Antique Boating in the Finger Lakes

The Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) is an international organization headquartered in Clayton, New York. It’s dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of wooden boats, whether they’re newer reproductions or old ones built by national companies like Century and Chris-Craft, and Finger Lakes builders like Penn Yan, Fay & Bowen, and Skaneateles Boat and Canoe. ACBS has over 17,000 members who own, lovingly care for and proudly enjoy over 12,000 boats built of rich mahogany, oak, cedar and ash.
Most ACBS members also belong to one or more of the Society’s 45 chapters (42 in the United States and three in Canada). There are eight chapters in New York state alone, with two of them headquartered in the Finger Lakes. The Wine Country Chapter, also known as Wine Country Classic Boats, is based in Hammondsport, at the southern end of Keuka Lake. The Finger Lakes Chapter is in Skaneateles, at the northern end of Skaneateles Lake.
Each year, several chapters organize a variety of events designed to educate members about the use, maintenance and restoration of old boats. In addition to promoting antique boats and boating, the events also offer an opportunity for camaraderie and fellowship derived from their common interests. The highlight is usually each chapter’s Annual Boat Show in which antique boaters from far and wide come together to exhibit their boats, enjoy a weekend of antique boating, and display a rare collection of vintage craft to an admiring public.

Hammondsport Boat Show
Wine Country Classic Boats holds its annual boat show during July in the town park in Hammondsport at the foot of Keuka Lake. In 2003, the WCCB Boat Show will have 90 craft on display. Sixty boats will be docked in the water along the park’s new boardwalk with the remainder spread throughout the park in land displays.

On Friday morning of boat show weekend, exhibitors and their crews will assemble for a cruise of Keuka Lake that highlights historic sites along the way. Other exhibitors will continue to arrive during the course of the day to put their boats on display and to prepare for the weekend’s activities. On Saturday morning, boats will remain in their docks for judging with exhibitors competing for awards in 27 categories.

Judging of antique boats is a fairly specialized skill developed over years of involvement with old boats. Judges are recruited from all over the Northeast and are organized into teams. Each boat is then judged on how authentic it is today compared to how it was when first built, using a point system developed and maintained by ACBS. Those boats emerging with the highest number of points in the various categories are determined
the winners.

On Saturday afternoon there will be a parade of boats and fly-bys in which owners of powered boats are invited to run their boats at speed before the spectators assembled onshore. The sight of several glistening mahogany runabouts and other powered craft throwing broad bow waves and wakes on a brilliant sunny day is a thrilling sight to behold.

On Sunday of the boat show weekend, WCCB hosts a regatta — the final event of the weekend and one where speed counts. Inboard and outboard racers are assigned to various classes for an all-out run around an 18-mile course. Competition is keen with speeds ranging to 70 mph plus. The regatta begins and ends at the boat show sight so that spectators are able to see the departure of each class and the exciting end of the race as the boats return to the finish line.

Throughout the weekend, boats are on display for public viewing in one of the most beautiful settings in the Finger Lakes region. There is no charge for admission and the boat show site is wheelchair accessible. More information about Wine Country Classic Boats and the Hammondsport Boat Show is available on the Web at

Skaneateles Boat Show
The Finger Lakes Chapter of ACBS holds its annual boat show during July in Clift Park in the beautiful village of Skaneateles at the head of Skaneateles Lake. FLC is one of the oldest chapters in ACBS and in 2003, it will be holding its 25th Anniversary Boat Show with 70 to 80 antique boats on display. Forty-four boats will be docked in the water in slips located along the village pier with the remainder spread throughout the park in land displays. Spectators have excellent viewing of the water-borne boats from the elevated pier while they also have the opportunity to closely inspect the beauty and craftsmanship of the boats being shown on land.

The FLC Boat Show will get underway on Friday afternoon of the boat show weekend with most boats in place by the time the Concert-in-the-Park begins that evening. The Friday night concert series, featuring a live band playing from the park’s gazebo, is always a very well attended event that draws hundreds of lakeside concert-goers on warm summer evenings.

Like WCCB, the Finger Lakes Chapter’s boat show is also a judged event. Judging begins on Saturday morning and continues into the early afternoon with awards being given in 24 categories. In the early afternoon, there are parades of small craft and powered craft that take boats past the sea wall where spectators gather to hear descriptions read over the public address system. The boats then make a swing around the north end of the lake and finish with high-speed fly-bys at the show site.

To help celebrate the chapter’s 25th anniversary, the ACBS board of directors will hold its summer meeting in Skaneateles on Friday of the boat show weekend. After a day-long series of meetings, ACBS directors will join the chapter, exhibitors, visitors and spectators in the weekend’s activities.

The FLC show concludes on Sunday afternoon when the People’s Choice Award is given. This is one of the most cherished awards to be won by any exhibitor, because the winner is determined by the votes of everyone attending the show — visitors and spectators included.

The Skaneateles Antique Boat Show is sponsored by BSB Bank and Trust and is organized in cooperation with the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Skaneateles Merchants Association. There is no charge for admission and the boat show venue is also wheel chair accessible. For more information visit the Skaneateles website at

by Dick Sherwood
Dick Sherwood is a longtime member of the Wine Country and Finger Lakes Chapters of ACBS and is currently president of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. More information about ACBS and all its chapters can be found at

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