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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Just What Are Antique & Classic Boats???

I am never sure, that when we put out the word about our Antique & Classic Boat Festival each year, that everyone knows what we mean and what makes these boats so special...

What is an antique or classic boat? Let me start by saying that when you see an "Antique & Classic" boat show, it's probably being put on by one of the fifty some odd chapters of The Antique & Classic Boat Society (ACBS), which is an international group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of classic and antique boats.

ACBS rules define an antique boat as one built between 1919 and 1942; a classic boat is one built between 1943 and 1975. Those built before 1918 fall into the class of historic.Most ACBS boat shows and festivals are judged. The goal is for the boats to be maintained in, or restored to, original form. 

Among these boats are Chris~Crafts, Garwoods, Centurys, Higgins, Owens, Matthews, Lyman, Thompson, Whirlwind, Huckins, Trumpy, Ditchburn, Shepherd and many, many other names. Many of them have varnished mahogany planked decks with white seams and chrome parts.

It's difficult to describe how exciting these gatherings can be. Each boat comes from an individual or individuals who come together in a single place. There is no museum or other place that one can visit and see such a great collection of historic items. None could afford it. The only opportunity to see them is at these shows. Their owners put a lot of care into their boats and it shows.

As model makers it's our job to notice the differences between boats. Looking at antique and classic boats collectively we get an opportunity to see how design has evolved both in terms of style and function. Luckily, we've even gotten to know a few of the significant boat designers along the way. Their explanations of the hows and whys of design choices has taught us a great deal. Modern boats are the product of these design choices.

When you are at an antique & classic boat show notice the year that a boat was built on its information card. Many of the boats that you'll see were "state of the art" at the time that they were built. Picture what the world must have looked like when that boat was "state of the art". There is a good chance that you will see a boat from the same era as the Wright Flyer. Think of what a state of the art airplane is like now. What about cars? It's easy to tell that there are differences between a boat from the 1920s and the 1960s. What about the 1920s to the 1930s? It helps to look at the boat's appearance, how the hull is shaped, the layout of human spaces, the engine, the comfort features, the finishes, available materials, etc.

A useful piece of information to know about is the difference between a "utility" and a "runabout". If you look at the "Retrospect", a 1958 Century Coronado and clearly an elegant boat, you'll see it described as a utility. When you look at the Garwood "Granny", also an elegant boat, it will be listed as a runabout. A runabout has dedicated cockpits (seating areas)separated by decking, meaning that to go from one to another requires crossing a deck. A utility has a single cockpit area allowing movement throughout the boat without leaving the cockpit.

Many elements changed, pretty much by decade, in the design of boats. Sometimes these elements paralleled those seen in cars, airplanes, toasters and vacuum cleaners.

Using Chris~Craft's long line of boats as examples of changes that many brands of boats went through;, you will see that a Chris~Craft runabout from the late 1920s has what is known as a "raised deck" over the motor box area. In the 1930s a similar Chris~Craft have a "flush deck". The flush deck here happens to be a Hacker.

In the 1940's, with WWII, materials were scarcer and painted sides sometimes replaced mahogany sides and the 1947 Chris~Craft 22' Sportsman utility was one of the most recognized boats of that time.

In the 50's things got really crazy with the advent of vinyls and fiberglass. If you are familiar with the '57 Chevy, you'll see that many late '50s boats had wings. Other 1950's Chris~Craft features were the bull nose and blonde stain as seen in Capris and Rivieras. The use of fiberglass was originally not for functional purposes, but for visual appearance. Note the Cobra's gold fin.

*Speaking of the use of fiberglass in the late 50s, The Silver Anniversary of The Antique & Classic Boat Festival in St. Michaels, Maryland, being held June 15th - 17th, is expected to have the largest gathering of the highly unusual Chris~Craft "Silver Arrows" ever. This was a boat that used fiberglass in a way never seen prior to 1958(or again).Click on the photo for more information...

One of Chris~Craft's means of staying current was to "borrow" good ideas from other companies. Although, theirs is probably the the most quickly recognized name in classic boats, many of their ideas came from watching others. Their Sea Skiff line were similar to Lyman Boats, which featured lapstrake construction with "canoe strip" reinforcement.

In the late '50s, there began an intense competition between Chris~Craft and Century boats, whose Coronados, Resorters and Arabians had lots of Chrome, Vinyl, Convertible Roof options and lots of power. Century boats were striking to look at and Chris~Craft answered with the Super Sport and other similar models in the early '60s.

Of course, Chris~Craft was only one boat builder among hundreds that made what are now antique and classic boats, each of whom had an interesting story and role to play in their development. I do not want to leave the impression that all antique and classic boats are Chris~Crafts. I use them here as examples of one of the companies that made such boats. Perhaps you are familiar with Berglund?

I am just scratching the surface of what you'll see at these shows. I haven't said a thing about Cruisers or Motoryachts... The Happie is what as known as a "raised-deck cruiser". It has 7' of headroom down below, a commuter cockpit and a soapstone fireplace.

When you see 4 or 5 Trumpy Motor Yachts, which might be 80' or longer in one location, even from a distance they very impressive. Speak with the Captain and you might get invited aboard! Motoryacht builders had similar design evolutions, many of the early ones being built on sailboat hulls.

Raceboats such as Gold-Cup Racers, Jersey Skiffs, Unlimited Hydros, and others are often present at these shows and when you are talking state of the art... Well. The first boat to achieve 100mph on water, the Miss America IX was at the St. Michaels Show last year. Perhaps again, this year??

Of course, there are "The Outboard Guys". Outboards have been one of the most important developments ever seen in the world of boats. What we use now came from machines that looked like old kitchen mixers. The machinery and styling and sometimes the greatest of innovative thinking can be seen in old outboards. Those that love and take care of them and bring the dead ones back to life are very special people. Their ability to find precious information and their ability to bring something out of their closet that you could never imagine existed at one time is astounding.

I recommend that if you haven't been to a real Antique & Classic Boat Show, that you take a look. They are truly amazing and you need to pay attention to really get the most out of them, but when you do, you will find out a lot of things about the history of style and design and, ultimately, because everything else in our lives followed similar design paths, why we have what we have today and, in some ways, who we are.

The next great nationally recognized show is The 25th Anniversary of The Antique & Classic Boat Festival/ The Arts at Navy Point held in St. Michaels, Maryland on June 15th - 17th, 2012 at The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. St. Michaels is a beautiful and historic town on the Miles River, which is a tributary of The Chesapeake Bay. It has fine restaurants, shops and lodging and the weather is usually in the mid-70's during the show. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum helps to keep the traditions and history of the Chesapeake Bay alive and recently added a very special tugboat exhibit.

For more information about this show go to

For information about other great antique & classic boat shows or to learn more about antique and classic boats go to

For information about Century boats and The Century Boat Club go to

To see some of our antique & classic boat models go to

To know what's going on in the world of classic boating try

Stay tuned for more about "The Arts at Navy Point" for 2012.


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