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The Antique Boat Museum

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The Antique Boat Museum

The Antique Boat Museum; Clayton, New York.

If you’re cruising in the Thousand Islands—or along the St. Lawrence River as part of the Great Loop—the Antique Boat Museum is a must stop. With a collection of some 320 antique boats, the museum is a boat lover’s paradise, a cornucopia of nautical Americana ranging from such iconic names as Gar Wood, Chris-Craft, and Hacker down to an 1860 Chippewa dugout canoe. Beyond the boats themselves, the museum, on the western edge of the Thousand Islands, is a treasure of restorations, boatbuilding classes, and special events. For a hands-on experience, you can row a St. Lawrence skiff for free, or take a 45-minute ride on a triple-cockpit mahogany speedboat for a fee.

One of the most popular exhibits traces its origins to the first New York City boat show in 1905 when, according to the museum, “motor boating was a facet of modernism, a celebration of personal freedom and opulence through technology.”

Called the National Motor Boat Show, the exhibit contains a dozen boats—Century, Elco, Lyman, and Fay & Bowen among them—arranged as if they were in a 1920s boat show, a display of gleaming mahogany, immaculate engine compartments, and classic lines, all ready for prospective buyers.

I visited the museum a few years ago when I was cruising the Thousand Islands on a new Hunt 29 with photographer Billy Black. By happenstance, we were there during the museum’s annual Antique Boat Show and Auction so we tied up at the outer floating dock to take a look. The place was wall-to-wall with boats—more than 90 in the water—and boat aficionados, including us. We ended up taking a ride on a 33-foot triple-cockpit Gar Wood speedboat that left us all smiling ear to ear. The Antique Boat Show and Auction this summer is Friday July 31 through Sunday August 2.

Antique Boat Museum
750 Mary St., Clayton, New York 13624
Admission: Adults: $14; Seniors 65 and older: $12; Youth 7-17: $8; 6 and under: Free

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