Stories about true barn find boats are always great, regardless of make, model or size – They are what many of us love to hear about and hope to one day experience for ourselves. Last week we learned about a rare 1958 Woodard runabout that was found stashed away inside a barn in Vermont, and (new fellow Woody Boater) Chad Pepin from Island Marine Service just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The late, great Bob Speltz covers the history of the Woodard family in his book “The Real Runabouts VI” and describes the Woodard boat legacy in typical Bob Speltz fashion. Here’s an excerpt from the book…
The great depression finally caught up with the wood Woodard-McCrea Boat Works, and the firm closed sometime during the height of those terrible times. Most of the Woodard family remained in the boat business in some way or other. Both Lindsey and Raymond continued to build boats, Lindsay building cedar strip rowboats as well as hand-crafted oars.
Raymond went on to manufacture small outboard runabouts, mostly as a hobby, but that hobby soon again became a full-time business. The new plant was located here in the United States at a site in Chester, Vermont. Once again, the Woodard name was attached to quality boats. At the height of its production Woodard boats was producing 18 boats a year in 12-, 14-, 15-, and 16-foot sizes. There are some old family photos showing the development of the Woodard outboards from 1954 up through the very early 1960s. During the winter months hulls were built and stacked to save space, being completed in the summertime.
In the late 1950s and early ’60s fiberglass was taking over in boats. Woodard boats had been fiberglass covered inside and out since about 1955, but it was obvious to everyone concerned that the era of the wooden boat was soon to be only a memory. Because of that, Ray Woodard made another hard decision, that being to close down his boat plant and move to Lake Bomosen, Vermont, where he built and operated Woodard Marine. – Bob Speltz
Last September we got a sneak peek of another great Woodard runabout in a story from none other than Greg Woodard, titled Classic Boaters Ascend On Lake Bomoseen, VT For The Lake Champlain Chapter Fall Cruise. It was this story that prompted Chad Pepin to contact us here at Woody Boater, looking to get in touch with Greg to learn more about the classic Woodard marque.
Chad did get in touch with Greg Woodard and he was excited to hear and see that another of the few Woodard boats had survived! Greg noted that from the pictures Chad sent him, it appears to be one of the most complete 14 footers he has seen. Greg and his father Bob Woodard from Woodard Marine are planning a visit later this winter to check out the progress and document the boat for their records.
Texx – I am the third owner of the boat. I purchased it from a Patricia Dix who needed to get the boat out of the barn as the property was being sold. Mrs. Dix contacted me, as my shop is located approximately 1/2 mile from her property and being in the marine repair business, she thought I would be interested in the old boat.
She called me and asked if I would want “an old boat” that she needed to move, as the house was being sold in a week. I thought to myself, “The last thing I want is another old boat sitting in the yard.” I pictured an old MFG or the like as these are common in my area. But I felt bad for the woman and decided to take a ride over to see what she had.
What I found was a half covered 14′ Woodard plywood molded runabout with the original 35hp Johnson tossed in the back. The mice had moved into most of the boat and engine, and made quite a mess. It was dark, but from what I could see, it was in very sound condition and very complete.
After returning from the war, Mr. Dix had purchased the boat from the original owner in southern Vermont, somewhere near where the boat was built in Chester, VT. Mr. Dix and his wife moved to Grand Isle in the early 1970’s.
Mrs. Dix explained that the boat had been a love of her husband who passed away in 1985. He had parked the boat in the barn in Grand Isle, VT in 1984 and it’s been sitting there ever since.
Being self employed in the marine repair business, working 7 days a week from April to mid November, I don’t even own a boat, but always wanted a cool little wooden boat that I could restore and this one just feel into my lap! I offered Mrs. Dix $300 dollars for the boat, motor & trailer and she gladly excepted!
We have now started work on the boat restoration and it’s coming along nicely. I have removed all the mahogany deck and have stripped all the old varnish from the interior. The original Johnson 35hp is in poor condition and I am planning to install a new 40hp 4-stroke outboard.
We have also finished a complete restoration on the original Mastercraft trailer.
We are hoping to have her back in the water for the first time in more than 30 years this coming summer, and are planning to keep and enjoy our new (old) Woodard runabout for many years, as it’s very rare and my wife just loves it!
Island Marine Service LLC – Grand Isle, VT
Thanks for sharing your story with us today Chad. The Woodard runabout looks great and we look forward to seeing how she looks after the restoration is completed and back in the water later this year.
Chad’s company Island Marine Service is a power and sail boat repair and maintenance company. They work on everything from small runabouts up to 55′ cruisers. They do both gas a diesel engine repair, all systems, detailing, gel coat and fiberglass repair, specializing in large boats and mobile service. So we think the little Woodard is in good hands.