Antique Boat Museum

November 30, 2005
Filed under Destinations

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At the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York, wooden vessels from yesteryear are polished and varnished to better-than-new, their brass rubbed until blindingly shiny, their engines steam-cleaned. Claiming to be one of the world’s largest freshwater maritime museums, the collection celebrates the days when pleasure-boating around the Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence River was a leisurely pursuit done in quiet inboards with beautiful facades. In the early 1970s, antique-boating enthusiasts purchased a dilapidated boat works and an adjoining lumber yard and began work on a museum that would reflect life in the Thousand Islands as it was in more tranquil times. Today, the museum features more than three acres of waterfront, nine buildings and four off-site storage facilities. More than 100 beautifully restored boats, many of which were donated by local residents, are on display, including canoes, sail- and rowing-skiffs, propeller boats, hydroplanes, launches and cruisers. For the mechanically minded, the museum’s Motor Collection covers the development of marine propulsion systems — engines to the layman — from the late 1800s to post WWII. Included in the collection are the oldest working gasoline-powered motor in existence and the first Johnson outboard ever made. During the summer months, visitors can buzz around the St. Lawrence River in a triple-cockpit runabout 1929 Hacket Craft reproduction, or in a St. Lawrence skiff, a type of row boat first developed in the area in the late 19th century. For those looking for a hands-on experience, the museum offers classes that range from a weekend course in restoration and refinishing to week-long classes that result in students going home with their own self-built kayak or Adirondack Guide Boat. And one weekend in August, dozens of pristine wooden boats “dock” here for the annual Antique Boat Show and Auction. The Antique Boat Museum, (315) 686-4101, www.abm.org

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