Do You Have The Wrong Impression That Classic Boats Require More Maintenance?


Perfection – Katzs Marina

In last weeks story on Classic Boats possibly saving the larger boating world, someone mentioned that one huge reason why people shy away from Classic Boats is the perceived maintenance. And of course no matter how many times we do a story on the subject, it is the general impression out there. But it’s not correct, it’s an old image based on the past, not today. Sure, back in the day, your boat required all sorts of stuff to keep going. But! So do modern boats. Heck I spent the weekend buffing, waxing and generally cleaning up the boatresses small 17 new plastic boat. I was thinking while working. Hell, this is more painful doing this crap than cleaning out 5 gallons of rat turds. And not as rewarding.


Antique Boat Center Has a wonderful selection

But that’s not even an apples to apples conversation. Lets take two boats, one brand new, one fresh restoration. Both $50,000. Take the new center console singe engine boat. It has all sorts of computer stuff on it, and looks all clean and new. The restored boat is also shiny and new and is all analog. No computers. Heck your phone can do most of the stuff you need. Now, lets use those boats for 50 hours. Both will be fine, the Classic might need an oil change. The new boat, not. That’s really it. Both are under a cover, both are kept clean. So no real expense or service issue yet. Now. The classic boat has a 5200 bottom, and 15 coats of varnish, all new electrical etc. The new plastic boat, has some small glitches in the computer that need adjusting etc.


Analog boats rule! – Alex Watson loves them all

NOW, and this is what we really are talking about. When stuff starts wearing a bit. The new boat has electronics and computers etc, that need upkeep by an MIT graduate, and the Classic Boat you can if you like fix, or have any normal mechanic do simple stuff for. After a year of sun, the new boat needs a wax, and the classic, either a wax if its also plastic, or a woody, needs a refresh varnish. See so far, no real difference. Heck if you want stick a new 2016 engine in the classic. At this point its a design lifestyle choice. NOT a maintenance choice. And this is where the real difference is. And its HUGE.


Apple green boot stripe to Apples!

After 3 years of ownership. Taking care of both boats. The classic boat will hold its value by a huge margin over the newer boat. In fact, if you bought the classic boat right, you could????? Possibly make some money on it. Maybe not, but with the newer plastic boat, there is no chance in hell. Cause that company just made a newer slicker one. So the only value you really have in your newer boat, is how low of a price can you afford to sell it for! And that, is far more painful than the concept of being to difficult to take care of.


The showroom at Sierra Boat Co on Lake Tahoe!

So if you’re in the market for a new boat right now and some pal sent you this. Click on the banners of our sponsors. They are all great folks that get it, and actually sell new boats as well. So they will be a great place to start your new life as a Woody Boater. Buy a Hat while your at it! Woohooo!


Or Varnish coffee mug!


mmmm Coffee Varnish!

23 replies
  1. steve in the woods
    steve in the woods says:

    I was in the 24+ range, now only 12 batteries that i must keep serviced. The 59 evinrude is the one internal combustion engine most likely to go; and its on a 60 Thompson! Soon as this flooding stops, liable to take it fishing. Little cooler, and the crappie will start up @ the chicken coop!

  2. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    you keep at it Matt. Your logic works for me. my red 88 century looks way cooler then the new white cobalt in the slip next to me at 10x the price to purchase.
    The only resaon folks think the new glass is less work is they dont do anything to keep it looking new.

    • Fred B
      Fred B says:

      My point too! I see lots of glass boats that get zero maintenance seemingly. Obviously a boat is an afterthought in their lives. So those folks will balk at a boat they perceive as needing ANY maintenance. I see so many chalky finishes, serious algae growth on the bottom, etc. It can’t be just where I live, can it?

  3. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    It all about the skill level. You can hire the kid next door to do a decent job of buffing out your glass boat hull, but don’t ask him to repair the scuffed up varnish on your wooden classic. You won’t be happy with the results.

  4. Jake from State Farm
    Jake from State Farm says:

    All animals are equal, some more equal than others, I love all boats, as John in VA says “Let’s go boating”

  5. Bob
    Bob says:


    I think my Mom’s boat makes your point. I have offered several times to purchase for the original 1000.00 Dad paid for it in 1964. Since 1964 we have painted it once and never touched the varnish.

  6. Carl Garmhaus
    Carl Garmhaus says:

    It’s simple math:

    “Classic + maintenance = WOW factor squared/$ spent” is greater than “New Boat – $ spent – depreciation – maintenance = used boat”

  7. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Good points today Matt…..I refinished a hatch cover yesterday….quite a fulfilling effort….putting it back on tomorrow and GOING BOATING!

    John in Va.

  8. Martin
    Martin says:

    I agree with Dan on the comment referencing skill level. Also I think that some of the issue is that people today do not have tools, or unwilling to use them on plastic or wood. I fall into the category of most in that we have plastic and wood side by side on the lifts.

  9. Dennis J Mykols
    Dennis J Mykols says:

    Along the thought that younger people do not have the tools, I think it is more that the younger generation, do not know how to use them, nor want to. Ever since the downward spiral of importance, that a vocational training course was looked down on, and very one HAD to go the College route, we have seen a generation of people who do not know how to fix things.
    The lack of Vocational Education skills have hurt this country for generations to come.

    • Doug P in the PNW
      Doug P in the PNW says:

      The lack of Vocational Education skills have hurt this country for generations to come.

      for sure

  10. Mark
    Mark says:

    I don’t think that you can throw a blanket over the whole generation. I have two twenty something sons – one has already renovated two homes himself and can fix anything. The other has not used a tool and may never want to. It comes down to desire and personality.

    As far as the same price fiberglass versus wood boat I think support is a key issue. People know that if something goes wrong with their fiberglass boat there are many places to go for service and repair but that is not the case for wooden boats.

    I guess the more we get the word out that these places exist the better chance it will catch on.

  11. Garry
    Garry says:

    On another line of thought it is the changing times where the social fabric has changed so much due to technology that the younger generation just do not get the same experiences that us woody boaters got. Most of us lived on the cusp of wood and fiberglass and mechanical engine control. Now, I have to use the education I got to troubleshoot problems on this days marvels.
    My children and their spuses just turn the problems over to others. It is rare to see someone try and learn from hands on experience.

  12. Kent B
    Kent B says:

    My eyes glaze over when people comment “That’s a lot of work”. But to pay for a new boat, which doesn’t look very cool, one must work a lot of hours stuck in a cubicle, or labor away their time. When I work on one of my wood boats, I don’t punch a clock. I really do enjoy it. In the end I can turn a boat that I purchased for a few thousand and put a few hundred hours (and another few thousand into it).
    There are few boats that aren’t any work. Most of them are the odd-ugly 17-20′ fiberglass boats that people buy for less than $1000. They use them for a few seasons until something goes wrong, throw the boat away and then find another one or they never really enjoyed the boat much so they get out of boating. That is the only boat I have seen that truly fits the definition.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Holy crap, I never thought of it that way? Time in a meeting, cubicle, traffic, TPS reports.. All of it. WOW! Great point.

  13. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    matt, how about a story on the companies that still wood boats, i remember a while back you did a story on the wooden boat company that was building new models with cnc equipment.
    i would be curious on their pricing compared to 150 k cobalts, etc. besides i understand that the new epithanes 2 part finishes are 10 year before maintenance is needed (please correct me if i am wrong)
    what other companies are out there still besides the above, grand craft, vandam, and, oh yeah, streblow?

    mike k

  14. Pete
    Pete says:

    Oh… I want a Brand New 1948 U22. What a beautiful boat for anything you want to use it for. That will be on my bucket list. I love my Capri and won’t part with it but now need something for the nine grandkids to pile in.

  15. Emil
    Emil says:

    Love the recent posts, because I’m new to this scene. I’m a professional in my 30s and have a young family in the city, a couple of mortgages, and not a lot of time for hobbies, especially niche ones like wooden watercraft that I have to explain to friends. While we have wooden sailboats and kayaks, before I got our 1960 Thompson Sea Lancer, I’d never paid attention to wooden powerboats. To me, they read expensive, froufrou, a maintenance nightmare, or a floating box of mothballs reminding you of grandma’s. And I rarely, if ever saw one around the Chesapeake Bay growing up.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that old boats are just cooler, and cool kids like the next cool thing. They’re on par with a mid-century pickup, 60s and 70s motorcycles, old watches, custom-canoes, and other “authentic vintage Americana” that’s really popular now.That said, the “outdoor adventure sports” lifestyle might provide an entry point for younger generations that are into nostalgia and simplicity, artisanal-this and analogue-that. People know that old stuff needs work, but it’s ok, because it’s cool and vintage and “real”.

    Either way, I think the maintenance on a wooden boat is similar to what hipsters are learning in their furniture-building or motorcycle mechanics class at the co-op. In some respects, the fact that maintenance is involved might actually be more appealing. Since many trends are set by urban dwellers, I don’t think it’s a bad place for marketers to focus on getting new blood into this hobby. Where I live, there’s plenty of young people riding old (or old-style) bicycles and driving classic cars.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      All good points Emil. This summer I bought a new (retro styled) Triumph Thruxton R -1200 just to have something a bit different. Everywhere I go with it I am amazed how it attracts attention from folks – both young and old. The young people (hipsters) want to know what it is (or represents), and for the older folks it brings back vivid memories of the Mods & Rockers era.

      It takes me twice as long to go anywhere because it attracts so much attention – but not complaining. It’s part of the experience and sharing other others. – Texx

Comments are closed.