Save A Classic Wood Cruiser And Save Your Soul.

Just don't sit there, Save Me!

Ernest we need a miracle! .. Heal the the bottom.. Heal it good! POW!

If you par-ooze through the classifieds these days you no doubt have stumbled across a classic Cruiser for.. well any price, just haul the thing away.  While reading the boat buzz a post made a statement about the prices of cruisers falling and a listing on a very sweet Cruiser for $3,500. on craigslist.. Thanks BrokenRule2 for the post by the way..  Can prices fall any further? Not really, you can’t fall farther than on the ground. Free is a hard number to beat. I suppose there are even cases of folks paying people to take them. BUT! Is it all a Jedi mind trick? Is it just a state of mind? A herd mentality, since we see these boats selling for $3,500 bucks.. are they worth restoring, saving, using.. HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR MINDS? Wake up. The answer is YES! Now you might say and I am sure you are Mr sit there with your coffee reading this.. But Matt, you yourself got eaten alive with a Cruiser.. Hold on Mr Sit there with a coffee … I loved Betsy.. And I will get another and another. And in fact Betsy is bringing  joy and life to the Lake of Smith Mountain Yoda!  The force is strong there.. Lets talk about this rationally.. You pick up a nice cruiser for $2,500 bucks. Like the one here.. Then, lets say you sink $50,000 bucks into her. Lets just say old Ernest Angley is not there to HEAL her! Just you….. You have when you are done..  a 30 foot killer 30 foot classic cruiser that will bring joy not only to you, but anyone that is close to it. And with that kinda money in it, it will be beautiful. You will learn stuff, and truly have the coolest boat on your canal, Lake, River, Marina.. So lets say you want to sell it.. OK, you might get $25K for it in a year. OK, you are $25K in the crapper… NOW.. Hold on here… NOW, you go buy a new plastic boat.. 30 feet .. right.. Lets say a new Chris Craft. Just so we are comparing apples to apples.. That $50K… It’s a deposit.. Cause this new beautiful boat is about $250,000 . OK its bad ass.. Ya ya.. But try and sell it in a year.. A used plastic nice boat… $200,000… if you are lucky, and you will need to sell it through a dealer or take a trade in price.. Two years.. its even more.. until its just another plastic boat on eBay.. And tell me, what are the chances of it ever .. EVER being as cool as that $3,500 cruiser on Craigslist.. NEVER.. and you have written off  far more money. Oh, and after the ten years.. That cruiser is still worth the money. If not more, because all of them have been trashed and you have the one! So.. Don’t think about it emotionally.. Think rationally.. It makes good sense to save an old cruiser..

18 replies
  1. Mike M
    Mike M says:

    Great points, Matt. Another thing to consider is that a restored cruiser is not likely to fall into disrepair, ever again. Those of us crazy enough to sink money into them will no doubt take proper care of them. And when our number is called some other enthusiast will come up, recognize the deal, scoop it up and be it’s steward for another X amount of years.

    My only advice is to make sure you do your homework and get the right boat for your family and your waterways. The wrong boat is the wrong boat no matter how well restored.

  2. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy says:

    Guess I will chime in. I understand the plastic- Wood comparison. I would never spend that kind of money either way. I think you have to look at the history of other things. Remember how many station wagons roamed the USA? How many do you see at car shows now? Does any one remember the late 60’s when people would burn antique oak and mahogany furnature because no one wanted it? Bet you wish you had some now. Prior to buying my first wood boat, I stopped by a shop to look at boats. Told the guy I was looking for a starter boat like a penn yan lapstrake. The guy told me the only thing a lapstrake was good for was firewood. So I guess what im saying is when there gone there gone. Buy one while there cheap and keep it forever.

  3. Noel E. Trueworthy
    Noel E. Trueworthy says:

    Chime in I will. One 1947 HIGGINS SEDAN CRIUSER,26′. It is to my knowledge the last one in the world. It was one of the feature boats on the now defunct Higgins classic boat site. The is completely restored, a pristine boat. My time in the hobby is now extremely limited at 72 years young. Do you think I can sell this boat at one third of what I paid for it? Hell no. Did I have a great time and form a lot of memories? Absolutely. Some one else can do the same. It is listed on a major antique boat website for anyone to see. Very unique.

    • Bob Cutlip
      Bob Cutlip says:

      Noel, I bought your Higgins, she’s beautiful. Now I’m in your shoes, I’ll be selling my 1952 Chris Express after 18 years of; fun, repairs, wonderful Lake Erie cruises,and restorations. I see it, all of us are just stewards, trying to enjoy what a woody gives us and hopefully sending them on, into good hands.
      Thanks Noel first rate job. Bob

  4. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    A couple of years ago at the St. Louis Boat & Sportshow we had a very nice ’48, 17′ CC Deluxe on display. A young guy and his wife stopped to look it over and asked what something like it might sell for. I explained that it was probably worth $35,000.00 for one this nice. He and his wife gasped but instead of saying what I thought they would say, he explained that he just spent twice that much on a new plastic boat and had no idea that he could have something like the ’48 Deluxe for just half as much as he just spent on a boat that he wouldn’t be able to sell in a year. They both looked depressed as they walked away.

  5. matt
    matt says:

    And, That plastic space ship looks like crap in the driveway.. The classic boat.. A focal point, even when sitting still

  6. Rick
    Rick says:

    My current plastic cruiser looks identical to everything else on the dock and nobody takes a second look at it. The classic in my driveway causes complete strangers to stop and talk, or wave as we trailer it around. Some very good points today about lost value vs purchase price etc. I will have to rethink the aims for my next cruiser. Thanks.

  7. redbeardsraven
    redbeardsraven says:

    Some time back I purchased a 1964 25′ Owens cabin cruiser. The boat was indeed ready for the tooth pic factory.
    I payed $800.00 for it. $799.00 too much..After two years of intense wood work and $14,000.00 She was a sight to behold. I sold the boat two years after that for $7,000.00
    because A 1949 Chris craft found me. I sold the Owens to a woman who never owned a boat before, but fell in love with it . And now the boat swings on a can in Monroe street harbor On the Chicago Lake front for every body to see as they leave there stuffy office jobs. I saved a wooden boat.
    Remember… you don’t find a boat ,it finds you..

  8. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Well as the Cruiser guru/nut case here on the lower chesapeake, I will chime in.
    Matt is correct on all points.
    Others left good insights too.
    Seems to be to come down to a few CONSTANTS though.
    If you find a cruiser, or as is exactly correct: it finds you….you had better be one of only two types.
    1)deep pockets and deep devotion
    2)great skill set in WOOD projects, adequate knowledge in engine and electrical area. And patience.
    I am the second. I spent one night a week on my Chris Craft Cavalier 33 every week of the year….and tham means either tonight or tomorow and it will not be above freeqing. But I really like the WORK and the WATER and there is nothing on this old survior (I mean the BOAT!), that I have not redone at least once and some twice.
    Nature of the beast.
    TRUE: the prices have CRASHED. But that is a cycle as is all of life. I often use the analogy of Model A Fords which captivated my youth. TODAY, you can buy a great one for less than in days of yore. No need to buy a junker, a user, or a driver…get a top of the line restored car…..easy. NOT because the prices have fallen so much as because all those that appreciated the genre have DIED OFF. Most natural thing in the world.
    Sooooo.. the market is full of great cars because there are so few true buyers/enthusiast left.
    Same thing with Cruisers.
    Sad part is that with the WOOD as oppossed to the Metal, it will fall apart pretty quick. So good user/survivor cruisers go to the burn pile because the sale market can only support the few buyers and thus only the BEST boats survive. But they are a bargain now if it is something you can handle.
    If you can’t handle it….DO THE WORK and ENJOY IT….get a harley or whatever.

  9. peter woods
    peter woods says:

    You caught me O all seeing woody boater wizard. I am, in fact, looking for a cruiser. Every where in the country seems to be the same story. $500.00 bucks for a 30′ sea skiff in Seattle. The owner just walked away. we’ll see. thanks for all you do Woody Boater Wizard Guy.

  10. Scott Robinson
    Scott Robinson says:

    Matt is quite correct, i just sold my 1040 44′ Elco Cruisette toa great family in Toronto. I know they will love it and put as much money as it takes to keep her pristine. I spent bundle to keep her great, Scott

  11. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Matt has a great point concerning values and depreciation. I bought my first wood boat because we decided the possibility (probability?) of losing money on it was preferential to the absolute certainty of massive depreciation on any new boat. Of course they need maintenance and care, but what doesn’t? Plus, the uniqueness, cool factor, style and pleasure of a classic boat adds up to something significant for many of us. Unless a person buys a basket case cruiser, I think the premise that the overall cost of ownership will be less on a well-bought old boat is worth exploring. If I lived on a lake or large waterway that permitted lengthy cruising, I know I would have one.

    If a buyer is in a position to consider choosing between a newer cruiser at a big dolalr or a decent old one at a pittance, I doubt the cost of maintenance or care will be of great concern to him. It all boils down to all-in cost to own and operate the item, and depreciation on any newer car or boat is likely the biggest expense faced in the first several years.

    I hate buying new cars for this reason – it is galling to know how much you lose in a year since you bought it.

  12. redbeardsraven
    redbeardsraven says:

    Things that are important. Find a way to survive.. A cruiser and bigger represent time and effort buy a man… men ..
    a job.. a person took time to trim the door to fit.. screws to fasten it together. A lot of screws in some cases. Its an undertaking to start, build and finish a wooden boat and at the end a man or men looked, watched as the completed project left on a flat car or truck thinking all that effort will bring another person on this planet some joy. A wooden boat is an expression of mans constructive ability to bring joy to another . When I see a wooden boat I feel that message sent over time. like finding a message in a bottle. When I pull a screw out of my boat that has not seen the light of day for sixty years it like time travel..

  13. Mark Edmonson
    Mark Edmonson says:

    I gave up the speedboats about five years ago. I have restored a 1959 33′ Chris Craft Sport Fisherman, and my family loves it. Got about $40k into a boat that takes us everywhere on the Great Lakes.

  14. Chris Finks
    Chris Finks says:

    Okay, many days late to the dance and thinking about vintage cruisers…nothing rational and all emotional for the RIGHT reasons! Is preserving a national monument rational, likely not. But saving something does keep us intact. And I’ve saved an old Chris Craft twice. The first time when I purchased our boat and the second time after my friend wrecked her and we decided to save her. Expensive, but glad I did!


  15. RRG
    RRG says:

    As a guy with 2 vintage Chris Craft cruisers (1940 and 1958)…I wish I had a large enough piece of property to become a boat hoarder….I would have the greatest collection of Chris Craft and Matthews cruisers….I would need to make sure that I could live in ….ok, I woke up.

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