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Michigan’s antique and classic boat shows provide an up-close look at historic floating treasures
Boat show-goers often can enjoy rides with owners in the classic crafts that cruise the lakes and rivers during the events. // Photo courtesy of Steve Lapkin

Looking back to the early 1900s, Michigan could arguably be considered the birthplace of the pleasure boating industry.

Founded in Algonac on Michigan’s eastern shore, Chris-Craft Boats’ presence alone would be notable. Add names like Gar Wood, Hacker Craft, and Century to the list, and Michigan begins to look like the home of pleasure boating’s royal families.

Michigan’s rich boating history makes the Mitten state the perfect venue for a series of annual boat shows featuring
the antique and classic vessels that were once a common sight on many Great Lakes waterways.

Founded in 1975, the Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) is the largest organization in the world focused on the preservation of these floating treasures. The society helps to support members in other ways, such as connecting them with the resources needed to restore and preserve their antique vessels.

During the summer, Michigan’s two ACBS chapters organize a variety of shows around the state where visitors can get a close-up look at some of the finest examples of Michigan’s rich maritime history.

“When I bought my first classic boat, the previous owner recommended I join (the Antique and Classic Boat Society). It’s a lot about the camaraderie. A lot of owners happily will share their knowledge and experience.”
— Pat Chaps

Eastern Michigan Events

Covering the state from Lansing eastward, the Michigan Chapter of ACBS presents shows in several locations, beginning with a “Where it All Began” event in Algonac on June 24. It’s at the Algonac Harbor Club, once home to the original Chris-Craft plant.

Boats entered in ACBS shows can be judged for elements such as overall condition or authenticity, with awards given in categories such as Best in Class and a Captain’s Choice award that’s presented by the boat owners themselves to their pick for Best in Show.

“The Algonac show attracts a lot of boats that have been in the same families for generations,” says Pat Chaps, the chapter’s marketing director.

Chaps, the owner of a 1972 23-foot Chris-Craft Lancer Custom and 1973 23-foot Chris-Craft Lancer Resto Mod, has been involved with the Michigan Chapter for 15 years. “Algonac also attracts a lot of cruisers, with boats 28 feet and up,” he says, “while other shows focus on smaller boats.”

Eastern Michigan events include the Aug. 19 Port Sanilac show at the Sanilac City Docks and the Sept. 8-9 Port Huron show, known as “Boat the Blue,” at the River Street Marina downtown.

The shows are a great way for visitors to meet ACBS members and build relationships. They also learn from those who have a successful restoration or two under their belt. // Photo courtesy of Don Kiddle

West Michigan Shows

The Water Wonderland ACBS chapter, which covers the west side of the state from Lansing to Lake Michigan, presents a variety of events including in-water shows in Spring Lake on June 10 at Mill Point Park, and at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven on June 17.

Water Wonderland also organizes an event that’s considered the largest wooden boat show in the world — the Aug. 12 Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show near Cedarville, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s about a 30-minute drive east of St. Ignace.

Although the main attraction at the Antique and Classic Boat Society shows are the beautiful boats, many gatherings include other attractions, as well. Shows often feature classic cars, antique travel trailers, live music, and opportunities to browse other historic displays or shop for nautical-themed gifts and souvenirs.

The shows are a great way for new members to build relationships and learn from those who have a successful restoration or two under their belt.

“When I bought my first classic boat, the previous owner recommended I join,” Chaps says. “It’s a lot about the camaraderie. A lot of owners happily will share their knowledge and experience.”

Jack Jensen, vice commodore of the Michigan Chapter, helps facilitate the show at Algonac each year. Like many club members, Jensen grew up in a boating family and has been involved with classic boats since he was young. “My father had a variety of early Chris-Crafts,” Jensen says. “When it was time to sand the bottom or replace a board, I helped do the work.”

Today, Jensen, who is currently restoring a 1970 38-foot Chris-Craft beauty, and his family cruise aboard a 1970 20-foot Sea Ray Amberjack all summer. “I also have a 1958 Riviera I’m going to restore next winter,” he adds.

Visitors to the ACBS shows can experience the thrill of cruising in one of the beautifully restored classics. Many classic and antique boat owners offer rides, and larger boats are often open for tours.

“Many of the cruisers will allow guests onboard,” Chaps says. “Many people have never seen the inside of a bigger boat and are really surprised.”

Kids are especially welcomed for rides and tours on many of the classic boats. “We try to get the younger generations involved,” Chaps explains. “We don’t want this history to die off.”

Plan It!

East Michigan shows

West Michigan shows

Antique and Classic Boat Society

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