Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 2, 2013

Look and lust at classic boats

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Richard De Boer may be retired but that doesn't mean he has the luxury of deciding what he’ll do every day.

That’s because De Boer owns not one but two classic wood boats or “woodies.”

“Generally they require pretty continuous maintenance. The old adage is, ‘There’s never a last coat of varnish,’” De Boer said. He represents the Water Wonderland Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, which claims about 300 members from Grand Rapids to the Mackinac Bridge.

The chapter will host its signature event, “Boats on the Boardwalk,” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday along the Boardman River, a block north of Front Street. Wood boat enthusiasts can lust after some 50 preserved and restored antique and classic canoes and boats, including a 28-foot Chris-Craft twin-engine semi-enclosed cruiser and an 18-foot Chris-Craft runabout.

Both belong to De Boer, who trailers the smaller boat to inland lakes like Lake Leelanau, Crystal and Torch, and cruises in the larger boat on West Grand Traverse Bay.

“We refer to it as a ‘bubbler,’” he said, of the latter’s distinctive engine sound. “We just kind of bubble around the bay and enjoy it."

The boats also are called “picnic boats,” given their owners' propensity to enjoy lunch while cruising in elegance, he said.

The Detroit-based Chris-Craft Co. became well-known for its sleek racing boats in the 1910s and 1920s and sold high end powerboats to wealthy patrons such as Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst. In the late 1920s, it became one of the first lines of mass-produced civilian pleasure boats.

Now the boats are considered among the most prestigious to collect, preserve and restore.

“People do appreciate the wood boats,” De Boer said, adding that the Water Wonderland Chapter of ACBS includes none other than Joy Smith, the great-granddaughter of Chris-Craft founder Chris Smith. “They recognize how much work is involved in keeping them in pristine condition. And there’s not a lot of them around. In the bay you might see two wood boats and 50 fiberglass boats.”

De Boer said the “Boats on the Boardwalk” event — founded 26 years ago by a dozen Traverse City area wood boat enthusiasts — is a judged show in which entries are evaluated in either preserved or restored categories. Preserved boats must resemble the original as closely as possible, down to the engine, seats, floors and the instruments. Restored boats may have as much as 40 percent of their wood replaced.

The boats also will be judged in pre-war, post-war and other categories.

“If you want to show in the original category, they look at the paint scheme to make sure it matches the original and the linoleum floor that matches the original. It’s that detailed,” De Boer said.