When you a see a classic wooden boat on the water — complete with an American flag waving in the wind — it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for simpler times. You remember the unrushed days of the past — no technology or crazy schedules, back when soaking up the sun and spending time with friends was priority. However, for two local boat enthusiasts, spending time on the water in their wooden boats is not a distant memory, but a daily activity.
Terry Hart and Sherman “Skip” Langell share a mutual passion for restoring classic wooden boats in a day and age when small and wooden has been replaced by large and fiberglass, especially at the Lake of the Ozarks. Both men own classic wooden boats, a Chris-Craft and Lyman respectively. Both brands have become cultural icons in boating after more than 100 years in business. Hart and Langell have spent the last few decades finding and restoring these wooden gems all the way from Michigan to Missouri.
For Langell, who owns a 1969 yellow Lyman aptly named Ol’ Yeller, his love of wooden boats was part of his family heritage; both a grandfather and father worked for Chris-Craft in Michigan. The company made quality boats that were affordable to the everyday working man, which made the boats a popular investment. Langell has been restoring wooden boats since the 1970s.
“It just becomes part of your character and in your blood,” says Langell. “They have such style and character, plus they ride so nice. Almost everyone looks your way and smiles or waves.”
Hart also spends a lot of time on the water, often for business — he is the owner of Hart Diving — but also for relaxing with his wife in their 1961 Chris-Craft ski boat. His love of boats started at an early age as well, but not because of the craftsmanship of the wood. Hart always loved to fix the engines.
“I am a total gearhead,” he says. “I fell in love with a lawn mower when I was 12, then go-karts, then boats, and then planes. Basically, anything with an engine, I love.”
Hart bought his current boat from an uncle after it sat unused in the water for three years. The boat has not been restored and still has the original bottom, although some boards have been replaced due to a few dock rashes over the years. While his boat, named Chug by the original owner, is not flawless or a showboat, it works every single time he turns the key, Hart says.
“It’s our go-out-to-dinner boat and, just for fun, we still ski our grandkids behind it,” he says. “When we go out and I park it at a dock, people surround it and ask about the boat. They’re always surprised it’s not been restored.”
While these wooden boats may be a rare sight at the Lake of the Ozarks, both Hart and Langell say there’s a misperception that these wooden boats are more work than fiberglass boats, which is not the case. All boats require regular maintenance, but older ones aren’t more expensive to maintain.
“I just love old boats. They’re not only gorgeous, but they’re useful,” says Hart.
Time spent on the water, especially in one of these stylish boats, is a summer tradition for both of them. Hart hopes to spend less time working on the water in the coming days and more time enjoying it at his own pace. When asked if he had any advice for others who might be interested in a classic wooden boat, his advice was simple: “Quit waiting. Just go and get one.”
Model: 26 Crusette
Engine: 190-horsepower GM
Cruising Speed: 18 mph
Top Speed: 30 mph
Length: 26 feet, 4 inches
Beam: 9 feet, 2 inches
Features: White oak frames and keep; marine-grade fir plywood hull sides; teak topside; mahogany interior
Make: Chris-Craft Ski Boat
Engine: V8 Chris Craft 28, direct drive 1-to-1 transmission and reverse gear
Cruising Speed: 18 to 36 mph
Top Speed: 40 mph
Length: 17 feet
Beam: 6 feet, 8 inches
Weight: 2,541 pounds
Features: Mahogany hull, tracking fin for flat turns at speeds up to 40 mph, rear facing observer’s seat, and center mounted tow pylon. The hull was No. 252 of 280 built. Features were state-of-the-art at the time the boat was released.