Woody Boating, It’s Not A Hobby, It’s A Lifestyle!


This weeks story line has to us here at Woody Boater been one of the most exciting in a long time. Sure we love reporting on shows and folks bung holes. But this week we hit a nerve and to be honest it took some nerve on our parts to reach out and ask some of the tough questions that have..honestly.. needed to be talked about for years. Texx is right. These are the conversations that happen behind the scenes, and are tough for clubs to talk about with out painfully looking inward and re assessing what and why the exist. So the conversation is tucked away and folks that talk are labeled trouble makers. My fat face is on a poster in a lobby in Clayton for sure..  As a marketing person in my real life, I am never threatened by such talk because in the end, it helps. And this week we stepped up and to our joy, you, our fellow Woody Boaters had a field day. To give you an idea of how big this week was.. We had over 30,000 page views this week alone. Comments have put some of the stories this week in the all time most popular stories area. We hit the nerve. And we have been rewarded by it because of the thoughtful feedback. We should all take notice. Because the future of our passion is at stake and the answers were right in front of us. We also were reminded of how fun this is. And shocked about the age issue. 50 is the new 20… Woohooo.I won’t have to pee 30 times tonight…

Photo, Thanks to Don Ayers, Lake Tahoe

Two things came load and clear this week. One. Restoration is restoration, you can save money if you do it yourself, and if you want a quality professional job, hire the best. And those guys in order to survive, need to be paid. A novel idea.. mmm. But that lead to the bigger thought. We are a lifestyle, Not a hobby..  As a hobby, its painful to drop bucks on a bottom, but as a lifestyle, its part of your day to day life, no different than putting a deck on the back of your house. There is a comment from yesterday that if you have not read, you should. the comment is from a guy named “Rabbit”. It’s around comment 40 from yesterday. This comment nailed it. I know Rabbit and I won’t tell you who he is, but I will say that his opinion and knowledge of the world of marketing is at the top of the list in the world. He is the brains behind multi million dollar campaigns that you see each day and love.. Add those comments with  some thoughts from Paul H who makes a fine living on understanding trends, with some others like this Quote from M-fine.. “Watch On Golden Pond again, does the old man make the kids day by taking him to Clayton, or does he teach him to drive the boat and let him take it out on the lake for a spin?” and you have what could be the first virtual think tank on the issue. .. You could not create a better think tank group on this issue in the world. I am not kidding or even exaggerating. We had some of the top classic boat restoration guys around chime in, Money folks that deal in what sells, marketing people from the finest ad agencies in the world, Collectors with some amazing collections and folks that own and make a business from this lifestyle. All spontaneous and from the heart. Amazing once in a lifetime stuff that is worth the read. As painful as it may be, all 40 and counting comments from yesturdays story are worth reading.

So whats to conclude from this? First. Classic Boating is in a transition from being a boater from that era and preservation of those boats to a lifestyle. I separate these for a reason. The ACBS, and clubs need to exist for the preservation to happen. For the folks that want to work on the boats and restore them and find out information on there boats. We all need clubs to have a common place to go for information and conversation. The youth programs are great to teach how to build a boat… BUT, as life goes on and a younger group becomes interested in boating. The lifestyle that these fine water craft represent is very romantic. They represent a time of leisure, weekends and a more simple time. They conjure up images of pin ups, BW photos of a more polished look, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra… Blonde Bomb shells.. Florida homes, Lake Tahoe sun sets, Cabanas, Martini’s, and yes.. Skipper caps. This lifestyle will grow the hobby. This lifestyle is the entry pont into the future and survival of our boats. fiberglass, aluminum, or wood, it does not matter. We are all “Curators” to quote Rabbit…of the Woody Boater lifestyle, and you, our Woody Boaters are in a small way the voice of that lifestyle. We need to keep that up. Wear your skipper hats proudly. And use your boat out on the lake, have a cocktail party instead of a boat show. Invite, “hot women” to the party. They might actually show up if you promise to go boating and not talk about Reed and Prince Screw heads.. Thanks for your comments. Lets go Woody Boating!

Matt & Texx

28 replies
  1. mfine
    mfine says:

    Thanks for hosting this site and these discussions.

    What really stood out to menwere the ages if the people posting. If your club average age is 75, don’t think it is because the hobby is aging and dying. Look at all the posts from those of us in our 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. We are getting into the hobby and lifestyle, we are interested in the boats, so if we are not coming to the meetings or shows, let’s figure out why.

  2. chad
    chad says:

    I’m wearing my WoodyBoater skipper cap today.

    So far, nothing exciting has happened. Do the hot women just show up?

  3. matt
    matt says:

    Yes Chad. just sit there in your Hat, boots and boxer shorts.. I promis, they will show up soon.. They will be in a car with red lights on it and wearing white.. And they will be very nice. you will go to sleep for a bit.. but i promis a good time

  4. Rick
    Rick says:

    Trailer queens are pretty to look at but a ride gives people that fun factor. 2 summers ago my wife’s cousin brought their 125′ yacht up for a visit. They had a captain and crew, were pampered and never touched a control. I pulled up in my little 17′ ’50 Sportsman to give them a spin and they smiled ear to ear the entire time. And when I turned the wheel over to them they looked like kids having the time of their lives. At 18 my daughter is only so interested in the shows but she’ll be out there uncovering the boat in a minute if I tell her we’re going out. Granted I don’t have a $100,000 boat but I think what I have and do with it helps put a fun factor face on the hobby. Now if I can just convince my wife to let me bring hot women other than her out I’d be in hog heaven.

  5. allen
    allen says:

    Great insight Matt and Texx…….the Life Style is what it’s about …..there is nothing more enjoyable than hearing that vintage inboard or outboard rumble and leaving the dock for an evening trip around the lake with the girlfriend, wife or friends, or grandkids that doesnt make you smile inside and out. As for getting the money back out of your restoration….hey golf costs and costs and costs as a hobby and nothing monetary comes back to 95% of us…..most hobbies are that way. They say when you buy Art (which our woodies truly are) you buy if for the enjoyment it brings not the $$$ it might be worth later. Boating like many hobbies are holes in the universe we all throw dollars into….so just sit back and enjoy the wake and the nature around you. Thanks for all the great commentary from young and old woodie boaters. Isn’t this a great forum we have….thanks to you guys for hosting it.

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    Chad – Keep the Skipper Cap on, “If you wear it they will come.”

    We have contacted John Pirro’s girlfriend and gave her your address. So when the doorbell rings, answer the door.

  7. Chris
    Chris says:

    More Lifestyle Survey Results…..
    How did you purcahse or aquire your last classic boat?
    #1 Word of Mouth/ private sale – 20.1%
    #2 Craigslist – 12.3%
    Craigslist & eBay = 24% of all channels for most recent boat purchased.
    Investment? Although 68% are somewhat to very confident the value of their boat will increase over time, the importance is a bit irrelevant, comments:
    “Value is not a concern. The vaule is the pleasure from a wooden boat”
    “I’m planning a Viking burial”
    Average annual expenditure on the Lifestyle (other than boat purchase) $11,657.00
    Has the recent uncertainty in U.S. economy affected the way you use your boat in 2010? 62% NO

  8. Chris
    Chris says:

    Hey gang,

    I was recently invited to a gather by my local ACBS chapter down at Sarles Marina an Annapolis. I was by far the youngest person there. The one part of the whole experience that made an impact on me was viewing their plywood mockup of a 16′ or so GarWood Racer that was under construction. He had taken on this project as an experiment as well as a marketing tool. And quite possibly because he always wanted one.

    One of their craftsman had paid a guy to draft in CAD all the parts from hand drawings. He then had those parts laid out in the computer so that they could be cut out of plywood sheets by a CNC machine. I am 32 and love old time woodworking but seeing this was really cool. The entire framework of the boat had been cut out of 3 sheets of plywood. Talk about economy of scale! It had been assembled in a weekend by one man and was ready to receive a transom, planking and decks after a little bit of fairing.

    It was great to see all the older guys astonished with this the creation as well as the precision of each part. everything was tight-fit and perfect.

    Seeing something like this would definitely appeal to the younger crowd. I can’t wait to see it complete!

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Chris, Building a Gar Wood speedster is on my list of things to do someday. I have some plans also. Could you give more info on who is doing this?

  9. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Matt and Texx,

    Once again, you guys have pushed the right button to get all of us varnish heads thinking about something more important that how to get that next perfect final coat. I think the hobby can survive, and possibly thrive, if those of us that already love the “lifestyle” really make the effort to get additional people of all ages to understand what we do and why we do it. There is a wide range to the lifestyle, but something is there for everyone that can apprecitate the look, smell and sound of classic boats constructed of any material of choice. Keep it fun, interesting and only as technical and complicated as the person wants it to be. Don’t try to push a potential new enthusiast into any particlular boat or activity. Let them decide what works best for them and then accept how they want to design their lifestyle. Modifying a boat from original is fine. Modern power is fine. Just encourage them to get involved and help them as much as possible. Our Chapter is already talking about how to do more of this, and your article is giving us additional encouragement. Keep up the fine work, and I still hope to see one or both of you at the Algonac show.


  10. matt
    matt says:

    Thanks Greg. To be out there some more. in my whacked opinion.. Michigan is home to this lifestyle. There are other places, Florida, Lake Tahoe, New Hampshire, Thousand Islands, all 10000000 lakes in Minnisotta, Wisconsin, Lake George, Lake Hopatcong, Idaho, Washington State, …..etc. But Michigan is where it started. It is the epacenter of it all, and still to this day, lives it. And Algonac. is the capitol. The place.. For me..That tower at The Marina is our steeple. Thanks for the invite. One day I hope to just be family and have the door key to the state.

    • mark edmonson
      mark edmonson says:

      talk about life styles in michigan, your right. I have three boys 17, 14,and 8 Our summer messing around on the boats and diving off the varnish decks in the crystal clear blue water on a hot summer day. Now thats a life style that they will never forget. Hobby, mayby but lifestyle that for sure. I’ll be waiting for you to come and enjoy.

  11. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    People mention costs – As Allen points out, almost all hobbies have costs – either a lot or not much, depending on how you pursue them. If you like horses, do you play polo and have a stable or do you just ride casually and spend time with an old nag because you love the animal? People are certainly entitled to engage their hobbies in any way they wish, and I don’t see any basis for criticism or bias when it comes to a person’s individual preference.

    Cars are the same – what is your choice – Pebble Beach stuff or a rat rod you welded up in the garage? The common thread in most cases is enjoyment. In yesterday’s thread I had sensed some mildly derisive comments pointed towards folks that do Tahoe-level better than new restorations, or otherwise spend a lot of money on their boats. These people are enjoying their boats in a different way than most, but most of them(not all) are still after the same thing – an enjoyable hobby. What they are doing is no more or less valid or noble than the guy with a glass or molded plywood OB that they struggle to keep afloat. If they didn’t enjoy it, these folks wouldn’t be doing it, just the same as the entry-level person.

    Personally, for me, the lifestyle theme put forth by Matt & Texx sums it up perfectly. It is about traveling to the shows, using the boats as much as possible and getting to know and enjoy people with like interests. It is something that I am involved with at some level almost every day, and it has definitely become a very big part of our lifestyle. When we are at our cabin, we use the boats whenever we can. No trailer queens for me, but I would not criticize someone who doesn’t use his boat as much as he could. He is getting something out his ownership experience that is of value to him, and that is the bottom line. Aside from boat value and costs, we all seem to be getting something of value from somewhere in this activity, or else we wouldn’t be here. As long as this or any hobby can furnish the participants with something of personal value and import, the future is sound. That value proposition is different for each individual and it can be a personal thing, but it must exist somewhere for all of us.

    I think the threads this week comprise the most articulate, incisive and meaningful dialogue on these topics that I have seen or heard, anywhere in the hobby. The passion is obvious.

    Thanks for bringing it up and beginning to expose the depth and committment to classic boating behind the people who use this site and love this hobby.

  12. ARRRGH! and Pumpkin
    ARRRGH! and Pumpkin says:

    You guys have nailed it for me! I am older, and only came into boating in 2005 as the result of being invited to be “the crew” on an 18′ woodie for the club’s annual ACBS show. I loved it – the woodie and life style. But I fell in love with an XK-19 I saw there. I loved the people most of all. And the next May, I found my XK-19 on EBay – bought it from a “Bubba” and learned the restoration investment experience in plastic. But, I still love the life style. In October of the same year, I found my XK-18 – and love the life syle even more. I love cruising with the classics – wood, plastic or aluminum – doesn’t matter. It’s really the PEOPLE (except for a few ole soreheads) that make the lifestyle so great. I love the shows too, but I am a user boat kinda guy who does the best he can to keep it close to original and show quality, but nonetheless, a user. As one of the Gentleman’s Racer owners told me in Tavares, “It’s wood – it can be fixed”. He runs his boat almost every day and it still looks like it just came pout of restoration. While I doubt I will ever own or restore a wood boat, I still love hanging around the guys who do and hearing their stories and seeing the product of their affection – Yup, it’s all about the lifestyle! P.S., I’ve got my Woody Boater hat close at hand in case I see the hotties coming down the dock looking for a good time . . . a boat ride, Matt!

  13. Chris
    Chris says:

    And the Survey said…..
    Participated in any classic boat show in the last 2 years? Yes 49%
    Need more shows? Yes 13% Right number? 38% No opinion? 46%
    Judging Crtieria? #1 Condition / overall quality & appearance only 39% #2 Preservation 20%
    Belong to a Club? Yes 73%
    Why? (multible pick rank) Share info 80% Have Fun 70% Camaraderie 70%
    Comments; “If the general public has more oppertunities to view classics, a greater awareness and interest may trigger/initiate favorable latent remembrances of childhood experiences, capturing the imagination and sparking the desire to own a classic”

    • Al Benton
      Al Benton says:

      The surprising number to me is that less than half of us in this “Lifestyle” attended a boat show in the last 2 years. I have attended a few and enjoyed all of them. I didn’t bring a functional boat to any of them and enjoyed the people as much (if not more) than the boats that were there.

      I Haven’t attended a judged event and would like to I think it may be interesting. Judging is the part of the lifestyle that encourages preservation of the history of antique and classic boating. I enjoy seeing an old boat that represents its history to the fullest extent possible. Without judging there would be no encouragement to maintain that history. So judging needs to remain a part of it all.

      Some may feel that preservation is only for antique boats. Those boats were once new and a 35 year old boat (considered a contemporary this year) will soon be a classic. And 35 more years down the road they will be older than some present day antique ones. So when do you start preserving them so their history will be around when they’re 70 years old?

  14. Mike M
    Mike M says:

    This is all great stuff….is there any way to poll the Woody Boater readers to get an idea of age and whether or not most of us belong to the ACBS? There is no doubt that those submitting comments all feel the same way about this hobby and its potential going forward. I love it….

    The keys to keeping this hobby moving along is to A) welcome classic glass and B) say hello to the “younger” folks at the boat shows. Offer them a ride. Let them know that it’s really not that much harder to keep a classic boat nice than it would be to keep a newer boat nice. Let them know that the costs of getting into this hobby don’t have to be outrageous. Most people think that all of our varnished woodies are six figure boats which we know isn’t true.

  15. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    I like the term “Lifestyle”. Always felt the word ‘Hobby” shouldn’t apply to me, for some reason it seems more fitting for something you did in your youth and didn’t apply to adults. I’ve grown used to it but only because most othere with common interests seem to feel comfortable with it. But from now on, thanks to Woody Boater and Chris at Hagerty, it’s a LIFESTYLE! It feels right.

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      So in the space of 2 days Matt has transformed us from hobbyists to lifestyle choice makers. What power he now yields. LOL If classic boating is now a lifestyle then is modern fiberglass is an alternative lifestyle? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  16. Bruce M
    Bruce M says:

    First thanks to Matt and Texx for bringing this discussion to the masses. We have been following the responses with great interest as it’s impact on not only the hobby but also ourselves as professionals is both enlightening and validating. As highly qualified and respected professionals in the wooden boat business, both as restorers and brokers of classic boats, we recognize that we can not please everyone – what industry can claim that!! We know that the 80/20 rule applies and it’s amazing how that always seems to play out. Ultimately we do our absolute best to look after our clients as we anticipate they will be with us for a long time if we treat them with respect and honesty. If we screw up or even if we don’t it is we who usually takes the hit to make it right. As has been said many times now over the last couple of days none of us are getting rich restoring these boats – all we ask is to make a decent mark-up on our work.

    I have been thinking about this for a long time and since this appears to be the best forum for doing this – and I think most now in the business are reading it on a daily basis – here’s my thought. Why not establish a Wooden Classic Boat Restoration &/or Brokerages ‘Association’. Just about every other trade out there has one and they meet yearly and discuss trends in the business, new products, ways to attract more business, help the younger guys get established, etc, etc. Most have a trade show attached where they can sell space to suppliers who want to sell them their products new and old. Obviously you would have to pay a yearly membership, elect a board of directors, produce a monthly newsletter, yada yada yada. Maybe it’s a way to find methods to make restorations more efficient and less costly – how to weed out the bad and promote the good – come up with a better method of estimating (the car repair shops have a guide that tells them how long it takes to replace a part for example), selling or brokerage guidelines, etc, etc. Does this make sense for our profession??

  17. Woodenrookie
    Woodenrookie says:

    I would have to believe that the majority of WoodyBoater followers are of a 55 and younger age. It is a social subject media blog. I suspect we have a mean age that is way less computer literate/comfortable to be interacting with blogs and social media. I could be wrong but Chris might know further. His information was just what every local ACBS club would want to know.

    I am blessed to belong to local club which is proactive in meeting and exposing our area to our “lifestyle”. These people work tirelessly to expose our passions and to that my hats off. It is great of all of you to further our love and passion for this “lifestyle” I’m with you Al, no longer a hobbist.

  18. Dave P
    Dave P says:

    I just convinced my wife that classic boating was a lifestyle, you know Sinatra, Elvis, and martinis, then explained the “building a deck” analogy. She on board(sorry for the pun) that or it was the martini aspect that sold her, whatever works! Thanks Matt and Texx for saving my hobby, scratch that, our Lifestyle!

  19. Chris
    Chris says:

    We are just extracting the last data points from the Lifestyle Survey and there is much to support, and a few contradictions of points from the last few days. I will be getting with Matt to revisit this in the near future. Some great things will result from all this!!

  20. Ol'Salt
    Ol'Salt says:

    A lifestyle, indeed…and a lifestyle that can be enjoyed at many levels. I am a sophomore Woody Boater. We have had our boat for about 13 months. While we live in Montana our children live in California and my daughter and her family have yet to see and enjoy our boat. This weekend was the 21st annual Bass Lake Antique and Classic Boat Show, at Bass Lake, California. My daughter and her family had hoped to attend to get an idea about what happened to Grandma and Grandpa but my grandson has a heart defect that won’t allow altitude… but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy the show and participate vicariously in our lifestyle.

    The wonders of modern electronics…on Friday I got a photo message from my son-in-law on my cell with a picture of a boat traveling down Highway 99 near Fresno. I looked at the pic, checked my ACBS Directory and was able to tell him that Miss Janoula is a 1936 18′ Gar Wood runabout, owned by Richard and Jeanne Johanson of Bakersfield CA and that they also have a 1932 Gar Wood split cockpit, which according to Antique Boat America is for sale (just in case they wanted to drink the cool-aide). Today I got a call from my daughter who saw Okeydokey traveling down Hwy 99. I was able to tell her it was a 1950 CC Special Runabout owned by Alex and Karen Hodges of Los Angeles. She loved it and wanted to know how the boat compared with ours in size and style…a great discussion. She now has a much better idea about our boat and why we are so excited to be woody boaters. I have never met Richard and Jeanne or Alex and Karen, but they are friends of mine…A lifestyle indeed…

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Great Story Ol’Salt – Thanks for sharing it with us… A lifestyle indeed.

      Hopefully we will get some photos from the Bass Lake Boat Show that we can share with the Woody Boater community.

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