The ACBS – Antique Boat Museum Symposium / Workshop, Another Successful Event In Clayton

Kathy Muller and Mike Corrigan teaching staining and varnishing next to 'Pardon Me'

Last weekend the Antique & Classic Boat Society & Antique Boat Museum teamed up to host another successful symposium / workshop at the museum’s facility in historic Clayton, New York. ACBS Past President Dick Werner’s enthusiasm and passion for the hobby is reflected in these workshops, and we all appreciate the hard work and dedication by Dick and his team, and the ongoing support for these events by the ACBS.

The “Class of 2012” gathered outside of the Museum’s Stone Building Work Shop for a group photo.

The ACBS / Antique Boat Museum Workshop - Class of 2012

To offer a different perspective on this post-symposium story, we have three individual reports, from Dick Werner (symposium organizer), Don Danenberg (symposium instructor) and fellow Woody Boater Matt Fine (symposium participant). Images for this story were provided by Lora Nadolski – Director of Public Programming for the Antique Boat Museum.

From Dick Werner – Symposium Organzier

This symposium turned out to be one of our better ones so far. We had an outstanding line-up of speakers; Dan Danenberg, Kathy and Bo Muller, Dave Van Ness, Tony Mollica and Mike Corrigan.

All antique boaters love a good meal and we certainly had a fabulous one at the Clipper Restaurant to kick off a very informative weekend.

On Saturday the 52 attendees broke up into several small groups and rotated around several of the workshops at the museum. We were led through restoration topics such as; repairing deep gouges and splits with “dutchmans”, removing broken plank fasteners and replacing with new fasteners and bungs. Kathy Muller and Mike Corrigan demonstrated techniques of applying stain and then brushing on varnish.

Everyone had the opportunity of trying it themselves. David Van Ness explained general marine engine maintenance, adjusting a slipping transmission and did a pretty in depth description of marine electrical systems. We had a very enjoyable talk at the end of the day given by Tony Mollica on the beginning of the Chris-Craft Boat Co. and explained how they became the leading manufacture of wooden boats.

Sunday Don Danenberg gave a very informative discussion on the studies of that have been and are still being done at Case Western University on the comparative strengths of older mahagony versus new. This scientific work may help us in deciding whether to reuse the original planks or replace them with new wood. As Dan explained, so much is dictated by where the wood is located on the boat and how much stress it will receive when moving through the water such as bottom and side planking as compared with deck planking.

Bo Muller and Mike Corrigan finished up with the things we must do when laying a boat up for the winter so we will have a boat ready for use and pleasure the next summer.

We were also treated to a private tour of the museum boats in a storage facility that the public rarely gets to see.

Everyone came away feeling that it was very worthwhile attending. Several commented that there was a lot great information packed into 2 days and that we should have made it a 3 day workshop. This was so well received by the over 50 attendees that I think I feel a sequel coming up next year.

A big thank you goes out to the speakers who took the time to give such informative presentations and also to the Antique Boat Museum for being our host for the event and helping to organize the workshops.

Dick Werner

Noted Author and Restorer Don Danenberg - Sharing His Wealth Of Knowledge

From Don Danenberg – Symposium Instructor

Texx – After speaking at such symposiums for more than a decade, I found this one to have been the most successful and well received. We all tried to make this more “hands-on” experiences than prepared presentations. All presenters have received only sincere messages of thanks. The only complaints anyone has heard was that every session should have been longer.

I myself wish I wasn’t too busy to attend the other presentations! 

Don Danenberg

And also from Matt Fine – Symposium Participant

Texx – I went to the ACBS / ABM symposium with a couple of goals.

1. The first was to get a better idea of what I could probably learn to do myself vs. what would be smarter and perhaps even cheaper to hire out to a professional.

2. The second was to pick up some tips and techniques that transfer so much better in person and hands on verses from text and photos.

In both regards, the symposium was a huge success and then some. All of the instructors were excellent. It was a “dream team” of top talent with decades of hands on experience and it showed in their knowledge and passion. There was really only one complaint I had, and that I heard over and over from the other participants. The sessions were way way too short.

My first session was on basic engine troubleshooting with Dave VanNess. Two hours into the two hour session it felt like we were less than a quarter in to what would be a short intro to the subject. Dave could have given a full two day symposium just on engines and I think we would have benefited from every minute of it. We are not talking about in depth engine rebuilding, but general maintenance and what to do when you turn the key and the engine does not start. Given my experience with modern marinas, it is becoming more and more important that we become our own mechanics for anything that does not say Mercruiser and come with a factory repair manual.

David Van Ness Speaking On Vintage Marine Engines

The session on wood working with Bo and Don was perhaps the biggest attraction for me when I decided to sign up. These guys could have taught a 2 week class and I would have been sad to see it end. Bo introduced us to the use of hand planes as an alternative to many hours of sanding. He demonstrated the use of an old compass plane to get a smooth curve on deck planks and to blend in his Dutchman repairs on the curved covering boards. It was simply brilliant and afterwards I identified the tool as a Stanley 113 compass plane. I now own a pair of them!

Don covered a variety of topics on framing and planking, and also gave a talk on Sunday on testing the strength of various wood samples. Old, new, oil soaked, water soaked, and CPES treated. I think he must be on the payroll of a sawmill or the life jacket industry because if I could sum up four plus hours of Danenberg into a single word, it would be SOBERING. Understanding that the wood in my boat may have lost 2/3rds of its strength IN THE GOOD SECTIONS, not including the cracks, splits and hidden rot will definitely play a big role in my decision making going forward.

Mike and Kathy covered staining and varnishing, both spot repair and full finish/refinish. This is an area that is definitely more art than science and where experience is king. Once again, they could have put on a full two day symposium themselves and it would have been too short. More hands on time would have been great, but I think I could spend a full decade apprenticing with them and still be learning.

Finally, the Antique Boat Museum staff did a first rate job of keeping us fed and cared for. I can highly recommend the ABM as an ideal location for any future courses and symposiums due to their facilities and more importantly the people.

Thank you to ACBS and ABM for putting this together, I will certainly attend more of these in the future and advise others to do the same. Great job guys, and a BIG thanks for the boat rides!

Matt “m-fine” Fine

Noted Author Tony Mollica - Matt Fine Sporting His Sons of Varnish Shirt

We noted at the top of the story that Kathy Muller and Mike Corrigan were teaching staining and varnishing next to “Pardon Me” the famous John Hacker design runabout that’s currently being restored at the Antique Boat Museum. Lora Nadolski noted – “Pardon Me’s restoration will be on display again this summer, as we finish the work on her this year and relaunch her in 2013.

Pardon Me - John Hacker Designed Runabout Going In For Restoration

Antique Boat Museum Collection

If you are in the Clayton, NY area, make a point to stop in to the Antique Boat Museum and check it out, it’s an amazing and memorable experience. You can click here to go directly to their website.  You can also click here to go to the ACBS website to learn more about this organization if you are not already a member.

Thanks again to Dick Werner, Don Danenberg, Matt Fine and Lora Nadolski for contributing to this story.  You can click here to go to Danenberg Boat Works website, and Van Ness Engineering website by clicking here.


4 replies
  1. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    Happy to hear how successful the meeting was. Hats off to Dick for working so hard to benefit so many people in the hobby.

    Also great to hear that power plants are getting more attention. They are the heart of the boat and a major part of antique and classic boating.

    More continued education is needed on engines

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      I agree that engines are an area of significant improvement in education.

      Lets face it, most wooden boat owners do not need to know how to put on a 5200 bottom. Some of us may choose to do it ourselves, but most will go to a professional. Since the job only should need to be done ever few decades, or longer, the restorer does not have to be local.

      Engines need attention at the beginning and end of every season, and often in between. When there is a problem, it needs to be diagnosed and repaired quickly. If you have a quality mechanic locally who knows and is willing to work on old engines that is great. For more and more of us, the choice is to either become our own mechanics, or accept long periods of down time while trying to get support from a distant shop.

      Seminars with more of an engine focus and perhaps modern manuals, guides, and videos on maintenance and troubleshooting would be a great help to the hobby/lifestyle. This is something that ACBS and clubs like the CCABC might be able to offer members in the future.

  2. Former Jeanyus
    Former Jeanyus says:

    This was the first event of this sort that I’ve attended. It was definitely worth driving all night from Illinois to get there. Well, yeah, all the way back too…
    The amount of information given was huge, the presenters were so good there was never a point where my attention wandered. I would love to have listened to ALL the sessions, but pretty much had to pick one side of the room or the other – ARRRGGHH!!!
    I met a lot of great people, and had an uproariously great time at dinner on Saturday night with Bo, Kathy, Steele, Dave, and several others that attended this event. (sorry names escape me at the moment).
    Thanks to all involved in putting this event together!

  3. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    I’d agree on the length and subjects of the seminars. The one at Antique Boat/Cincinnati covered a lot of ground and they actually had time to go back and reinforce areas that attendees wanted to repeat and get clarification.

    I really appreciate the instructors enthusiasm to share their wealth of knowledge. Its difficult to get someone willing to spend their time and money to share their information let alone have the constitution to stand up in front of a group to make a presentation and have a syllabus to teach from.

    Because these are more powerboat focused I prefer these to the Wooden Boat Magazine offerings in Maine (although their location/facilities are very enticing). Thanks Dick Werner and these 2 locations for putting these together.

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