The Day I Fell In Love With Classic Boats!

Hank Ham

My two sons on their Whirlwind in 2008 ish?

Yesterday I was over at Tiffany Yachts talking with the guys. A great place by the way, and the custom work they do is so over the top it’s not even funny. Anyway, Taylor Cockrell came around the corner with another guy who kinda looked familiar. I was re-introduced and it all came flooding back. My first time I fell in love with classic boats. it wasn’t at some boat show or website. It was a simple day on the water in our new Boston Whaler. This little wood Whirlwind went whipping by and my jaw dropped. To be honest I hadn’t even considered a woody boat as an option to go boating with. I was so out of it, it just never occurred to me. We lived on a small creek, so I got to see Dave run around just a few more times, and it really stuck with me.


My first ride on a classic boat, and I had just bought her. This was in Sept of 2003 Woody Boater was started 2006 ish

This is about 14 years ago. Sure i had build a wood Sunfish, but this was different. I will say though, if I had seen more boats, or if they had been all over the internet like now my time diving in would have been so much faster. But what hit me yesterday was that a boat show, or joining a club is so far down the “I gotta have one of those things” decision trail, that I thought..mmmmm What is the number one thing you could do to spread the gospel of the classic boat culture.. And it hit me.. Simple. GO WOODY BOATING! Get that boat all slicked up and go, go alot, share a lot, talk a lot, what ever do a lot with your classic boat, do more a lots! It’s simple really to make it happen, JUST ADD WATER!

37 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Thanks Matt! This is exactly what I have been trying to say the whole time we have been having these conversations about our hobby and it’s future. If we simply go out and enjoy our sport others will be attracted.

    Trust me if you cruise around any lake, especially with more that one woody, EVERYONE takes notice. (Even the wake-board guys)

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Hasn’t some guy named John who lives in Virginia been saying something about going boating for years now?

    As for m-fine in NY, there is still snow falling this morning and we are not past the point where you could get a cracked block or manifolds overnight so I will not be boating until May.

  3. Scott K
    Scott K says:

    Yes, I need more than wood and varnish.
    I need cool fiberglass and aluminum.

    While I agree wood is special, one moment that stirred me deeply was pacing a local guy and his young son in their perfectly restored Feathercraft Vagabond II.

  4. Ed F
    Ed F says:

    Snow here in southwest Michigan too. It’s gotta start warming up soon, the Woodies are getting restless! I remember when I was a kid, 1967 or so, my Dad was shopping for used boat and we looked at a couple wood outboards. I talked him out of it thinking the more modern fiberglass was cooler. I truly regret that now. Dad always admired the lapstrake Thompson’s and Cruiser’s. He never had one. It took me until about 2008 to wise up. Iam a slow learner.

  5. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    If you really want to do something for this hobby the next time you are out riding around and someone waves to you and gives you a thumbs up from shore, turn around and ask if they want to go for a ride. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a new best friend or maybe a woody at that dock in a couple of years.

  6. Mark B
    Mark B says:

    I got hooked at age 13. My dad worked part time at a liquor store on Lake Congamon and I use to go with him and sit on the cement pier watching the boats go by. One day a Chris Craft went by in the no wake zone and that sound never left me. It took me 40 years to do something about it but if someone hadn’t been out that day I would not have been lured in.

  7. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    In the 60’s Chris-Craft started building fiberglass boats that are now very much CLASSICS. Their last wood boat was built in 1972. That was over 40 years ago. These days there’s a new wave of classic boat enthusiasts who grew up remembering some of these classic glassics from their childhood.

    My first interest was a CC Boat Kit that became a Kit Boat. I learned to ski behind it and help my cousin care for it. Later he purchased a new fangled fiberglass boat and we kept building great memories on the lakes. That was over 50 years ago.

  8. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    If you want to attract a new generation to Woody boating you gotta make it cool and you gotta make it sexy. And I’m not talking about our idea of cool and sexy. Don’t know exactly how to do that. I leave it up to the marketing guys to figure out.

  9. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    You get to spread the gospel even on the highway…how many times have all of us been held up at in a parking lot or at the gas pump by folks that want to talk…tell us what their grandpa had etc etc. Yes, I have spread the word…done my share…like Mfine noted..and this weekend…like most, old John in Va is GOING BOATING!
    John in Va.

  10. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    Snowing here in Chicago today so no boating. SOON.
    I have determined you need Burgers, Beer, and BOATING to survive.

    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      I got hooked at age 10. It was Spring, 1963. My dad was trying to decide between a 16′ Lyman or a 16′ MFG Westfield, each with a 40hp Evinrude. He loved the lapstrake look, but he hated to paint things. The MFG won, and I have been hooked ever since. While I’ve owned several 70-80’s used fiberglass bow riders, nothing compares to getting back to your roots. And I may still get that 16′ Lyman someday. Lapstrakes forever!

  11. Arnie
    Arnie says:

    Never restore a wood boat on your driveway – a never ending parade of admirers stopping by to look and talk. I really slows a days work down, but also it’s very enjoyable to discuss woodies. Later, it’s delays at the launch ramp!

    • Bob B
      Bob B says:

      Lots of delays talking and answering questions at the launch ramp but it doesn’t seem to bother me.

      And every year the wife always asks “What took you so long?”

  12. "Coach" Glenn
    "Coach" Glenn says:

    I have the same boat, on a trailer, which has been garaged in Lexington Kentucky, Greenwood South Carolina, Marathon Florida, back to Kentucky, Roanoke Virginia, and finally to Rockville Virginia. I started a complete strip of it 25 years ago and life interrupted. I hope to retire in two years and to find someone who can help me restore it in Virginia. My uncle gave it to me after his 22 year old son was killed in an industrial accident and he could not bear to look at it any longer. I had always planned to restore it and take him for a ride but he passed away last year. Anyway, it tugs my heart to see the boat. The three of us spent many days in it on the mighty Rappahannock. Mine is a 1957 14′ Whirlwind with the short shaft Evinrude. One day I will have it back in the water.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Wow! we are here for ya Glenn, in VA and know all about these little Whirlwinds. You will be shocked how easy they are to restore. They are amazing little boats that perform very well. Search Whirlwind in the search bar below in the blue area and you will find plenty of info.

  13. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    While reliving our mispent youth…Mine began in 1938 while aquaplaning behind a big ole GarWood on Lake Winnepesaukee. Then in the ’50’s & ’60’sI thought all the wood boats went to the burn pile and I succumbed to a plastic 17′ Cobia ski boat behind which my kids and their friends learned to water ski. Wood or plastic, there is nothing like ole memories. My kids and now their kids seem to like boats whether wood or plastic.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      I think I might have been conceived in a Woody, but you will have to read the next Brass Bell if you want the rest of that story. (No Pictures)

  14. Bill Hammond
    Bill Hammond says:

    My love for Wooden Boats was latent until I went to an Antique & Classic Boat Society Boat show in 1980. There I fell in Love!! But not with the Runabouts or the Utilities or Ski Boats or Racers but with the Cruisers!! There was something about them that just drew me to them. They were all lined up Stern to Bow along the Black River in Port Huron and you could look into their Cockpits and Cabins and my imagination was just captured!!

    I knew it was something my Mother, who grew up on Lake Superior would love so I came back with my folks. My mother was transported to another place and time. She confided to me that she had always wanted one!

    It took 30 years but I finally found one and purchased it sight unseen off of eBay! I’m in Year 6 now of my restoration and am really looking forward to that initial splashing of the hull. These stories today are really great!!

  15. cenger
    cenger says:

    My addiction started in 2001 with a fun little Thompson. Old Johnson had been sitting idle for 20 years. A new fuel tank and tune up and it started on the first try.

  16. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I started wooden boating back in 1979 or so, I do not know when this picture was taken, but yep, that’s me.

  17. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    and this is the man who provided a life of memories growing up on the water, my Dad, driving one of my three sons boat. He made it to 95 years old, and never did learn how to swim…

  18. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    This is how my oldest Son David got hooked on boating with Grandma teaching how to drive.

  19. Kevin F
    Kevin F says:

    My boating started a few months after my birth. We had a cottage on the Sni, not far from the Chris Craft plant on Lake St Clair. Our island cottage was built by hand, by my grandfather, and still stands today; a testimony to his excellent building skills.

    My mother was raised on the island, and my grandfather had dozens of boats, from hydroplane racers, to big triples, to cruisers, over the years as she was growing up. Alas, they were all gone when I arrived on the scene. I will post some pics at a later time; my grandfather looked like a movie star, and mother was Miss Jr Michigan, so the pictures have that glamorous feel.

    We used a steel flat bottomed row boat, powered by a Johnson 5 1/2 outboard; which I still have, along with a CC outboard. We progressed to a 17ft Thompson with a 75 Johnson that was the boat we used for many years (our first boat was a Ownes fiberglass boat that my mother hated; she ran it into a tree one night and sunk it. It was not intentional, and was my first of two boat sinkings). The look of the wood and varnish, the sounds, always stayed with me. There were not many boats around back then, so when I heard the “blub, blub, blub” of a Chris Craft cruiser slowly passing by the cottage, I always raced out front to stare, the sounds and sight captivating my imagination. I was in heaven with each passing boat.

    Our neighbor up the channel, Rick and Iz Novack (?) threw huge parties at their large island at the top of the Sni. It was a magical place, with a very long dock, the posts always freshly painted in white with a red top (a lake St Clair tradition for the “smart set”), the island had two houses, with a foot bridge between. The docks were filled with wooden boats: lapstrakes, and varnished boats, dozens, all coming for the music, drinking, and dancing. It was like being in a fairy tale to this young boy.

    We would run our boats day or night, through the hidden channels in the marsh that only the locals knew, many no wider than the boat itself. To this day, I love boating at night and feel very comfortable; knowing only the chart in my head, and the lights using their language to guild me home safely.

    I was first able to pilot that flat bottom boat made of steel around our island when I was around four. I then earned my mothers respect to go a few islands up and down the channel on my own. Even at an early age, power was everything. I boy a few islands up was “rich”. They had a cruiser and he had an aluminum boat with a 7 1/2 outboard. He always could beat me in a race!!

    We later got a 16ft Sea Ray, then a 22ft. I soon had my own 13ft Whaler, then a Hobie Cat, then a new 27ft Express cruiser when I turned 27.

    But I needed wood. So at 29 years old I bought the U-22 I still have today. I have owned bigger fiberglass boats, but this is the one that speaks to my soul.

    Many years later, I found a picture of one of my grandfathers boats; a U-22! I guess certain things are passed down through osmosis.

    The “Flats” as that area is known, was, and still is, a magical place. There were many “characters” back then, as this was not an area of the affluent. One family ( This was later confirmed by an old timer, who thought they were part of the Smith family) had a pet lion that rode on the bow of his big varnished speed boat. There were “blind pigs”, my mother used to go to in her youth (a speakeasy). There were cottages where the people just “disappeared” that I visited, where the dishes were still on the table next to the 1978 newspaper. Everything was like they just walked out the door years earlier and never came back! My mother loved to take the row boat and “explore” abandoned cottages. One island was huge (at the corner of the North channel and the Middle Channel) and that person also just walked away. He left a big 25-27ft Chris Craft named “old Buck” tied to his dock, where it sank. Over the years the boat returned itself to the elements; first the deck, and eventually only ribs, like a dead elephant on the Serengeti, remained. He also left all the antique furniture and a large sailboat in the barn. After a few decades of it being vacant, we removed a beautiful table at night; my mother, being the honest woman she was, left a check.

    So for me, the boat was just one part of what made me be the person I am. It was also the sense of first responsibility, of knowing the water by instinct, the weather by feel, the sense of exploration and mystery, and living without electricity, phones, or running water. On that island, life became what life should be; simplicity. The joys come from the people, conversation, and our own imagination.

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