Inexpensive Woody Boating. It’s Very Possible!


Bought for $1,500 drove it a year, sold it for $1,500

A couple days ago in a story about the boat shows growing and interest in classic boating possibly growing, we got one of the usual angry comments regarding how its an elite hobby and so on. These comments are always the same and tap into what is an ongoing image of classic boats. That they are for rich people and so on! So, first question is. If a person feels that way, how in the hell are they even on Woody Boater? Talk about buried on the internet. We are a niche within a niche within a niche! If you are here, no matter how big your wallet is, you are interested and there is a boat out there with your name on it. Or your wife’s, which we highly recommend. Anyway, The topic today is cheapo boating! Yes we buried the lead, but you are a niche within a niche kinda guy. And yes we have done posters on this. But we are talking $1-$5K boats now. Like give away in the water lets go boating for under $5K


Texx and his Lake n Sea – He gave it away in the comment section two days ago! YUP it happened that fast! It will win shows.


Sold for $3,500 All new trailer, rebuilt engine! You have seen this little shark in Classic Boating and shows

YES! Its possible and I have had fun doing it. And even though we are restoring a 25 Sportsman, one of the most expensive boats to restore, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy an appetizer boat every now and then. Am I alone? I don’t think so. In fact we believe here that at the core of this culture is cheap boating. HOLD on! Hot rodding is cheap. YES! Go back in your brain. The only reason you started… STARTED with classic cars and boats was because it was a fun way to be cool. You could take your fathers hand me down Cutlass, drop some Craigers on it with 5 paychecks from your job at the ESSO station and then go from there. Same with classic boats.

Yip yap low

$1,500 up in Buffalo. Little kicker and all. This thing was PERFECT. Plopped it in the water and ran it!

Like me, you found a cool Whirlwind for 1,500 bucks and that was that. Now, we dont need to remind you about the Serial Killer thing do we? Yes? HERE is the story.


Cost $6K Towed it to Algonac show from the garage, won and drove home and went boating. Now, this was a fluke! But they are out there.

Its not just about size either. There are fantastic values on Sea Skiffs, Lymanns and of course cruisers.

betsy 5

Paid 5K for her! Rebuilt engines, clean, ran perfect, canvas cover.

So, cheap boating? Hell Yes! Will it cost you in the long run? Yes, but so will going to a bar and drinking yourself to death because you don’t have a classic boat to go out and really let go!

24 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I was given (free) this about 1900 Southerland skiff that was built at a wagon and boat building shop on our lake. The shop burned down in 1905. I had a great time all summer two years ago doing a cosmetic restoration complete in the photo. We now have the coolest yard art on the lake and I saved a great piece of local history from the bonfire!

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Like most Antique and Classic hobbies, this can be a cheap or expensive as you want. There are lots of inexpensive classics out there and even the high end Antiques have come way down in price over the last number of years. (supply and demand)

    If a reader is here often they know this is true, however if all they see is the mainstream press about Gar Woods with Scripps selling at Auction for $360K than of course that is the image they have of our hobby/lifestyle/addiction.

  3. henry heidinga
    henry heidinga says:

    I took a rotted 1960 Grennel 16 ft runabout and rebuilt it in my unheated garage. It was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done, and I had never tried any wood work prior to this. Grennel built mahogany plywood boats from 1956 to 1965 in the Toronto Ontario area.

  4. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    I purchased this for $500 granted it needed a bit a work that I did. In the end even with the motor it was under $4000. its a fun boat and we had 4 people in it many times. This hobby costs as much as you want to spend. The boats that come out to most of the gatherings do not cost a ton of money, Most of the high value boats go to shows and stay in boat houses.

  5. B. Mortimore
    B. Mortimore says:

    15′ 1956 Lyman, bought for $450. I’ll have another $2,000 into it when I add the materials and classic Evinrude. A little here, a little there, and suddenly you’re classic boating for less than it costs to go to Subway each day for a year. Message: pack your lunch and go classic boating.

  6. Wlson
    Wlson says:

    I bought my first classic, a 16′ Chris Riviera for $350. Spent some money having it restored but in the end sold it for what I had in it. …and had a lot of fun with it in the meantime

  7. bry rhodes
    bry rhodes says:

    A true barn find that needed a lot of work, some of that work was done by a pro, most of it done in my garage. Decide early that it is being renewed not restored and the cost will be reasonable. Now my son has the boat and is part of the wood boat family. The total cost of this little project about $6,000 (cdn eh).

    • Andy C
      Andy C says:

      I love the Cayuga! I currently have 3 of them and all were under $1000. They are great little boats.

  8. Bill & Linda
    Bill & Linda says:

    Here is an inexpensive Woody Boat, a Glen-L Squirt. We had the fun of building it ourselves, and then going faster than many of the big inboards. In good water conditions, that is.

  9. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    My first Classic was a 1960 Chris-Craft 27′ Constellation. I gave $5,000.00 for her and went boating on the Mississippi River right after taking the helm. We had more enjoyment with her than we thought possible. The most that we ever paid for covered slip fees was 200.00 per month. We enjoyed her year round most of the time. Eagle watching in early winter was great fun. We went on short cruises almost every weekend in the summer, and on a few long cruises (250 mile round trips) more than once.

    Great fun on a small budget.

  10. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Glad to read this thread and happy to see Al Benton check in!
    I have done way more boating than restoring and that is best accomplished by having smaller, simple, classics. Whirlwinds like I do are perfect examples….just take launching and retrieving and trailering in general, the smaller simple classics are so easy to do all that with…that people actually can GO BOATING….not just ruminate over all the prep work and hard work involved in just getting away from a ramp.
    Never have paid any real money for a classic boat but have had a fortune in good times and met great friends. I sold my classic cruiser for a buck….had to have tens of K’s in it over time….time came…moved her on to the next appreciative owner…..went over to the dark side (glass) and stayed with a classic…and GO BOATING…all the time. Dugout canoe…cost only my labor….priceless… are my others…..

    John in Va.

  11. Sean
    Sean says:

    Comparing 14′ cedar strip 10hp fishing boats to 30′ Ditchburn launches is summed up best by Jules Winnfield in the movie Pulp Fiction… “ain’t the same @$#%$&*’n ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same @$#%$&*’n sport”.

    • henry heidinga
      henry heidinga says:

      Sean, you should carry a kleenex…with your nose stuck up so high it’s bound to bleed spontaneously

  12. tim
    tim says:

    You guys are very sensitive! I’m the foul and heinous culprit that compared boating to polo and I stand by it. What with boat workers, mechanics, varnishers, insurance, moorage, ad nausea…’s expensive and you better be prepared or your fine old classic will end up rotting on the hard or in Boneyard Boats.
    Self deception is for fools.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Tim: I don’t think any of us is trying to say it does not take money, it just does not have to be excessive. I don’t see my hobby of boating to be any more expensive than my friend who likes to play golf, or those who goe down hill skiing, snowmobiling, or most any other hobby for that matter. Heck it takes more to go watch a professional football game than I will spend on a whole weekend boating. Not sure what entertainment you can do without money, watching the grass grow I guess.

      • Sean
        Sean says:

        There are nice boats out there at modest cost. Even a regular working guy can find boats worth having that wont break the bank. 100 trouble free hours last summer. I am positive my boat cost less than the aluminum outboard fishing boats I share the ramp with most days.

  13. Tim
    Tim says:

    Sorry I brought the whole thing up. Originally it was posted under a Boat Show column which implies pre-war runabouts or pre-depression yachts. With these fine old works of authentic American art no one is an owner and everyone is a caretaker, passing them down like a family heirloom. Too often (like in today’s economy) someone sees a “really good deal” and not realizing the restoration costs and upkeep, tosses the boat aside to be lost forever.

  14. Matt
    Matt says:

    I am so glad you did bring it up! Gave us here a reason for some stories! Its raining and cold outside.

  15. ScottK
    ScottK says:

    If you’re limiting the definition of a boat show to “pre-war” or “pre-depression”, then the fat lady has sung and this hobby is dead. There aren’t enough people taking enough interest in that era to sustain anything. I love seeing them, but few are dragged to shows and even fewer are actually used for more than the trip from the launch ramp to the show slip.
    Give me a newer, affordable, user that can take some knocks and burn a lot of gas.

  16. Nelson
    Nelson says:

    I spent 700 for this ’57 younquist. The big chrysler engine turned over but wouldn’t start. Within 1/2 hr found power wire to coil was disconected and had her burbbling sweetly. Paint parts,,varnish, moorage, insurance, hours of sanding… sure I have a lot invested over the last 5 years and a long way to go. But weather permiting I can take her out on any given weekend.and my total investment ,less time, is less than I have into my wife’s 4 year old chevrolet econobox.

  17. Eric
    Eric says:

    I’ve been active in this hobby for over 15 years. I have spent less than $20,000 over those years on two small boats, boat and motor restorations, show entry fees and lodging. I have learned so much about the hobbie, volunteered many hours to BSLOL and ACBS, made many genuine friendships. Also, a heartfelt thanks to WoodyBoater for having me on the banner! Priceless in my opinion. Looking forward to many more years of enjoyment and encouraging others to take a leap of faith. The price of admission is really what you decide.

  18. Ryan Nagel
    Ryan Nagel says:

    Bought for $100 in rough shape. Used it mostly as a pattern but after around $2k in materials/supplies and hundreds of hours of work it’s worth it. Great thing about small and inexpensive boats that are rough to start with is that you can practice and perfect skills without the fear of making a big, expensive and irreversible mistake. Low cost projects can be a great tool for learning.

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