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Century power boats show off mahogany at Antique Boat Show


CLAYTON — Conducting a meticulous inspection, a trio of judges climbed into the hull of an 18-foot 1950 Century Vagabond docked on the St. Lawrence River outside the Antique Boat Museum on Saturday.

The three men, who traveled from Michigan, New Hampshire and Connecticut to volunteer at the 49th Antique Boat Show & Auction, relied on decades of experience as judges to determine how close these boats measure up to their factory condition. Century boats are featured this year at the show, which continues from 9 a.m. to noon today, its final day, at the museum, 750 Mary St.

Thousands attended the show Saturday to admire more than 100 antique boats displayed for the juried competition at bayside docks and sold during a live auction.

The Century boats will receive awards today in eight categories. The three judges were responsible for rating Century boats with inboard engines at the center of the hulls. The distinctive characteristic of Century boats is their massive motors, said judge Thomas O. Holmes, president of the Century Boat Club in Manistee, Mich., where the classic boats were manufactured.

“Centuries had the latest, fastest engines in the 1950s and ’60s,” Mr. Holmes said. “They were the first boat that could hold a Ford engine with a V8. If you had a Century, you would blow by all of the Chris-Craft boats that had putz-putz engines on the water. The Century was like a Cadillac, while the Chris- Craft was a slow Chevrolet. They also have chrome features and more style.”

A sign on the mahogany Century boat said it was bought by Robert Miklos of Washington, Pa., on eBay in April 2007. It was the second of only seven 18-foot Vagabonds made in 1950. It showcases a large wooden hatch in the center that swings open to reveal its six-cylinder, 125-horsepower Gray Marine motor.

“We’re looking to see it the way it appeared right out of the factory,” said judge Arthur E. Muller of Sunapee, N.H., who has restored a few Century boats himself. He held a clipboard while he inspected the mechanics of the bright red engine. Some of the improvements made to the boat differed from its original design, he said after inspecting each part in minute detail.

“You aren’t supposed to paint the nuts and bolts on the engine red, and the color is a little too bright,” he said. “All of the clamps on the hoses should match and be in the same position. And there should be a solid tie rod that comes back from the steering wheel to the carburetor, but we have a brand new flexible cable in here.

“We’re getting a little fussy,” he concluded with a laugh.

Overall, the judges gave the engine a rating of 21 out of 25. Judges said the boat would probably receive a final score in the low 90s out of 100.

“He has a good chance of winning, but we’re still going to have to tell him all the things that are wrong,” Mr. Holmes said.

Others came to participate in the auction Saturday as buyers and sellers. David A. Erherdt attended the show with a group of friends from the Manotick Classic Boat Club in Manotick, Ontario. Sitting comfortably in a lawn chair in the shade, he was waiting for the auctioneer to sell the four boats he brought, trailered in front of him. Available for bid at no reserve price were two small mahogany plywood boats from the 1960s, a 1968 Carver Cruiser with a 175-horsepower engine and 1972 Chris Craft with a 200-horsepower engine.

“I’m willing to take whatever bids come,” said Mr. Erherdt, 69, who’s attended the show for about 20 years. “I don’t have any space to store them.”

The friend sitting next to him, Michael A. Krzyzanowski, also from Canada, had his eyes on the 21-foot Carver Cruiser, a luxury watercraft with an indoor cabin.

“We’ve been up and down the Rideau Canal with it together, and that’s a three-day trip,” he said. “It’s about 120 miles from Ottawa to Kingston.”

James J. Meehan of Lake Gaston, N.C., attended the show with a friend from South Carolina. He had his eyes on a 1958 Aerocraft aluminum boat with a 35-horsepower outboard engine.

“Sometimes no one raises their hands to bid on the older boats,” said Mr. Meehan, who owns a summer home at Goose Bay on the St. Lawrence River. “I’ll bid as cheap as I can, because I don’t have a lot of money on me.”

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