History of the Finger Lakes Chapter By Rob Kidd, Finger Lakes Chapter President / from Rudder Magazine Antique & Classic Boat Society Inc.
The Finger Lakes Region of central New York State takes its name from eleven slender lakes running in a generally north-south direction through the Allegheny Plateau. When viewed from above, the five largest lakes resemble the outstretched fingers of a giant hand. Skaneateles Lake is the second-most easterly of the Finger Lakes and has become the unofficial home of the Finger Lakes Chapter of ACBS.
The history of the Finger Lakes Chapter dates back to 1977, when founding member Ford Knight purchased his first wooden boat, a Morehouse inboard utility built by the Morehouse Boat Co. located on Cayuga Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. Mr. Knight’s family had always owned Morehouse boats and Ford’s enthusiasm for finally having one of his own was such that he wanted to put together an exhibit just for Morehouse boats. He rounded up a small group of Morehouse owners who then drove some 125 miles to Clayton, New York, to see about having a Morehouse display as part of the annual boat show at the Shipyard Museum (now the Antique Boat Museum).
They spoke with John Bradley who shared their enthusiasm but had to inform them that in 1977 their Morehouse boats did not meet the museum’s criteria to be considered antiques. John did, however, tell them about the recently formed Antique and Classic Boat Society and that their boats would be welcomed as classics there.
Back home, the small group held a meeting at The Deerhead Inn (an old speakeasy) just across the road from the Morehouse Boat Co. After much discussion, they decided to place ads in a couple of local papers seeking interest in putting together a wooden boat show in the Finger Lakes area. Response was good and at a second meeting also attended by Jim Brennan and the Marsden family, Syd Marsden spoke about the positive experience his family had had at the Antique Boat Show in Clayton and how he felt that the same thing could be done in the Finger Lakes. By the end of the meeting everyone agreed that it was time to form a Finger Lakes Chapter of ACBS. Shortly thereafter, Ford Knight contacted ACBS Founder Ray Nelson to see what steps needed to be taken to become a part of ACBS.
Not long afterward, a third meeting was held at the Deerhead Inn and an ACBS chapter application form was passed around requiring the signatures of fifteen prospective members and a listing of the boats they owned. They came up one signature short! Looking around the room, they spotted Allyn Morehouse, owner of the tavern who agreed to be the fifteenth applicant. Although related to the Morehouse brothers who owned the boat company of the same name, he listed his boat as a 1975 MFG outboard!
The small but growing group soon had their first wooden boat show in 1978 in Ithaca, NY, and later held their first Annual Dinner Meeting. That event was attended by Bill Willig who presented the group with a certificate welcoming them as the fifth chapter of ACBS
. In the early years, the Finger Lakes Chapter Boat Show was moved to different locations to help generate awareness of the chapter throughout the Finger Lakes area. In 1995 the chapter contacted Bill Eberhardt, owner of the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, about moving the show to that village and we’ve been there ever since. Situated at the north end of Skaneateles Lake, the village of Skaneateles is known for its historic charm and many fine restaurants and shops. Our chapter enjoys a positive working relationship with the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce led by Executive Director Sue Dove, the Skaneateles Merchants Association and Partners Trust Bank (our official sponsor) headquartered in Utica, NY.
The FLC Boat Show is held annually on the last full weekend of July and is a judged event. We feature a popular boat launching service where exhibitors are met at the launch ramp by our launch crew who carefully unload boats and then park cars and trailers for exhibitors so that they may enjoy the ride to town in their boat unconcerned about the disposition of their vehicle and trailer. At the close of the show on Sunday, the launch crew bring cars and trailers back to the ramp to reload the exhibitors’ boats. We have room for about 44 in-water displays with additional room in the adjacent park for land displays. A proposal for a new, larger, permanent dock and breakwater system would increase the number of slips and provide a safe harbor setting for the boat show.
Each year our Board of Directors comes up with activities for the enjoyment of the membership, and in addition, we tried a new kind of activity this past summer in which we gave a group of underprivileged children boat rides. St. Vincent House, a group associated with local Catholic Charities, brought out a group of 60 young people to enjoy a morning of swimming at the Skaneateles Yacht Club where they were also treated to lunch. Afterwards, Finger Lakes Chapter members showed up with nine boats at the town docks to give the kids rides. A number of the kids were allowed to take the wheel which was a real thrill judging by the looks on their faces. Plans to do this again next year are already underway.
This fall we enjoyed a luncheon cruise aboard the tour boat Judge Ben Wiles on Skaneateles Lake and we’re looking forward to our Annual Dinner Meeting and election of officers at the historic Sherwood Inn where Tony Mollica will be the guest speaker on November 18th.
In an effort to involve young people, one of our members is active in the formation of a new Sea Scout Chapter which we would one day like to be a part of our annual boat show. Our chapter also helps to sponsor a group of young people in the nearby village of Phoenix who call themselves The Bridge House Brats. Aged 12–16 years, these kids volunteer their time to boaters passing through their community on New York State’s Erie Canal System. They give boaters a warm welcome, pass out menus to local restaurants, give directions, run errands and generally make themselves useful in any way they can. Next year we plan to cruise along the canal to say hello to these fine young people and ask them to join us for a ride.
We invite anyone vacationing in New York State next July to make our boat show a part of their itinerary. You’ll find plenty to see and do in Skaneateles and the Finger Lakes Region, and it would be a pleasure to meet new antique and classic boating enthusiasts.
The author would like to thank Shirley Marsden, Ford Knight and Bob Myllymaki for sharing their memories of the early years.
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