.

Dear readers....this is a reposting of one of the first stories we posted about the Mini-Crab back in 2010. If you have a Mini-Crab or a story about using one...please send it to us at zarykfamily@twc.com

Manufacturing of the ingeniously designed Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly started sometime around 1967. The Colortran dollies were being produced up through 1975. A total of about 250 of these hand-built dollies were assembled at the Berkey-Colortran location on Chestnut Street in Burbank, California. This facility is now being used by another equipment outfit company, Chapman.

Based on Colortran's hefty $5825.00 price tag (see price list above), these dollies were made to order, not built and stockpiled. Back then it was actually cheaper to buy a brand new Cadillac Coupe DeVille ($5275.00) than a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.

The Colortran dolly was touted as being untippable and was known to accommodate the industry standard cameras of the time, Mitchell BNCR (130 lbs.) and the even beastlier, Panavison R-200 (160 lbs.). The Colortran is nearly as portable and versatile as a dolly could be. Before the advent of the Steadicam system, the Colortran was the answer to the big McAlisterMoviola Crab, Fearless and Fisher dollies, which were the standard on many film sets.

The Mini-Crab is a soft-riding, compact, nearly 300-pound platform that can steer effortlessly, crab 360 degrees and slip through a normal size doorway with ease. Even laden-down with two riders and a heavy camera, the Mini-Crab performs flawlessly. Other dollies particularly the larger crabs, i.e., Moviola, had a difficult time, if not impossible, maneuvering through tight spots such as doorways and corridors. Not the Mini-Crab!

In its day, another portable “crab” contender, the Elemack, challenged the Colortran. In my humble opinion, the Elemack lacked the versatility the Colortran offered. During my filmmaking days, I personally used an earlier version of the Elemack, called the “Spyder”. After a few weeks of working with the Elemack, which incidentally, was paired up with a "lighter" (80 pound) Panaflex camera, we were ready to ditch-it for a shopping cart!

As the dolly-grip for the above project, I remember operating the Elemack during several tracking shots when the ride became choppy. 

Eventually, the DP, being totally exasperated with the ride, turned his head much in the same demonic fashion as 'Regan' did in 'The Exorcist' and questioned me about the crappy push. None of us could figure out the reason of the rough ride. The choppiness came and went and occurred mostly on slow pushes. 

After unbuckling the camera, we tipped the dolly over and did a complete check of each of the tires, wheels and lastly the wheel-bearings to make sure they were functioning properly. After more than an hour of trying to pin-point the problem, we gave up! We kept on shooting with a half-working Elemack until Victor Duncan sent over a sweet, battery-powered Fisher Dolly.

Other issues we had with the Elemack included the mechanism to disengage the opening/closing of the legs, which would never work right. This even after constant servicing through Victor Duncan of Detroit. Not to mention, using the manual foot-pump to jack-up the column was to say, tedious. On occasion, we would even find a puddle of hydraulic fluid underneath the Elemack, which I understand is common for this breed. Personally, it became a pain since it was I who was always wiping up after it! 

The fact is, with the Elemack, you can't even lay a director's finder, lens or more importantly a cup of coffee down like you could on-top of the rubberized platform of the Colortran. After my experience with the Elemack, I'm convinced the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly WAS and STILL IS the best designed 'vintage' portable crab dolly out there, especially given it's compact size. This made possible by its genius designer, William Sargent. Not only is the Colortran Mini-Crab American made, the build quality of that era is first-rate.

In short, if you're ever faced with renting or more importantly purchasing a crab-dolly, my advice would be...STAY AWAY from the Elemack brand. Especially, the Cricket and Spyder models. 

If you're not lucky enough to find a Colortran Mini-Crab, I would suggest checking into a pre-owned Chapman. Yes, the Chapman's are pricey...but they will give you many years of trouble-free service. As mentioned earlier, the Chapman's are built at the same factory the Colortran's were assembled. In fact, I was told that many of the lathes and other machines that were once used to manufacture parts for the Colortran Mini-Crab's are still being used today to produce the Chapman's. Lastly, if you can't get your hands on a Chapman, I would then recommend a Fisher Dolly.

Now, back to the Colortran...if you were to flip the Mini-Crab dolly over and remove it's lower panel, you would see a maze of sophisticated engineering much akin to looking inside a fine Swiss watch. Hand-milled gears, forged steering controls, hydraulics, etc.

The Colortran dolly was built around an extremely heavy one-piece aluminum casting. It’s speculated that many of these dollies have found their way to the scrap-heap before their true identity became known. Stripped down, the empty shell of a Colortran Mini-Crab tips the scales with more than 175 pounds of solid, pure, high-grade extrusion aluminum. It’s conceivable; many of these dollies were unknowingly scrapped for the price of aluminum, which may be one of the reasons why very few are known to exist.

Recently, my son Adam and I had the good fortune of acquiring a Colortran dolly with special provenance. This Mini-Crab bears the serial number of 157, which by indications found, was once owned by filmmaker and Academy Award winner, David L. Wolper.

Mr. Wolper is recognized as a prolific television/feature film producer who is credited for producing the “Roots” and “North and South” TV mini-series, among many others. Mr. Wolper also produced many films for the big screen including 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', (1971), 'This is Elvis', (1981), and 'L.A. Confidential', (1997).

It’s doubtful that #157 was used in filming any of these productions; more likely it was used in Mr. Wolper’s earlier television career. This was when his production company produced and filmed documentaries similar to the ones seen on the Biography channel.

Before we adopted #157, the dolly eventually ended up on the east coast. First at a PBS station in Maryland, a Verizon TV studio, then to a state law enforcement TV studio. It was lastly owned by an independent producer.

Presently, we're in the planning stages of producing a film on how difficult it is for people with disabilities to find jobs (competitive employment). This is an area of which I have some experience with and proud to say is my beloved full-time occupation. What better way to film people who use wheelchairs or may have difficulty walking, than to have a camera mounted onto a quiet moving dolly.

My son and I also offer a dolly-grip service to local filmmakers in the Cleveland area which will hopefully help fund the documentary. I'm looking to put my past experience as a dolly-grip to good use. This time around, the cameras have shrunk down to a mere fraction of the heavy 16 or 35mm steel beasts that once rode atop #157. We also offer a lightweight 13’ jib that can be attached to the dolly to "fly" cameras when needed.

Our Colortran is still solid as a rock and with the (8) original studio tires, maintains extremely smooth control much when it did, I'm sure, some 40 years ago. Again, thanks to a very clever designer!

We're hoping to put together a list of existing Colortran dollies and their owners. If you’re fortunate enough to own a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly, please e-mail me the serial number of your unit. This is located on the manufacture tag on the back panel of the dolly, see photo of the tag on the September 10th posting.

Over the years, some of these Mini-Crab’s have lost their tags. Not to worry, the serial number of your dolly is also stamped on the top of the steering base. Also, let me know the serial number of your hydraulic lift, which is an entirely different number than the serial number of the dolly. The serial number of the hydraulic lift can be found on the base of the lift itself.

If you have any information, facts, details or user stories about the Colortran Mini-Crab, please let us know and with your permission, we will share it on this Blog. Eventually, Adam and I would like to form a group of Colortran Dolly owners called the SarKell Society. Among other things, this Society will list the owner's name, general location and the serial number of the member's dolly in a future posting.

Forming the SarKell Society should help us Colortran Dolly owners to preserve and increase the value of our beautifully crafted dollies. Ultimately, we can help one another with buying/selling a Colortran dolly, operational ideas, Colortran restoration, general maintenance, wheel alignment, service, parts and accessories.

Speaking of accessories, Adam and I are on the look-out for some items to better outfit our dolly. We're looking for the floorboards that would enlarge the Colortran platform. Also, if you have the operator's lift-seat that was designed to fit onto the hydraulic pedestal or the carrying case for the dolly itself, we would be most interested! Please let me know by e-mailing me at: zarykfamily@twc.com

Let's keep in touch and enjoy using your Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly!
Greg and Adam Zaryk, former owners of #157

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For Sale - Jib for the Mini-Crab

We have the perfect accessory for your Mini-Crab! It's the Camera Turret CT-300 Jib that's pictured above and throughout this blog. We used it extensively with Mini-Crab #157. It has the proper mounting adapter that would enable it to fit easily onto the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.

The CT-300 is made out of aircraft aluminum and still being made today.The Jib head automatically articulates with the vertical movement of the Jib.
This professional Jib package includes the following:

5' 3" center Jib Arm
3' extension Jib Arm
Monitor Bracket
Cables for standard Jib length,
Cables for extension Jib length
Counterweights bar
Tool kit
Adapter to mount Jib onto your Mini-Crab Dolly or use with a heavy-duty tripod.

Don't mistaken this professional Jib with the flimsy ones you see out there now. In fact, I inspected a cheaper quality Jib and I was shocked at the back-and-forth play it had while moving it up and down.

You can attach your fluid head as the one shown is not available.

This is the real thing. It's rated for 30 lbs. It was made to support heavier rigs.

If interested or for more info, e-mail me directly at:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Crab Dolly Weight Comparisons

I find it interesting how heavy vintage dolly's really were. Here's a picture of the old standby, the Moviola Crab Dolly which weighed in at 530 pounds. Click on any image to enlarge.
The next dolly of yesteryear was the boxier McAllister which tipped the scales at a whopping 690 pounds! I have read somewhere that the origin of this dolly came from loading bombs/ordnance's into military aircraft.
Remember the Dolly-Trolley? Not exactly a crab dolly, but it was great for long tracking shots. No weight specs for this one, but it doesn't look to be too heavy. Pictured here is Gina Lollobrigida and her son taking a break between scenes.
My least favorite of all crab dollies..the Elemack. And by the look of this gentleman's expression, he feels the same way! Click on this image to enlarge.

In my opinion, these were (and still are) the most finicky dollies ever made! They needed constant servicing and always dripped H-fluid. I gripped on a film production in the late 70's and we rented an Elemack that turned into a complete nightmare. To me, the Elemack is just a huge 'tripod dolly' with no platform to work from. This pic is a perfect illustration of that. You see this gentleman has nowhere to put his feet down, they're dangling. Yes, most of the people that used this dolly placed their feet on the legs, but trust me, that gets old! The earlier models weighed in around 200 pounds. The later models came in closer to 250 lbs.
Then there is the smartly designed Colortran Mini Crab Dolly. The Mini Crab came in at only 293 pounds! It was nimble enough to maneuver through a standard doorway and as you can see, allowed for comfortable foot placement. Although William Sargent did not fully intend on designing the Mini Crab Dolly for the larger cameras, it easily accommodated the industry standard Mitchell BNCR and the beast.. the super heavy Panavision R200.

By the way...that's William Sargent, Mini Crab designer/inventor (and TV/film actor) sitting on the Mini Crab Dolly prototype at a trade show at the old Hudson Hotel in NYC. William was demonstrating the Mini Crab dolly. Note the faux doorway used to show the Mini Crab's maneuvering capabilities. They took more than 30 orders for the Mini Crab Dolly at this show.
Here's a couple of pictures of my son Adam on Mini Crab #157. At the time, Adam and I were hired out to run second camera at local MMA matches. We actually had a 10' boom that was attached to the hydraulic pedestal so that we could film above the cage wall. 
Having a platform to stand on when needed was also really convenient. Adam sat on the operator's seat and stood on the platform when filming dictated. Hands down.. the Colortran Mini Crab Dolly is the best vintage crab dolly ever made! AND...IS STILL an extremely capable dolly being used today! Timeless (and don't forget portable) design! Thanks to it's genius designer/inventor, William Sargent!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

William Sargent Inventor of the Colortran Mini-Crab and Our new Email Address!

I love this picture of William Sargent, inventor of the Mini-Crab Dolly, seated left and his partner Robert Kelljan on the right. Notice the director's chairs...SAR...KEL. This is simply the first three letters of their last names, but each mini-crab manufactured would be tagged 'Designed by SARKEL'.
Yes, this is William Sargent sitting high atop his design. This particular ad was published in an issue of American Cinematographer. Technically speaking, I love the lighting technique that was used in this composition, accentuating the hydraulic pedestal supporting the camera operator. In this case, the inventor. This design was way ahead of it's time for a doorway crab dolly. A testament to William Sargent's genius design!

PLEASE NOTE...our email address has changed! Our NEW email address is now:


Adam and I apologize if you have tried to reach us! We had to change internet providers and no longer have the centurylink account. If you have a mini-crab and a story to tell...please email it to us at our new address.

Thank you, Greg and Adam Zaryk

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I.J. Van Perre Jr. and Mini-Crab # 35

Dear Sarkell Members,

Please read I.J.'s message below regarding his fascinating career as a professional filmmaker. He is also owner of one of William Sargent's creations...Mini-Crab Dolly #35. I also have a nice image of I.J. which I will be posting soon!

Hello GREG, 

I'm the owner of Mini-Crab #35. 

It's physically in pretty good shape.  It does have some issues though. The front break is there but is missing the lever to activate it. It's missing the Dolly Grips up and down control rod. And there is a hydraulic fluid leak somewhere. It still goes up and down, but leaving a puddle.

Other than this everything seems to work fine. However I intend to completely tare it down and recondition, repair, and replace everything. 

After talking to it's last owner, I'm told it came from the University of Iowa who was probably the original owners. That's who they purchased it from.

About me, I'm a member of IATSE local 16 San Francisco since 1978 and a member of IATSE local 488 Studio Mech. of the Pacific Northwest since 1995. Local 16 is a stage and motion picture local and covers most all departments in film making. We also have Industrial Light and Magic in our jurisdiction. However they have become strictly CGI these days. 

I was fortunately lucky enough to work for them from 1985 to 1994. Before that I worked for Lucasfilm on Return of the Jedi in the U.S. back in 1982.

    Not including TV, MOW's, Video's and Commercials, at last count I've worked on 70+ Motion Pictures. Mostly as a Construction Coordinator, Special Effects Foreman or Tech. and a one time Effects Coordinator. I do have credits for Bestboy Rigging Grip, Bestboy Rigging Electrician, as well as Grip and Lamp Operator. At ILM I was primarily an Effects Foreman doing fabrication, rigging, and flying people. A couple of times I was a Dolly Grip. ILM owned a Movieola and McCallester dollies. Oldies for sure.

    Back in high school I would follow The Streets of San Francisco around and watch them shoot. I noticed their camera dolly was one of these Colortran Dollies. That was the first time I saw one and thought how lightweight, compact, and portable it was. They shot with a Panaflex Camera. I was surprised to find out it could handle a full dressed Mitchell BNC Camera. Amazing.

    So #35 came up for sale. I had some money in the bank and bought it. Beside restoring it, I'm not sure what I'll do with it. Maybe offer it up to one of my Dolly Grip buddies. Maybe keep it as a coffee table!


    I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area my entire life except for living in the Portland Oregon Area from 1995 til 1997. I'm currently back in the Bay Area.

    Thanks for the info on the Mini-Crab Dolly,

I.J. Van Perre Jr.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

William Sargent and his LA Story

A studio publicity shot of William Sargent during an episode of 'My Three Sons'.

Since 2010, the time we started this site on the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly and it's inventor, William Sargent. We were always curious as to what William did during his time before he invented the Mini-Crab Dolly and after he left Colortran. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a wonderfully written account by William Sargent. Sit back and enjoy William Sargent's fascinating story.

That unknown part of my life in LA... By William Sargent

New York was the end-all for me as a striving actor. Returning from Korea with the G.I. Bill at my disposal, I went for an interview with the great Sanford Meisner and felt lucky to be accepted to the famed Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater for the two-year course, 1953-55. My school allotment came to all of $110 a month, the course, then, was $100 per month, which left me with $10 for subway fares and cigarettes. I was lucky to still live at home. This was all I had dreamt about through ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ and ‘The Punchbowl’ while serving as a wireman with the Heavy Mortar company of the 14th Regiment, 25th Division, for all of 1952 – and now it was actually happening. I was going to study drama and follow a dream that actually started around age eight when I was taken to see a live play.

During the summer breaks we were not to do any acting work. It was Sandy’s way against your picking up bad habits before he was through with you. You were to read and or see plays. Too late, a friend had already recommended me to the small Windermere Playhouse, a summer stock company at Seal Harbor, Maine, so I drove up there in my 1938 Dodge and spent ten wonderful weeks doing 8 plays. They had hired me to play some small parts but mainly to build sets. However audience reactions ‘promoted’ me to play a few leads - AND also build sets. I loved every minute of it! Pay, was room & board, and endless free spaghetti and Cokes. Best part of that summer was not only the acting experience, but the handsome dachshund puppy I brought back from Maine - we called him George.

I finished the second year at the Playhouse ending with the great privilege of being cast in the final production as ‘Jonah’ in a musical version of ‘Jonah and the Whale’ by James Bridie. My good friend and classmate, Robert Kelljan (who 10 years later became my business partner on the Mini-Crab Dolly) was also in the cast, as were Tammy Grimes and Brianne Murphy – both deceased now. Most notable was the quiet and demure, Brianne Murphy, who after graduation ran off to the Circus, then went into photography and eventually became the first female ASC, Academy Award-winning cinematographer.

In 1950’s New York, the actor’s way of seeking work was very different from an actor trying to get a job in Hollywood. In NYC you made the ‘rounds’ yourself, hounding the casting offices. You rushed to ‘open call’ auditions, scanned Variety & the Reporter magazine daily for shows going into rehearsals. You hoped a friendly casting agent would send you out on those all-important interviews, more than once. All along you kept ‘honing’ your craft by attending this or that dramatic workshop so as ‘not to get rusty’. Sometimes, even using a workshop to present a personal ‘showcase’. This was in the hopes of enticing an agent to attend. Or, even replacing another actor in an off-off Broadway play for a night, just for the ‘credit’. Friends in the profession were all-important to each other’s progress.

Word of mouth by good friends helped often. I worked in off-Broadway plays through directors or actors’ recommendations, and in summers went off to Stock companies - with rarely an audition. And, although off-Broadway Equity minimum was all of $37.50 a week - I was soon to become a proud, card-carrying Equity member. A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR! Of course, I also had to supplement periods of unemployment with the exiting job of driving a cab - a job, Robert Kelljan got for me with the same Yellow Checker Company he drove for, while looking for work and trying his hand at writing...
How or why I wound up in Hollywood in 1960 for that small part in the ‘Young Savages’, a part that obviously ended on the editing room floor, may have been a questionable choice for me, looking back; Sidney Pollack and I came out for the same picture, with one major exception. Sidney came out as dialog coach for the (real) gang members who had never acted before - a delicate job essential to the picture’s raw authenticity, and I was to play Burt Lancaster’s assistant (at least in the script) but instead, I mostly sat at the DA’s table with Telly Savalas. But, I was now suddenly earning $400 a week! From $37.50 to FOUR HUNDRED?! It must have been this sudden ‘wealth’ or was it the sunshine, girls and the beach? I was sure; finding work in at least one of those studios would be a cinch. Yup, I succumbed, and stayed in Hollywood - for the next 27 years...
Studio shots of William Sargent (soft-focus) in the foreground during a rehearsal on the movie 'Savages'. Sitting next to William is Telly Savalas and Burt Lancaster is standing.
In this rehearsal scene we see William Sargent standing with Burt Lancaster. William played the assistant DA in this film.

If you planned to stay in LaLa Land you had to have a car, get some 8x10 glossies shot, find an agent, upgrade your summer wardrobe and maybe hang out at Schwab’s Drugstore where you might meet Sidney Skolsky, who would, if you got lucky, do a column on you some day. Dreamer!

A year earlier in NY, a jovial fellow named Lenny Kaplan, looked me up backstage after the show I was in, said he was an agent and could we go for coffee. We talked at length about the play that night, my work - and his. He was barely ‘eeking’ out a living as a photographer and was trying his hand at being a Theatrical agent.

An 8x10 glossy of William Sargent taken early in William's career by photographer, Lenny Kaplan.

Lenny already had two clients, he said, but felt they might venture out west where they should do better. His two unknowns were two talents named Marty Ingels and Frank Gorshin, and did I know them? I confessed I didn’t. Before we parted he gave me the number of a relative in LA, and if I ever got out there they would be able to tell me where to find him.
Now, I was ‘out there’, I bought a used Karmann Ghia, rented a room at the El Marathon Apartments (across from the iconic Paramount Gate), ate my meals at Oblath’s next door, and talked to Paramount patrons about ‘the business’ - who all advised, you can’t get to first base without an agent!

I remembered Lenny Kaplan and called his relative’s number. We met like ‘old friends’ and when we parted I had a portrait photographer and an agent. Lenny had no meaningful connections or experience but he had imagination and moxie. He learned how to sneak past gate guards with me, lie about having some urgent business to attend to - or just sneaked in from some rear entrance with me in tow. He’d knock on doors and usually say, I know you’re busy Mr.X, but just wanted you to meet William Sargent who was brought out from NYC for a picture at Columbia – here’s my card and his photo. Or, similar embarrassing ploys. Usually we’d get rolling eyes or a gruff ‘Not Now!’ please! It finally work one day when we ‘rushed’ a kind James Whitmore, who took the time to talk ‘Theater’ with me - while Lenny checked out other offices down the hall. Mr. Whitmore gave me my first TV break in his show ‘The Law and Mr. Jones’. It was a beginning, and Lenny and I celebrated it with Ingles & Gorshin that evening. And so it went, sometimes weeks between jobs. I found Theater work in a couple of Equity Library Theater productions, and made new friends. I knew how to live on sparse funds but what to do with all that time?

Sidney and I stayed in touch, we had been friends from the Playhouse days, but he soon got busy and was more interested in directing. Burt Lancaster had quietly observed Sidney during the ‘Savages’ shoot, how he worked with the boys, was impressed, and hired him as ‘assistant’ or something, and later on eventually as director. Sidney called me one day not for an acting job but to go flying with him. He was being checked out on a Cessna 182 and would enjoy the company. So I grabbed my 8mm camera and sat in the back seat (filming) while he and the instructor went through the qualification test. When we landed he asked if I’d like to go up and see if I liked it – his treat! Really? Well, why not. He went for coffee and I took his place with the instructor who put me through a trial introduction. I went out on another checkout flight with Sidney a year later on a twin-engine Cessna.
He was totally dedicated and absorbed with flying and I rarely saw him again after that day. He was now traveling in other circles. I did get hooked on flying for a while, and later even bought myself a little 1947 Cessna 120, while at Colortran, flying around for a while. One day, visiting a friend in the Lancaster area I cracked up in a bad landing at Quartz Hill, Ca. I wasn’t hurt though the plane was, and I had second thoughts about my prowess as a pilot.

William Sargent and his Cessna 120 which was tied down at Burbank's Sky Roamers. This airport was just minutes away from Colortran. This was during the time the Mini-Crab Dolly was being manufactured.

What to do with all that spare time between shows? I wasn’t needed at Colortran anymore. I now needed a hobby, something constructive. It came to me while visiting Marina del Rey one day with a lady friend, as I looked out at all those boats. Why not get a boat, a fixer-upper that I could play with when not working or just on weekends, if I did. I looked at boats on nearby lots and found a cute but shabby 16.5 ft, cuddy-cabin fishing boat with a small inboard Hercules for $500 staring at me. So I got it, parked it in my lady friend’s driveway and proceeded to cherry it out. We enjoyed it for a while but I got tired of trailering it back and forth, and decided to trade it for a little larger boat that I could keep there in a slip. I sold the little beauty for $1,500 after a year, threw in another hundred and bought a neglected 24 ft. Plywood Owens with a ‘283’ inboard motor. This was going to be great! Could sleep over on weekends, throw small parties, go to Catalina.

But first the boat had to go into dry-dock, hull cleaned and bottom painted, prop and shaft and through-hull fittings checked. Wait, said the broker, you’ll need a marine survey for insurance purposes – might as well do it while she’s out of the water. Here are a couple of surveyors’ names. I called one, he came down that afternoon and went through her for an hour or so, handed me a sheet with a list of ‘must do’ recommendations and a bill for $35, and said he’d be glad to sign her off when all was completed. I thanked him and proceeded to do some of the work right there at the yard and two days later, called Whitehouse to sign her off and had the boat yard launch her back into the water. The twenty-four foot slip At Delamo Marine was all of .75 cents per foot per month in the late ‘60’s (it’s more like $14-20 per foot nowadays), and I was allowed to stay on board at all times but only for two consecutive nights.

A year later with the Owens ‘Hiatus’ looking like it came off the assembly line, I called, Capt Whitehouse to come by, look at my work and adjust her value for insurance purposes. As I paid him for his time, he shook his head with a big smile and asked, where did you learn all that, they told me at the office you’re...an actor? I thanked him for the compliment, and the conversation expanded to his services in the Coast Guard and his long-time membership in NAMS (National Association of Marine Surveyors). He was an interesting tiny old man with an impressive history. Two years of fun followed and I had taken the ‘Hiatus’ to Catalina a couple of times and ran her up and down the neighboring coastline, but put-putting around the various marinas in MDR I saw some larger beauties ‘beckoning’ and since I had a few bucks to play with I was itching for something larger - to possibly even live on.

It was now 1972, and one day, looking through a local boating magazine there was a potential vessel that ‘spoke to me’. A cosmetically shot, 36’ Chris Craft F/B Sportfisher cruiser with a ‘lapstrake’ hull. The ad said the engines were in excellent shape. Price was $14,500, AS IS. That was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but my Swedish pal and boat neighbor, Sten, suggested I offer them $5K or six at most. They had probably taken too many trade-ins and were eager to sell. They first laughed at my offer, but Sten was right - I came up to $6,500 ‘final offer’ and started to walk. The salesman, too eager not to lose the deal, agreed. He almost lost his composure when I told him he needed to take my Hiatus in trade and that she had been valued at $4K. He went with me to look at my Owens and right then and there we shook on it and headed back to the office to sign the contract. While walking back, I asked him, who the cute blonde was in the accounting office? Oh, you noticed her, he smirked, that’s our Patti, very special. I’ll introduce you, William. By the way, what do you do, you a carpenter? An actor, I said. As we entered the office he led me over to Patti and said, this Gentleman just bought one of our boats – he’s an actor! Bud Yandell, that salesman, played a most touching role, some months later, in getting Patti and me together, but that’s another and more ‘important’ story in my life.

I got a live-aboard slip from them, too, and since they had a great boat yard I had the vessel hauled right there for Marine Survey. The day before, I had gone through her entire inner hull, but by her looks just below her encrusted bootstripe I had a fair idea I was in for a total bottom overhaul before relaunching and moving her to her new slip. Of course, I called Capt Whitehouse to do the survey and we arrived at the yard together the following morning. ‘Had a fair sea-trial?’ he grumbled. I said, no, just got the engines started okay but it was an ‘As is’ deal!

The boat was out of the water in slings ready to block when we arrived. What we beheld was a very heavy load of tube-worms and 2 feet of seaweed hanging down – she’d probably not even been run for a couple of years. Capt Hal suggested to have her bottom scraped, and then power-washed or lightly sandblasted to reveal the wood planking before anything else was done. I agreed, and the order was put in at the service office. The next day Capt Whitehouse was back to do his thing. I watched him from a distance so as not to break his concentration; he made it clear he preferred it that way. I found out that Marine Surveyors can get sued for missing or omitting serious problems. It took the Captain 4 long hours. He appeared very tired after crawling down the ladder. I waited silently while he went over his notes, then handed me the list of recommendations. He said he had to go home and would have the document typed – and the valuations, ‘Market and Replacement’ for me by tomorrow...

The ‘Sweet Hiatus’ took almost a year to look presentable, and Capt Hal stopped by whenever he was in the vicinity to see how and what I was doing. Bill, he said one day, ‘why don’t you come work for me and give up that kid’s stuff you do on the Tube?’ I wanted to laugh - but I let him continue. ‘I’m too tired & too old to go on’, he said, ‘I could use someone like you – teach you all the legalities. You can start with me at 50 cents on the dollar...and in a year or so you’ll be established and the business will be yours!’ Think about it, he said, and left.

Something hit deep. What?! Give up acting after all those years. True, I wasn’t a big hit on the Tube, and I frequently resented being called away for an audition or another unimportant, uninspiring, supporting role. What about the $750-1,200 I was now getting for 2-3 days on a show. Yes, but that wasn’t really happening too often. Patti and I had started to date recently.
What if things got serious between us, how would I support my end of the relationship? And, wouldn’t you know it, just about that time, I got a call to do a ‘Streets of San Francisco’ episode with a decent part. I decided to make that my farewell to the Tube. Took Patti with me to SF for the three day shoot – and we had a ball. When we returned, I told Patti I was through. I would do Theater Plays but I was tired waiting for those studio calls! I was going to work as a Marine Surveyor!

The end of the story? I started working for ‘Whitehouse Marine Surveyors’ the following week. Hal took me around with him, introducing me to every broker, every insurance group and shipyard foreman. He took on all the work thrown at us – but I wound up doing most of the work. He started getting sick and weak, over the following months. I had to occasionally even take him to the hospital. His dear wife was the secretary and had to stay in the office to take calls. They had a mobile-home at Lake Mead and wanted to retire there. But, Hal didn’t make it and passed away.

I was now on my own, with Hal’s wife wanting to shut the (home) office. We parted friends – and I was on my own. Since everyone had gotten to know me, thanks to Hal, I had no problem working everywhere on the coast, not only in MDR with its 6500 slips but in yards from San Pedro to Oxnard. I opened a small office in Marina del Rey, hired a Loyola U. student as a secretary, renamed the company to ‘William Sargent Marine Surveyors’, even pasted the logo on my jeep – and the transition went without a ripple. I continued as a surveyor for thirteen years - occasionally doing a play, but no TV if I could help it. I still have the Logbook - and peruse it occasionally. I marvel at the number & type of boats I worked on. In those thirteen years I surveyed more than 1800 vessels... There you have it! My career in LA.