From Chesapeake 20

C-20 Pioneer, John Kramer Dies

Posted in: Racing Legends
By Ted Weihe
Jan 24, 2009 - 2:27:59 PM

John Kramer – Chesapeake 20 Pioneer Dies

It is with a saddened heart that I report that longtime Annapolis resident and C 20 racing pioneer, John Kramer, 88, died on January 17, 2009 at his home in Naples, Fl.  He will be interred at Arlington Cemetery probably sometime in April.

John’s father, Andrew, and three sons launched today’s round-bottom Chesapeake 20 class.  Luckily, I have spoken to John many times in recent months, keeping him up-to-date on Stormy, his beloved 20, and our C 20 events.  John and his wife, Jeanne, have sent me many photos and clippings of Chesapeake 20s including one in front of the old Annapolis Yacht Club in the early 1940s.  All of these materials are in our archives at

  Brief  History of the Kramers and C-20s.

John, Neal and Vincent Kramer were early Chesapeake 20 pioneers.  Their father, Andrew A. Kramer was president of Annapolis Bank and Trust.  In 1939,  he approached Captain Dick Hartge, and asked him to come to his bank, and to “get serious” about building Chesapeake 20s.  Andrew provided him with a check to built 20 Chesapeake 20s costing $650 each.  We have the original Hartge 20 brochure of these “production” 20s (built four at a time), the 1940 Chesapeake 20 plans/drawings, and the cost and material list on our website.

Andrew Kramer bought and owned Sea Witch II (a chine 20) who he bought from Albert Ball, and Myray (another chine 20), from Ralph Young – named for himself and his wife.   In the winter of 1939, son John Kramer went to the big Hartge shed where Captain Dick was building the 20s and John said that he could pick out his boat from 10 or 15 Chesapeake 20s that were in various stages of construction.  He selected Stormy and told Captain Dick how he wanted her to be painted: a light blue deck, red boot top and black hull.  He especially did not want a drawer in the stern which most classic wooden 20s have.  Sea Witch II is currently in Reedville, Va. and believed to be the only surviving chine bottom Chesapeake 20.  Stormy, now owned by me, is the first Chesapeake 20 registered with the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties and is on the WRSC grounds.

John Kramer’s brother, Vincent, who raced Sea Witch II, died after WWII in an F-80 crash in Germany.  His brother, Neal, raced Serenade, which is now owned by his daughter, Sally Sachse and also stored and raced by her at WRSC. 

The Kramer brothers raced under sail numbers, “00” and “000” since it was the trend to have identical and matching numbers back to back.  John Kramer also said that in the early 1930s, sail numbers were assigned at regattas and pinned to the cotton sails.

  John was a very successful racer.  He won the CBYRA High Point Season championships in 1957, 1968 and 1969.  He was not awarded the trophy in 1957 because he was not a member of a recognized Chesapeake Bay yacht club while an Air Force officer stationed at Andrews Air Base.

John Kramer built an exact model of Stormy (2 ½” to the foot) which is now owned by the Chesapeake 20 Association. I am arranging to put it on display at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. You will be able to enjoy it at our Nationals in Annapolis this June.  It is spectacular.  Joe Atwell, his crew since they were teenagers, obtained the model for us. It was originally a radio controlled boat, and certainly of museum quality. 

Ted Weihe

Dear Ted,
I, too was very sorry to hear of John Kramer's death.  John and my father were friends from back in the 1960s when he was stationed in Harrisburg, PA.  The two of them kept in touch ever since, though somewhat infrequently at times, especially with Kramers moving cross country a few times in the last few years.  
Some of my best memories are of times spent  at the Kramer home in Annapolis.  Back when John was building the scale model of Stormy, I remember him showing us the boat's bow fitting and how he basically cut it by hand from solid brass.  At that time, I'd never seen the building of a planked hull before, and John showed me how to divide up the length of the frames and take off the proper shape for planks that will lay out properly.
I also remember watching the model sail in Spa creek and how amazed I was that he'd sail it in that water with the open cockpit -- a rare thing for an radio control boat.  Those photos are from the spot where we used to sail our R/C boats at the foot of Revel street in Annapolis -- I have a couple of pictures of us and our R/C boats that I took from the same place in the early '70s, one including John and his Half Meter boat if I recall correctly.

Alan Stein

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