My Classic Boat – Is It Really A Boat?


It Doesn't Move, But It Can Move You. I am getting a headache!

I was at an antique mall this past weekend. The Boatress was looking at small desert plates and I was talking to the owner of the mall that i have known for some time. He commented that we had not been in a while, and what was I collecting now.. I have had the bug since birth I suppose. Corgi Toys, Aurora HO cars.. Hot Wheels, Slot Cars…. Cars…. Porsches..Houses..3 at a time, restoring a home is actually fun and 5 years ago, not a bad gig to be in..I found myself talking about the Golden Pond Boats… And my pal said.. dear god Matt, you are collecting boats… And boats that don’t go in the water! Dear God.. It hit me.. I was collecting boats as art, not as boats. That is insane, they are boats, designed to be in water.. Yes yes, I will use them.. But the debate as art vs usable water craft is going to be a debate for years. After all if you want to go fishing, anything will do. If one i do, that art is “the experience of the emotion that an object creates” than a classic boat does that in spades. I could park Thayer IV at the end of a nice big room and call it a sculpture. Dirt, and flaking varnish un touched. It evokes an emotion for sure. Yes i know I could do the same with a ball of chewing gum.. But this is real.. Thayer IV really, honestly no longer has use as a boat.. It is art. It’s iconic.. In fact quite possibly the most iconic classic boat out there. Chris Smith claims the U-22 to be his favorite Chris- Craft ever.. Chris Crafts are arguably the most iconic American boat made.. And because of the film On Golden Pond, Thayer IV is the most well known Classic Boat of all time.. Is it insane to call this boat art? Has U22-1460 crossed over into that world.. Right now on the Trading Dock is such an example.. A frozen in time Barrel Back. In Original un touched condition.. It can’t be restored because it will loose its story. And it can’t be used.. It’s art. Pure and simple. So the question is….. Is art meant to be appreciated in a gallery, or just looked at? Or used and is it just really about the evocation of an emotion, and if that is the case. Than using the boat, is a way to appreciate art. And thus is the right thing.. Maybe it’s performance art… OK my head hurts now.. I am just going to walk around the boat house in circles now, mumbling while Nurse Ratchet feeds me pills and plays soft music….

19 replies
  1. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    This is wonderful news. Those three rotting hulks of lapstrakes sitting forlornly on trailers in the field as you approace my workshop are really art. God, I no longer have to feel bad every time I pass them – thinking – ya, I gotta get to them one day. They are art. And, as art they shall remain as they are and I can get on to other dreams. Like the one the shop.

  2. Ken Miller
    Ken Miller says:

    I know Chad will say it’s a boat, get it in user shape and use it as it was intended. And I would see the logic in that. Jeff Thom did exactly that, and as a fellow boat owner who paid for a full restoration to extend one of these U22s another several decades, I appluad him for that.

    But you can’t go out and buy another movie boat. IMO you are the custodian of that boat, and should take a stewardship sort of role as long as she’s yours. The best thing for the hobby would be for as many people who have interest in the boat to be able to see her. What’s the old saying? If you can bring Mohamed to the mountain… Well the best way to give as many folks the opportunity to see the boat is to campaign the boat. From now on. Yes, it might become “expected” to see her at yet another show by those who would by then have seen her many times. But you’d still be exposing her to new people who were seeing her for the first time. And I’d bet some of the others wouldn’t mind seeing her again.

    She needs to become the hobby “mascot”. After all, more than one writer has described her as the boat that turned the spotlight on the wooden boat hobby and create an interest among the boomers.

  3. Dave P
    Dave P says:

    I recommend further contemplation! Ha, that’s an given.. But the light of day as often has possible in whatever regard(on the trailer or in the water) is what I hope to see. What a great ambassador both you and the boats are/could be, a lot of potential reponsability! Or leave them in your boat house and drool over them with thoughts of Jane Fonda from the early 80’s…

  4. James West
    James West says:

    Great story. And a on going discussion that can go round and round for years, depending on who you talk to. Is it art? Absolutely. Was it meant to be hung up on the wall and never used? I don’t believe so. These master pieces of wood and screws were the thought of an individual who invisioned them going across the lake envoking pleasure while providing the means of transportaion for many. The designers of these would see who could out design, out perform and create the best boat possible, either it being a Chris Craft, Garwood, Century, Hacker, or the many other manufactures.

    Yes it is true that some of these boats are so bad that the only way to keep them is for a complete restoration, and for those individuals a great many thankyous. And by doing so are we not preserving history for others? And while some lucky boats only need minor maintance to keep them going.

    While people do collect these and never use them thats ok, but I believe that collecting them is great, but I believe it is even better to collect and enjoy them for what they are and use them for what they are. More memories can be made by using and sharing them with others than by letting them sit and be dusted off now and then.

  5. Dave D.
    Dave D. says:

    I agree on the hobby “mascot” and “art” idea mentioned earlier. After all the big tours are over some day, the boats need to be put in a proper place so they can be viewed by all that want to see them indefinitely. Leave the Thayer IV as is and get the Raven in about as good “original” shape to make it presentable and sound. Find the best show place– maybe Clayton, NY or similar and put them there. Find a U22 “driver” do whatever. Install “Thayer IV” on the transom. Done.

  6. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    Interesting question. I think Thayer IV is more than art, but is an icon of our time. She is more than a u-22, or a Chris-Craft. Because of On Golden Pond, she has social, cultural, economic, and for some of us even religious significance. Not to mention political! Matt, you’ll do the right thing.

  7. Rick
    Rick says:

    So if I leave my boat uncovered next winter, let the varnish weather and fade along with the upholstery and then put it in my living room as art it’s actually worth more? What the hell have I been thinking all this time. I could have been hauling those suitcases of money to the Caymens instead of the restorer!

  8. chad
    chad says:

    If you Google “Perceived Value” you get the below definition;

    “A customer’s opinion of a product’s value to him or her. It may have little or nothing to do with the product’s market price, and depends on the product’s ability to satisfy his or her needs or requirements.”

    That being said, if it satisfies Matt’s needs as a collector, then it’s big win for him, and for the hobby. As a mascot, we will all get a chance to see her up close. I think Matt and WoodyBoater are perfect custodians for the Thayer IV.

    All boats are art. I just have more fun viewing them (and driving them) on water.

  9. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    I must admit, when I heard the news that Thayer IV and the mail boat were coning out of their secret hiding for all of those years I was concerned. I thought they might be in danger of loosing their history by becoming just another U-22 that happened to have hull number 1460 hidden somewhere inside and a Century Raven with her story errased. I came very close to saying something to Matt but then, I realized that he is now the stewart of these two historic collections and nothing of the sort needed to be said, that he would see them for what they represent as they are, that they are indeed in capable hands. Matt, I had confidence in your judgement and felt this would be your decission.

    I’m no great fan of the moovie but do respect the history that the moovie has grown into. The boats now represent that history as well, in their present state.

  10. mfine
    mfine says:

    They belong in the water. Preserved and maintained as they were in the movie, but on the water. What serves the hobby better by winning over minds and hearts, to see the OGP boat in a museum with half the varnish missing, or to get a ride on it at a show you attended? Seeing her float hearing her gurgle is all part of the experience. Heck watch the damn movie!!!! Do they keep their old boat safe in the boathouse or a barn outback? Hell no! They use her, even let a 13 year old take her out alone for the time of his life. THAT is the special meaning of Thayer IV, not some flake of old varnish Jane may have touched 30 years ago.

    Clean them up, restore them to 1981 movie condition, and GET THEM WET.

  11. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    Sitting on a trailer drying out with varnish flaking away is not an existence befitting such a craft. These boats were meant to be used. Fix ‘er up and use ‘er. Just don’t reenact the rock scene from the movie.

  12. ARRRGH!
    ARRRGH! says:

    Pumpkin and I echo “mfine” and the other “user” folks. We applaud Chuck Mistele for putting Miss America IX back in water and hearing her roar. We would vote the same for Thayer IV and Mariah. . . . not that we get a vote . . . but if we did, that’s our opinion and we’re stickin’ to it! Kudos for you Matt, whatever your dicision is!!!! (another one for the dictionary)

  13. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Great stuff ! I’m with Matt on this one but for slightly different reasons I suspect.
    I completely get the boat as ‘art’ thing.
    And I get the ‘use it’ view too.
    But here is the problem i reckon Matt now faces.
    Thayer is undoubtably a beautiful boat with significant historic value and interest.
    By setting her in a gallery, all barn dust and peeling varnish with the intention of freezing her aging process, she is a work of art. A hand made creation from another era that from this day forward is preserved. Her history stops at that point.
    But if she was to be used then Id guess that like me, Matt couldn’t resist the temptation to fix her up. A little here a little there and suddenly shes as flash as Sylvia. Then what?
    I face the same issue with my soon to arrive Palamino.
    And to add a final note of complexity.
    Yesterday I visited the Imperial War Museum in London.
    On display in there they have a beautifully old clinker dingy with a small mast. It’s one of the small craft that helped rescue troops off Dunkirk in WW2. As much as it’s amazing to see it my overwhelming emotion was that it feels so dead and oddly sad marooned in there.
    Would that become Thayers fate?

  14. anonymus
    anonymus says:

    Navel Architecture. It is art that floats. That is why I love my boats out of the water as well as afloat. Great objects of art get refurbished, when done correctly. Sometimes they just sit in storage. I think you have alot of options. Put it back in the barn and protect it or use it and protect it. Just do not alter its originality. Authentic. Good Luck. Stay focused on the Mail Boat. The lapstrake beauty.

  15. Dave
    Dave says:

    What’s this all about? You mean, you guys don’t get your woodies wet? Well, I do — both of them — every chance I get.

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