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Wood boats dock at Abbey



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"Till Haves" a 24-foot Sportsman Chris Craft boat owned by David B. Williams, of Williams Bay.

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September 28, 2011 | 08:03 AM
During a sunny Friday morning in the Abbey Harbor, wood boat owners delicately polished the bows of their pristine vessels to ensure any scratch or scuff wouldn't be visible for the judges.

This past weekend, the Abbey Resort welcomed hundreds of nautical enthusiasts who showcase their wood boats during the 36th Annual ACBS International Meeting and Boat Show.

During the event, judges carefully inspected the boats, documenting any chips in the paint or wood. However, for most wooden boat owners, the festivities aren't about having their boats judged, but instead an opportunity to display their watercrafts with fellow wood boat fanatics.

The pride of ownership in wooden boats is enormous — which shouldn't be surprising when a 23-foot wooden watercraft costs about the same as a home — and owners often have carefully documented the history of their antique or classic vessels.

Part-time Williams Bay resident Donald Taylor has linked his boat to the legendary actor John Wayne, and Nick and JoAnn Caselli, also of Williams Bay, still have the original paperwork for their boat and have documentation from previous owners.

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Kris Streblow, the vice president of Streblow Boats, in Delavan, said nothing compares to the wooden watercraft.

"The look, the ride, to me there is nothing that equals the ride and beauty of a wooden boat," she said. "They are very stable, they have a wonderful attitude in the water."

The Streblows have manufactured wooden boats for more than half a century, and more than 100 of their boats are docked in Geneva Lake.

Gary Huge, of Kirkwood Missouri, who owns a custom built Streblow Boat, said its pretty simple why he prefers wooden boats.

"It's a lot cooler, everything about them is cooler," Huge said.

Wood boat owners speak with pride about their watercrafts, but often don't have flattering things to say about the boat owner who sports a modern fiberglass boat, calling them "tupperware" or "plastic."

Although these boat owners often poke fun at the majority of the boats on the lake, it doesn't mean they are without a sense of humor. In some cases, the construction material used on the boats has led to mischievous names like "Got Woody?" "Walt's Woody" and "Sportin' A Woody."

About the boats

The owners of these wooden watercrafts often spend time researching the history of their boats. Taylor's boat "Mister T III," has connected his boat to legendary film actor John Wayne.

The Duke partnered with William Wallace, the first owner of the boat, in a few silver mines. The boat was kept on Delavan Lake and was fittingly named "HI LO SILVER." After Wayne died in 1979 and the price of silver dropped, Wallace sold the boat.

Taylor is in the process of hunting down a photo of Wayne in the boat, but hasn't had much luck.

Like many wood boat owners, Taylor grew up on these boats

"It's a big sturdy boat. It still has the original bottom," Taylor said.

The Caselli's own a 1959 Chris Craft boat that has never been restored. In fact, the boat that has a dark mahogany stain with blonde mahogany stripes, still has the original plastic deck cleats on it.

"This comes out on pristine days," Nick Caselli said. "It is 51-year-old wood. Why beat it up?"

David B. Williams, a retired attorney who lives in Williams Bay, also owns a 1959 Chris Craft boat named "Till Haves," which is Swedish for To the Sea.

The previous boat owner came over from Sweden and named the boat "Swedish Crossing." This fit for Williams, an avid opera fan whose favorite tenor is Jussi Bjorling, who is of Swedish decent.

His 24-foot Chris Craft he calls "the ideal boat for this lake."

"It's not a huge boat, its 40 years old and still has some of the original marks," Caselli said. "Wooden boats are better than tupperware."

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