Doing It Yourself
Others, however, find part of the joy of owning a classic is in getting their hands dirty. It’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of antique boat buyers are do-it-yourself types. Many of them have worked on a family boat with a previous generation and want to pass that experience along to their children. Others find the frequent upkeep almost therapeutic.
“With a car or fiberglass boat, the relationship is very one-sided,” Davis says. “But with a wood boat, we work on it in the off-season, and that’s still part of the relationship with the boat, the care and the responsibility.
“It’s not, ‘I just want to get a couple more seasons out of the boat.’ Owners see this thing as carrying on essentially forever. They’ll continue to be taken care of, and years from now they expect them to be out there and running.”
“I like the varnishing and painting, the sanding and scraping,” admits Johnson, a self-described “exaggerated” hobbyist. Johnson has experience with both turnkey models and boats that have required renovation. Think the latter is a money saver? You might be surprised. “It’s a lot cheaper to buy one that’s already done!” Johnson says, laughing. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Classic Marine’s Davis knows both types of consumers. “There are some professional types — all they want to do is turn the key,” he says. “We do the varnish, the woodworking; we even have some that we make sure are washed and ready to start when the customer gets in town. But there are other customers that all they want is a little bit of advice.”
That advice is doled out through a variety of resources. A kindhearted restorer is certainly one, but more common are the local antique boat clubs. Here, members meet other boaters, who frequently share the same interests and needs. They talk to each other, see who’s using whom for work and swap tales on who’s expensive, who’s reliable, who takes too long and who’s fast on the job.
Many clubs also put on educational workshops over the wintertime. These workshops typically cover everything from troubleshooting engines and electronics to woodworking, varnishing and painting. Clubs also often put together social trips on which owners can use their boats as the manufacturer originally intended.
“I like using my boats,” says Johnson, who readily admits his U-22 is no trailer queen. “And I like going out on these river and lake cruises that are organized through our club. There’s a big social aspect to it.