Festival celebrates beautiful old boats


Old boat enthusiasts will again converge at the Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem, Mass., to attend this year’s Antique and Classic Boat Festival.

Old boat enthusiasts will again converge at the Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem, Mass., to attend this year’s Antique and Classic Boat Festival. The two-day event is scheduled to kick off Aug. 20 and will feature more than 40 vintage sailboats, powerboats, steam- and hand-powered vessels.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to come and see so many beautiful vintage boats all in one place,” says festival coordinator Pat Wells. “You can travel many miles to many ports all over the world, and never see wooden boats like the ones you’ll see here.”

The main attraction of the festival, Wells says, is the diversity of vessels that will be on display. In previous years, boats have ranged from 19th-century launches and canoes to mahogany runabouts to a sail flotilla of sloops, sharpies, yawls and schooners. The boats can be built of aluminum, ferro-cement, steel or wood. Antique boats are dated before 1946; classic boats are dated before 1968.

Most of the skippers have performed their own restorations and some come to the festival decked in period garb. Others display vintage décor and table settings. Many owners invite the public aboard to see the boats close up and to share stories.

Some of this year’s fleet have been on display during past festivals, including Chrissy, a 1910 Friendship Sloop owned by Harold Burnham of Essex, Mass.; Valhalla, a 1934 Wheeler Playmate cruiser and a sister ship to Ernest Hemingway’s Pilar; and Ghost, a 1934 40-foot Williams originally built as a passenger ferry running service between Islesboro, Maine, and the mainland.

“Seeing the old boats is the best part,” Wells says. “I think they have more elegance and grace than a lot of today’s fiberglass boats.”

Jim Watson, of Cohasset, Mass., who owns Ghost, comments, “There’s no pretense to this show, unlike with some other ones. It’s a more casual, fun type of event. Even if your boat isn’t perfect, you can bring it anyway and not feel out of place.”

In addition to the boats, there will be a crafts market, ship models, marine paintings and classic cars. Live music and entertainment will be provided by the Squirrel Hill Olde Tyme Band, the new New Orleans Jazz Band and Sizzlin’ Strings.

The Antique and Classic Boat Festival was first held in 1983 under the auspices of a non-profit association, the Boston Educational Marine Exchange. Wells, who was a member, first developed the festival as a way to “bring people back to the water and help make them aware of New England’s maritime heritage.”

In previous years the Antique and Classic Boat Show has been held in Boston, Charlestown and Quincy.

Wells is confident that this year’s festival will be as good, if not better, than the others.

“It’s important to let people know about their maritime history,” she says. Call (617) 666-8530 or visit www.by-the-sea.com/bacbfestival.