The moment Skip Mauer fired up the Chrysler Hemi, I knew I was in for a treat. Pulling away from the dock, he pushed the chrome floor lever forward a bit. The mahogany bow of the 1956 20-foot Century Coronado kissed the waves as it eased across Long Lake.

Mauer and wife, Ann, of Naples have been boaters for years. “When I got out of College in ’63, I wanted a wood boat,” Mauer recalls. “Not a job or a house. I wanted a wood boat.”

Mauer gave the Coronado a little more throttle and the eight-cylinder Hemi began to snap into action. It was loud and throaty in a pleasing, vintage kind of way. With the wind in our hair, the bow climbed skyward and a big rooster-tail wake formed off the stern. We stayed there, bow pointed high, for a time until he gave it enough gas to allow the boat to plane, which it did effortlessly.

“It’ll go about 55 mph,” he said.

There’s something special about riding in a vintage wooden boat.

The Mauers’ craft was one of some 36 woodies tied up at the Naples town dock for the 17th annual Naples Classic and Antique Wooden Boat Show last weekend.

Everything from vintage canoes to a 38-foot yacht with twin 200 horsepower engines was on display. There was “Knotty Habit,” Dawg Daze,” “Girls-Nite-Out” and “Stinger.” Most boats were from the 1950s and ’60s, but there were also new, custom built wooden boats fueled by everything from paddles to Corvette engines.

And it wasn’t just boats. For the landlubbers, colorful cars lined the causeway along Route 302.

Sterling Smith of Phippsburg brought his gorgeous 24-foot 1959 Chris Craft Sportsman with a General Motors 283 V-8 rated at 185 horsepower. “I’d been looking for the Sportsman model for five years,” Smith said. “I have a home on the Kennebec River and I wanted a boat that was sturdy enough for tidal water.”

Weighing in at some 4,000 pounds, the mahogany hull inspires confidence, Smith said. “This size boat is very seaworthy because it has a deeper bow. It’s heavy enough to run smoothly in choppy water. You’re not bobbing like a cork.”

In 2003, Smith’s search paid off. He bought the boat in Ohio from the estate of a collector who had a dozen antique vessels. Smith has the original Chris Craft equipment record showing the boat — hull No. 3 of 75 — retailed for $5,430. Smith went over a few things, refinishing the sides and top deck, as well as rebuilding the lower end of the motor, all of the gauges and dash instruments. This was Smith’s third time showing his pride and joy at the Naples show.

What’s wonderful about this boat show is you can actually experience a ride in a vintage vessel. Car shows would do well to take a page from this playbook, as it makes a much more engaging experience than the typical “look-but-don’t-touch” approach. For a small fee, Skip and Ann Mauer offered rides in their handsome 1956 Century Coronado.

Mahogany and inboard V-8s. It’s really true; they don’t make them like they used to.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]