Keaton Boats

The following story and pictures were provided courtesy of Joe and Drake Balcao.
Joe raced Keaton inboard V-drives (along with Mandella and Wright boats).
Joe was also renowned for his water skiing ability.

 Please read about Joe below as dictated to his son Drake on April 21, 2008.
The information below is to the best of Joe and Drake's memory.

On the Keaton Boat History Section, one is invited to submit "any additional information  to add to or correct the information below."

Joe Balcao, my father, is mentioned on page six.

Jack Keaton is quoted: "I talked to Joe by phone.  He has a custom built hull I built for him in 1965."

The following includes an account of how that "custom built hull" came to be.

Stacked in boxes in a closet of my waterfront home are about 160 trophies I won water skiing and boat racing.

I'll display them one of these days.  I just do not have the time.

I am 86 years old and still own and operate Balcao Land Leveling, Inc. , that I started in 1956.

I bought my first boat in 1946, learned to ski on two skies, and in 1949 won a 36-mile water skiing marathon in Rio Vista, CA.  It was only the beginning.  Over the next thirty-eight years, I earned first-place finishes in water ski jumping, tricks, slalom, mixed doubles, pyramid competitions, and ski and boat racing.  I loved the competition, and my endurance was unmatched.

On October 10, 1954, at 32 years-of-age, Hubert Miller and I set a world record water skiing for nine hours and forty minutes.  We skied 276 miles.

We started at Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, to the I-Street Bridge in Sacramento, to the Rio Vista Bridge, to the Port of Stockton, back to the Rio Vista Bridge, and finally back to the Port of Stockton in Stockton, CA.

When we were skiing in the San Francisco Bay, we traveled too close to Alcatraz Island when it was a federal penitentiary.  A guard came on the loud speaker and told us to get outside the warning bouys or get shot.  Charlie Risso, Jr. was the driver and Sam Toccoli was the gas boy.

Jack LaLanne, the fitnes expert, was bragging during a radio broadcast that he was going to win a 27-mile race at Clear Lake, Lake County, CA.  Mr. Milton Lange organized races at Clear Lake for many years.  I telephoned George Besotes and he agreed to pull me in the race.  I told him to get ahead of Jack LaLanne and do not let him pass me.  George and his brother Charlie Besotes manufactured boats in Stockton, CA.  One of their most popular boats was the Star.  I owned a Besotes Star for many years, but sold it three years ago.  Jack LaLanne did not mention his defeat on his next radio broadcast.

Editor's Note:
Here is an article about Joe ski racing at Clear Lake in 1960

I enjoyed ski jumping and earned the nickname "Jumping Joe."  I regularly took home first place trophies from competitions at Pacific Coast Championships, Clear Lake, Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake, Lodi Lake, Lake Isabella, and Stockton's Captain Weber Days Championships (which I helped organize), Washington, Oregon, and other locations.  Early in my career, I would ski race and then jump in my boat to drive.
 Picture of Joe           Picture of Joe and his partner in
                                 pyramid pose advertising the Water Ski
                                 Follies of 1956 at the State Fairgrounds in
                                 Sacramento, Ca
Captain Weber Days Appreciation Letters sent to Joe

I promoted the sport of water skiing.  I was one of the original Founding Members of the Stockton Water Ski Club on November 11, 1948, and became a Charter Member on April 7, 1949, when the Charter Membership was voted on and closed.  On April 19, 1949, the Ski Club's incorporation papers were filed with the Office of the Secretary of State of the State of California.  The first five presidents of the club were Gene Meister in 1949, Charles Besotes in 1950, Hubert Miller in 1951, Joe Balcao in 1952, and Anthony Costa in 1953.  I display in my home one of the original Stockton Water Ski logos that is on a white circular board - with two crossed skis and a ski handle in the middle bordered by a ski rope.  Presently, the Stockton Water Ski Club has 125 members.

Stockton Ski Club Logo

Early Stockton Water Ski
Club Membership Card

I also raced boats.  My three primary racing boats were a 19-foot Mandella (named the "Triple D"), a Keaton, and a Wright.  I won the Pacific Coast V-Drive Boat Championships in 1957, 1959, and from 1961 through 1965.  I won the Lake Tahoe Boat Race Boat Championships nine years in a row from 1976 to 1984, when I retired from racing at the age of 62.
Here is an article about Joe winning the Pacific Coast Unlimited title in his "new Keaton boat with a fuel injection Chrysler engine."  Also there is another article on the page about Joe winning the Pacific Coast Water Ski racing Championship.  I don't know the source of the article, but I imagine it was from the Stockton Record.

On September 15, 1961, I established the record of 93.5 miles per hour for a gasoline-operated boat in the quarter mile drag race at the Fremont Marine Stadium.

I flipped three times racing boats.  I flipped my 19-foot Mandella at Clear Lake in 1963 and that is when I met Jack Keaton.  Jack spoke with me about using my damaged Mandella to make a mold for a racing hull that he wanted to build.  I told him I would have to think about it.

Years earlier, Mr. Joe Mandella had allowed me to purchase one of his boats.  Mr. Mandella turned down many potential boat buyers if he did not feel a kinship with the buyer.  I felt indebted to Mr. Mandella for selling me a boat.
Here is another picture of the "Triple-D".

Later, in the conversation, Jack Keaton stated that if I let him use the Mandella hull as a mold that he would fix my damaged Mandella and would build me a new boat from the mold to my specifications at no cost.

I agreed and received the first Keaton racing hull with a sloping wooden deck and moveable cavitation plate allowed me to manually move the plate by using a lever by my seat during a race to adjust for rough water.  I also received the repaired Mandella that I later sold to Nelson Santos of Tracy, CA.  No other Keaton boat possesses this sloping wooden deck.  I raced that first Keaton racing hull for five years until I started racing a Wright hull which was a gift from the manufacturer.  I still own that first racing Keaton hull that I flipped at Lake Berryessa, the Wright hull that I flipped at Lake Isabella, and a 19-foot 1946 Garwood runabout.

Keaton V-Drive      Wright boat            Wright Boat          Wright in foreground/Keaton background

(NOTE: According to Drake Balcao the Wright boat was built in late 1966 and/or 1967.  Joe picked it up in
April of 1967.  Drake researched Wright Boats and discovered that Wright Boats was located at 1820 E.Vista Way
in Vista, CA.  Vista is between Los Angeles and San Diego, east of Oceanside.  Wright Boats phone service was
cancelled on December 1, 1988, so the assumption is that they went out of business.  Drake found a 1973 Wright
jet boat 18', 460 Ford Berkeley jet for an asking price of $10,000 in Heperia, CA.  Wright offered Joe Balcao the
Wright hull to race to and to advertize his company.  Joe turned the boat down because Wright was not going to put
the steering wheel and other necessary hardware.  Wright changed his mind and Joe took delivery of the boat.)

I flipped the Keaton at Lake Berryessa on a Saturday afternoon.  The boat was not damaged, but the engine was full of water so the oil had to be changed along with some other maintenance.  Joe Bianchini, my mechanic, and I spent all Saturday night working on the engine.  The next day, I went back to race at Lake Berryessa.

Editor's Note:  Here are two articles related to Joe racing the Keaton hull with pictures of the Keaton V-Drive:
August 7, 1964 Stockton Record
August 13, 1965 Stockton Record

In 1966, while racing the Keaton, I was the Mid-Cal Boat Racing Association Hi-Point Winner for Unlimited Hot Boats.

In 1967, I was President of the Mid-Cal Boat Racing Association.

I visited Jack Keaton in August of 2006, and we had lunch together. He paid for lunch. Jack has always treated me well.

A picture of that first Keaton racing hull that I flipped at Lake Berryessa is in Guisti's Restaurant in Walnut Grove, CA.  I am in the picture with my mechanic, Joe Bianchini.

My over sixty year friendship with Joe Bianchini ended upon his death on August 5, 2005.  Marie, his wife, died on January 2, 1996.

No one built a better racing engine than Joe Bianchini.

In 1984, at sixty-two years of age, after competing in the sport of water skiing and boat racing for thirty-eight years, I retired after almost flipping a fourth time at Lake Tahoe.  I flipped three times and never received a scratch.  After almost flipping a fourth time, I figured it was time to retire.  When I raced, sometimes I would have three or four guys on my tail, and I would take my chances.

I have always felt one of my greatest accomplishments occurred on April 22, 1950, when John Balcao, my cousin, and I formed a human chain to pull 11-year old Crane Zumwalt from a 28-foot hole into which he had slipped while walking along the banks of the Calaveras River, a mile west of Lower Sacramento Road in Stockton, CA.

Dr. Reuban Zumwalt, Crane's father, presented the trophy to the Stockton Water Ski Club.  The perpetual trophy, which became known as the Balcao Perpetual Trophy, was awarded yearly to the winner of the Ski Club's regatta marathon ski race every summer at the Port of Stockton.

Read a short newspaper article about this. I don't know the source of the article.

I have fifty boat racing trophies of the about 160 trophies at my waterfront house.  I have forty-seven 1st place trophies, two 2nd place trophies, and one 3rd place trophy.  I was nicknamed "Tule Fox" during my boat racing career.  The other 110 trophies are for water skiing.

On November 15, 2006, I was inducted into the Stockton Athletic Hall of Fame for a distinguished career in water skiing and boat racing.  I also received a Certificate of Recognition from California State Legislators Michael J. Machado and Barbara S. Matthews.

Rose Morais Balcao, my first wife, died on August 28, 1987.  Helen Lima Balcao, my second wife, and I were married on April 21, 1990.

We are the proud parents of seven children, eighteen grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.