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Picture yourself at the cabin.
Youjust finished dinner, the sungetting lower on the horizon, and ittime for your afterdinner treat: a boat ride in your restored classic wooden boat. Imagine the gleaming mahogany decks, the smell and feel of the wood and vinyl interior, the burbling sound of the muffled inboard-engine exhaust, and, of course, the heady feeling of water travel in a time machine —the experience is tough to rival, and it really canbe replicated in a ”fiberglass boat. For many cabin-goers, ita dream worth lingering on.
The good news for those of us who want the reality: There are some dedicated craftspeople who love to resurrect these vintage treasures so new generations can enjoy them. We talked with a few to find out how and why they work their time-travel magic.
COST, CARE AND FEEDING“WOODIES” AREN T FOR everyone. They re expensive to restore, and they cost more to maintain than their fiberglass cousins. It s like owning an exotic sports car; you have to really enjoy the hobby and be prepared to either do the work and maintenance yourself (rare), or pay the experts to do it for you.
You can buy dilapidated 1940s and 50s runabouts for as low as a few thousand dollars. And $10,000-$50,000 will buy a decent ride that s usable but needs restoration. To avoid an arduous restoration process, you could go for a restored hull; they vary widely in price, depending on age, condition, power, originality, restoration quality and history.
Restored boats have sold from the low $50,000s to well into the millions. New models generally start in the high-five-to low-six-figures range. Of course, the sky and your bankbook are the only limits.
A WORK OF ART
LIFELONG WOODEN BOAT ENTHUSIAST Herb Hall started at the bottom of the familyladder when they took over Sierra Boat Company in 1977. In that year, he worked his first summer off from art school at Sierra, which opened in 1952 on beautiful Lake Tahoe near the California-Nevada border and quickly became one of the countrylargest Century boat dealers.
Hall started at the ground level, sanding and scraping bottoms, pumping gas and doing the grunt work usually given to youngsters entering the business. Hallfather and uncles ran the business, and as Hall graduated college, he realized that his love for the business, the boats and, of course, the lake would bring him back to work there.
From an early age, he was smitten by the wood-boat bug. older the boat,”Hall says, more fascinated I am.”And when it comes to fixing up vintage boats, Hall says he more toward preservation, rather than restoration.”With the exception of the boathull, his craftsmen try to preserve the origin and spirit of the boat instead of modernizing it in any way Hall takes special delight in finding examples of well-preserved boats, those with original hardware and fittings intact.
DREAM COME TRUE
AFTER AN EARLY START RACING SAILBOATS, then a stint in Vietnam with the Navy, logging over half a million miles as a MasterLicense ship captain, and finally working as general manager of Broward Marine (builders of fine megayachts), Richard Arnold fulfilled a lifelong dream: He and wife, Kathy, purchased a run-down shop in Eustis, Fla., put their teenagers in school, and opened Rejuvenation Woodworks to restore antique and classic boats in 2007.
Although the business is relatively new, Richardexpertise and love for his craft are not. He owns six classic boats, two currently under restoration, and has a half-dozen customer boats in the shop. His tool chest is filled with older tools built for working on older boats. The Arnolds pride themselves on doing restorations the right way, with only the best materials.
Of course, the Arnolds are involved with their local chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS), and they participate in the Antique Boat Festival their club hosts. The duo also devote their time to the Lake Eustis Youth Sailing Association, repairing damages the young sailors sometimes inflict. a satisfying life and a great business for us,”says Richard. here allows boating all year, and, of course, our business gives us the freedom to do what we love best, which is working on and around antique boats.”
AFTER OWNING SEVERAL wooden Chris-Crafts, the bug bit lifelong wooden-boat purist George Badcock hard enough that he invested in local builder Hacker Boat Company on New Yorks Lake George.
The company was under the tutelage of another lifelong enthusiast, Bill Morgan, who was an unlimited hydroplane racer in the 1950s. Morgan bought the rights and plans to Hacker boats in 1959 and began building them in the early ‘s. Badcocks love for the classic Hacker lines was closely matched by his keen business sense, and his desire to the ship”at Hacker resulted in a complete makeover of the company.
Today, Badcocks right-hand man is Kent Smith, whose love for wooden hulls comes from his bloodline; his dad introduced him to the hobby at an early age.
Smith met Badcock through the ACBS and restored a Chris-Craft for him. Before long, Smith was doing his dream job: managing restoration and new-boat construction at Hacker. The only thing better than that, says Smith, is showing the boats off on the water when theyready for delivery.
IN 1989, WOODEN BOAT DEVOTEE LOU RAUH was frustrated as he sought suitable wooden boats to purchase. He decided that the market might welcome a , well-lit place staffed by enthusiasts where prospects could view and compare antique and classic boats before buying —like a new-boat dealership, but for antiques.”
His idea started as the Antique Boat Connection, a brokerage for antique boats, and evolved into the Antique Boat Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, which offers restorations, repairs and service.
Enter company president Dennis Ryan, who joined Rauh in 2005. In his prior life he was a general contractor, but when his wife purchased a wooden runabout in the 1990s for him as a birthday gift, he was hooked. Ryan has made his hobby his lifework and has never looked back. He currently serves on the board of the ACBS.
Today, Rauh delights in the companyeveryday challenges. He loves seeing happy customers take possession of their to them”boats. And he takes pride in being able to provide steady employment to his staff; for example, three of his craftsmen came to him recently from a local cabinet shop that was a victim of our slow economy. Their fine cabinetry skills fit right in at Rauhshop, and theythrived there since.