Are Classic Boaters Conspicuous Consumers? Or Conspicuous Workers?

This story may cause some..well..

I was all set to do some sort of toilet or hat story today, maybe even a sausage thing, and a new comment came in about how snooty I am and others. Shelbys, porches, yada yada. About Conspicuous consumption. Which is a bad word. Like being called an asshole. But, I have been doing alot of thinking and working on the term equity and how unbalanced our social fabric is. BTW, it’s always been. We are just looking more in the mirror these days, it’s not a good look, that’s for sure. So I am listening, and learning. I am and always have been a fare person and always. ALWAYS, lend a hand to anyone that reaches out. It’s the driving force behind Woody Boater. Yes, it costs money to do this, but if it invites others to join and save an old boat, it’s my part.

Are we a load of crap?

So? I ask, does owning and showing a classic wood boat make us earn the title “Conspicuous consumption”?

Yes, I like to show my boats, yes, they represent passion, time, and for some money. TRUE, but mostly they represent lots of work. More pain in the ass than most are willing to do. A huge sport fishing boat with BIG DICK on the transom. Okay. I get that. But thats a subjective call as well, and all relative to who is seeing it. But an old wood boat? A wood trawler? A boat yard being saved from being turned into condos?

The Bunkers

So I dug deeper and looked up the term, I want to learn. I learned a bunch, and sadly am somewhat guilty if you read it through the eyes of a person that desires what I have. I am sorry for that. My intent is NEVER to create ill feelings, but motivate folks to save history and respect hard work. And a classic boat do that in spades. You can work your ass off for no cost and deliver a stunning boat. Or pay someone? It’s one of the great passions in life that money or hard work can level the playing field.

Working on your own boat is one of the great parts of our passion


Bottom line, classic boating is one of the passions of fun that anyone can participate in. Young, old, poor, rich, smart, or even me!  So get out there, show off your passion, show off your time spent all winter, show off that varnish you inhaled. Be a conspicuous worker! Happy Header Day. I am exhausted from writing this.

28 replies
  1. Tparsons56
    Tparsons56 says:

    First of all DO NOT APOLOGIZE in regards to the comment made to yesterday’s story. We were taught to WORK HARD, be responsible, take care of our commitments and then when possible enjoy the fruits of our labors.

    I have been working since I was 15 (now 65 and still working) which is pretty consistent with other classic boat owners I have met. We are also tend to be motivated, responsible and not afraid to get our hands dirty.


    • John
      John says:

      Tparsons56 – SPOT ON!!

      This is a hobby born out of memories, as are cars. Those that do it for other reasons are few and far between and don’t last long.

      If you convince a widow to sell a freshly restored 1941 barrelback for $5k, then you’re a bad person. There’s your bright line.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    This will be an interesting day!

    All of us here on WoodyBoater are very fortunate and blessed! Even the guy who wrote the comment and spent 5K on his boat. There are 100’s of 1000’s of people in this world who could not even conceive of such a lavish expenditure.

    Any time one chooses to look up the ladder of success describing the a** holes above they best take a look back down that ladder to see whom is looking up theirs.

  3. Frank@Falmouth
    Frank@Falmouth says:

    in 1985 I bought my first wooden boat, a 1950 20′ Chris Craft Riviera. If I would have spent that money on Microsoft stock Id have a lot more boats.. Shoudda, wouldda , couldda.. I had some cool cars back in the day, but only those I could buy with the cash I earned. I sold one to afford to buy the next. If Id only know how much they would be worth… (but still should have bought the MS stock!)

    WoodyBoater does seem to focus on beautiful examples of VARNISHED wood boats… and who doesnt love a beautifully restored wood boat sitting at the dock in the early morning with dew rolling off the 16 (or was that 17?) coats of varnish? Its all about how we get there…
    Face it, the majority of folks who read this blog have done well in their lives,….Having worked hard and possibly with some luck or help, they are now able to enjoy a totally impractical hobby (passion). As Matt stated, wood boats like ours are totally an emotional thing. BUT are they conspicuous consumption? Id say not. Being willing and capable of spending the amount of Bucks,Sweat and Beers to revive and care for a classic wood boat shouldnt be something to be ashamed of.
    Is this passion cheap? Heck no!. Im just a normal joe who worked my entire life and have acquired numerous boats because I love the look , feel, smell and sight of classic craft.
    All have been affordable, but required work to bring them back. OK so five coats of varnish with errant pet hair or grit from not having the space for a “clean room”.. Having to swell the boat before putting it in the water..(I dont have the $1k/ft to throw on a 5200 bottom!) I cant afford to pay someone else to do the work, so they take years to finish.. but for me the acquisition and the journey is the most fun and rewarding. Sometimes Ill just go out to the “boat barn” (now for THIS i do feel guilty.. 🙂
    But the end result is the same no matter how we get there… some like me enjoy the work and the end result, others who have the means , may pay someone else to do the work.. more power to them! In the end how much something is worth is a difficult thing to determine,
    I cant tell you how much Id pay to reacquire the 1967 109
    12 passenger LandRover my father bought at the factory and we drove throughout Europe. And talk about practicality? Driving an old Series LandRover is one step up from driving a farm tractor. Its about how close you get to that intersection of Want and Can Afford streets!
    So Wooden Boats arent just beautiful bright finished mahogany runabouts. They are also worn and peeling workboats or backyard built skiffs or dingys. But those dont get the attention…. but can still give great pleasure and reward
    People who have disposable income can do lots of things with it. Except take it with them when they go. If it wernt for people who are willing to take on the role of boat caretakers, many good boats would rot away , neglected in boat yards that are increasingly prejudiced against wood boats and DIY. My hat is off to any classic cruiser owner….

    Historical sites like old gas stations (All gone) and , ahem,…Boat Yards, are a dying breed and are too ripe for redevelopment. That some are willing to step in and create something that preserves history is something that should be applauded (tho I do want a waterfront condo at the “Guppy” !

    I dont think we need to be apologetic for having nice things that we’ve worked for.. Some will have benefitted more than others, and have nicer toys, it doesnt mean we all cant play together, and thats whats kept me reading WoodyBoater over the years, an accepting community.

  4. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    so what is the alternative? to be inconspicuous so as to not attract attention. Everyone have the same color electric car, plastic boat, approved energy efficient home ? Everyone say , write, and print state approved positions. Sounds like a world incompatible to the spirit of conspicuous woodyboat workpersonship and art.

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    I don’ resent any of the stories told here by those well off. Hey – if you are lucky enough to be born into money or earned it the old fashioned way good for you.

    We all have something to contribute and love what we have. I spent 5K on my boat, restored it for 25K and now for the price of cheap of car I am living the dream. I don’t stick my boat in peoples faces and act snooty. I do take time at the ramp to accept compliments and answers questions for those who inquire. And yes I worked my butt off restoring and glad I did it when I did. Jim Staib is right about this being a younger person’s game.

    What I do object to is the criticism of opinion here from so called experts or professionals. We all have an opinion and it is valuable – right or wrong. No one appointed you to master of knowledge so read the comments, make your own and leave other alone. This is exactly why I don’t contribute to the forum any more. I am tired of lurkers who don’t help with advice but are quick to criticize those who do.

    Matt – keeping humping your railway and whatever you can do. It is way better than hearing politicians or Covid over and over again.

  6. JDub
    JDub says:

    Just a thought for the craftsmen (women) that earn a living keeping these boats, cars, etc on the water, road, etc.
    If these items cappped out at $5k much of the skills and knowledge would be lost. Then the only alternatives would be new electric cars and plastic boats and last I checked nothing new is being produced for $5k.

  7. Matt (not that Matt)
    Matt (not that Matt) says:

    I bought a partially restored wooden boat for $8k off CraigsList, will probably put another $6k into it along with 100’s of hours of joy and swearing. So for half the price of a 19′ whatchamacallit boat that nobody would even question the “investement” how is my old wooden boat conspicuous consumption? Conspicuous, yes, but not intended at all to show the neighbors I have more money than someone else. BTW, my neighbor has more money in his OB motor than I will in my entire boat. And yes, I have a boathouse with a rail system – smells of bird crap, needs repairs everywhere and was built in the 50’s. I think most people view my boathouse as an eyesore more than a relic of conspicuous consuption and sometimes I do too – until I get it painted, repairs and filled with my wooden boat.

  8. Murdock
    Murdock says:

    “Don’t be jealous of my wealth. Be jealous of my work ethic”
    It doesn’t matter what you strive for, be it boats, cars, planes, cottages or whatever might tickle your toy fancy. If you’ve worked hard for it or nurtured the trust fund for the next generation, don’t feel guilty about a damn thing.
    Money doesn’t work unless it’s flowing.
    Unemployment? I say bring back the WPA, TVA and the CCC. Teach a trade. I need welders, electricians, plumbers, tool and die, foundry workers and more.
    What I don’t need is another PhD working at Starbucks whining about me paying for his student loan.
    So yeah, I’m a grumpy fat, old white guy and comfortable with that description. I don’t “identify” as something else and I work for all I get.
    I won’t give you the fish, but I’ll sure as hell teach you how to fish and you can think about redistributing what you caught to the others who don’t want to learn how to fish.
    You might just come over to the gotta work for it side……..
    Matt, you really did smack the hornets nest this morning!

  9. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    So is it conspicuous consumption or criticism that’s at issue, I’m confused. Maybe its conspicuous criticism or critical consumption? When a person offers their opinion, I haven’t seen the criticism. If they’ve presented a best practice, I’m all ears and thank you for taking time to present that methodology. I like to learn the best way to do things. In fact, I may be paralyzed (paralysis of analysis) before proceeding sometimes. The only one who seems to be regularly criticized is Matt. Well, I guess I have a different view. Isn’t this the current problem we’re having nationally, that we should all think alike and not express an opinion that might hurt another person’s feelings? Just have another cup of coffee, donut and relax.

  10. Wolfgang
    Wolfgang says:

    I have a friend whom has been working to save a early 1900’s boat and was going to go electric with it. He put approx. $3000.00 down and the company went bankrupt short;y after. Running a small gas 4 cylinder now. He is still plugging away at getting it in the water. This may be the year. He started getting work done on it in 2006. In the mean time he running a new Hacker.

  11. Damon
    Damon says:

    NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED. I don’t think Matt’s story today is any attack on work ethic or wealth or privilege. Any person who has the opportunity and inclination to work hard will. Any person who has the ability and inclination to scam, skim, grift or steal will. I believe this is true across all segments of society. The key is opportunity and representation to help make work and wealth more accessible. Take a look at this 1972 Chris Craft catalogue. There is a black woman on a new boat, in 1972!!! But notice she is not with any of the other people in the boat. She does not appear anywhere else in the brochure or with anyone else. But she does appear and that is pretty impressive for then. I did go check out current Chris Craft and Cobalt and Sea Ray websites. Sea Ray is THE ONLY one to show a black person and guess what? The have a very attractive black woman, not unlike Miss Chris Craft 1972 and again she is always by herself and not with anyone else. Why is this? Why has nothing changed from 1972? We like to think it has. Boats certainly have but not the representation of people on boats. We live on Tahoe and I see maybe 1-2 boats with people of ethic background a summer. Last summer there was the little 19″ boat that had what have been 13 people of an ethnic background. The boat was so overloaded with people and gear the rub rail was about 5″ above the water and they beached the boat and had a picnic. The boat was worth maybe $5000 at most. But I swear they had as much fun as anyone in their $200K Cobalt. It’s opportunity and representation that is till unbalanced. Not work ethic.

  12. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    Damn! We are being philosophical today. I can’t think of any thoughts that haven’t been said already. Let’s just all keep working hard, showing off our beautiful boats, and consuming cars, boats varnish, beer and bacon.

  13. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    If passionate preservation, restoration and enjoyment of life is something conspicuous – count me in! Pursuit of a hobby, a dream, a mystery – whatever – is fundamental part of being alive.

    I applaud Woody Boater for it’s open, balanced and thoughtful approach to the hobby, particularly when it steps right in to the occasional negativity that arises.

    Thank you, Matt! 👍🏻

  14. Max Mueller
    Max Mueller says:

    If one cannot appreciate what is a daily diary and feels compelled to call the stories “conspicuous consumption” then I may suggest that delete is an option. I appreciate Mat’s effort and enjoy every day of his images and stories!

  15. John F Rothert
    John F Rothert says:

    geez. too deep for me today…my depth finder checked out…

    best Go Boating,

    John in Va.

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