by the Lawrence Family (Bobby& Brandy)members of the Payette Lakes chapter
Last summer I called a family meeting with my wife of 20 years and our three boys, ages 13, 11 and 8. The question on the table for consideration? Do we want to stay in the classic boat business?
I say “business” because according to Merriam-Webster that includes:
• dealings or transactions especially of an economic nature
• an immediate task or objective
• serious activity requiring time and effort and usually the avoidance of distractions
Yep, seems appropriate! We were at a fork in the road on our boating journey and I needed to know if they had gained an appreciation of classic boating over their young lifetimes. You see, our classic boating journey began in 2006 when I bought our first wood boat off a Craigslist ad. Our first son was born that year and through the process of putting that boat back together we discovered our local ACBS Chapter.
Over the next five years, our family grew to include three boys and the end of each summer was marked with a week-long vacation to Payette Lake which included the annual boat show. As the boys grew, they became youth judges – learning to be discerning and not be easily swayed by the offer of candy to win their vote. The highlight of each show for them is the early morning “race” to the opposite side of the lake where the members beach their boats and enjoy coffee and coffee cake on the sandy shore as the sun made its way over the mountaintops.
Our first boat, a little 16-footer, became crowded as our family grew and didn’t have the power needed to pull tubes and surfboards. Something needed to be done! In 2013, on a business trip to Minneapolis Minnesota, I called my wife and told her I had found the perfect boat for our growing family. It was a 21’ 1959 Chris Craft Continental. The only problem, we live in Idaho! Not Iowa, or Ohio, but Idaho – the state on the other side of the continental divide.
Upon returning home and negotiating the logistics, we decided to buy it and my mom and her husband, an ex-truck driver agreed to make the long trek to go pick it up. We met them back in McCall, Idaho the day of the boat show and dropped it in the water. To my fellow boaters’ amazement, “Finicky” floated high and ran well all week. It didn’t live up to its name at all…at first.
Well, thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, that was not the way things stayed. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we had five great years of boating, but the hot, dry Idaho climate caused the original bottom to start leaking, I changed out the water pump impellers, changed the battery, had the carb rebuilt, fixed a fuel leak…you get the picture. It seemed like each trip out included some tinkering at the dock or on the water to get something dialed in. My family and I started to understand the meaning behind the boat’s moniker aside from the play on words of it being a “finned” Continental.
Last year, I decided I had enough of the dual bilge pumps running and called the aforementioned family meeting. It was time for a new bottom or we were going to get out of classic boating. It was to my great pleasure that they unanimously voted to keep our tradition going! Granted, they weren’t the ones that were going to write the check but the fact that they didn’t want to trade in for a wakeboard boat was heartening. They have come to recognize that when we pull in to a dock aboard our classic, it turns heads and causes conversations with people. They notice that people in their brand new $150k wakeboats stop and give us a thumbs up. They know that we have built life-long friendships with our fellow classic boaters and that the annual boat show has become an intrinsic part of their lives. “Of course, we want to continue!” they shouted.
“Finicky” spent the last half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 getting stripped, flipped and redone. I will be eternally grateful to the two men who worked full time for months on this project. I got to join up with them for a few of the key days on the project. Just enough to appreciate the true craftsmanship that goes into restoring these boats. I will likely never have the time or skill to do what so many of you have done but I do truly appreciate it. These guys choose not to be named, but one is a master craftsman who knows his way around wood boats and the other is a fellow boat owner who has learned the craft on his own vessels. The former put in countless hours for which I know he didn’t charge me and the latter completely volunteered his time to the project. How do you repay kindness like that? I don’t know but I hope a boat full of smiles gives them some satisfaction for a job well done.
Our boat, gleaming with fresh coats of varnish and a new 5200 bottom, floated high and dry for the 2019 Payette Lakes Antique & Classic Boat Show but unfortunately, true to its namesake, our engine died in the middle of the lake during the event. The last decade of boat ownership has taught me that I could either spend the entire weekend on the dock with my toolbox and still probably not figure it out or I could let it sit on the dock, crack a beverage and enjoy the show with my family and friends. With age comes wisdom and temperance! I choose the cold beer!
Out of about 40 members in our club, it so happens that another member has the same boat I do, though theirs is a national award winner. When I was discussing my situation with them, they said to me, “There are two things a boat has to do: Float and run”. It seems so simple, but I had neglected to address the “running” part when I worked on the “floating” part.
Well, it looks like I now have a winter project. I hope one day “Finicky” won’t live up to its namesake but we have all heard the boat jokes, right? What makes it worth the time and expense for me? I wasn’t raised with wood boats in the family. In fact, I had only been on a boat a handful of times before buying my first wood boat. For me, it is the romance of a wood boat that immediately drew me in and captivated me. From the moment I get out on the water, the wind in my hair and the sun kissing my face, the roar of the naturally aspirated 283 small block roaring in my ears and the smell of gas lingering in my nostrils…all the cares in the world fade away and the only things that matter are the family and friends contained in that 21′ by 8′ gleaming wood box!
Maybe someday our paths will cross – I hope it is on the water. I am easy to spot, I am the guy in the classic boat full of kids and sand, sitting next to my beautiful bride, pulling a tube at high speed with a couple of screaming kids in tow – with big grin on my face!