When I was growing up we had a classic speedboat: a 1946 mahogany Century named Small Change. It was kept in a boathouse on a lake in the Adirondacks at my grandmother’s summer camp, and at sunset on clear summer nights, I’d be perched on the green leather motor cover with my brother and sister as my Dad took Grandma out for a ride around the lake. She was the smallest person in the boat, but with her jaunty cotton cap and large binoculars, through which she would squint at the activity around the lake as we putted close to shore, hard to ignore. People stared back, understandably annoyed. Usually, though, Small Change, with its gleaming chrome details and throaty baritone roar, attracted admiring glances.
I’m reminded of our old Century when I stroll past the striking craft moored along Kingston’s Rondout Creek waterfront during the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s annual Antique and Classic Boat Show, held this year on August 18 and 19. A faint echo of pride stirs in my heart when I see polished wooden motorboats that resemble that distant family artifact, which was sold to someone from Lake Tahoe when my grandmother died in the 1970s. In fact, I half-expect to discover it someday amid the rocking maritime gems, Small Change spelled out in gold letters on the stern. Meanwhile, there’s much to see and admire. Vintage speedboats and small yachts bear the name of brands – Elco, Chris-Craft, Hacker Craft, Fay & Bowen, Lyman, Wheeler and of course Century – that evoke a lost world of sporty high style.
The weekend show is sponsored by the Hudson River Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, an international non-profit organization that’s headquartered in Clayton, New York, which is also home to the Antique Boat Museum. The Hudson River Chapter represents homeports from New York City to Albany. While the official hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and also Sunday morning, stop by Friday night for a preview, when the boats begin arriving. The Sunday morning parade is always fun: Out on the water and under power, these boats display their full splendor. In addition, the Museum will be displaying a collection of antique outboard engines for devoted motorheads.
By the way, all the boats fall into a particular class; just being called “old” simply won’t do. “Historic” applies to craft constructed before or up to 1918; “antique” to those built between 1919 and 1942; “classic,” from 1943 to 1975. Wooden boats constructed after 1975 also belong to a particular class.
Owners will be on hand to discuss the history and restoration of their boats, as well as to offer advice and expertise. When I walk by the docks and see interested bystanders deep in discussion with some dapper-looking owner, I think of my Dad, knowing that he’d want to be there – as either a boat-owner or fan.
The Antique and Classic Boat Show will be held on August 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on the morning of August 19 at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, located on the Strand in Kingston’s Rondout District. For more information visit www.acbs.org or www.hrmm.org.