Love of Nautical Wood Vessels Spawned Lake Lotawana Wood and Classic Boat Club
That emotion that permeates your being as you untie the mooring, as the sunlight gleams across the polished wood planks. You ease out into the water and hear the hum of the engine. This is what a group of like-minded men crave and seek.
That is the aura of a wood boat.
Since the dawn of time, people have nailed, glued, sawed, planed and crafted wooden floating vessels. Thanks to some classy guys, a group of these classic wood boats dots the waters of Lake Lotawana on any given day.
Bill Sharp, president of the new Lake Lotawana Wood and Classic Boat Club, has a long-standing passion for wood boats.
“Jack Schwindler has always had a special affinity to wood boats, and when he opened his restaurant, Marina Grog and Galley in 1993, one of the first things you would see on the walls of his restaurant were models of wood boats and sailboats,” Sharp says.
When Schwindler found out Sharp was restoring a 1965 Century Coronado in his garage, he dropped by weekly to view the progress.
“It took me two and a half years, and all that time Jack would reminisce about when the lake was nothing but wood boats, and how wonderful it is to see them back on the lake again. This grew into him telling me he would be willing to hold the boat club meetings in the Bay Club at the restaurant,” Sharp says.
The club’s members agreed to meet the last Sunday of each summer month for the purpose of camaraderie, friendship, the sharing of ideas about wood boats and taking a group boat tour of the lake. The club currently has 14 members who own 10 wood boats and one Amphicar. They opened the club up to include “classic boats,” which include boats, including ones made of fiberglass, made before 1970.
Members of the club are Sharp, Chairman Emeritus Jack Schwindler, Vice President Tim Wahl, Treasurer Kevin Jones, Historian John Belger III, Secretary David Wysong, Carl Chinnery, Howard Chamberlain, Rich Orr, Dave Needles, John Belger IV, John Gentry, Paul Guigon, Brian Tillema and Dr. Dave Tillema.
Sharp’s boat, like all these classics, has an intriguing story. His recalls his love for the boats that began in 1993 when he saw John Belger’s 1966 Century Coronado.
“John remembers seeing the boat running around the lake when he was a kid. He actually purchased it from the Atha family, who purchased it new in 1966 and had it delivered to the marina at the lake, which was a working marina before Jack bought it and turned it into the Marina Grog and Galley. It only had 66 hours on it,” Sharp says. “I started looking for a boat like his, and, lo and behold, found one in 2004 right here on Lake Lotawana, just a few blocks away! One of my friends, Andy Goppert, told me about a boat his brother, Doug, had—a 21-foot 1965 Century Coronado. Doug told me he bought his because he also liked John’s boat. He found it at Lake of the Ozarks. I guess great minds think alike.”
Another tidbit is that only 117 of these boats were built, and Sharp’s was originally sold at the Grand Lakes of Oklahoma.
“I am the fourth owner,” he says.
Wysong has always wanted a wood boat since moving to Lake Lotawana in 1985. He craved to own one for 20 years.
“After buying a 1930 Chris Craft Model 100 in 2006, I began to really respect boat making of the past,” he says. “Wood boats, especially those with historical names of companies that make them, including Chris Craft, Century, Hacker Craft, Riva and a few more, are truly pieces of art. I simply grew to appreciate the way they are made and the care their owners take.”
He bought it from a Minnesota family who restored it.
“It is completely original, including the engine, a 130 horsepower Chrysler Flat Head. I entered the boat twice in the Heartland Classics Annual Boat Show, which represents five states,” he says. “Both years it won major awards, including best wood boat and best restored boat.”
What draws these men to continue working on these timepieces?
“The beauty and splendor of the wood and elegance of the boat, the two and a half years it took to restore, the friendships that came from working with different individuals and finding a new ability I didn’t know I had,” Sharp says.
For more information about wood boat clubs, and their appeal, visit ACBS.org.