Purchasing Your Pearl
How do you acquire one of these wooden wonders for yourself? Prospective buyers typically turn to one of the aforementioned resources — antique boat clubs, brokers, restoration experts or auctions. All can be easily located on the Internet.
Mecum Auctions, for instance, has a long history of auctions in the classic car markets, and its auction of the renowned Todd Warner wood boat collection this past fall brought all of the sources for our story together. Kelly purchased four boats (two 1958 Chris-Craft Sea Skiffs, a 1995 Hacker racing replica and a 1948 Sudlow); Johnson picked up three (a 1929 Hickman Sea Sled, a 1953 racing runabout and a 1970 Evinrude boat, along with five engines and two additional pallets of parts); Davis purchased three antique engines; and Genovese found his beloved Cobra. Genovese originally planned to attend to bid on a car, until he saw the Cobra on the list. Then his mind was made up.
Davis cautions, however, that auctions are not without certain perils. “It would probably be about the worst case for a newcomer,” he says. “You can’t survey the boat; you can’t really look around. You have to know what you’re looking at.”
Davis advises the budget-conscious newcomer to start with someone who is a restorer, but not necessarily a broker or seller. They know the boats in their area that are coming to market and usually will take the time to help.
“Let’s face it, a guy isn’t restoring wooden boats unless it’s his passion,” he says. “If you go to boat shows and get to know some of the guys in the club, they’ll often know who’s got a boat for sale, who just passed away, what boat’s been sitting in a barn for years. They can also find out what kind of boat is really right for that person.”
So is vintage wood right for you?
Davis says: “We live in a society that has a lot of issues, but at the end of the day, when you go out in your wooden boat and you see all that varnish, and everything is shaped with beautiful curves, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really great.’ I can just breathe it in!”