Lake Boat Classics

Fish Brothers is famous for restoring and building classic lake boats. This new, aptly named, barrel back design is copied from vintage 1940 Chris Craft and is currently under construction.

A few years ago, I was discussing buying a boat with a friend. After showing him some examples of the kind of boat I was looking for, he produced his own picture of a 1920’s Chris Craft wood lake boat—and professed his love and desire to own one.  I grew up near salt water and hadn’t had much exposure to runabouts of this style and vintage. Oh, I had travelled to Venice, Italy and seen similar works of art on the canals there, but until then hadn’t given this type of boat much notice.

This mahogony classic is actually a new 2007 Comitti Portofino, built in Italy on the shores of Lake Como with the styling of yesteryear, but the modern systems of today.

I saw the same graceful lines, beautiful woodwork, style, and functionality in my friend’s picture of his true heart’s desire that I had come to appreciate in the wooden yawls and sloops of my youth.

So when searching through the listings on recently I was surprised to see some powerboats listed in the sailboat section.  On closer inspection the dozen or so powerboats were all the same, lake boats or runabouts of vintage styling reminiscent of Chris Craft, Garwoods, and Hackercraft of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I can only guess that the brokers who had posted them thus, must have erred or perhaps purposely thought sailboaters would also have an appreciation. Then I found even more of them listed under powerboats.

The wood deck of a 1950 Chris Craft Sportman Utility

Some were restorations like the 1950 Chris Craft Sportman Utility and the 1949 Shepherd, many were reproductions like the Fish Brothers Triple Cockpit Barrel Back and Hackercraft Triple Cockpit, and a few were a brand new blend of contemporary glass and wood deck styling such as the Cherubini 24 Classic.  All had gleaming varnished mahogany.

Hall’s Boat Corp on Lake George, NY has a large  number of reproductions for sale, and Cherubini in Delran, New Jersey specializes in building the classic look blended with modern building techniques and materials. While I love old wooden boats and cherish restorations, I’ve owned a few and throw out this word of caution about maintaining them—they take special care and attention–which is why I thought the reproductions, with their new systems, engines, and epoxy sealed wood the most practical.  Heck, you don’t even have to “wet” or wait for the hull to swell before enjoying these.

This restored 1949 Shepherd is 17-feet long

These classics in whatever form please the eye and they’re functional pieces of art that evoke our emotions. Party barges and pontoon boats are popular, ski and freshwater fishing boats purpose-built but, if I lived on or near a lake, one of these classic runabouts from the past would be my lake boat of choice now or in the future.


  1. Awesome Boat! I’ve also some classic boat photos of 1950 and really, It looks classic, the style of that boat is extra Ordinary. Really!! Please share more information about this, I really would like to know more…

  2. terry wiley says:

    looking for information on orlando clipper–a 1950’s boat