Big Change In Direction For The Antique Boat Museum.

ABM SignLast night around 5 PM we received a press release announcing that the Executive Director of the Antique Boat Museum had resigned. We immediately put a call into the contact given from the press release to ask a couple follow up questions with no returned call. So to be honest here, all we have is the press release and also an old news story from the Journal News about the elimination of the marketing position as well.Thats Right HERE


Working late on a Friday at Clayton?

Now press releases issued at 4:55 pm on a Friday evening are clearly issued so it’s news that no one really wants out there. We get that. But why? Museums and corporations change directions all the time. Change in our Classic Boat Culture needs to happen. Despite the fact that we are all obsessed with the past and in our Woody DNA fight change, change NEEDS to happen.


As we have been spewing for years. We are at a cross roads in the classic boat culture. Right now! That cross roads is a transition from restoring ones past life, ones glorious summers of boating and the life it represented, to a new generation that has none of those memories, but appreciates the artistry and history that our beloved Woody Boats encapsulate. We need to change all sorts of things, the way shows are put on,  we can no longer have events of boats just sitting around, even how we communicate, how we fund raise. All of it needs to be looked at, and changed, and then changed again. We live in such a time of, dare I say it again “Change”. So in a way, who is in, and who is out at the museum is not the news. As painful as it is to see people go, change is good news.


I love the names on these two boats. Says it all. YNOT? And Summer Wind Three. One is about change, one clearly is not.

Museums all over the world right now are having many of the same issues as any passion is. Before the internet, a Museum was the only place one could experience the preserved past of any interest. A place to go to dive in so to speak. That is no longer the case, we can now with one click, read, see and talk to anyone and see anything. So museums need to find a reason to be more. To be a place to feel ones passion, to live ones passion, and to know that its a trusted place for information.

I have worked on the marketing and branding for many of the top ones in the world, The National Geographic Museum, The National Archives, to just name drop two. And museums are operated on shoe string donated budgets by volunteers and riddled with politics. Just like a church. Yes I am going there. In a sense, a museum is a church, a place to worship ones passion, or interest. The Antique Boat Museum is a church for the Antique Boat flock. It is “THE’ Antique Boat Museum and the central most important museum for our culture. So, in a way despite the sadness of good people leaving wonderful jobs. We applaud the change, even if the change isn’t good or bad, it communicates that a trusted board is at least at the helm, and exploring new things. No one has done a bad job here, nor should the drama of it all be plaid out for some sort of tabloid-ism. It is what it is, and thank you for at least looking forward for the museum rather than backwards and embracing change. It’s the times we live in. Funny thing, I am sure one day in the future this entire decade will have a museum called  “The Museum Of Change”

Here is the official Press Release from Last night.


CLAYTON, New York (September 18, 2015) – The Antique Boat Museum (ABM) announced today that Frederick “Fritz” H. Hager, the Museum’s Executive Director since January 2012, has resigned his position effective immediately.

Hager will remain with the museum in a consulting role through the end of the year.

Rick W. Tague, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said “Fritz and the Board have thoughtful, professional difference of opinions regarding the operational priorities and strategic direction of the ABM. As a result, the Board made the decision to seek new leadership and Fritz agreed to step aside as executive director.”

John C. MacLean, the ABM’s Executive Director from 2002 through 2010, will serve as interim executive director while the ABM conducts a search for a permanent successor.

31 replies
  1. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    You know we HAVE to find out where we go if we don’t like the word “change”…..again with the coffee all over the computer screen!

  2. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    I agree that “static” boat shows with a bunch of pretty boats sitting at the dock are getting old. My attraction to vintage and classic boats is born from a childhood of enjoying the sights, sounds and experiencing these boats being used as they were intended. Growth in the “hobby” may only come if we allow younger generations to experience those same sensations. Interest will be generated “on the water” more so than at the dock…………….

    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      I agree with Jack. Taking boats on the water is where it’s at. At the ABM Clayton show last month, we spent two days on a beautiful 1963 Lyman Sleeper doing the Dark Island to Kingston, then back to Clayton pre-event cruise. Then, the Rock Island lighthouse cookout, via “Zipper – I even got a chance to pilot it for five minutes! Finally, after the final day parade, we did a 1000 Island cruise on our own boat, a 1966 MFG Niagara. with the current ABM Educator on board to act as guide to avoid the rocks. All terrific experiences. Even on the CBS Morning Show piece, most of the shots were of boats underway.

      At an AOMCI meet a couple of weeks ago, I took a new guy looking for an old MFG, along with a 12-year-old member of the club, on my 14′ Niagara on Lake Erie off Lorain, Ohio on a beautifully calm day. It was the best!

      So, I’m thinking there needs to be a restructuring of shows. I think I’m going to make it a point to take more people out on my boat at these events to do my part.

      After all, for me, it’s all about being on the water. Static is OK (the picture shows my boat, “Little Blue”, on the lower right side), but water activities are even better!

  3. Mark Edmonson
    Mark Edmonson says:

    I join the wooden boat craze when I was just 18, and have been restoring wooden boats for over 39 years. The thing that hooked me was the sounds and the ride. Back in the day in Algonac / St. Clair we would gather to ride in our boats and stop to have a picnic or lunch. As we got more and more boats it turned into a shows ( Algonac, St. Clair and Port Huron) Those were the good old days of RIDING in the boats. we would give rides and go adventuring. Today sitting at the dock is the last thing I want to do for 6-8 hours. remember when all these boats were build many places offered “Boat Rides” The winds of change must occur to keep younger generations interested. I have three boys 22, 19 and 12 they all look forward to riding in the boat not sitting at a show. Like the old saying “there is nothing better than ride and messing around in an old wood boat”

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Thanks Mark, Dave and others for your comments today – exactly how we feel as well. And believe me, Matt & I have had many long discussions about the subject of “static” vs”dynamic” boat shows over the years.

        Our friend Don Danenberg said once “If you have a boat show and invite people to come and see the boats, and the boats are all out running around the lake, how can the spectators see (learn, appreciate, experience) the old boats?”

        Maybe the ACBS should designate some scholarship money to a recipient that restores a Chris-Craft U-22 or Century Resorter at the boat building school of choice – then develop a program where that boat is used at various boat shows to give rides and showcase the scholarship program? Win Win – right? Texx

  4. dreed
    dreed says:

    I agree with Jack as well. I actually have only showed my boat three times, and found it to be a very painful, boring event. I would much rather be riding/driving my boat than sitting at the dock answering questions.

    And Dave, I saw your boat at Clayton…very nice!

  5. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Last Saturday at our Port Huron show we gave free boat rides for two hours. All the riders had to do is wait in line and put on a PFD before they boarded the boat. We had four Michigan chapter members that volunteered to give the rides using their 26 foot Sea Skiff, U-22, and two CC triples. The waiting line never ended and there was nothing but smiles deboarding all four boats. It was a breezy afternoon, so many returned a little wetter than they left. The four captains had a ball,and said there was nothing but happy screams when they took some spray over the bow. This feature will be a part of all of our future chapter shows.

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      I was also there at the Port Huron Bluewater Classic show last Saturday, and was very impressed with the four boats coming and going all day, loaded with passengers that had smiles and nothing but positive things to say.
      THIS must be looked into as a model for more and more shows. To get 2 or 4 boat owners to donate their time and possible wear and tear of their boat, will be an issue for some. BUT, I bet spectators would love to ride in an early FiberClassic runabout, as much as a triple cockpit.
      I challenge more ACBS Chapters to start including this sort of FREE RIDE model…

  6. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t get to many shows around the country. However, I have gone to the ACBS International Show on Table Rock Lake, and to the Sunnyland Show in Tavares on a few occasions, as well as small boat shows near home.

    Seems to me that all of these shows have included a good mix of interesting boats both on display, and on the water at various times during the shows. A judged show requires a period of being on display. I suppose some of those don’t get a chance to get away from the docks, however, judged shows remains a vital part for many in the hobby. They provide incentive for maintaining a high level of originality, which is still important in order to preserve their history.

    The other choice, if judged shows become a thing of the past, would be to read about them, or visit them in a museum such as ABM. I enjoy the time and effort that some owners spend in preserving this history with living, working examples on display at judged shows. I would enjoy it more if I could attend more of them, but Woody Boater usually fills an enormous gap by providing “liveish” reports and great photography.

    So, I’m not sure what the point is here. Change? Of course, it’s a necessity to keep pace with, well, change itself. But from my experience it appears that most all boat shows provide enough of both arguments to satisfy most participants and visitors already.

  7. 51Resorter
    51Resorter says:

    I agree that the static shows are not much fun, for the boat owner or show attendee. The boats are meant to be used, not sitting at the dock.
    Every hobby has the same issue of attracting younger members. In the aviation world, the Experimental Aircraft Association created the Young Eagles program. The pilots participating in the Young Eagles program are local members of EAA Chapters who volunteer their time and aircraft to make these flights possible. Since 1992, more than 1.9 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight. For many, it was the start of their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft owner, mechanic, air traffic controller, or many other career possibilities.
    The ACBS and Woody Boater community needs to think about a program like the Young Eagles. Think about a show attendee being asked to go for a ride in a show boat rather than just looking at it from the dock? What a great way to make a lasting memory and generate interest.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for sharing this – I met a Young Eagle at the EAA Oshkosh air show last year and we had a great time sharing his story. He flew his early Super Cub solo to Oshkosh from Iowa (as a matter of fact). – Texx

  8. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    rides, GOING BOATING….are the key to everything….
    Last weekend at the Reedville show a nice fellow interested in Whirlwinds showed up to pick my brain…..he was doing a 12 footer, too small for his needs and much still to do….I gave him a thrill ride in one of my 16’s with a 40 hp merc and he was double hooked. When he emailed me thanks for the ride, I, seeing that he talked the talk and walked the walk, replied that he could purchase the boat he rode in yesterday.
    HE DID….right then….all because of a boatride at a boat show.
    John in Va.

  9. "Ed. D17-2172." (Ed Sundheim)
    "Ed. D17-2172." (Ed Sundheim) says:

    Agreed that static displays can be booorring, especially when the owner has gone up to the clubhouse to wet his whistle and/or shows little interest in talking with folks wakinlg the docks. Just so much floating furniture.
    Conversely, last summer I had the privilege of ferrying a couple of newlyweds across a lake to their reception. Both are very familiar with modern skiboats but when the KL growled to life and the big chrome shift lever klunked in the groom’s comment was Wow!
    A couple of hours into the reception I made a high-speed pass by the lodge to pick up my nieces and their fiances for a twilight ride. It was waves and greetings from many of the guests.
    With them aboard we encountered a U22 coming down the lake so, of course, a race ensued with hoots n hollars from all four of my pax.
    Yes, there is something a lot more visceral about these old girls when they’re throwing roostertails than when they’re just looking like dowagers.
    Couple of suggestions: invite “barnfinds” with dust, bent prop and all; have a couple of old hydros with alky Johnsons or “green apple” Merc Hurricanes do some fly-bus; invite some work-in-progress restorations (e.g. recovering a canvas canoe); marine-specific flee market vendors; sponsor a junior division for some kids doing a ZHome Depot restoration on something they bought out of the orchard. Finally, take a look at some of the offbeat shows like the Kachemack Bay, Alaska Wooden boat Show for ideas that really break the mold.

  10. "Ed. D17-2172."
    "Ed. D17-2172." says:

    My apologies for numerous misspellings. %*€=÷× iPad wants to do its own spelling and not what I want it to do. grr!

  11. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Having spent the last three days working on the revival of our family cottage , (which regretfully has no internet connectivity) I returned home tonight only to to discover that Michael Folsom had recently been (indirectly) let go by the ABM.

    Two years ago I covered the ABM,s annual wooden boat festival for Woody Boater.Had it not been for Michael the three part story I filed with WB would have probably have consisted of a lot of dock shots , very few details and very indifferent reader interest.

    Instead Michael courted and catered to the press and made sure that the reporters rode along on Zipper to the historic Rock Island lighthouse with the Champlain ACBS chapter. Michael further ensured that the press had an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the ABM, offsite storage facility’s, personally accompanied by the ABM, curator.

    I can also attest that over the years Michael assiduously paid attention to press inquiry’s and suggestions and even forwarded ideas and suggestions to the director.

    The mantra of the current times is that change, no matter what, is universally good. Don’t believe the hype.

    Fact is that corporate change, often inspired by timid managers and directors that want to distance themselves from controversy and/ or promote themselves as “effective leaders” at the loss of institutional memory, contacts and expertise.

    Sadly such decisions are seldom based on thorough assessments of problems and or finding solutions . In this case it’s pretty clear that the board’s unfortunate decision ended up costing the museum two Very talented and experienced employees.

    You may recall that within one of the three ABM stories I mentioned above, I suggested that the ABM is effectively the unofficial Smithsonian museum of Wooden Watercraft.

    I still believe that, however, I do think that the board’s questionable decision making ( if it continues) could end up
    jeopardizing the institution’s future.

    The museum has come a long way from its simple origins as a community project, and yes there are lots of new ideas out there that can and need to be brought to fruition, (for example a floating ABM museum boat that could act as an a museum ambassador at the thousands of ports along the shores of the St Lawrence, the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal and yes even the Trent Severn and Rideau Waterways) but the salient question is , how do you achieve that dream or any other ideas that have potential to further raise the institution’s profile if you completely eliminate the very position responsible for collecting, publicizing and ultimately funding the dreams of the board, the staff and the public, let alone meet the mandate to attract, entertain and enlighten.

    Whomever takes over from Fritz Hager as CEO of the ABM will have a choppy passage dealing with a board that by all appearances, seem determined to operate a museum with no coordinated communications or marketing plan.

    Sorry folks this isn’t 1980 anymore posters and newspaper ads no longer cut it. We are now deep, deep, deep in he Digital Age. To navigate the fickle and rocky seas of social media, you absolutely need a seasoned communications guru , one who is enamoured by boats, who has the ability to spin compelling stories, attract acolytes and promote the life of this this important institution each day and every day , stories that will draw people in, compel them to visit, volunteer and donate to build a dream.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Thanks for this comment, Micheal was a HUGE help at all the events and was a new breath of fresh air in making us feel welcome there. I agree that before, it was impossible to even report from there. We pray that the changes there are to move forward and embrace marketing. If not, and the changes are to turtle back into the past, it will be disastrous. Like you I have seen this happen over and over again, and eventually it dies. The sad part is that marketing can be perceived as a blanket issue. It just might be that regardless of how great folks were, the strategy is what was off, or not a lined with the boards philosophy. Marketing is not just about pumping stuff out. Its about Tone, personality and staying focused on a focused strategy. We will see what happens in time.

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      I have worked with Michael Folsom via Great Lakes Scuttlebutt boating Magazine, over the past couple of years, and have seen more weekly if not bi-weekly press releases come from him regarding things going on at the ABM, than any other boat related business.
      I do not know the political circumstances, but in my opinion, he was not let go due to NOT doing his job as a Marketing Director…

  12. Jon Peele
    Jon Peele says:

    I agree that a change in how an institution operates is often needed well before it actually occurs. And, this is likely the case for both the ABM and the ACBS. A couple of ideas that require exploration are: the ABM should consider becoming a traveling museum by scheduling boat shows in large venues in urban areas. The goal being to reach persons not familiar with the history of wood boats. The emphasis at these shows should be on both the boats themselves and their engines. At these expeditions we should emphasize that the runabout got its start as gentleman raceboats. That they often had early high performance engines. This part of the history of woodies is generally unknown to younger people and should cause new interest.
    I also agree that the boats shows put on by ACBS and its chapters need to include events showing our boats in action, as well as on the docks. This can be accomplished by scheduling different groups of boats to depart, circle the venue, and return during a potion of the show. Not always easy but makes it more exciting for both the exhibitors and the spectators.


  13. Briant
    Briant says:

    At our local Lake Oswego show this year, we gave many rides, including one to a dad and kiddo, while the PT boat was started up and leaving port. Everytime we told a viewer with the kids to just jump in for a ride, the looks of disbelief quickly turned to a smile and then after a quick rundown and putting on the PDFs, we were off. There were many smiles and thank yous when we returned, and greatful parents. We had more fun and spread the joy around far more than any silly trophy could have done….

  14. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I am not familiar enough with any of the operations at ABM to comment, though I knew Fritz and had met Mike several times over the years. I don’t know why the BOD did what it did and won’t speculate on the differences that obviously existed.

    However, and to digress into the direction this topic has taken, whether boat shows are judged or not has little to do with the actual format they choose. I completely agree that shows need to be less static and more activity-oriented. At the small non-judged ACBS Okanagan Chapter show that my wife and organize, we accomplish this by having a dock show on the Saturday from 10:00-3:00, with boating events before and after the show. That is 5 hours of dock over three solid days of activities. That is not much. Sunday is exclusively on-water stuff. If we want people who are attracted to the show to see the boats and gain an interest, there has to be a forum or venue where this can be done. It cannot be done if all the boats are scattered on the water all the time. If we want to enjoy our boats as owners and boaters, that often cannot be done only on the docks. The solution is fairly simple – combine the two aspects in a single show.

    I am now in MN for the ACBS International. We are here days early so we can go out on the pre-events and do what we like best – go boating and see new places and meet new people. The show will be fine, but the biggest attraction for us is the opportunity to be on the water. By the time the show arrives, I will have had plenty of boating. This event is amongst the biggest of the year and it is taking us 10 days to do it all, including 1200 miles of driving each way. Of course I realize that this is a commitment beyond a regular show and it is not easy to do.

    On the communication side – marketing and image appears to be everything these days. People can access whatever history they want on-line, as well as images and almost any virtual experience the mind can conjure. I don’t know what this means for static museums, but if nothing else, the shift empowered by technology demands recognition and a response from all museums – not just the ABM.

    The ACBS is not a museum and it does not want to be. Our members have indicated their primary reason for joining is social activity, fellowship with other hobbyists and collective opportunities to use their boats. The communication and marketing challenges and changes faced by both organizations may be similar, but the raison d’etre of the ABM and the ACBS are really quite different – from the perspective of a member or interested person. A static museum and an organization whose members are there for actual first-person contact and shared experiences really do have diametrically different mandates. As long as people wish to come together to share their passion and experiences in a particular hobby through fellowship and direct interaction, hobbyist groups like the ACBS and innumerable others in all sorts of areas will have a reason to exist and to thrive.

    I really don’t know if I, as a layperson, can say the same thing about static museums with artifacts and history on display but little else to capture and hold the attention of folks who appear to be increasingly content looking at digital content, instead of going to museums.

  15. Michael Folsom - Director of Marketing
    Michael Folsom - Director of Marketing says:

    Much thanks to those sharing their thoughts and comments. It has truly been a pleasure getting to know so many of you within this great, close-knit society of wooden boats.

    And to those I have worked closely with… you are top-notch, Class A professionals who helped to make my job easier in sharing what the ABM is all about and has to offer.

    See you on the river!

  16. Bert Harris
    Bert Harris says:

    Frederick “Fritz” H. Hager was not nice. It was all about the money at ACBM for him. It was time for him to go before irreversible damage was done.
    Myself and the Ledonne’s of YNOT yachts have always taken interested onlookers for rides. We carry child’s size PFD’s and take kids that have an interest too. Most know we are hardly at the docks at the shows. That’s what its all about and we will continue to do this. Yes, it’s a show and people expect there to be boats at the docks especially if they pay to get in (which I am against by the way). So, if you see us at a show don’t be bashful, ask us for a ride!!
    PS: Matt gave me the “WOODY BOATER OF THE YEAR” trophy because I was riding the whole show at Dora a few years ago.
    Thanks again Matt!!

  17. Doug Bell
    Doug Bell says:

    It is good to read these thoughtful posts. The idea of boat rides at eh show has been discussed among our group many times. What consistently comes up is insurance liability issues. How do you all get around this?

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