State Of The Union On Classic Boating.
We are standing by, and will report on the state of Florida as the reports come in, did the Palm Gardens stay intact? But in the mean time, fellow Woody Boater Greg Woodard reached out to us to ask if we knew the state of the union of the classic boat culture. It’s always an interesting question, because there is always the impression that its down and interest is fading. But is that really the case? According to many restorers and clubs, membership is either flat or up. And readership on WoodyBoater is up about 10% from last year. Which was a flat year. Which we think was more related to Google and how traffic is measured. Not interest.
To add to that, I have heard from several folks that the average life span of a classic boater is about 15 years from the first boat to the last boat they own. Interests fade, and we are at the tail end of the generation that started the culture back in the 70’s and 80’s. This generation is just as passionate, but into different things, and the entry level is not $100K pre war triples. Those are boats that were all restored and have had there lives. The new generation is into affordable entry boats, not so much ready to go all into a full restoration, and more about a bottom job and go boating. So a state of the union?
Also, as we evolve in the culture our needs and interests change. At the start of all this, I couldn’t imagine having a utility, and now that’s all I can imagine. Is that the case with people just getting into this? Not sure, i suspect they want something that provokes a memory and past desire.
Also we are getting reports in that restorations are down. Now is that because of a loss of interest? We think not, But more a reflection of a large amount of restored boats on the market. Some of these boats are do to be half restored again though. This might be a temporary thing, Now, how the restoration was done is really an issue, which is why a good branded restoration stands the test of time. So, we will see some restoration shops possibly change or fine tune marketing strategies. But they will be busy doing bottoms and refreshes. Boutique restoration shops will always be busy because they book up years in advance.
As you can tell, we are bullish on the culture, we feel that its good, strong and the passion is there. And maybe its moved from places where once it was strong. Areas like Gull Lake are massive in the culture as an example, it’s younger and not about retirement, but boating in style. Lake Tahoe is the same thing, classic boating is more of an art form there. The Ramsey Bros and there infectious passion in Toledo.
We even saw this here in little old Reedville this year. Tons of younger folks and lots of interest in getting into it. There is a large enough cluster of folks now here that have been doing this long enough so people don’t feel alone. And feeling alone is what its all about in a negative way. You don’t want to be the only guy doing this. It’s a support thing and community that makes it fun. So whats the state of our union. We here at Woody Boater think its stronger than its been in years, the next generation is now at the helm, making changes, and best of all, having fun!
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Woody Boating is a small nitch and always will be. Nothing wrong with that. My wife and I love the old cruiser. Don’t like the smell of fiberglass.
I also witnessed a younger crowd at our local show this year which was encouraging. One family had purchased a small outboard Lyman and another was getting ready to restore a Holiday that had been handed down though the family. Just as you stated the plan was to redo the bottom this winter and go boating next year.
The number one question that I am asked is “how many times have you varnished it ?”. There is still a big fear factor of overwhelming maintenance of wooden boats. People are in disbelief when I tell them that it was varnished once and I don’t plan on doing again for quite a while.
A long time reader but first time commenting,
I felt compelled to chime in. I guess I represent the younger generation of WoodyBoaters. My wife and I are in our 30s and love the Wood Boat culture. We live on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota and our 57 Capri is our only boat. I will admit that I’ve received some negative feedback from some of the old timers in regards to what I’ve done to my boat. Matt you even did a story on my original Capri interior that I was selling on eBay. Something to effect of “what an idiot for selling an all original interior.” Honestly I didn’t care that it was original. It stunk and we thought it was ugly. Also while restoring the Capri we chose to replace the KFL with a 283 and do black deck caulk instead of the traditional white. Gasp! Point being of all of this is that the younger generation of classic boaters has no connection to the way these boats looked coming off the showroom floor. We want to personalize them. I intentionally don’t want my Capri to look like all the other Capris out there,
I want to make it my own. To me that the great thing about the classic boats. I can have a original piece of wood boat art that is completely unique to us that we can enjoy for another 50 years.
Your comment goes directly to the dark side of judged shows. The emphasis on originality has received way too much attention at the top of the hobby with the clubs and their shows. There has been a major swing in the openness for classic fiberglass over the last 5 years, but the personalized resto-mod like your Capri has yet to gain the acceptance it should have. The result is people pushed away not drawn in to the hobby, and not just young people. Look at the cars and motorcycles where original and custom have coexisted for more than half a century. We need that and I hope things start to evolve on that front.
Restore YOUR boat the way YOU want it, and then bring it to shows and events and stand proud in the face of sneers. Don’t let them get you down, you are the future, not them.
I totally agree. The obsession to make it perfect and original can be overwhelming. The phrase “it’s my boat” has been very liberating.
I haven’t seen other pics of your boat. Please post them here. Would love to see what you’ve done. I kind of like the black stripes. Tastefully different. It is possible to deviate from original in artful ways. The trouble is, so much of such deviation has not been artful. And art is subjective, especially once a restorer or individual goes his own way.
I am writing a story for WoodyBoater about taking a boat back to original. Your above post has prompted me to choose my words carefully so not to offend. Also, not to stereotype. Thank you.
LOVE the black lines.
Please consider membership into the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club if you have not already, we are open to personalizing your own craft. We even have a hat for you.
Matt you are one person who has a tremendous passion for the lifestyle and hobby unfortunately as people age they lose interest and don’t have the time or energy the younger generation doesent understand the
work involved. As for the shops you may see some close their doors
due to loss of income, it’s the trickle down effect, unfortunately.
I am not being negative it is also due to the economy.
WoodyBoater has done a great job in restoring my faith in Wooden boaters. I bought mt first Chris*Craft back in 1985, and have steadily acquired a small fleet of Chris*Crafts and Whirlwinds, and etc etc… I fell victim to less-than-truthful people who offered advice and assistance many years ago that took advantage of my trust, leaving me with a bad taste and missing original boat parts. That and boat organizations that were clic’ish and not interested in someone who wanted to do my own work. That caused me to withdraw further so that it seemed safer to just enjoy the art and beauty of these boats alone, at least I wouldn’t get screwed… Sure, people love going out for a ride, but not all appreciate the adventure and fun of cleaning the bilge and finding something unique and original.
Thank you WoodyBoater for providing us with a forum and source of information whos interest is the promotion of the hobby and not a ploy to obtain a restoration contract or obtain that special part from me that I didnt know was special…….
Ive been to many shows and the gathering this weekend in Reedville was a great trip for me. I talked to several genuine people who all seemed to share my passion and have offered to continue to communicate and provide advice and encourgement. This community seems to be what I sought in the traditional boat clubs and organizations.
WoodyBoater, youve brought entertainment, humor and valuable information to the hobby on a daily basis, thats fair and balanced, and FREE! You’ve brought a lot of clubs out of the 80″s ( or made them realize they have to get out of the 80’s) recognizing the benefits and pitfalls of social media to a demographic that wasnt/isnt technically advanced.
So yes the State of the Union is good, and doing better everyday, thanks to WoodyBoater that provides us with entertaining and informative content daily! . (I wonder what would happen if you took a few days off?) LOL
Great reply Frank, As someone who also has to do his own work I also bought my first of a few Chris Crafts and other wood boats in the mid-late 80’s only to experience the exact same things you did, When talking with restoration shops while offering some advice to a newbie I felt to some degree one had his hand in my pocket to see how much money I had. Also experienced the clickish nature as well, Thanks for Woodyboater and Matt for the daily information as before we waited for quarterly magazines for info.
Great and thoughtful post, all of them. Thanks to Matt for providing the forum, especially the part about nobody wanting to feel ALONE in a hobby….right on. Special thanks to guys like Frank (above) for his passion for the hobby…always a fun time seeing both of them.
Reedville was special.
and I got to “go boating”!!!
John in Va.
Southern Ontario has an abundance of summer recreational areas aka “cottage country” but, Muskoka is the pinnacle. Recreational wooden boats have been a part of Muskoka since the area was first settled and it was the hub of the Canadian wood boat industry (not including fishing boats on the coasts). Muskoka is big on it’s legacy as a traditional recreation destination. A Muskoka “cottage” is an affluent recreational paradise and an ultra-rich status thing. Professional athletes, A-list celebrities and the cream of successful business fill the shorelines with summer homes worth 10’s of millions of dollars. Fortunately, part of this Muskoka fashion and status is a traditional wood launch or runabout in a boathouse slip (probably with a new Cobalt and a wake boat in the other slips) to affirm “belonging” in the Muskoka culture. Surrounding lakes get the trickle down effect and woodies dot the lakesides. Factor in the legacy (middle class) cottagers that have grown up in the area and lived with these woodys, plus the trailer trash (like me) that just love wood on the lakes and you will see that there is a lot of wood boat awareness with no end in sight. Other areas (like the Kawarthas) have their own traditional cottager culture where cedar strips and smaller outboards rule. At the end of the day, the wood boat world is a big deal here, it is alive, it is consistent, it is self sustaining and it will be for a very long time to come.
Prayers to Florida and the Islands….
Perfect timing for this post, Matt. Yes, here in Minnesota we do have the Gull Lake show and the collection of boats there is breathtaking and the execution is near perfect. But this coming weekend is the final big show of the season: BSLOL’s 42nd Annual Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous at Lord Fletcher’s on Lake Minnetonka. And LehrJet, I hope your cool Capri will be there. The future of our hobby is welcoming everyone in, especially the next generation. We’ll be offering some rides this year and we’re encouraging everyone to engage with spectators and dispel the myths around the costs, maintenance and exclusivity of woody and fiberglassic boating.
BTW, exceptional cover photo. Bravo Lynn!
The regional pockets like Hessel, Muskoka, Tahoe, PNW, etc are probably just fine, humming along like always. They are destinations for the rest of us, and a little slice of boater heaven for those that live there.
If the big show in Racine is any indication, more small boats are coming out. Plenty of small outboards were in attendance along with the large runabouts, utilities, and even a vintage sailboat. Not enough glass boats, and no aluminum. I like variety and welcome all.
I would like the future to focus more on using and having fun rather than trophies, however the International is the right place to include awards for those that want to see how they fare under experienced eyes.
A look at the vintage car world shows the inevitability of a hard stance on modification. Original-only clubs are dying off. Modified boats need to be welcomed not shunned. After all, many owners of Pebble Beach level classics also own hot rods. This hobby isn’t big enough to remain splinted into many factions and survive, let alone thrive.
I got my first wood Chris Craft when I was 18, i’m 62 now. I grew up with wood/vintage boats because they were cheap or free just to get off some ones property here. I am THE only one in my area, nw Tenn, that has a wood boat. does anyone really believe this generation now will keep vintage boats alive? there being spoon fed that fossil fuel is the root of all evil and climate change. I am sure gas burning wood boats offend them. if it doesn’t have a wake board rack with 1000 watt speakers blasting f word after f word all over our lake they don’t want it. you need to have a few hands on skills and common sense to keep one of these boats going, it’s more than turn the key and go. talk about the cost of keeping them up, restorers charging a $1000.00 a foot to replace a bottom. most people can’t do that, I know I can’t or wouldn’t. if I could re-saw a board I could do my ’47 deluxe for less than 2 grand. it’s not that hard and certainly not worth 15k in labor. face it, we are a dying breed, 20 years left at the most. I hope I am wrong.
A day late here…..
Honestly, This is what I was hoping to hear! Well minus thomas d.
Thomas D., I can understand that being a loner in Tenn. has got you down, but have some faith man! We’re are not all wet eared whippersnappers standing on your lawn with cap guns. Yeah, maybe we have to whip out our iphone calculator app inorder to complete Math captcha to bash you slightly, but you live in the middle surf and ski boat country. All those manufacturers that were born in fiberglass era are headquatered all around you, employ the economy around you….and run on gas. OKAY OKAY ill get off your lawn now.
Serious though guys, this what we are seeing up northeast. Minor customization and tweaks personalize your art. That will continue to drive all boat markets for the younger generations. Have you spent any time on those wakeboard manufacturers websites? You can literally build the boat in CAD in real time. These are half million dollar websites…..out there for free too. Serious go to Moomba or Axis.
Imagine if you could build and customize some of the world’s most popular woody boats online for free. I just snail mailed this idea to myself. its now my intellectual property, Matt. Not that I am going to put up the $500k to get it started….
Thank you Matt for taking the time to address this matter. Yes it did make me feel better. Yes I will continue to buy woody boats.
loner…maybe, down…never….kiddo 🙂