Debate Week Part 1 – Should Profesional Boat Restorers Be Allowed To Show Boats?

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My former Barrel Back "Sylvia" being judged.

My former Barrel Back “Sylvia” being judged.

Here at Woody Boater we decided to devote an entire week to debate some of the touchy topics that our culture deals with. Today’s topic is topic one of a week of debate topics. This specific topic is taking place behind the scenes at some boat shows. Although the boat in the end is the decider of the points. The topic is being pushed. Is it an attempt to level the playing field? Or is is going to lower the standards for the hobby? For each and every argument there is a reason why it doesn’t or does work. And what happens when the professional restorer is the owner. Either as a broker or as a just an owner? Should who owns the boat effect the award?  Oh sure, we all know on a rational level that the award belongs to the boat. But like anything in judging, there is some room for subjectivity. Especially when two or three boats are restored to perfection. When you are playing for the top, sometimes the differences can be as small as one wrong bolt! Ad to that, that one boat may be a rarer or harder boat to restore and now subjective issues become at play. So should politics be part of a boat show? No really, it can be a good thing. Awarding the person could be part of it.. Maybe it has a point or two added to the award. My point is, if politics are going to be there, make them part of the point system. Call it out. Or for argument sake, Satin shows up with his boat, he just sold his baby for a can of varnish, but the boat is perfect.. Does it matter? See this isnt easy.

Lets say two owners are there with two perfect boats. One is a boat already known and the other is a new comer? Does the new comer get the award to introduce new energy into the field? Or is it about the boat and just the boat?

So why write this? Well, one, this is the place to discus this, not behind the scenes. And you can be heard here. We are all watching, reading and sharing thoughts so those making the final call can see what the Woody Boater community thinks. So speak up, be honest, don’t worry about having a strong point of view, trust me someone else will have the complete opposite feeling.


49 replies
    • Ed F.
      Ed F. says:

      IMHO it should always be about the boats, after all it is a boat show. It’s not a popularity contest. Who owns the boat or who is showing the boat or how much money has been spent on the boat should not matter. There is enough variety in shows around the country that you can choose judged or not judged, large or small, local or international. If we want to recognize people for what they have done for a club or organization, then let’s give awards for personal achievements. If the award is for the boat then let’s have it be about the boat only. High dollar, professional restorations are hard to compete with but we certainly shouldn’t penalize the people who have the means to show such wonderful boats. If it’s not going to be about the boats then pass out the Popsicles and lets go home.

  1. van nes
    van nes says:

    What is a home builder award. What is the criteria for such an award and who should win it > What if a club president is ia person who has rebuilt over 20 boats, who has a 2 car garage with full shop facilities such as a air compressor and with spray equipment and furnance. Is that a home builder who has a client a year who might pay say $12000 or more for boat rebuilding or refinishing or new motor replacement; if they run a custom upholstery and bimini top business with his partner. What is the criteria for winning an award for a home builder? Should have that person picked up a hojme builder award. I envision a home builder as a youngster who has rebuilt a old boat perhaps with his dad on a limited budget with basic tools; Not someone who actually provides a boat repair service even if it is a part time business.

    My question is should they be able to wins an award as a homebuilder ?

    • Murray Parnell
      Murray Parnell says:

      Any one working on a boat will have at least a 2 car garage with a furnace and you do need proper equipment to do the job, but this person does this in his spare time and does not have a payroll or deductions.I know these people you are cutting up also spent at least 2 years working on the boat not to mention the research . the award you are talking about was from a family that sponsored the award and the father and son picked this boat. If you want another award may be you could sponsor it your self .Getting back to the topic my self I restor boats as a hobby and spend may hrs on research and going to many work shops from the clubs that I have joined. As a result I have won many awards including Best in show in 2011 in Gravenhurst. Bottom line it was the boat and the fact I had the proper documentation and skills for the BOAT to win .The next year it could go to a professional done boat Murray Parnell

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Of course the professional restorer should be able to win an award. Whoever did the work should get credit for the result. The owner who wrote the checks should get credit as well.

    The number of 100% amateur boats has to be near nil. Almost everyone outsources parts of the work. Gauges, engine, interior, chroming. Sure some guys can do some of these but Can any one hobbiest do it all?

  3. van nes
    van nes says:

    Should someone who gets paid to repair or re-build boats for other people be able to win the home builder award?

    The llaissez faire attitude towards a criteria for competing and winning awards in this hobby is so arbitrary that the awards are almost meaningless. As an example someone like M fine or Katz marine should not be allowed to complete in the homebuilder award category, or should a guy who rebuilds boats yearly for paying clients with business cards and a facility be considered a home builder; is someone like Kent smith with a small shop and who works by himself is he a homebuilder or a pro; I think kent would agree he is a pro; that is my point.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      I have been elevated to the same level as Katz? Sounds like I need to raise my prices!!! Actually, I am not a restorer, pro or amateur.

      I didn’t know we had any home restorer only awards. Sounds like a very bad idea to me because it will become impossible to define or enforce.

  4. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    we need a full half hour please.
    wilson started this of by saying you cant take the politics out of politics. and he is correct so you just judge the boat. A $100 restoration or a mil dollar one, homebuilder or professional you judge them all the same. if you dont i think the quality boats that bring people to shows will disappear. they will still get done as people with the money still like there boats, but if they are not big on just supporting the hobby they will stay in there boathouses and not come to the show. you need the incentive to get them out. there are many awards at boat shows. Getting the best of show is only one award. we still need to encourage excellence.

  5. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    From a different view point, consider the fact that most professional shops (qualified by whom and by what standards?) started as small business people. They invested many hours and many dollars to maintain and build a business – usually because of a growing reputation. Now as the years in business and the quality of their work speaks to their history – awards are just that – awards for hard work and an investment in learning, in tools, in research, and in a final product each time that gets better and better. It takes an uniquely qualified individual to build a business that can make a profit out of restoring old wood. I am not such a person. I do my own boats for the most part and each one I finish teaches me how to do the next one better. Make a living at it? Win a lot of awards? Never. I do it because I enjoy it.

  6. skiffman
    skiffman says:

    This is why I stopped having my boat judged. I did the complete restoration out of rough cut mahogany & white oak and brushed on varnish and paint. The chrome was sent out. I have won awards when there is little competition.

    Only two awards that I am proud of: exhibitors award at a show where nobody knew me (did they just want me to come back the next year?) and best of show in my class ( I attended that show the prior 3 years – were they awarding my boat or my loyalty?).

    I have a much better time at shows using my boat, seeing the sights and meeting new friends.

    • Tuobanur
      Tuobanur says:

      I agree with Jim, I have been working on my boat for a very long time and it is the first boat I have ever done, so, I would consider myself an amateur but I would not want my boat to be judged any different than the next guy just because of that.
      On the other hand, if there is a category for amateur builders then judge them on that criteria but I think you should only be an amateur once.

  7. Gary
    Gary says:

    I go with Wilson. Hope he catches something.

    Maybe the rules for judging should be addressed. There are subtle and not so subtle details between a boat done by professionals and that of the pro or home restorer. As one example a defect on the boat I am doing is the chine logs which now are different than original. Another example would be joints, the original were bad and the new took a lot of time. The professional has meet project demands and the home restorer usually blew the project demands the first day.

  8. dreed
    dreed says:

    Yes the professional restorers should be included. Why lower the standards to reward mediocrity? That is the same mentality that wants their kids to play football, but not keep score so that their kids feelings don’t get hurt should they be on the losing team.

    • Greg Wallace
      Greg Wallace says:

      The standards should be the same no matter who did the work. No one should be excluded pro or amateur. I have no problem with the owner restored, non-pro awards. To keep the hobby alive and growing we will need more category awards. My only problem is that the inference is that we are grading the non-pro on a curve. I’d personally rather know where I stand against the best. If I was only interested in collecting an award regardless of performance then I’d sign up for T-Ball.

  9. Dave Clyne
    Dave Clyne says:

    To show a restored boat (or car) at a judged show is a means of measuring the skill level and accuracy of the restorer. The restorer also provides pleasure to those who attend the show. At my last car show I spent most of my time talking with fellow restorers and that was a new experience at a show for me. At my first boat show I couldn’t believe how many people were so pleased to be invited aboard to see below. Prizes ? Been there done that. It’s the people and the boats that count. And Mr. Katz sure has nice boats !!!

  10. Chad
    Chad says:

    Not even worthy of a debate… that’s my argument.

    It’s about the boat. Who restored the boat should not matter.

  11. brian t
    brian t says:

    Mary Ann or Ginger huh? Are we talking for a lifetime of boating companionship , or a weekend in Vegas ???

  12. Martin
    Martin says:

    I agree with Chad and some of the others. It’s about the boat. I think that the other side that bothers me is, You are at show you have your boat judged and the judge is a restorer with a shop and say’s “Hey if you want to correct any of the things I just dinged you on give me a call and hands you his card.” I think that it does turn people away when they have taken a known boat that was neglected for a period of time and do a complete and proper restoration, come to a show and are not even recognized. You will never get younger people involved if you just judge the boat and walk away from them. Just some thoughts.

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Owner recognized restoration awards might help encourage new (and long suffering) members but as WIlson and M-Fine said who’s going to argue the politics and how much of the boat was actually owner restored. I’ve been paid to assist on many restorations but I’m not a professional boat restorer (I just play one on TV). However, I notice the owner conveniently forgets how much he actually did versus how much I did. Its not an attempt on his part to take all the credit, they just forget over the life of the restoration how much was done and by whom.

    Its all about the boat but some recognition, such as, skippers award, that a lot of shows have, fill that niche even tho its not specifically directed toward an owner restoration.

  14. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    It is about the boat and (as most judged shows are ACBS events) the mission of the organization – which is to save, preserve and document the boats and to educate those who are (or become) interested in them. Though I have been a judge at these events, (A great way to learn, by the way!) I’ll only enter a boat to be judged once – at it’s debut, so I can introduce it into the hobby and to learn what I may have done differently. After that, it’s about enjoying and sharing the vessel with the wonderful people you meet along the way!

  15. Sean Conroy
    Sean Conroy says:

    We need professional restorers. We need experienced home restorers and we need the amateur first time restorer. It should always be about the boat. What we can do is re assess what we judge, how we judge and what awards we give out. We need to celebrate our hobby.

    In my first show, this year ACBS Toronto decided to bestow inclusive awards based on the level of points achieved. I was floored that my “user boat” (relatively low dollar) restoration was recognized (with a 3rd place award) It was unexpected and I was thrilled! This boat was never meant to be a show boat, just a great driver.

    The award I like the best is the “Peoples Choice” Award which should be voted upon by paying attendees (not show entrants) of the show with the criteria being – Which boat would I most like to take home? A lot of car shows do this as it is not biased by tech, minutia or politics and is seated by passion and appreciation of the boats.

  16. TomH
    TomH says:

    You’re absolutly correct Dick, Pull it out of the shop and have it judged but then just use it. I enjoy both the first and last of that senario.
    Everyone sees the shows from a different perspective and some live for the trophies. I do believe shows like Tahoe are judged much differently than some of the local shows, and should be, where they may be swayed by some average joe doing his own work rather than someone getting paid for it. Have some heart for poor guy bring his newly finished boat to the first show.

  17. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    It is very simple – it is about the boat – as so many others have said. If a restorer owns a boat and wishes to have it judged – why not? It makes little sense to exclude him. I would be interested to hear arguments as to why we should, as I have never really heard any and can’t think of any myself.

  18. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Well, first of all I was up early because I was called for jury duty to report at the courthouse at 7:45 AM…I’d rather have been fishing…or boat watchin’..After lots of questioning, they let me go because my wife once worked for the same employer as the defendant.

    As for the issue at hand….Reminds me of my first boat to show….a 19′ Chris Craft Rcing runabout…I took it to N.H. to find out what we needed to do to make it perfect….I got a first place award with no comment….I figured that was because they wanted The Brass Bell editor to say nice things about the show.

    Since we were up that way we took it to Clayton the following weekend. …Again first place award. I finally found one of the judges…who said, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with your boat if you promise not to get mad at me. He kindly went over it with me and I made notes and we fixed the couple of mistakes….which is what I wanted in the first place.

    As others have said…I think it should be about the boat ! Not the owner or the restorer.

  19. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    I’m with Wilson…it’s about the boat and not the owner.

    In 2014 I judged at Tahoe and also the international. The first thing we’re told in Tahoe is exactly that…”we’re here to judge the boats and not the owner or restorer” and thats what we do. When two or three boats are judging very well a whole new set of judges go back to the boat to “rejudge” it with a different set of eyes. Having the judges come back is a good thing usually. If it’s still tight after that then complexity is definitely taken into consideration. A triple cockpit is usually a harder restoration than a racing runabout or utility. Not always, but it is definitely taken into consideration.

    Finally, in my experience at shows around the country, the judges are also from around the country. There is no “club” or chance for a group of judges to decide on a political level who wins. A judge from Ohio and a judge from NY and a judge from Michigan aren’t likely to collude on a winner based on anything except for the boat and how it’s presented.

    At a lot of shows the restorer will “represent” his work and be on hand with the owner to answer questions. It would be no different if a restorer brought his own boat to be judged.

    And finally, finally….Mary Ann.

  20. Alex
    Alex says:

    I have a 14 year old daughter.

    Every week is debate week.

    “Too young to take over. Too old to ignore.”

    • Mike Green
      Mike Green says:

      Every week would be great. I have a 13 and 16 year old that we have a debate with on the nightly emptying of the dishwasher. Somehow they can’t seem to understand that it just needs to be done and it’s your turn.

  21. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    I know it has happened before where a person received a trophy because of who they were or what business they may own but I have never seen it because of it being a restorer. Most big shows that have a reputation giving a trophy to anything but the boat is not even talked about because it is absolutely ridiculous. Like Mike M. said if it’s a big award another set of eyes look over the boat again so all of the judges regardless of who they are or what they may specialize in came make the best discussion. Almost every time the discussion made was the correct one but there is always someone in the show that will feel that they deserve more or there was some sort of inside political agenda at hand. Most of the time it’s not true and it’s the person making the accusation that needs to really look at them self. It will be interesting to see if the real reason this is a topic will come out or is it just a rhetorical question.

    Another side to look at is the non-professional restorer but has done like 8 boats by himself and involved in the hobby 20 years, is he really a DIY or is he a pro? I know a couple of boats that have won top awards where the guy did it himself took the time to do the homework got the boat about perfect and he won over everybody. I have also seen many professional shops turn out boats that are not going to even come close to the big awards at top shows. There is even the shops that have a bunch of guys and the owner never gets his hands dirty but has his name directly attached like he did all the work himself. So there is many aspects to how the boat gets restored and by who but in the end the boat speak for itself and the historical accuracy and quality always come forward.

  22. Kentucky Wonder
    Kentucky Wonder says:

    At risk of using a poor analogy, I view judged, point-based boat shows like the Masters, British or U.S. Open in golf. Everyone competes under the same circumstances as closely as possible. The amateurs hit from the same tees as the professionals, and no handicap system is used.

    Of course, the professionals win most of the awards. But they have most likely put in WAY more time, have more experience, and have more resources available to them (better shop equipment) because of their dedication.

    Occasionally, an amateur rises close to the top. But do not give him the top award unless he truly deserves it. Giving him the top award by using his amateur (Like a golf handicap) status just cheapens the award, and leaves the entire contest hollow. To celebrate his success properly, simply create an award for Best Amateur Restoration, or whatever category, and have concrete rules for what defines an amateur. (Once you have accepted money for helping any restoration, you are now a professional)

    Did any of this make sense? Man, I want to leave the desk I am sitting at. Should I go boating, or go play golf? Wish the boat were close, and already in the water. It would make the decision much simpler.

  23. JFunk
    JFunk says:

    It’s about the boat, whomever does the work. Why punish one segment of the boating community just because they make a buck bringing boats back to life. Also, I’ve seen many amateur restorations that easily rival a professional job.

  24. jim g
    jim g says:

    In most of the big car shows if you win an award the same car cannot win an award for the next year or two. It should be the same with the boat shows. As to owner restored or professionally restored. It should not matter who did it. Its the quality of the job and nothing else.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Jim – I have been fortunate enough to have some boats do well at big shows and I agree completely with this. I make a point of not continuing to have them judged after they have perhaps done well. What is the point at that stage? Every year there are new boats that come out and the judging focus should be on them. I will often bring my boats to a show but most often after the year in which they are initially completed, they don’t get judged any longer.

      I also use the judging process to learn about the boat and that may result in an exception to the above. Last year my BB was judged and found to have a number of fairly minor cosmetic issues and consequently did not score well. I didn’t gripe, bitch or complain – I had the errors corrected and the boat re-judged this year at Tahoe with gratifying results. That would not have been possible had I chosen not to try to learn from the prior judging experience.

  25. Texx
    Texx says:

    Should the question be:

    Do boat owners or restorers have any influence on the judging process or final outcome at boat shows?

  26. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Very Good discussion , and staying within the scope of the topic. Personally I started as an amateur and progressed to a person with a lot of experience and knowledge of Chris Crafts. Laurie and I can take a pile of bones or a box of pieces and put it back together just as the boat left the factory. This came from years of experience , study , time and work. When we show one of our personal boats at a show , we generally ask not to be considered for a award.
    Judging boats is a very difficult endeavor, as my passion is preserved boats with all the pier dings and patina. I would like to see points awarded to preserved older hulls , say 20’s or 30’s boats because the stood the test of time.

    steve and laurie

  27. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    As many of you know, topics like this afford me a real holiday….Columbus day after all!
    Judge NOT lest ye be judged
    have been my approach to this sort of stuff, so I can just GO BOATING and leave the debate on this topic to others.

    A lot of this seems like master debating to me anyhow.

    John in Va.

  28. Kent
    Kent says:

    I prefer to boat, and attend the shows. Judging? … well I like to go into detail on authenticity and all, but heck who cares in a contest where we judge apples against oranges? We all just want to see the darned boats!! WE need to encourage people to preserve them in as closed to original shape as possible and use whatever means necessary. Whether its a DIY dude in a makeshift covered shed in the back yard or a high-dollar professional being paid by a billionaire. We need to encourage all boats and owners, especially if its a rare one to come out and show us their babys!!

  29. Walt
    Walt says:

    I think the real issue isn’t who “restored” the boat but rather the standard to which current judging expects (requires) for “restoration”. Judging needs to get back to having the “perfect” score be the level that the boat left the factory. Just as they deduct for bad finishes or wrong/inappropriate equipment, there should be deductions for “restoration” to better than new. This means deductions for overly glossy varnish, mirror finished bright work and every screw head aligned perfectly. None of these boats came that way from the factory nor were they maintained to that level when they were new.

  30. Dave Bortner
    Dave Bortner says:

    While the overall “accuracy” of judging across the spectrum of boat shows can certainly be debated, the discipline of judging forces an outcome that should be important to us all: historical accuracy.

    Fortunately, there are a number of individuals among us who value historical accuracy, whether for the sake of historical accuracy alone, or in order to get closer to that perfect score. They are willing to invest to achieve that accuracy, which is almost always a function of the amount of time invested in research and execution.

    Here’s a small example: our upholstery partner hates “spittin’ tacks.” Whenever we have a project that requires it, he dreads the process. First, we have to locate the copper or brass tacks (research), then there’s the installation (execution). Is it faster, easier, and less expensive to air-staple stainless staples? You bet! Where do you put those tacks? Just where they can be seen, or throughout that entire interior? What’s the difference? Accuracy and investment.

    While it may be tempting to suggest the ability to invest cubic dollars in a professional restoration is somehow “unfair”, our entire sport benefits from the end result: history preserved!

    As we roll past 100 year anniversaries of important boats, there are fewer and fewer original boats to examine for correct detail. Uncompromising restorations now will provide the window to accuracy in another 100 years, so let’s celebrate the existence of the professionals who invest the time in the research and the work, and their clients who invest in those talents.

  31. Thomas Payne
    Thomas Payne says:

    Why have trophies at all? If it’s REALLY about the boats then do away with the trophies, the boats aren’t aware that they’ve won or lost. There should only be two trophies: Best in Show as voted by those who are displaying at the show, and People’s Choice. This reduces it to owner’s pride and the intrinsic value of every old boat, no matter the design or how well restored. In this sense it should become more of a museum exhibition.

  32. Shamrock
    Shamrock says:

    It’s about the boat when you’re in it on a summer afternoon or wiping her down under cover. It’s about politics when you enter the boat in a show….pure politics and ONLY politics.

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