by Myndy Woodruff member of the Lake Champlain chapter

My wife Kate was chatting with a nurse in Montpelier, Vermont and disclosed our old boat habit. Everybody has an old boat story. It just so happened that this nurse had an old Penn Yan Boat and motor that had been hanging for decades in her stable. It had been her father’s treasure, occasionally used for fishing on Groton Pond. Would I like to see it? Do bears pee in the woods? Yup! The boat and motor were as represented, hanging and covered with decades of stable grime. i.e. Perfect condition to this Penn Yan enthusiast.

We struck a deal and Larry Asam helped bring it to my shop. Cleaned up, Penny was found to be a Cartop in great condition, needing only cosmetic renovation. I am grateful to TJ Amato for supporting the surviving Penn Yan Boats. TJ provided Cartop and Penn Yan Boats logo decals and correct Chinese Red and Penn Yan Green paint. He identified the year as 1952 from the serial number found on the stem: WXH527662. The renovation was an easy patch and paint project. Seats and interior got three coats of Ephifanes gloss and the exterior got the correct paint.

Penny was much admired at the Spencer Boatworks Show in Saranac Lake. Now the question, should it go to our already crowded waterfront or hang from our cottage’s ceiling. The rowdy vote was for a hanging. History repeats. Kate even likes it there. Now how do I tell her that we have the perfect matching 1952 3hp Johnson ready to go in the corner?

The rowdy hanging squad.

Kate knew I had a soft spot for Penn Yan Boats. I grew up on Owasco Lake, one of New York State’s Finger Lakes. Penn Yan Boats was on Keuka Lake, another Finger Lake. In 1957 I had a good summer job and was able to buy a new Penn Yan Swift! We had many happy adventures in Swifty. The Cartop models were lightly built with canoe type construction. I think the idea was that a wife could load the boat onto the car top and her husband could then go fishing. They were produced from 1936 until 1960. The cedar strip and oak hulls were soaked with a penetrating fungicide and then covered with canvas. The canvas then got a coat of Plastron, an epoxy like hard durable surface. All this for about $150 at your local hardware or sporting goods store. Like many wood boat builders, Penn Yan did not transition well to the fiberglass era. I read that the buildings had fallen into disrepair and were slated for demolition. But the memory lingers on.

Kate doing the final inspection on our new cottage ceiling artifact.


  1. Wow what a timely and wonderful story i am picking up a cartopper this weekend from a fellow acbs member i would very much appreciate if you could give me tj amatos contact info as i will need paint and decals for mine also my email is if you could send better close up pictures of interior it would be much appreciated also wonderful story and boat again thank you

    • I have just acquired a double rower which looks very similar to the car top .I’m interested to know where to find the serial number and more about the origins of this boat.Any info or resource would be appreciated .Thank you

  2. You’ve solved a burning question about the make and origin of our beloved Emma Dean, refinished by Wayne Eversole in Mt Clemens Michigan (see attached photo). I’ve got her set up with a drop-in vintage sliding seat with cedar rowing sweeps. A beautiful craft that rows like an Adirondack guideboat. What a treasure.

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