There’s a lot to see at a classic boat show, but the real fun is in talking to the owners. At this year’s Antique & Classic Boat Festival in Salem, Massachusetts, owners of three award-winning craft shared stories of how they found their diamonds in the rough and got them to shine.
Mark Grady of Braintree, Massachusetts, already owned a classic wooden boat—a 35-foot 1951 Vinny Cavanaugh Downeast-style cruiser—but he wanted a trawler. A good friend owned a Penbo and Grady liked the lines, so when he found a 1965 model online, he and his daughter drove to Long Island, New York, to check it out. He bought the 37-foot wooden sardine carrier from its 95-year-old owner in May 2017. Grady spent the next month painting the interior while the boat was docked in Fall River, Massachusetts. After enjoying the boat for the summer, he took it to Mystic, Connecticut, where he spent the winter stripping the deck and wheelhouse, sanding the exterior teak, building new hatches for the forward cabin and engine, painting the forward part of the interior and updating the galley. In May 2018, he took the boat back to Fall River, where he pulled her out of the water, removed all the bronze trim (including 500 screws), stripped the hull and repainted her black and gray. The Penbo, named Mary Curtis after Grady’s mother, made the judges in Salem drool. They unanimously named it best powerboat at the festival.
Ted Chisholm of Medford, Massachusetts, found his gem two years ago in a barn where it had been sitting untouched for 40 years. The 14-foot 1952 Wagemaker Wolverine runabout sat on a trailer that had been jacked up to take the load off its tires. The boat was covered in rat waste and the 1957 Evinrude outboard had a rodent’s nest inside. Remarkably, the rodents had not eaten any of the rubber gaskets or supply lines. The engine turned over, so Chisholm sent it to a mechanic to be serviced. Chisholm stripped the boat, refinished her inside and out, and put her back together. The original factory paint on the engine was still intact, and except for one piece of hardware that had to be refinished, all of the chrome on the boat cleaned up like new.
Other than the seatbacks, which had rotted and had to be replaced, everything on the boat is original, including the tires on that jacked-up trailer. At the festival, Chisholm was rewarded for his efforts with an honorable mention in the powerboat category.
Ryan Flynn of Rockport, Massachusetts, found his pride and joy, Kanin, at an estate sale. When he saw the traditional wooden Norwegian-built, 17-foot, 5-inch Bindel Faering Nordland, which resembles a small Viking ship, he drove to the nearest ATM and bought it on the spot. Although Flynn has not been able to confirm it, lore says one of the Rockefellers bought the boat during a European vacation and had it shipped back to the United States.
Every year, Flynn makes improvements to the boat, which was built sometime in the 1960s and includes wood carvings. This year, Flynn walked away from the show with an honorable mention from the judges at the festival. Next year, he plans to put in a sturdy cup holder so his coffee won’t fall over during morning sails. When it comes to making an impression at a classic boat show, clearly, it’s the attention to detail that matters. —Pim Van Hemmen
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.