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Vintage Vessels Antique Boat Show Gives Passers-By Plenty To See

Everyone seemed to agree: There’s just something about those glassy hulls, baking brown in the sun, that makes folks stop short.

Wooden boats demand to be gawked at. And that was somewhat of a fortunate problem at Sunday’s Antique Wooden Boat Show, held along the Coeur d’Alene Resort boardwalk. All that stopping made for a slow stroll - but it proved the boat entry owners weren’t the only fanatics around.

“I don’t own one. But I sure like ‘em,” said Hal Swenson, who had just fallen in love with a 1940 model full of gauges polished bright like wedding rings.

There were 48 vintage vessels along the route, all sizes, all shapes. Some were small with wrap-around hulls and looked a little like chubby canoes. Another, a double-cabin cruiser, looked like a Mercedes-Benz station wagon designed for the water. There was even a weathered vessel that looked like a tug boat.

Swenson stared. “They have a lot of personality. I don’t think I’d want to mess with the maintenance, but they sure are nice to look at.”

Steve Neely said it’s not so bad. It’s expensive at first, but once the boats are restored things get easier. “Sanding and varnishing doesn’t take much longer than waxing a fiberglass boat,” he said.

Neely has owned his ‘63 Tollycraft for 13 years. He knows its whole story: It was one of the first boats with an inboard/outboard motor. “This is a small-engine Ford, a 260 V-8.”

The hull of the boat is marine plywood, some is mahogany and yes, even some fiberglass. “It was a transition year,” he explained. “I think within two years, they were all fiberglass.”

Most entries at the show, though, were browngold mahogany. These boats can go for $2,000, $5,000, $20,000 or even $85,000. But none are a water-tight investment, Kirk Marshall warned.

He’s replaced the floor of his Chris-Craft. He’s replaced the wiring, even the planks. When buying one of these beauties, Marshall suggests the following restoration equation:

“Estimate what it’ll cost in time and materials, then double it. Then double it again. Then you’ve got a pretty good idea.”

But still, “nothing rides like a wood boat.”

For Swenson, there was something else. These boats awakened the car buff in him. The pleat of the upholstery, the curve of the chrome on the overhead lamps, it all reminded him of classic cars of the same years.

He eyed a boat with a fold-out windshield: “It’s like my Model A! Same design, same purpose.”

And there was the ‘67 Chris-Craft. “And you can see the ‘66 Chevy Impala SS! It even had ‘Super Sport’ written on it.”

Swenson was in mahogany heaven. Maybe that upkeep wouldn’t be so tough after all.

“The detail,” he marveled. “Everything’s so detailed. They’re art.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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