By Janice Miller, Finger Lakes Chapter Member

As I write this piece, looking at the snow-covered pines outside my window with a glimpse of the clear blue lake in the background, summer and boating weather in Upstate New York, seem a long way off. I live and work in the beautiful Finger Lakes region where my family enjoys our summers and boats at the family cottage on Skaneateles Lake. The deep, spring fed sixteen-mile-long lake is on the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region in central New York State. 

My grandfather sold Century boats in the 1950s, so I have always been around wooden boats. However, this is a story about an aluminum boat.

I am a local architect and was contacted to design a cottage at the south end of Skaneateles Lake. I met Mike, the owner, at the site. There was a vacant lot on one side of the road and the lake on the other side. Sometime in the 1950s a permanent, cribbed dock was installed. Mike had inherited the property from his father, (who oddly enough had been my high school principal…small world). On the dock was an old aluminum boat that smelled like dead fish. The owner was anxious to clean up the dock and he said the little boat had to go. I explained to him that it was a Feather Craft and worth some money.

A few weeks went by and Mike called me about the boat. He had done some research and agreed that it had some value, but it still needed to go. It was mine if I wanted it, or he was going to take it out and sink it. Well, I really didn’t need another boat to work on, but I had to save it. I grabbed a few strong friends and we hauled it up an embankment. The little boat was heavier than it looked!

I took the boat home and cleaned it up. However, it needed more than cleaning. I added new plywood floors, made new upholstered seats with marine-grade foam and vinyl, a new dashboard, and added new plywood on the transom. The Feather Craft also required a new steering wheel and a refurbished engine. Both the steering wheel and engine were given to me by a member of our Finger Lakes Chapter (FLC). Another FLC member is a talented mechanic who rebuilt the engine to look and run like new.

Given the fact it came close to being sunk in the lake, I decided to name it Lucky Dog. Lucky Dog was a land display, at the Finger Lakes Chapter show in 2018 and a water display this past summer in July 2021.  

This past October I was scrolling through Facebook, and noticed that someone was looking for a 12-foot Feather Craft.  Half-jokingly, I replied that I would sell him mine. After a number of texts back and forth, I actually did end up selling it to him. His lake has a restriction on engine size, so many boaters on his lake have Feather Crafts. With a light boat and a small engine, Feather Crafts fit the bill, since they are still able to pull kids waterskiing and tubing. I kept my Merc 30 engine because it was too big for him.

The Feather Craft company started making boats after WWII out of heavy-gauge aluminum that was no longer needed for the aircraft industry. They were originally built in Atlanta, Georgia and later the company added another plant in Fort Erie, Ontario. The boats can have a dull metal finish or be buffed out to look like chrome. For three years they were also available with different, anodized colors. They were known for their unique “tumblehome” or barrel back transoms.  

The fun thing about these boats, is that many owners like to customize them, with unique upholstery, wood dashboards, wood slat floors, or whatever they choose. They are easy to use and can be hosed off at the end of the day.  

A large number of Feather Craft owners attend the Sunnyland Chapter show at the end of March in Tavares, Florida. The boats are usually “beached” and readily available for a quick spin in the lake. I may need to look for another one to hold my Merc. 30. Oh wait… I don’t need another boat!!


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