The 13th Annual Bay Harbor Vintage Car & Boat Festival – Northern Michigan’s Finest


The 13th Annual Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Festival
Report by Alex Watson

In recent weeks, people have posted about “The Lifestyle” of Woody Boating.

Some of us collect, restore, travel, and show exquisite, perfect, exotic, high-dollar classics. That’s one lifestyle. At the other pole, some of us own single, modest, “user” boats, which we maintain reasonably well, and employ as grocery getters, sun seekers, and fish finders — a.k.a. daily drivers. That’s another lifestyle.

With such a wide range of classic and antique boat types, models, designs, vintages, conditions, price-points, etc. (and let’s not forget the wide range of characters who own the boats), it is difficult to say there is a single lifestyle. Rather, there are many lifestyles people who own wooden boats lead.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending the 13th Annual Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Festival, which benefits the Bay Harbor Foundation, supporting scores of regional non-profits. Many Woody Boaters visited Bay Harbor last September to attend the ACBS International show, hosted by the Water Wonderland Chapter. Those who did — and those who attended virtually via Woody Boater — saw the beauty of the Bay Harbor Resort and Marina. You also saw how Bay Harbor is a lifestyle. Elegant, gracious, polished, and service-oriented, where “best” is aimed for and achieved.

The 2011 Festival easily met, and perhaps even surpassed the ACBS experience. Starting with the weather. Barely a breath of wind, perfectly sunny, mid 70‘s, and no humidity. Northern Michigan summer at its best.

No, there weren’t as many boats as the ACBS show (about 50 vs over 100). Nor was there a plethora of exhibitors. By example, I did not see any outboard barbeques. But, as the photos will show, the quality and variety of boats was right up there.

And, in place of about 50 boats, there was something else. At least 50 classic and antique cars. (Oh, and 1 bus.) Ok, a good many of those could not be called cars. These were automobiles. Machines from such known collections as Gilmore, Parfet, Off Brothers, Waldorf, DeVos. For those of us whose passion for motorized assets includes things that roll instead of float, this show offered the chance to see, and hear, exotic, legendary, and downright stunning vehicles.

1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster

But enuff with the superlatives and on with the show. Let’s cut to the pics right? ‘Cause I read this blog at least daily and know how much we all want to head for dessert (eye candy) and skip the main meal.

The little 1952 Lyman side-steer. It was for sale for over a year. I knew it was restored, but the online pics did not do justice to how pristine it is. So I spent much of the day kicking myself for not having bought that boat. If I’d bumped into the owner, I’d probably have blurted out: “How much for the little girl? …The little girl, your daughters… sell them to me. Sell me your children!”

A Duke called Duchess. Get it? Very good. ‘Cause it wasn’t until the boat was back on its trailer before I figured that one out. Here’s a pic… It’s a 1937 Playmate. Beautiful from every angle, as a Playmate should be, right? This boat = floating jewelry!

Tin Can. No controversy today. In fact who cares what it is. It’s one of a kind, and striking, and that makes it cooooooool.

The gorgeous fantail of Canim, a 1930 96′ Motor Yacht. Just as the automobiles were not “cars,” this is no “boat.”

This 23′ Continental was sublime. Check out the colors.

Remember this meticulous, one-of-a kind 1936 Custom Gar Wood Commuter, launched at last fall’s ACBS International? Well folks, it’s for sale. I met the owner, Dennis Spillane. Knows how to do a boat right. Super nice guy. Of course he is: he owns a mid-40’s 25′ Sportsman. Oh, and Paul, his (towing vehicle) is bigger!

Wait, a second. Now how did that pic get in there…? “Camera malfunction.”

The awesome weather, awesome venue, and awesome event, in a single photo.

Where else but from the Mittler Collection. An amazing 1928 Purdy “Gold Cup” Racer. It won the Gold Cup and President’s Cup in 1929. It is powered with a Wright V-8, that has Hispano Suiza components. How did I know all that w/o Texx there? I took a pic of the sign beside the boat. You know, in his advanced deafness, Beethoven cut the legs off his pianos so he could “hear” the vibrations through the floor. I swear one hears a Mittler boat before one sees it. They announce their presence when they fire up. This one was no exception. Was Mittler hard of hearing too?

This was not just a Boat Show, this was a multi-colored event. To quote Dr. Seuss, when you attend Bay Harbor, “You’ll find the bright places where boom bands are playing.”

Seeing these yachts definitely helped numb the pain of having to choose between the fine Algonac show and Bay Harbor’s.

Gem of a totally restored 15′ pre-war Chris-Craft Utility powered by a “B.” It’s for sale at $24.5.

Danny Mertaugh drove up in this gorgeous 26′ Chris Craft Triple restored by his family’s shop, Classic and Antique Boats of Hessel. I love the giant, cone-shaped, pre-war spotlight on this boat.

My boat, a 1949 Chris-Craft 25′ Sportsman, Marion E. It’s our Family Truckster. See the resemblance? Lots of chrome, wood on the sides, wood on the top, green interior? It’s uncanny. As this is our (well maintained) user boat, it’s probably the only one at the show with ice cream in the front deck seams and a Cheeto or two in the bilge. This isn’t a shameless plug. I’m just a proud parent. God I love this boat!

Absolutely stunning Ventnor, restored by Van Dam Custom Boats.

Another pic of that Mittler Purdy “Gold Cup” Racer, with a glimpse of it’s gorgeous motor. You guessed it. This falls into the “exquisite, perfect, exotic, high-dollar classics” lifestyle category. See? It even comes with its own mechanic!

This Express Cruiser – Chari – Was of course – Cherry…

Check out this striking Chris-Craft classic glass Express. And it wasn’t even in the Show! See the little flag in the bottom left corner of this pic? It says it all in one word: Dam! BTW, anyone know of one of these this nice? Please post a link in the Comments, or e-mail me. (Just don’t let my wife find out.)

Here’s Canim bowthrusting away from the dock for an evening cruise. Nice boat. But twin engines and bowthrusters are for wimps. C’mon cap’n and crew: one two three PUSH. That’s how it’s done.

This breathtaking Chris-Craft is a 1964 Connie, measuring 57′ Length and 15′ Beam. Pathfinder was purchased in 1968 by its current owners, Claudia and Robert Scherer. Anyone with bucks can buy a beautiful new steel, glass, or aluminum yacht. But it takes character and heart to take on the responsibility for one of these beauts. Yes, it’s wood. So no more complaining about your restoration and maintenance costs, y’hear?

These three photos are of Pilgrim, a 1940 65′ Burger. Get this from the Burger website: “Burger started another trend that gained immediate popularity when, in 1940, it launched the first flush deck cruiser, the 65′ PILGRIM.” To this day, PILGRIM plies the waters of Lake Michigan and the Door County region of Wisconsin.” So, how good is the paint on this boat…?

See this pic of your reporter and his son? It’s our reflection in Pilgrim’s hull side! (BTW, this doesn’t work as well with white-sided boats.)

Yes, these three pics are of an exciting and rare 1939 Century Thunderbolt powered by a Gray Racing Fireball 244 c.i. motor. This model is famous for its stepped hull. Check out the cool copper exhaust pipe in the cockpit, sticking through the hull side. Who’d a thunk it came with cockpit heating?! The lucky owners are Bill and Julie Munro. First one I’ve seen in the flesh, er, planks. These photos do not do it justice. I would love to have seen it go!

Show’s now over. And these guys in Kelly Girl, a little pre-war Chris-Craft Utility, knew just what to do. They broke out the Jameson, which I thought was an appropriate choice of beverage for a boat with an Irish name. (And here you thought the picnic basket, bottle, glasses, and flowers in these boats were “for display only.”) They then set out for the Bay Harbor Yacht Club Bar.

Only a toe-in-the-water representation of fiberglass at this show. This mid-60’s Chris-Craft Super Sport boasts fiberglass pontoons. Not by design, there just happened to be no Classic Glass at Bay Harbor this year. We’ll have to fix that in 2012, right Woody Boaters?

The cover shot for today’s story features an interior photo of a 1939 Chris-Craft Custom – Barrel Back. Sorry Matt, I know how much you miss Sylvia

This one is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Parfet, whose 1906 Columbia Touring Car, 1932 Duesenberg J154 Convertible Victoria (unreal!), and 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster (shown at the beginning of my report – also unreal!) dazzled the parade of automobiles. Remind me to look them up next time I’m in Hickory Corners, MI. Friends like that I need.

Alex Watson – Fellow Woody Boater

26 replies
  1. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Great post thanks Alex, I really enjoyed reading through your historical details about the rarer boats. Cool pictures of cool boats and a little high gloss reflection shot to make a point. Wow! That’s amazing isn’t it. Imagine keeping it that good all the time.
    Just love the Chris Craft Super Sport and the Mittler Purdie Gold Cup boat. What a glorious engine.
    Thanks for taking time to share with us.

  2. Texx
    Texx says:

    Great report from Bay Harbor Alex. It’s nice to see a few shots of the big cruisers as well. Michigan was certainly a busy place for Woody Boaters last weekend.

    Oh – And we forgive you for the camera malfunction…

  3. chad
    chad says:

    Now THAT is some fantastic boat show coverage.

    Thanks Alex!

    Looks like the weather was perfect.

  4. LB
    LB says:

    This is one of my favorite shows, wish i could have made it this year. Glad the Scherer’s brought out the Pathfinder out to the show it is without a doubt the best large Constellation in the country.

  5. matt
    matt says:

    Holy crap. I am gone for 5 days and wb is better than ever! Wow wow wow. I am speechless. Fantastic reporting.. And spelling… I think…

  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    If I had known that Chevy Chase was going to be there I would have made the extra efort to get down there!

  7. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Alex – Super story and great pictures. I think many of us would like to see more story’s from you – very enjoyable.

    Now, not to point fingers, but are you not at least a tiny bit responsible for there being no classic glass in the show? I bet you bring yours next year!

    Excellant point about the “daily drivers” – what 99% of the hobby is about anyway. I finally completed the last lleg home to BC with my Sea Skiff yesterday and plunked her straight into the lake and took off. Didn’t even wipe the rode grime off it – just my wife, some sun, a 6 pack and the only fellow Skiff owner on the lake and off we went.

    I thought the picture of the Sports Family Truckster was a super metaphor. Happy Boating Alex, and we’ll see you at Lake Geneva.

  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    Paul, I wanted to bring the XK-19, but some work on it could not be completed in time.

    You’ll approve though. The work in question was removing a lot of non-original stuff that came with the restored boat when I bought it — swim platform, GPS, radio.

    So, now if I fall overboard and can’t get back in, or lose my way in the fog and strike a big rock, or miss a storm-of-the-century weather warning, at least I’ll go down happy, knowing my boat was much closer to original. Ha.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      You may be interested to know that I left a non-original item in a very conspicuous place in my SP, because to remove it would have sacrificed too much original work – it is only original once. Restored to original and real, actual original are two different things.

      Some non-original but useful items are very visually incongruous, some are not. I might lose points when the boat gets judged as a preserved example, but I don’t care. You can’t replace the original stain, applied at the factory in 1948. I will exchange points for that originality and patina every time.

      Notwithstanding the non-originality, did you like the look of the things you removed from the XK-19.

  9. Alex
    Alex says:

    PS. Did you know Mike Mayer is busy cornering the Classic Glass category? That might explain why there were none to be seen. I think he fancies becoming the Bunky Hunt of XK’s. The guy’s been bitten bad!

  10. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Alix, fabulous report on a fabulous Show. Great to see many great antique & classic cruisers so well displayed. It was also fun to see some of the automobiles. Very good camera work and narration. I’m jealous!

  11. Trevor
    Trevor says:

    Pilgrim was built 65′, but was later stretched to 75′.

    We wash it!

    The paint and varnish was done on it by

    Great Coverage!

  12. Tom
    Tom says:


    As I read your text and look at your pictures, it makes me feel like I was there. Thank you for the great job and looks like the day, the show was totally awesome. Glad you were there to do this write up to share with many. Keep up the good work.

  13. Alex
    Alex says:

    Chris, I agree this show was not what Bay Harbor National ACBS was, as a boat show. That show was all boats, more boats, boats from all corners of the land, more boat people, and more boat judging/awards.

    My comment was about the “experience” of attending this show. Gorgeous machines on land and in the water, including some boats that were ACBS show-level, 10/10 weather, and the same world class location. Sorry if there was any confusion.

    PS. Bay Harbor management is committed to growing this show. So next year’s promises to be even bigger. I know I’ll be bringing more boats. Gotta make up for the absence of Classic Glass. Heed the call all Glass owners. “POWER TO THE PLASTIC!”

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Mike – I know where you can get some period Chrome Elvis Sun Glasses and White Bell Bottoms to wear when you run your new XK.

        Remember – Your first impression is your only impression…

  14. randy & ginger
    randy & ginger says:


    thank you for our fabuous front row seats!

    my goodness, i really have to win the lottery…i want to see all these boats in person!

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