A Day In The Life Of Zoomer and Lily – Wooden Boats Used As They Were Meant To Be Used

Swimming on Odell Lake in Eastern Oregon

With all the talk on Woody Boater recently about restoration methods, restoration shops, show boats vs user boats, power options, etc we haven’t spent much time talking about how folks are actually using their antique & classic boats. During the summer many fellow Woody Boaters simply enjoy using their boats as much as possible, often for recreational and family purposes, and river cruises – used just as they were meant to be used.

Here’s a few great examples.

Brian Toye from Lake Oswego, Oregon wrote in to tell us how he uses his 1930 17′ Custom Dual Cockpit Runabout – “Zoomer”

Brian wrote –

Matt & Texx – After reading the comments on the Sindbad story, I had a thought. I have been reading all of the stories on your site for quite some time now, but I do not really recall ever seeing something about ‘how’ we use our boats.

Yea, there are shows and judging and cruising and all that, but what about nuts like myself and our family who use our boat to tow our kids on tubes. I even have pic of our craft towing skiers in the 60’s. At our big Lake Oswego show last year, there was a woody towing the three skiers from the past putting on a great show, but really, that is it. Is that what most folks use their boats for nowadays – giving rides and just cruising ? Here are some photos of how we use our antique wooden boat during the summer.

Myself and my brother in law getting ready for some tubing last summer, Willamette River at Lake Oswego. (I do sit down when we begin to tow.)

My son Dominic slowly letting the rope out and keeping it clear of the prop area, more tubing on the Willamette River, 2010.

Towing my son Corbin on a boogie board behind Zoomer – Lake Merwin, Washington. Going slow as the kids were not ready for tubing yet. When this became boring, they were ready for the tube.

More tubing on the Willamette River – teaching the kids about boating safety, watching out for the rope, etc. Basically, learning to be safe and responsible boaters. They love the boat and the fun, but they must also learn to respect and honor the power and dangers that the sport includes.

My son and I getting ready to troll for Kokannee on Odell Lake in Eastern Oregon. Trolling with a V-8 on a alpine lake in our 1930 woody – caught five fish !! (summer 2010) There is something about hearing the rumble of our V-8 at 6am in the morning while trying to catch fish – towing about 8 ft of shiny tackle and the sort. Mighty tasty those Kokannee.

Zoomer towing skiers, on Lake Oswego, circa 1960’s, while owned by the Coan family. I love his flotation device. He is not even wearing the 1960’s donut thing. And he just did a dry dock start! Crazy.

Zoomer towing a skier, Lake Oswego, circa 1960’s, while owned by the Coan family. I love the 1960 idea of a flotation device around the waist ! Bottoms up ! Or should that be down?

Zoomer resting on Odell Lake in Eastern Oregon, at the 4500′ level in the Cascade alpine high country.

Brian Toye – Fellow Woody Boater

Thanks Brian, it’s great to see the 1930’s Runabout still being used and enjoyed after 80 years. You can see more history of “Zoomer” in the story that Woody Boater published last September by clicking here.

"Lily" at the Traverse City Boats on the Boardwalk 2009

Chad Durren is a long time fellow Woody Boater and the proud owner of “Lily” an exceptional 1952 18′ Chris-Craft Sportsman.  After a 5 year restoration, she was re-launched in May 2009 and has won numerous awards since she was restored.  “Lily” (shown below) on display at the Clayton Antique Boat Show in 2010, where she won for Best Post-War Utility under 20ft Restored.  

Here at Woody Boater we often hear the views of some folks who prefer “User” boats over “Trailer Queens” or “Show” boats.  Chad Durren doesn’t see it that way, and believes that there is no reason why a boat cannot be both a “User” and a “Show” boat.  And if the boat is properly cared for and maintained, it can be used for both purposes.   

Some folks in the antique & classic boating hobby enjoy attending a few boat shows each year, to share their boats with others and participate in the social aspects of the events. Here’s Chad and his father March aboard “Lily” during the popular boat parade on Sunday afternoon in Clayton, NY.

But the majority of the use that “Lily” gets each year, which is considerable, isn’t at boat shows. It’s with his family and friends at their cottage on Pleasant Lake, in Three Rivers, MI or for other boating outings throughout the year.

Whether it’s spending a day on the water with his wife Andrea and daughter Lily, or with family and friends for a summer day cruise, it’s always a memorable experience aboard a classic wooden boat.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and images and with us Chad. 

So… Lake boat, show boat, concours boat, user boat, nice user boat, 100 ft boat, etc. Maybe we have to define exactly what some of these terms mean and adapt them to the Woody Boater dictionary for future reference.

Or would it be easier to just call them antique & classic boats?


Update – Here’s a few shots of Phil’s Weld Wood Runabout “Betty Boop” for comparison to “Zoomer”

Also a shot of the original vintage hook on “Zoomer’s” aft deck that we use to tow water skiers & tubers, etc. The stern is to the right. It is clearly missing something as that hole at the top serves a purpose. Hopefully someone will have an idea. (You can click on the image to enlarge, hit return to go back to the story)


27 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I am with Brian, except the trolling part. I haven’t fished in years, but I guess with the fully adjustable reverse gate on Lil Squirt I could troll along as slow as I wanted without using a smaller trolling motor. Fuel economy would really suck though!

  2. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    I see a user boat w/ all the dings and scratches tells me that they are used and loved and love to be used. When I see an over the top restoration that is way beyond what the factory intended I get the same feeling as if I’m looking at an incorrect restoration.
    Use ’em-scratch ’em patch ’em, rinse-repeat.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Not all show boats are trailer queens, many get brought to a show or two and get used the rest of the time. There are definitely boats that spend more hours on display then running, and even when running they are babied.

      There are a number of things that get me on a “over the top” restoration. On the outside there is the book matched grain and the super polished varnish. They look great and I see nothing wrong with doing this (I am not an originality Nazi by any means!), but for ACBS to deduct points because a seat does not have enough kapok stuffing or a hose clamp is wrong, but ignore the far from original finish is a little hard to justify to me. Not original is not original is it not?

      What gets me even more about this double standard is a half blind 90 yr old can tell the wood and finish is not as delivered from 30 feet away, but you have judges crawling through the boats getting an upclose look to make sure minute details like screws and clamps in the bilge are “correct” when these things have no impact on the authenticity of the appearance, performance, or usability of the boat. If you are going to allow deviations from original, my order of priority would be safety modifications first, followed by reliability and performance, with cosmetics coming dead last. If anything, whats under the engine box should not matter nearly as much as what is externally visable. Then again, I think we should be preserving not only the wood, but also the heart and soul of these boats. I would much prefer to see a boat restored to how it was used by the first owners with swim ladders extra cleats and whatever, and still used that way today, then see it restored to a theoretical as delivered condition that may have never seen the water before dealer and owner mods.

      So, in summary, if you refuse to add a bilge blower and a second bilge pump because they were not on the hull card, every screw clamp and thread is exactly correct to factory standards no matter how hidden, but you have 17 coats of varnish that has been sanded, buffed and polished, I think you have an over the top restoration that is hypocritical, and in my opinion misguided.

  3. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    Lyman uses; First in the morning, middle of the river swim, then get the nephews and tool around and some supervised helm time, back to the dock to get my wife out for a swim, back to the dock, pack a lunch and out to the lee side of an island to relax, eat, warm up dive in, read, entertain other Lymaniacs who stop by, ending with a sunset cruise back to shore. Can’t wait.

  4. chad
    chad says:

    I love the old water ski photos. Looks like Zoomer is part of the family.

    What pushes a boat over-the-top? Is it the quality of the work, or a financial barrier that is exceeded? Maybe it’s just a boat that is over-maintained.

    When does a boat surpass “user” status and become a “trailer queen”? Is it the number of varnish coats? I doubt any wood boat owner drives around with 3 coats of varnish, as they left the factory.

    The ACBS should add a “scratchiest boat” category so shows can attract more “user” boats.

  5. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    This supposed distinction between user and trailer queen is an irksome and often inappropriately applied geralization. Many folks that I know with very highly restored boats get out and use them, and use them a lot. Just because a person chooses to do a high level resto does not mean he is not using his boat or is too timid with it to let it get wet. There are obviously some folks who treat their boats as hands-off museum pieces, but I don’t know many. I think they are a minority.

    I have a nice 1940 19 BB that I use extensively for cruising. I even pulled a skier with it once or twice last year, though it is not best suited for that kind of work. I put 20 hours on my newly restored Gar Wood BEFORE it went to the ACBS show in MI and won it’s class. My Skiff is a user boat but is still maintained to a very good standard. Just because a boat is used does not mean it has to display all sorts or wear and tear. Some people will use them and maintain them in good shape – I think I am in that group.

    Having a number of boats obviously reduces the amount you can use each one. In my case, I try to use them all as much as I can. What more can a person do? Most people have a classic boat as a second or third boat and have a modern boat for skiing, boarding and such. Obviously, there are better tools out there to pull skiers and tubes than 60 year old boats.

    When I go to shows I am actually drawn more to boats the are used, preserved and display a patina (but also care and upkeep) than I am to over the top perfection. That said – I hate to see boats neglected, even neglected users. All I know is that regardless of the level of restoration of any of my boats, they will all be “users”. Why can’t a very nice boat be a user? The distinction between user and show is very far from universal, and I think Lily and many other boats are proof of this.

  6. Rick
    Rick says:

    Wow you had me going for a while there and obviously fooled all those who have already commented with the great photo-shopping of boats in the water. Everyone knows you can’t put wood in the water. It absorbs it and sinks. Look at any stream and locate all those logs under water just to prove that point. Even if these old wood boats did float (LOL) they are to be revered not used and definitely not shown to the general public unless they pay to see them at a show.

    That all said it’s great to see people enjoying themselves and not worrying about a smudge on the varnish. Where are they attaching the tow rope to? I’ll assume not the lifting ring. We tried water skiing behind mine once but it was a little much for my little B engine.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Phil – I added a few shots of “Betty Boop” so the folks can see what you mean about the similarities with “Zoomer”…

      Hey it’s Friday, let’s have fun!

  7. allen
    allen says:

    Well, it’s all good. I love to wake about 6 am grab a cup of coffee and go down to my dock and start us my U-22 “Sassafras” and motor the lake shore in Northern Michigan Mullett Lake. Most mornings the lake is calm and smooth…..the low rumble of the sweet six is incredible….then evenings about an hour before dusk with the 1st mate Woodie Boater Babe we make the trip again…..or go across the lake to dinner…….”life stylin” Judged shows are just a place to oogle those other boats. I bought mine to use…….don’t mis the Algonac cruise friday night guys. It is always memorable…MAtt was there last year.

  8. Texx
    Texx says:

    Allen – I enjoyed reading your description about a Day in the Life of “Sassafras”, what a great way to start the day!

    The next time you go for an early morning boat ride when the coffee is tasty and the water is flat, please take your camera, and send us some photos so we can share your day with the Woody Boater community.

    Do it for the guys that are stuck in their office on Monday morning…

  9. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Steering wheel on the wrong side?

    What governs that location is the rotation at the prop. If a RH rotation, (what you get when you have a flywheel forward automotive based powerplant) the helm is to stbd. This is what established the traditional location in early runabouts. If your rotation is LH, put the wheel to port. The weight of the skipper counteracts the lift of the prop.

    While not so critical in wide or large boats, it really makes a difference in a narrow, hard-chined runabout. It’s not fun to hook a boat at speed in a corner, which happens when the helm is opposite the rotation. Ever turned an incorrectly loaded boat and had the outside chine dig in, rather than lift? That’s what this is about.

    Small boats need to be trimmed properly to be safe. Location of the helm relative to prop rotation plays a major role in this.

  10. allen
    allen says:

    Matt how do I send the picture…..send it to Matts email?
    I had tried to paste it here but it didnt work.

      • Matt
        Matt says:

        Thanks Texx. I have been hurried in a series of meetings in Vegas.. What a crazy life. I had to fly to Vegas from dc to eat a dinner and then fly home today.. This city is insane!

  11. brian
    brian says:

    Our steering wheel is on the side that it is because our builder used the steering column from a Model A, and it was easier to mate up those bits with the rod heading to the rudder.

  12. brian
    brian says:

    … AND what Mr. Dow said is true as well for our boat. I have to wonder though – which came first – the steering column or the engine?

    Is Betty Boop a custom one off as well or ??

    I am still searching to find out exactly what plans were used to construct Zoomer. The two are very similar except that Betty has a few bits that were thought out a bit longer – ie – the cutouts in the lower edge of the dash for extra legroom – Zoomer is basically a straight cut across.

    Also, does she ride bow high (ie Hacker style) as Zoomer does?

  13. brian
    brian says:

    To answer Rick’s question – we attach the tow rope to Zoomer not at the rear lifting ring, but at another fixture which was an original install but that I have not seen the likes of since. It is a unique bit and no doubt someone in Woodyboaterville knows exactly the nature of. I could not begin to explain the part – I do have a photo of it though.

    Our power plant originally was a Kermath 6 but now sports a Ford Interceptor V8, more than enough for a few kiddos on a tube.

    And yes, the fuel consumption while trolling is painful but the memories we’ll have are worth the thinner wallet.

  14. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    The steering comment was a joke. I have spent so many hours driving a boat from the starboard side since I was a wee little lad, driving a boat with the wheel on port feels weird. I guess if someone really wanted to give me a nice Riva I could probably get used to it.

  15. Phillip Jones
    Phillip Jones says:

    Brian, Betty B is a one off boat , but not the hull. US Plywood poduced hulls to sell to boat manufactures but they produced one prototype for trade show use only. That boat is Betty B. She does ride somewhat bow up and her very sharp entery cuts even large wakes very well. She has a 4 cly grey fireball 90, twin downdraft carbs mounted on an aluminum manifold, ported and polished at the factory. I am told these motors were built for racing hydroplanes of the day? She will do 41 with a full tank and one rider. With five in the boat she still rides 2/3 out of the water.

  16. Gary
    Gary says:

    I agree with Chad and Paul H. The notion that a nicely restored boat is a bad thing is ridiculous. I happen to have a “show” boat that is used approximately four times a week when not at shows. I am the type of person who doesn’t believe that a boat has to be banged up in order for it to be utilized “as intended” when it left the factory. Does your car have to have a bunch of dents and scratches for it to be “as intended?”
    The other side to the argument is that the era of the wooden boat is over and many of them are rapidly disappearing. My hat is off to all who believe that owning a piece of history carries some responsibility for it’s preservation. Thank you to all who participate in the shows. It is heartwarming to see and talk to countless people who love to view these boats -many of whom have fond memories of owning them in earlier years.
    For all you “user” boat persons, I am ecstatic that you are deriving so much pleasure from your boats. But please don’t think that the rest of us should somehow be ostracized for wanting to maintain our boats to a very high standard. Almost every person I know that has a show” boat uses them frequently. Anyone that has seen Chad and Paul’s boats has to be thankful that their love and level of caring for these boats is so obvious.
    One last thing. The ACBS bashing is getting slightly out of control. No one said that you had to enter your boat in a show. If you do, you are aware of the criteria used for judging. Right or wrong, it is the criteria. There is no “double standard.” It is what is used to judge. I think Chad is right. Perhaps the ACBS should include a “user” boat category. Unfortunately, if they do, I’m afraid they’ll be criticized if someone is not happy with that. By the way, you can enter the shows and not have your boat judged. See, there is something for everyone!
    Maybe I’m in the minority here, but this user vs. show boat stuff is really getting crazy. Anyone that has a wooden boat should be able to utilize it anyway they want without being criticized for it. Some of you guys are giving my show/user boat a feeling that it is a schizophrenic! Now, I’ll have to get a boat psychologist to help her back to normal! Watcha gonna do?

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Gary – Thanks for sharing your comments on this subject with us here at Woody Boater.

      I know many of our viewers agree with you, and we appreciate your candor…

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