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, abm.org.