Why Are Old Cruisers Not Worth More?


I am not sure what it is about these big cruisers that I love? Maybe its age or just that I am a dreamer. $40,000 bucks for 53 feet of pure art! WOW. This is far more than just a boat, it’s a home on the water. A weekend getaway. For $40,000. Less money than you would pay for a mini van or SUV. A waterfront home is a minimum of $500,000, A plastic 50 foot boat is way over a million… And here you are right on ebay looking at 53 feet of pure art, history and amazing design. I don’t get it? Why are these boats not more? Sure you can spend a small fortune on restoring one? So? Its still cheaper than a new one?

She even comes with her very own star case!

She even comes with her very own star case!

People restore old homes all the time. In fact a stunning restored home is far more attractive than some lame new home? If you want to dream about this amazing 1955 53 ft Chris Craft Constellation, just click here on ebay.

95 replies
    • Troy
      Troy says:

      I know of a “little” ’48 Chris Craft 34′ express cruiser with your name on it.

      • bob
        bob says:

        i know this CC 1948 it was in seattle
        where is it now?
        I have a 1940 version of this boat that I want to sell

        • High Seas
          High Seas says:


          We probably have 30 of these in Seattle, what was the name of the boat? Was it at Stimpson’s or Morrisons?

  1. Phillip Jones
    Phillip Jones says:

    Matt slowly look around while setting there ogling that buy button. Talk to your honey about the neat Clark shoes you are looking at on ebay, and WOW honey, it has a buy now button. think I’ll get these for you for Christmas:):), you hit the button an let the moment has , lock it away, ( so you can play dumb later)

    Then five days later when the BIG BOY UPS truck shows up with your gift to Sue, and it’s 53′ long, you can TRY to convince here while fanning her on the floor” Honey I hit the buy button on the shoes, I swearrrrrrrrrrr” See where that back of the mind thing comes in. If this approach goes sour, you will at least have a place to live till trial, HEY Jack
    Buttttt if you sell it five years down the road an happen to get most of the money you have sunk into this hole in the water( just kidding, love these old girls) the first thing out of her mouth, after five years of we don’t need this is going to be,

    yep you guessed it Where is my money!!!!

  2. Troy
    Troy says:

    Very nice looking boat!

    Since I dove into the deep end of this pond last year I will give you my take on this question. (You knew I would anyway)

    1st) Storage: This is not a boat that you can just slip into the garage and storage at a yard is not cheep. (in or out of the water)(average around here is $10/sq. ft. 53 x 13.5 = 715.5 sq ft x $10 = $7,155.00 for one winter)(people will sell these boats cheep just to stop the bleeding)

    2nd) Transportation: Again you are not going to back up to a ramp with an Orange Suburban and haul this thing anywhere. This one is 13.5′ wide and that adds expense and trouble even for the big boys.

    These two are the same for glass or wood. Now for some wood challenges.

    3rd: Upkeep: If you are going to keep this beauty up you are either going to spend 3 X the time working on her as you are cruising in her, or you are going to spend a small fortune paying someone else to do it for you. (that is where the small fortune comes in)

    4th: Some yards now won’t even take wood boats, because their yard bills exceed their value in short order and are abandon.

    5th: Look back at all the conversation that has gone on about cost and surprises in rebuilding or repairing a 20′ runabout, now imagine trying to get a solid idea on what a repair is going to cost you on a 53′ X 13.5′ Cruiser. This could actually take a very large fortune.

    All this being said I agree that compared to homes, Yachts, and Vintage Airplanes these cruisers are not that horrible. Unfortunatelly the really wealthy have not embraced them so it is up to us working class Joes who can not play in the bigger sand box to try to keep these craft alive and justify the buckets of money it takes to own such a beautiful piece of art.

    • High Seas
      High Seas says:


      Want to guess what this repair cost me? Worth every penny for a large cruiser! Put on the big boy pants and buckle up….. I could crawl through this “hole” in my bow when we stopped the cutting back to good wood. All in perspective and gotta love the work that goes with them.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      I completely disagree! I own a 1967 52-foot “Connie”, and I’ve never regretted buying her, as I consider her a HUGE bang-for-the-buck. I don’t have to mow a yard, weedie and clip the hedges, and my marina’s covered-slip fees are no more than a townhome’s HOA dues. If the neighborhood goes to hell-in-a-hand basket, I can just pull-in the lines, fire-up the 671’s, and head-off into the sunset. Think about it….. I’ll have less than $200K in her once I’m done restoring her (less than $100K to buy her, and less than $100K in a full refurbishment), and I’ll have something WAY nicer-looking than those plastic versions that cost 1-to-2 million! Incidentally, my full-coverage insurance only costs $207 a month.

  3. Paul H
    Paul H says:

    A good friend of mine and current 1960 35′ Roamer owner is looking to upsize – significantly. He views the comparision between classics of that size and waterfront homes or even condo’s as the most compelling argument in favor of such a purchase. Hard not to agree at some level. I suspect it costs me about $20,000 a year in upkeep and taxes for my waterfront house on a half acre, so the costs of storage around here for a boat ($4-$5 linear foot) and other routine stuff are not comparitively out of line. He is looking at 68′ Roamers – biggest of the big in the CC line. Now, in my area of BC, an entry level watefront cabin is $750k -$1mm, so pursuits such as this are definitely reserved for the relatively affluent – whether they be boats or properties. If he can buy a totally restored and modernized diesel powered 68’+ Roamer or something similar in the $125k – $175k range, he is doing well. Face it – in most cases these are discretionary expenditures for the well off. I agree with Troy – the affluent have not bought into these old cruisers, unless perhaps it’s a Trumpy or something with cache’. If one starts looking at those, the comparitive benefits cost-wise between a waterfront house and a big boat start to break down a bit.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Yeah, there’s nothing quite like the experience of an all out siege by “friends” to hit said button for a boat several states away.

      You people know who you are.

      And so does Satan (not Santa). When you arrive down there, I’ve arranged for room service to come empty your mini-bars.

  4. Paul H
    Paul H says:

    The thread below from the CCABC Boat Buzz follows the restoration of what was reported to be a 1940 44′ CC that was always stored under cover and in great condition when bought. The acquisition price was modest, but was has followed is not. The owner is dedicated and is follwoing it through,(and doing so most expediently) which takes a very significant committment and a huge amount of financial dedication – how much I do not know. The boat is beuatiful and it is a great and rare survivor. But it also answer the question at the beginning ot today’s story.

    This is the all-time longest and most read thread on Boat Buzz, so there is high interest in the boat, the project and the entire process. Apparently lots of people are very interested, but they don’t want to own these boats.


    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Of course there’s plenty of interest. People ogle accidents with the same morbid fascination.

      Don’t get me wrong though. I sincerely wish the owner a happy outcome.

      • laclede
        laclede says:

        Thanks for mentioning my thread on CCABC. Yes, some people are watching this project like it is a bad highway wreck – and I feel the same way sometimes.
        As people following the thread know, I went in to this with no knowledge, and no plan. I paid 18000 to buy it, spent 10K fixing the engines, and the nearly complete replacement of the bottom is costing around 140K.
        From talking to some of the boatowners at The Chris Craft Rendezvous last July, it seems that most of these old cruisers need new bottoms- and that generally costs 1-200K to do it right.
        I guess the point is – you can buy a pre-restoration cruiser for next to nothing – but the final cost will be close to 150K. If you are willing to spend that, you end up with a huge beautiful boat, with some history to it. You have to expect that you will never recoup the money you spent – you do it so you can enjoy it, and to save something historic.
        It is individual for each person – I think I would do it again, even knowing what I know now. I am sure that if someone offered me 150K to buy it now- I wouldn’t sell it. It has actually been a great deal of fun to be forced to learn all this the hard way.
        You hear over and over again that you are crazy to invest in these old cruisers – but I just don’t see that spending 150K to get a HUGE wooden boat, that you can spend many weekends out on, and enjoy – and have it become a significant part of your life ; I don;t think that is crazy.
        Doing it without any knowledge of boats, or any plan as I did – is crazy. But that is how it went.
        There must be plenty of people reading these Wooden Boat threads, dreaming of owning one. You could probably get this one offered on ebay for 25K – and then you have it. You are going to spend another 100K making her good – but, really, what good is that 100K in your IRA account doing you? Don’t listen to Charles Schwabb – listen to your heart.

  5. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    Allow me to ask a stupid question. Assume one had a waterfront cabin and wanted a cool guest cabin. Assume that person also had a large dock and room to pull a cruiser on land for the winter. Then assume that the cruiser had a good bottom and the engines were removed. Dumb idea?

    • Paul H
      Paul H says:

      I think the overall maintenance and upkeep of the superstrucure and mechanical systems would still be too much, when added to the costs of operating the house. I have a neat, vintage and original gust cabin at my place. However, I have also wanted a “cool” guest cabin for years, and what occurred to me was that a vintage travel trailer would suit the purpose. One can buy a very cool Spartan Imperial Mansion from the early ’50’s (36′ or so) for anywhere from $5-$20k. At the higher end they are totally restored and very sleek examples of mid century cool. Too me, that is much more practical and inexpensive.

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      With all you put into that mix (on property storage being a big one) IMHO it would be a great idea. Maybe not this particular boat, but one that fits your needs, and budget.

      If your business were to try and break into the Northwest market why not have something like this as a base to work from. Buy it in the corporation. It is a lot harder to justify if the numbers start falling apart and a lot easier to justify if you start having an income stream from that area you can monitor. It would also impress clients.

  6. Gary
    Gary says:

    Trumpys are relatively rare compared to CC cruisers. I suspect the popularity follows a mathematical formula where the rarer they become the desire grows exponentially. And those with the most energy will move with the speed of light on these big CCs someday: E = MC.

  7. brian t
    brian t says:

    We had a 36′ CC in the family for years – used for cruising and salmon fishing. Grandpa paid for the upkeep which was not too bad given that the boat was kept in great condition – in other words, it never needed a full blown restoration. When Grandpa passed on the family wanted to keep it – but it was the $500 per month moorage fees that killed the idea. Sold her for only $3500. The two 454 engines alone were worth far, far more. Out here in the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, there are homeless folks living on these type of boats as they are a dime a dozen. They merely find an abandoned craft and make it a home until they move on or it sinks.

  8. Loren Sattler
    Loren Sattler says:

    I can offer a couple of reasons why old large cruisers do not command high prices. First and most important, they are not cool like small classic boats. The pizzaz that creates demand is simply not there. Second, they require too much work for the the DIY (do it yourself) crowd that provide the backbone of the wood boat crowd. Third, risk. If something major goes wrong (such as need to replace the bottom) the expense to fix can quickly exceed the value of the boat. Fourth, reliability. People with the resources to own and operate a large cruiser do not enjoy the perceived exposure to problems associated with wood boat ownership such as mechanical breakdowns or leaky hulls.

    When you add all this up….. very little demand for the “hole in the water to dump your money”.

      • Peter M Jardine
        Peter M Jardine says:

        A Matthews Martinique express I believe… yep, very cool. They had twin 331 hemi’s in them.

        I am a cruiser owner, Vanora is a 36′ Challenger express. I too am completing a significant restoration, including plumbing, wiring, new transom, skeg and about 300 lineal feet of planking. The CC cruisers are falling like flies these days…. and it will only be another ten years before most of the big ones will be numbered in the teens, if not lower. Unlike the runabouts, the cruisers do not live on in barns and garages…. they get cut up with a chainsaw at the marinas that store them. That 53 has been for sale for a while, or twice in the last five.. whatever. I don’t believe for one minute that it just needs paint and varnish…. 25k would disappear in a boat like that in an instant just on maintenance. I hope she finds a good home.

  9. Scott Robinson
    Scott Robinson says:

    Folks, I spent a small fortune on our 1940 44′ Elco, for 7 years before passing it on to the next victim. I could have had a 28′ Garwood for what I spent on Keewaydin !! Scooter

  10. Randy
    Randy says:

    Out here in the Pacific Northwest most of the marinas require moored boats to be insured. With old wooden boats insurance companies require periodic surveys to obtain/continue coverage, and if issues are not corrected you get dropped FAST. The same now applies for haulout facilities — too many old boats have been pulled for work, found to be in poor condition and then abandoned — sort of standard practice in Port Townsend up ’til about 10 years ago when they wised up.
    Plus for cruisers — it is the only way to “RV” on the water in the beautiful American & Canadian San Juans!!!!!!

  11. Steve M.
    Steve M. says:

    If YOU enjoy it, why does it matter what it costs???
    You can play a round of golf at Pebble Beach and pay $275-$500, 5 hours later it’s over and your money is gone…
    An older cruiser can cost “X” to purchase it, “Y” to restore it and “Z” to maintain and use it.
    So you spend XYZ and enjoy it. When your finished enjoying it you can then sell it. Now it may not be worth XYZ, but it is worth something…
    XYZ-selling price= your cost of enjoyment to own and play with it.
    Show me the rule book that states “you have to make money on everything you buy”.

  12. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    many good reasons listed above. My take: no one has the skills or time or desire to work on old stuff anymore.
    That is the part I love, hence I am a victim.
    I went out on my cruiser yesterday here in Va…..just had the bottom scrubbed by a diver….new zincs…haul and paint in spring…but the cleaning job made her get up and fly?
    13knts at 2600 rpm…..and then there is the fuel cost thing….
    Cruiser is a big part of my life at present…could not contemplate not having her.
    John in Va.

    • cobourg Kid
      cobourg Kid says:

      Hey John over the years we have heard lots of terrific tales about your cruiser (and its engines) but I don’t think we have ever seen a photo of her. Could you post one for us?

  13. Texx
    Texx says:

    Back in May we ran a story about a grey 1954 50′ Chris-Craft cruiser that was for sale on craigslist – named Sebec.

    This week I received an e-mail titled “Last Chance” to inform me that now you can buy Sebec on craigslist for $1.00. They must have regulations in that part of the country about open fires.

    You would not believe how many e-mails Matt & I receive from people trying to sell (unload) old wooden cruisers, looking for help (or promotion) on Woody Boater – often daily. Not to discriminate, it’s not just the old cruisers we get daily e-mails about.

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      I remember that story and it is even in my neighborhood, but a buyer would be soooooooooooo much further ahead buying the current 53’er for $40K than that old grey one.

    • cobourg Kid
      cobourg Kid says:

      If I recall correctly this 50’ Chris-Craft Catalina was supposedly ordered, owned and operated by Guy Lombardo the famous Canadian Big Band leader and intrepid Race Boat pilot.

      If that lineage has in fact been fully documented the current owner should seriously consider contacting the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation in Ottawa and offering to donate her to that institution .

      Here is the pitch (as I previously outlined back when this boat first appeared on WB’s virtual pages).
      If this boat had belonged to Louis Armstrong the Smithsonian would surely have be all over it. So it stands to reason that as the storied leader of the Royal Canadians Lombardo’s boat should be acquired and restored by the Canadian Museum of Transportation, possibly for ceremonial events on the, Rideau Canal, Trent Severn Waterway and the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers.

      Acquiring the old Catalina (to be immediately renamed “Royal Canadian”) at no cost the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation would enlist the help of the Canadian Army to haul her to Ottawa (using one of its many giant flatbeds).

      Once ensconced in one of the corporation’s facilities the boat would be restored using apprentice woodworkers from local colleges (once again at low cost). This ongoing transformation would be observable by museum goers and would not only serve as a compelling and active attraction ( boosting attendance and museum revenue) it would also teach boatbuilding technology to a whole new generation, celebrate Lombardo’s achievements and in the end provide a very attractive, useful and affordable official boat that could ultimately transport dignitary’s, promote the museum and/or simply wave the Canadian flag at public events all across eastern Canada during the summer.

      A big Idea made real for ( I am guessing) about the price Canadians would pay for one new mid sized Canadian Coast Guard patrol boat.

    • paul
      paul says:

      Hi. I would like to find a place I can buy an old boat. I would like to fix it uop and make it like a tiny home that can go in water.

  14. Bill Hammond
    Bill Hammond says:

    I too am of the “‘Teched” (as in ‘teched in the head) variety. But then again aren’t all woody boaters to some degree or another? Us cruiser folk may be a little more than some. But there is always more involved than the cost. If cost were the only reason to ever save one of these old cruisers then many fewer would exist than do. Has anyone ever done a comparison of survival rates for Cruisers vs. Non-cruisers? I don’t have any idea what it might be but my hunch is that the gap is not as large as we all expect.

    Regardless-I’ll speak only for myself here-purchase, restoration/maintenance, storage, Moorage, operatings costs etc. are all completely (here’s the ‘teched part) outweighed by the alpha waves, the ethereal part of ownership. The pleasure I get from the entire process, including figuring out out to manage those very real costs, completely offsets all that stuff.

    Not all may agree with me here but I suspect that many Non Cruiser woody boaters would a lot of those same sentiments. So we cruiser owners may be a little more Looney than the rest of you guys but you’ve got to have somebody about whom you can say, “Look at that guy”….

    Now for those of us who have both Cruisers and non-cruiser woody boats, what can I say? There’s no hope? No, I say there’s every hope.

    Bill Hammond
    1960 36’ CC Connie (currently in year 4 of restoration)

  15. Greg Carpenter
    Greg Carpenter says:

    Stop all the whining about cost of these huge cruisers! They are items of history like old airplanes. old motorbikes, old cars etc. We have been working on older cruisers for 30 years and there is nothing like a ride in a huge woodie going 30 knots !! Plus the not repairable ones make great nautical room items for man cave rooms.

  16. Tom Stock
    Tom Stock says:

    I currently own a 1953 45′ dcfb and have completely restored her and been using her for 14 years. I do all the work myself and find it a way to destress after a days work. Just finished a 26 Lyman hardtop 2 year restoration along with building a glen -l rivera 21′ runabout. If it”s in your blood i guess you just don’t mind doing it, it is expensive but it keeps you out of trouble .The wife and i love it and can’t wait for summer !

  17. Troy
    Troy says:

    Do you know what the White express is in the header?
    Looks like a late 50’s version of a Red and White express cruiser.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      I think it was originally a cruiser that Pat Chaps converted into more of a day cruiser. He may see this and comment.

    • Grant Stanfield
      Grant Stanfield says:

      1957-58 26′ Sports Express; called a Commuter when equipped with a hardtop. Lovely, rare, powerful and spacious boats; saw a pair in Algonac last time I went in 2011. The black one is a 33′ Futura.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Texx – I have been looking at one of these lately, down at Resort Boat Shops. They can be VERY nice cruisers, and very versatile. Buy one done…..this one may have a few good parts, at best.

  18. Rob
    Rob says:

    We have had our 1937 CC 35′ Double Enclosed cruiser for twenty-five years. My kids were on it from only weeks old and we cruised the Kingston/Thousand Islands area summer after summer. It was such fun. I have done all the up-keep myself and am currently redoing the bottom. After 75 years she needed the restoration and it is my hobby. I love it. sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but then I peck away and little by little it is getting done. We spend about $5k per year including storage, insurance AND all the material I need to repair and replace. Worth every penny to me. And i have the proper tools. But, to the point of this thread, I do not believe for a minute that anyone in the future will want this lovely boat. Glass boats are getting cheap and younger folks don’t go to wood as an inexpensive way to get into big boats the way we (or just me) did. We want to get another 10-15 years of cruising out of her, then it will be over for us. I do hope someone will take her on, even if I have to give it away by then. Maybe the kids?

  19. Ron Stevenson
    Ron Stevenson says:

    Nice article today boy can i relate!

    I own a 1953 45′ CC Commander. Unused for over 30 years, Dick Dow and I took on a three year restoration project. With twin 350 “Q” motors, at 2500 RPM she cruises at 17-18 knots. We don’t know what top speed is, she has done over 30 knots. At 2500 she burns 10-12 GPH, so figure as high as $75 an hour for your floating condo that takes you on wonderful adventures! Covered Moorage at my YC is around $240 a month. Insurance $850 a year. We cruise all year long. How much is your golf game? Or your pro team football tickets? You can’t buy all the compliments I get with those! I also provide “cruiser counseling”. I know Laclede, the lesson is get a survey first! He is dedicated, and will have a great boat good for another 60 years. Amortize that!
    Randy’s Martinique is also amazing!
    And remember that CC’s are only chevrolets. There are better names out there, like Randy’s Mathews.

    Best Regards,
    Ron Stevenson

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Wonderful perspective, Ron! Thanks.

      No one has ever claimed than “anyone” can afford to restore or even operate a big cruiser, just as most people can’t afford to golf Pebble Beach or afford season tickets to any major league sports team. I think you are bang-on – it simply comes down to amortizing or prioritizing one’s discretionary, pleasure seeking espenses. It is just that the cruisers do cost that much more to maintain and operate, and there are a smaller number of people in a position to underwrite the costs. Many people can afford an entry level 17″ Sportsman or a fiberglassic, but few can afford a Gar 28′ – but they are out there.

      Participating in classic boating – whether it is with cruisers or smaller stuff, is no different than rationalizing the costs of any other hobby, leisure activity or discretionary pursuit. That is, fundamentally speaking, the way I have “rationalized” the large amount of money I have spent on my boats in recent years, and the amount of time and money I continue to spend on this hobby every year.

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      Whoa Ron — did you ad a 10-foot extension to the boat when I wasn’t looking???? If you did I hope you matched the lines of the original boat, plus that cockpit has to be huge — bigger than a Martinique!

      Thanks for the Matthews praise, but those old CC’s have just as much class!

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Ron, I respectfully disagree. Perhaps “Chevrolets” in that Chris-Craft perfected mass production of wooden pleasure boats. And, in that they had Chevy equivalent (entry level simplicity and affordability) boats in their extensive line. But hardly Chevrolets in engineering, styling, seaworthiness, and many other attributes, include luxury in the higher end models, as evidenced by their price points in the day as well as their amenities. Rivas and Matthews and Trumpy’s (oh my!) have more panache. But I think characterizing Chris-Crafts as “Chevrolets,” even in the presence of those other makes, undervalues the company and it’s products.

  20. red dog
    red dog says:

    a big thanks to all you bigger ( over25-26 ft) cruiser guys. to the owners who sent in pictures, very nice all of them. someone posted to the effect of ” when i sell it i have to get my money back”. when you bought the boat did you buy it “to make money” no probably not. you bought it to use, do a little work then either pass it on to family or sell it. i think with the price of gas or diesel,the fact that a lot of people just dont have that expendable income anymore. it has really cut down on people just going out to use their boats. and the bigger the boat the bigger the final costs. if you can afford the cost great for you and again thanks

  21. Laclede
    Laclede says:

    One of the main lessons about these older wooden cruisers is that, a normal survey may not reveal the extent of rotted wood. It isn’t until you do a “destructive” survey – start accessing places by pulling up wood, that the extent becomes clear. In most cases, on a boat that has been in the water for seventy years – you pretty much will end up replacing the bottom of the boat. My understanding is that most of the old cruisers at the Chris Craft Rendezvous have had 100k dollar bottom work.
    The danger is the people who don’t understand this when they buy the boat- then get a few months into the repair, and abandon it. I faced the ever mounting costs with the normal panic, but also looked into the info on line that this was to be expected. Also, by putting the pictures of the work being done up on the forum thread, I had a lot of experienced eyes watching and, as horrified as everyone was at the extent of the rot, the REPAIR work was top notch, so I felt the cost was worth it.
    The interesting thing is, if someone had actually told me, before I bought the boat, how much it would end up costing, I would have walked away. By doing this the WRONG way, I may end up being happier than if I had been rational. I love the boat, I have met some absolutely wonderful people, and some money is gone but I have thirty years of using this boat ahead of me.
    When you look at life’s major expenses thru cold lens of finances, we blow a lot of money unwisely. The average cost of a wedding is 25K, and the divorce rate is 50%. The cost of 4 years of college is 100K, and unemployment for new college graduates is 20%. Many pay thousands and thousands for life and home insurance, and end up never getting any money returned.
    When a reporter asked Ernest Hemingway, how did you go bankrupt? He answered, Two ways. very gradually, then suddenly.

  22. Laclede
    Laclede says:

    The cost of saving these old cruisers makes me wonder if anyone has tried to set up a system that allows folks who don ‘t have the money- to do the work anyway.
    Take the seattle area as an example. Would it be possible to set up a program, sponsored by some of the Yacht Clubs, and maybe West Marine, and the antique wooden boat museum, to choose a few old cruisers to save- and offer a deal with matching funds? If someone wanted to buy the boat, half the cost of the repair would be provided by this organization. You might be able to get the Chris Craft Company to put up funds- because it would be great advertising, and there are likely local folks who would contribute funds. It would be great publicity for the Yacht Clubs involved.
    They have historical societies for old building preservation, does anything like this exist for old boats?
    Sally Struthers used to come on tv saying 15 cents a day will save a child. Maybe we can get Scarlett Johansen to do internet ads to save a cruiser. Has anyone tried anything like this?

  23. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    I don’t know what I can add here, except to say that the enjoyment per hour and per $$ spent is (to me) huge when an older cruiser/runabout/car is involved in comparison to that spent on something new or nearly new. I would rather buy something older and through my work and vision preserve and enhance the original – and use the heck out of it! – than buy something new and watch it depreciate. When I bought our current cruiser, a 1965 38′ Tollycraft, it was on the hard for a few months in a yard that allowed me to do a lot of my own work. While there a boat broker came by and basically told me I was stupid wasting my time on an “Old, worthless, wood, gas-powered boat” when I could be enjoying my time on a 42′ Grand Banks he had for sale. So I asked him how much? When he told me, my response was pretty much this: “So, when I’m done, I’ll have roughly 20% of the cost of your GB into this boat, will be sitting in the same bay, enjoying the same sunset and if in the future my kids and grandkids are using the boat, they will still be more than 80% ahead when you figure the cost of insurance, moorage and maintenance – not to mention financing which would be required if I was to buy the GB. On top of that, I can replace the gas engines four times for the cost of one diesel and the relative fuel mileage is a non-issue unless you use the boat every week, which we don’t… So, what’s your point?” He walked away.

    Granted, I do most of my own work, but the point remains – a well-found and maintained old wood cruiser can be a huge bargain when compared to the financial bleeding that begins the moment something new is purchased.

  24. Alex
    Alex says:

    Was reading a book last night called The Living Great Lakes.

    Read the following on p 186: “Wooden sailing vessels of that era usually lasted only about 15 years. …Most were used until their hulls deteriorated and became so unsafe that crews refused to sail on them.” The era the author was referring to was the mid 1800’s. But wood is wood, right.

    I’ve also heard that wooden boats of the “classics” era were built with life expectancies of 8 years.

    Not sure if either of these is correct. And of course, type and conditions of use and care have bearing on them. But they do have bearing on this story. Old wooden boats are, essentially, boats operating beyond their intended and/or expected useful lives.

  25. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Reply to Cobourg kid: I know about cruisers and engines and such…but have no clue how to post pics here or anywhere else…..will try to get an 8 years old to help!!

    John in Va.

  26. jekyl
    jekyl says:

    I launch my 35′ Sea Skiff with my 1/2 ton Avalanche for 10 years, I built my trailer,and store my boat at home, it has to be loved , dreams all have a cost ,I’m by no means rich just work hard as a mechanic,if your not willing to do everything yourself no cruiser (or any boat) is affordable.

  27. Nautilus Restorations
    Nautilus Restorations says:

    Restoration, upkeep, storage and insurance all combine to disenchant the average would-be vintage cruiser owner.

    I restored a 1940 Elco 57-footer…myself and two helpers each paid $10/hour. It was solid but one of those situations where it had everything but needed everything. $350,000 and 8,000 hours later, I almost had my Elco in the condition I was after. We used it for a wine and cheese cruise business on the lake for seven years and did quite well until we had saturated the market…everyone who wanted to go out with us had done so. When our profit could no longer handle the cost of ownership, we decided to sell, which took two years and netted considerably less than half of what we had in it.

    All during the time we owned it, we had no insurance on the boat, only passenger liability. A cruiser has to pass a rigid inspection and most, including mine, would not pass. Believe it or not, this inspection included PULLING ABOUT 500 bronze screws from the bottom to determine structural integrity. You DO NOT pull 70 year old screw from the bottom of a perfectly seaworthy boat! Needless to say, we told them to shove their insurance, The only other insurance offer we ever received was $160,000 of coverage with a $25,000 deductible at a cost of over $8,000/year. Hell, for $25,000, I could raise the boat from the lake myself so the only real danger was fire or vandalism. We told them to shove it too and fortunately, our luck never ran out.

    The upkeep was monumental, expensive and never-ending. The necessary covered berth was also very expensive for a 57-footer.

    Bottom line, with a vintage cruiser, you get constant upkeep, constant expense that MUST be paid and constant worry, not to mention substantial loss on “investment.” I’ve been there and done that…sat back at the helm, steering with my foot, eating shrimp and drinking imported beer as the sun set…but never again.

    • Bill Hammond
      Bill Hammond says:


      Your business model depended on a continuous stream of new customers for success. If you had been in an area where that existed then you might still be doing it. You were in a category of wooden cruiser ownership that very few venture into. I imagine that it wasn’t a viable option for you to pick up and relocate. I applaud your efforts to make a real business with an old cruiser and more importantly thank you for saving another of these great old cruisers. Elco’s were a fine make. And yours was plenty rare.

  28. Mark
    Mark says:

    Great conversation.

    For my wife and I, our 1954 53′ Conqueror is our cabin on the lake, it’s our weekend getaway in the San Juans, it’s our carrot on the stick to spent more time with our kids, and it’s preserving history.

    Yeah, we spend a few thousand every year keeping her maintained, and yeah I worry that some I might need the bottom replaced but every tie I step aboard it’s like being on vacation.

    I sure hope more folks grab the few remaining cruisers and keep them alive for coming generations.

    • High Seas
      High Seas says:

      Agree with Mark,

      Our 65′ Connie is our home and we can untie the lines at any time and change the scenery of our choice. The Puget Sound and San Juans are our front yard and back yard when the sun sets on the anchorage we choose to be in…….

  29. tyler pongracz
    tyler pongracz says:

    I saved a 1951 DCFB 34ft chris craft 4 years ago, I would never settle for a small girth when all the woman want is the a telephone pole. Long live the cruiser.

    • charles GERARD
      charles GERARD says:

      Very interesting all these fascinating comments. I live in the center of France. Ten years on a 20m barge from 1910, then 20 years on a bigger 34m barge from 1889 then I had an old 20m passenger boat from 1910 and now I play with a 13m Tug from 1935. I had to cut back because with the help of a dozend other men and a couple of women we are restoring the only surviving 30m wooden (oak) river barge in France. Some of our team are from south Africa, Australia, England, California, New Zealand, Germany and many from France.
      Why do it. Because this boat, all these wooden boats are part of our industrial history. They are witness of an art that will never exist again, they are floating cathedrals, they are a chance to preserve and hand on to the future something unique. We are all rich, otherwise we would not even discuss this subject on this forum. And being rich it is (at least for me)a way of saying thank you for the nice trip.
      Ther is nothing , absolutely nothing like messing around on an old boat. (unquote)

  30. Jesse Bowers
    Jesse Bowers says:

    I bought a 1956 46 foot Chris Craft Constellation 14 years ago. After having to go into shipyard twice, once to repaint the bottom, and fix a couple small leaks, and the next time to replace one of the 2 chevy 350s, I found myself with maxed out credit cards (30k) and still 27 thou to pay on the boat. I ended up giving away the boat after 3 years, and that was due to the Port of San Diego changing it’s anchorage policy, to get rid of the homeless living in junk boats in the anchorage, and even me with a 35k annual job couldn’t come up with 5 thou for this new “security” deposit. It’s clearly a get out and stay out of the anchorage, and bingo, there is not a single boat there now, 10 years later, all because the port realized the large demand for a new marina for the overabundance of boats and very long waiting lines for a berth in a marina. I’m still paying down the credit cards, 10 years after giving away the boat. But I kept one propeller, and the compass. Reminders to NEVER buy another boat.

  31. John E
    John E says:

    What an interesting read. I too suffer from big cruiser envy, and am in a position to make a critical decision.
    I grew up on a 1928 Elco 50, purchased by my father in 1966. I have MANY fond memories aboard Sunbeam. He was a charter member of both the Port Elco Club (’69?) and The Classic Yacht Club of America, and Sunbeam was a focal point at many rendezvous, ‘back in the day’. By the mid 90’s she was getting pretty tired, and hauled for restoration.
    In 2001 I stumbled on a very clean 1962 28′ Constellation about 50 feet from where Sunbeam was was bought in ’66, and 2 weeks later it arrived in my yard, with much encouragement from my father. We did a waterline up restoration, and 100% mechanical and electrical upgrade, to original/safety standards. 5 seasons later it was time for the usual ‘new bottom’. Once can only hope to get more than 40 years from a bottom designed for 10. I’m about to start on that – new frames, and typical CC plywood & mahogany double layer with 5200. I ended up on this discussion looking for -anyone- that’s put a 5200 bottom on a cruiser. I’ve found very few across the internet. A Trumpy 75 owner friend gladly suggested, ‘just roll it over’. Yeah, sure, let me get on that right away.
    And no, that critical decision is not about this boat. This is just a another project for me. The Elco 50 is that decision point. My father had huge visions and plans for Sunbeam, but after 20 years has realized it’s not possible for him to see it through, and has offered to give me the Elco. While it’s not quite the volume of boat as some of those discussed here, it’s by no means a small project. Aside from the 1947 Chrysler straight eights, it’s 95% original down to much of the interior finish, and probably the only unrestored one still in existence. Aside from some minor piling storm damage before haul out it’s in remarkably good condition above the waterline. It’s biggest issue is many broken steam bent frames and copper rivets that have loooong outlived their useful life, and requires a total rebuild of the framing, floor timbers, keel, stem and transom. It was meticulously maintained from 66 through the mid 90’s, and was under cover most of those years. It’s been pretty much untouched since, but well covered.
    The biggest dilemma for me is that it’s 120 miles away, and too big to put in my yard. We’re looking to downsize soon, but timing, and a 28 CC bottom project pushes this idea yet further into the future. I’d still trying to convince myself one way or the other on this, but if I let it go part of me will be lost too. Damn those classics! The picture is a Rosenfeld shot from 1947, probably with fresh Chryslers.
    Any words of encouragement? -John

    • Maurizio Hublitz
      Maurizio Hublitz says:

      With both a 32ft 1959 Chris Craft Express Cruiser and two Runabouts 1928 Gideon Forslund and 1957 Shepherd. I would not recommend a 5200 bottom on a cruiser other than if you plan to have her on a trailer and use her ocationally. Cruisers usually are always in the water and the 5200 bottom will only work on trailered boat as extensive soaking will let the 5200 bottom go. I have a regular well maintained swell bottom on the cruiser. Moored in fresh water and mostly cruised in saltwater some 2000Nm this year. Picture from 3 day haulout for new props, new underwater coat and a survey.

      • John Eaton
        John Eaton says:

        Maurizio, Thanks for the comments. The 5200 bottom is the accepted standard for replacing double layer Chris Craft bottoms, regardless of size. Many professional restoration shops use this technique on cruisers, and at least 1 has written a book on how to do it. The problem I’ve found that 99% of the discussion online (and in the book, “Complete Wooden Runabout Restoration Guide: Don Danenberg”) is about small boats, not cruisers. The process for the bigger ones is what I’ve been in search of. For the small boats you need to complete 1 entire side in a single pass. I have probably 4 times the surface are than than average 17 footer. That makes for 4 times everything.
        I’ve done the research. The technique is 100% valid on boats that stay in the water. When done (and maintained) correctly the planks will never get wet and therefore no swelling. FYI, 5200 will never let go. The wood fails first, and a minimum of 20-30 years is the expected lifetime of this type bottom.

  32. Maurizio Hublitz
    Maurizio Hublitz says:

    20 to 30 years life expectancy on a bottom that is on a 60 year old vanishing historical vessel, I do not agree is sufficient. My wood bottom is now 58 years old and very solid. I would suggest to go for a classic bottom that would hold up for another 60 or more years, if replacement is needed. I friend of mine did a full bottom and topside restoration on a 1947 30ft cruiser, continuously in the water and had to replace 3 planks and some 2000 screws with bungs, did all him self in 6 weeks. She will likely last another 70 years if babied like the first 70 years.

  33. John Powell
    John Powell says:

    How does the Brain trust feel about fiberglass over plywood such as a Tollycraft? Significantly easier to maintain then wood or not.


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