The Heritage of New Hampshire Boating

By Rosalie Triolo

Photos courtesy Larry Houle

Community Sailing is a fun event

Community Sailing is a fun event

In 1992 a group of boat enthusiasts needing a venue to show their vintage boats decided on a building in Meredith, New Hampshire. Eventually needing more space, the New Hampshire Boat Museum (NHBM) was moved to the former Dexter Shore factory in Weirs Beach. The museum’s current venue, the Allen “A” Resort Quonset hut is located on Route 109 in Wolfeboro. 

“Quonset hut exhibits are only part of the museum. There is so much more,” says John VanLonkhuyzen, a member of the New Hampshire Boat Museum Board of Trustees. “It’s an opportunity for the whole family to experience and engage in active-learning programs, indoor and outdoor activities, fundraising events and just plain fun events.” 

Taking a walk back in time, visitors to the Quonset hut wind their way through exhibits of early 1900s antique wooden boats and turn-of-the-century antique cars, where quality, elegance and pride in craftsmanship are evident. One of only three manufactured, a 1929 Chris Craft Sedan with a hard-top enclosed cockpit, a front runner of the Bimini canvas top with side curtains, was ahead of its time. Nearby, a couple of mannequins dressed in period clothes stand next to a 1922 Maxwell Touring Car with connections to Jack Benny, who in his 1937 radio show, announced he had purchased one of the vehicles. 

While inside the museum’s storage building, dedicated volunteers meet to work on restoration projects. Donated old boats, parts of boats and antique boat accessories are brought back to life. The grooves of an old Chris Craft are painstakingly cleaned, while another volunteer sands an old PennYan. Brass accessories are polished to restore their beauty. These boats and many other restored boats will likely be displayed in the Quonset hut or auctioned at the Annual New England Vintage Boat Auction held on the grounds of the museum.

“New Chapters,” the museum’s main exhibit for the 2018 summer season, spotlight rare boats from some of the most unlikely places and manufacturers: Fay and Bowen, a bike parts manufacturer from Geneva, N.Y., in 1900 developed and built an internal combustible engine to put into boats. “None better built.” Dwight Lumber Co., River Rouge, and Detroit, Michigan crafted wooden boats. By the late 1920’s Dee-Wite, a subsidiary of Dwight Lumber Co., specialized in building smaller boats. Slogan “Dee-Wite Makes Boating a National Pastime.” Joe Berry Lodge, head of Dwight Boat Building, was asked by his friends, the Dodge Brothers, to build a boat for their sister, Delphine, to race in the 1920’s Gold Cup Race “Sister Sin”. In 1928 Mr. Gesswein an insurance executive from Connecticut built a better boat with a split transom to hold light outboard motors which were very popular. 

And here is another “New Chapter”: In a recent press release, The New Hampshire Boat Museum announced its new Executive Director will be Martha Cummings. She is from Bridgton, Maine where she was director of the Rufus Porter Museum. Ms. Cummings says, “It’s a pivotal time for the NHBM as it looks to expand its active-learning programs for all ages while raising funds for a new museum.”

Programs for adults and children are available at the NHBM to instruct students in boating, and the process of boat building. Volunteers work all winter preparing kits for the summer sessions. 

Participants enjoying Lake Discovery Camp

Participants enjoying Lake Discovery Camp

The Youth Boat Building Program takes place the first two weeks in August, with Monday through Friday sessions. A team building experience, boys and girls ages 12 and older are instructed and assisted throughout the project until completion by trained volunteers. Volunteers also guide students in the safe use of hand tools, a limited number of small power tools and personal safety equipment, dust masks, and ear and eye protection. Safety is of the utmost importance. Choices of boats to build vary from a one-person canoe, one-person kayak or a Bevin’s Skiff. Families are later invited to a special launching on Lake Wentworth to celebrate the completion of boats.

Adult/Family Boat Building, a nine-day session in mid-July, has become a generational project with grandparents, parents and children participating. Adults can work individually or as a family team guided by trained volunteers from beginning to completion. The choices are a one-person canoe, a one-person kayak, paddle-board, Bevin’s Skiff or Opti Sailboat. An Optimist Dingy (Opti) is a small, single-handed sailing dingy intended for use by children ages 8 to 15. 

“This program started out with the most popular boat, an Optimist (Opti) Dingy. In the first few years there were five built a year. In recent years the number of Opti built is 20 a year,” explains Joe DiChiaro, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the New Hampshire Boat Museum, and a contributing writer for the NHBM’s Boathouse News. 

Lake Discovery Camp focuses on boats and boating safety. The unique, hands-on day camp experience has two Sessions, on two days each for elementary students in grades K to 2 and 3 to 6. Kids are involved in boating projects. Science, water ecology, aquatic life, conservation, local history, and arts and crafts are important parts of the program. Depending on the age group, interactive field trips to the waterfront include boarding a Marine Patrol Boat with two active officers on board and maybe a ride on the Millie B, a Hacker craft 1920’s era reproduction. This program usually takes place in late July. 

Model Yachting is popular and the Back Bay Skippers meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, May through October to sail their radio controlled Soling 1 Meter model yachts and US 12 model yachts. This event takes place on Back Bay on the Bridge Falls Path, and the public is welcome to watch the yachts as they move through the water.

Colorful sails are displayed at the NH Boat Museum’s regatta

Colorful sails are displayed at the NH Boat Museum’s regatta

Lake Wentworth Sailing Regatta, sponsored by the NHBM, Lake Wentworth Watershed Association, and the Town of Wolfeboro, takes place in early August. There is racing in four classes: Optis, Sunfish, Catamarans and Mono Hulls. Intermediate and advanced racing courses are available to sailors of all ages. 

The New England Vintage Boat Auction takes place this year on July 14 at 10 am. Antique boats, antique cars, vintage sailboats, fiberglass boats, vintage boating memorabilia, maritime antiques and vintage car memorabilia are auctioned at the New Hampshire Boat Museum. The event has become a popular way to sell a boat or other related item, as well as to obtain a boat or other item. The public may preview auction items on Friday, July 13 from noon to 5 pm, or on July 14 (the morning of the auction) from 8 to 10 am.

The 12th Annual Boathouse Tour each summer offers a new venue, on a different area of Lake Winnipesauke to explore. This year’s tour will take place on Thursday, August 9 from 9 am to 4 pm (with a rain date of July 10). The only Boathouse Tour Event of this scale in the country takes place in early August. This is the second year the tour will leave from the Meredith Town Docks. Originally leaving from the Wolfeboro docks, it explored the many historic and newer boathouses in the Wolfeboro area. The venue was moved to Meredith to visit the boathouses in that area. Take a tour on water in a vintage wooden boat or by land in an antique automobile or in your own car.

Checking out the boats before the NH Boat Museum’s Vintage Boat Auction

Checking out the boats before the NH Boat Museum’s Vintage Boat Auction

The 42nd Alton Bay Boat Show will be held on Saturday, August 11 from 9 am to noon. The informal, non-judged vintage boat show will be held at the Alton Bay town docks as part of the Alton Old Home Week. No advance registration necessary. All “woodies” are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors are encouraged to vote for the 2018 People’s Choice Awards. 

The Lake Winni Poker Run is held on Saturday, August 25 starting at 9 am. The run offers boaters a fun day on the lake. Whether in a wooden or fiberglass boat, all boats are welcomed. Participants meet at the town docks in Wolfeboro and follow a group to five stops to receive poker chips. Upon returning to Wolfeboro and lunch, the winning poker hands are awarded prizes. 

Whether you’re a mariner or a landlubber, the New Hampshire Boat Museum, The Heritage of New Hampshire Boating, has a variety of activities for everyone. For dates and availabilities of these many programs and events, e-mail or call 603-569-4554.

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