Could Classic Boating Save The Boating Industry?


Affordable and Fun!

Well, there is a rather bold statement for us little guys here in the Classic Boat Community to be making! But hold on and read on. I might have an interesting point, and if you are a new boat seller, you may consider having a Classic Boat or two on the lot to sell.


Put a bow on it and sell it as a Christmas Gift

First we all know, and its well published that the boating population is aging beyond the normal aging population. As in, each year the age of a boater is around 6 months older that the population. Back in the late 90’s it was around 37 years of age when boaters got into the passion, now its mid to late 40’s. See, we are not alone in our fear of an aging out population. But it’s not because of what we thought. The emotional connection to old boats. Its many factors. TIME, MONEY, SPACE, and DESIGN. There are a bunch of articles in the trade magazines on this subject, so we won’t get into it. But we here thought..mmmm We cant solve the time thing, that’s universal, or the space thing, thats a function of real estate. BUT, Money and design we can nail like a massive winner. Here is the thought.


Paid $1,000 bucks for this little gem. Trailer included.

MONEY– Let’s be honest here. One of the major attractions of classic boating is the low cost of entry. YES, even an insane 25 Sportsman at $150,000 is nothing compared to a top of the line 25 Something or other at $400,000 and you can today buy a very cool Woody that is fun and fantastic for $25,000 and if you really are budget to cool ratio conscious a cool Classic Plastic fro 1,000 without engine. So, in a way, if a person is scared away from boating for money concerns. A cool classic boat is a fantastic way to get on the water in style.


Fast, Fun, and More bang for the buck than any new boat. And its basecly new.

DESIGN – Really, do we need to even explain this part? Yes. Jet Boats are the trend for Millennials, they are low cost, fast and fun. But, this is also the same generation that is doing dilapidated looking hot rods, and raising the value of vintage Porsches to over $100K. They love old analog stuff. Hell they are even bringing back Vinyl Records and using Type Writers. YES! So a cool Plastic boat that is rocking cool patina and all with a newer engine on a new trailer is a viable option for them. A very cool Woody with patina, but solid bottom and reliable power is a way in. And can be relatively a low cost entry. Own a Marina? sell a souped up XK and see what happens? If anything it will say you are a cool Marina that gets cool boats. So what that you sell 10 Pontoon Boats to one XK, the XK is the Corvette in the show room that sells Malabus!

SPACE – Ok this is a weak argument that we can only say, that a cool classic boat in a garage is a static work of art. A brand new bass Boat is a Bass boat. That takes up space for Moms car. So Space is relative. For example, in the New Woody Boater space in Northern VA we have a special space for “Art” Its not storage when its art.

TIME – OK Millennials are over worked, or in the basement of your home. We are not talking about the basement dwellers. And to be honest, if you dont have the time for boating, its an excuse because you are not into it yet. And chances are if you just got out of your parents basement, a home on the water aint in the cards. BUT if you are into hot rodding and vynal records, and want to get into cool moving art, a cool vintage boat to work on could be cool, and set you apart from the over bearded type writing tool at the coffee shop. Hey! Don’t get mad at me, we all had out time being cool, yours is closing down. Welcome Generation Z! See your already old. BTW, Millennial’s are as large a group as baby Boomers, so they are coming. But late to the boat party. Its a time thing.


Young, hip and Woody Boating – One day he may buy a new boat.

So. See, maybe, just maybe if main stream boat dealers think outside of the box, and take into consideration that a classic boat may be the way for a younger person to get into the passion. Use them in ads? Have one in the show room. And for us in the culture, think outside of your marketing box. Start marketing your stuff to a more main stream target, target younger with cool young people hot rodding around in cool boats. Show your boats at main stream boating events. BUT in a cool way, bring ratty cool boats with young people loving them. We all get into boating because its a social activity. We want friends and people to hang out with and babes to like us. And for the Women into Boating, young studly’s to want to just sit around and pout. Either way, the boat is the key, and thats the point. So if you own a fancy pants new boat marina, get a nice woody boat all done up nice, and throw that sucker in the showroom. It will help sell the dream of boating.

25 replies
  1. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Ultimately, it’s all about the money. That’s what buys the time, space, design and luxury of boating. Unfortunately, just not affordable for most young folk unless daddy wants to kick in and subsidies one for the basement dweller.

    There are a few rare hands on kids out there who can get into boating cheep if they can restore and maintain themselves.

  2. Stephen Fowler
    Stephen Fowler says:

    Agreed. Took a stroll around the boat show in Toronto. Couldn’t believe the prices. Dealers are quick to talk financing, but should anyone really be financing a toy?

    A classic boat makes so much more sense, even though you will put aside more for maintenance, the difference in prices is just too large.

    Yet ironically, that’s really got nothing to do with why we love classics. My other thought walking through the boat show was that most of the boats on offer were horrid looking. Ok, not the Chris Crafts, but overall.

  3. Sean
    Sean says:

    Boat sales are actually up a bit (not as high as predicted though) as witnessed in this excerpt from industry news:…

    Recreational boat sales posted their second consecutive month of weak growth in October, leaving the industry farther from the full-year gains forecasters were hoping for when 2016 began.

    Industrywide sales rose just 1.3 percent to 6,953 boats and sales in the main powerboat segments declined slightly — 0.3 percent, or 14 boats, to 4,908, in 28 states that represent about 62 percent of the national market, Statistical Surveys said today.

    Through October, sales in the main segments are up 4.4 percent in the early-reporting states at 147,160 boats and 4.1 percent industrywide at 228,379, a percentage point or two below the growth that was predicted.

    Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said that despite the generally flat sales there were solid gains during the month among aluminum fishing boats, ski and wake boats and personal watercraft.

    And he said sales at fall shows such as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, where “the feedback I heard was good,” should help boost November and December sales numbers.

    “I think we’re still on pace for 5 to 6 percent overall sales growth for the year,” he said.

    Fishing boat sales rose 7.4 percent in October to 1,313, sales of ski and wake boats rose 11.4 percent to 245 and PWC sales climbed 13.3 percent to 1,117.

    Kloppe said fishing-boat sales in Arkansas were up 40 percent to 172 and they were up 60 percent in California to 140.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      Where are the stats on pontoon boats. In Michigan, that is all people seem to be buying. Some in the $50 to 100K range!

      • Sean
        Sean says:

        it says…….

        Other high-volume categories did not fare as well. Sales of aluminum pontoon boats were nearly flat, rising 0.2 percent, or two, to 834, and sales of 11-to-50-foot outboard fiberglass boats fell 4.5 percent to 2,132.

        Sales of 14-to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats fell 14.9 percent to 251, but Kloppe said sales of boats 28 feet and larger in that segment are up 5 percent for the year to date in the early-reporting states, including increases of 20 percent in Texas, 30 percent in New Jersey and 40 percent in Michigan.

        “The people who want that type of boat are still buying it,” he said.

  4. Sean
    Sean says:

    In the past year, my best friend has purchased two (2) new boats. A 24′ Cobalt and a 19′ Mastercraft Ski boat. We can agree this is a hefty investment. His father in law owns two wood boats, and one is a rare Greavette Executive II (only 6 ever made).

    My friends wife would LOVE a boat like he fathers Greavette and a nice one came for sale recently in the $ 30,000 range. Despite the relatively low cost and the high interest of his family (happy wife…) and the encouragement from both myself and his father in law… he would not pull the trigger on the purchase.

    1) He is not a hands on person and is hugely afraid of wood boat maintenance even though we have discussed this at length. 2) He is a financial guy and sees wooden boats as a poor investment despite evidence (fear) to the contrary. The bottom line is that some people, no matter how much they like to see wooden boats or are exposed to them just will not become owners. I don’t think my friend is alone in his irrational fears.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      I’m a financial guy and can confirm that wooden boats are seldom a great financial investment (what hobby is?), but the payoff is rendered in kind.

      With your friend being a financial guy as well, he must also know that the return on either of the two boats he bought this year is awful – as it is for ANY item that is purchased new for transportation or leisure. He chose these boats for a reason, but financial concerns can’t be one of them if he did the math. He’ll be far worse off with the new glass than he will with the old wood. It would be interesting to know the real reason for his choices.

      My friends have on occasion blanched at my wooden boat related costs, but when I point out the capital tied up in their nice but almost totally purpose-built wake board boats ($100k+ easy) and the depreciation they attract, they settle down. I suspect the typical middle of the range classic wooden boat will be a much cheaper total ownership experience than will 21’+ expensive wake board or similar boat.

      Modern Chris Craft boats are at the forefront of cost – checked those out lately? Wow…..

      • Sean
        Sean says:

        Preaching to the choir Paul. However, given he does zero, zilch, nada, zip, nuthin’ in the way of anything “hands on”… the looming cost (or fear) of a new wood bottom alone at Muskoka prices, (which would be more than the original cost of the boat) is enough to kill the deal, let alone any age related electrical, mechanical or even maintenance items… consider even the lost time to these items which all affect the utility derived. In his eyes, it looks like a big fail. On the other hand, he can still trade in his Cobalt/Mastercraft in a few years with no surprises and no loss of enjoyment. Maybe his father in law and I should stop taking him for rides in our woodies 🙂

        PS: He bought the new Cobalt after my little old Greavette had to tow him in when his old (8 y/0) Cobalt quit on the lake…

        • Paul H
          Paul H says:

          Like your friend, I do no work on the boats myself – no skill whatsoever or ambition in that respect so I have to pay others for their expertise. That’s fine – we are all paid by someone for whatever skill or expertise we have and I have no problem with it. All my new stuff is professionally serviced, just like my old. The solution to downtime is redundancy – a guy needs a couple of woodies, just in case!

  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Matt’s post today is one of his best on the content and writing (not spelling) scale. Nicely done and thought provoking…. the media age is changing everything so fast…all the old rules seem to apply only to us old fools….so hey…”go boating”!
    “what, me worry…?
    John in Va.

  6. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    There will always be the crowd that gets hands-on into the filth of restoring and maintaining a wood boat and the crowd that pays someone (and has the means to pay someone) to perform that. I have always been in the former category, as I enjoy that almost as much as going boating. As every wood or glass boater has experienced, you will at some time need to dive into in-the-field repairs no matter which crowd you’re a member of, but some of the skills needed in wood boating are a bit different than plugging in a code reader to troubleshoot a misbehaving engine. Preserving those old school skills are part of the “preservation” of our hobby. Will younger generations appreciate this and continue the tradition?

  7. JohnU
    JohnU says:

    All hobbies (classic: cars-boats-motorcycles even golf) are going to be hitting crossroads in the future as the younger generation’s interests are elsewhere.

    • Bilge Rat
      Bilge Rat says:

      I agree with John’s comment. My two children now in their 30’s with jobs, families and mortgages grew up along with my wood boat hobby. They and their young families enjoy going boating with grandpa but neither will want my boats once I am gone. Even my aerospace engineer son who has the passion and enjoys tinkering with old cars cannot commit time and money to my hobby as there are just too many other priorities first.

      I kind of equate it to a jet ski; you want your buddy to own one so you can take it for a ride now and then, but you don’t want to own it and face depreciation, maintenance costs and the inevitable breakdown costs and taxing of your time.

      I hope I am wrong, but it is possible in about 30 years that the commitment to own old boats, cars and other hobbies may not be there any more. Coupled with the ever decreasing availability of replacement parts, quality wood and old knowledge base/skill sets the crossroads may become a reality.

    • waynesworld
      waynesworld says:

      the younger generation doesn’t have the expendable income ask any financial planner how many have a 401k or ira and are adding to it

  8. Garry
    Garry says:

    Excellent choice for today. But I wonder where the Facebook news is about wooden boats being the best investment and simply much faster and much more glorious than tupperware! On top of all that Facebook just didn’t do news coverage on how woodenboats are chick magnets.
    This all true because it is on Facebook!. And you know if it is on Facebook it must be true! That is a !

  9. Lee Wangstad
    Lee Wangstad says:

    It looks like Chris-Craft is already addressing the millennials. Today I received notice from their marketing department that they are introducing a Chris-Craft paddle board through Tower Paddleboard Company. Talk about easy maintenance! No engine, no varnish, no winterizing, I mean, just take it out and enjoy it. And when you’re done, put it back in your parents garage, and hole back up in their basement for some big time video game excitement.

  10. Robert Amrine
    Robert Amrine says:

    I love the old classic wooden boats…Chris Craft,Hacker, all those. This is my 67 Wickens Whirlwind with a 440 Mopar engine built by Dave Timmons and Paint by Ryan Netzley.

    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      Boating is something you have to commit to, and for some that’s hard, given time, money, space, and other constraints.

      I think the easiest way is with smaller (14′-16′) trailer-able classic boat, that can fit in a garage. One real nice feature of classic boats is that they are narrower, and if you live in an older home, one that has the original garage, the doors are often much narrower than the beam of today’s boats. If the door width is a nominal 82″-84″, that precludes almost any new boat, even those in 16′ range.

      Then there is the issue of a tow vehicle. If you get, say, a 15′ fiberglass boat, with a beam of say 76″-78″, outboard powered, and sitting on a trailer, you have a starting craft for a family of four, weighs less than 1500 pounds and thus can be pulled with a compact CUV, can fit in any garage, never needs bottom paint, and if purchased at a decent price, it will hold it’s value, or maybe even appreciate a little. It can be used to cruise, fish, or ski with, and with proper care, will last another 50 years. If you ever decide to take it to a show, it will still look decent in with all the mahogany.

      The only trick is finding one with good seats and a solid transom. Some were made with fiberglass stringers and that helps with the longevity.

      • Dave Nau
        Dave Nau says:

        One more thought. i’ve a lot of research on new boat sales in the US. Sales are about 1/2 what they were 15 years ago. Stern druve sales are about 1/10th of what they were then. Overall new power boat sales are split three ways: 1/3 PWCs, 1/3 pontoon boats, and 1/3 everything else. Of that last 1/3, most of those are aluminum fushing boats, fiberglass deck boats, or fiberglass tournament ski boats. Even bow rider sales are way down, and hardly any traditional clased deck boats are sold today. Things have chaged drastically.

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