Wooden boat enthusiasts share their love for the classic style

Joyce Miller
Ol’ Yeller, a 26’ Lyman.

As the sleek wooden boats cut across the water, it is a reminder of days gone by. A time when it wasn’t quite as fast-paced at Lake of the Ozarks. Back when a trip to the lake meant two-lane highways, mom-and-pop storefronts and maybe taking in a water-ski show or visit to the Ozark Opry. 

The sleek lines, attention to craftsmanship, the sun glinting off the rich wood — those who are true classic wooden boat enthusiasts will tell it's about connecting with the past and preserving the craftsmanship that went into building the classic boats. 

While not common on Lake of the Ozarks, there are a few wooden boat owners in the area.

Ol’ Yeller, a 26’ Lyman built-in 1969 in Sandusky, Ohio, is one of the more commonly sighted wooden boats on Lake of the Ozarks. Lyman’s were built for boating on Lake Erie so Lake of the Ozarks is the perfect home for the watercraft. Despite its age, the boat runs about 1,000 miles a season, although the owner says he does most of his boating during the week when the lake tends to be less crowded. 

Ol’ Yeller is one of two Lyman’s owned by Sherman Langell, or Skip as he is known to his friends. 

For as long as he can remember, Langell has been in love with boats. His grandfather was a boat builder at a shipyard in Michigan, his dad worked for Chris-Craft.  

“Once it gets in your system, it never leaves,” Langell said. “I have restored numerous boats, even one that I sold to a collector that is now in a museum in Iowa. That was a boat built-in 1916. These boats have character.”

Langell tracked the 26’ Lyman down, hoping to be able to buy it. He first saw the Lyman years before back in the 70s in Michigan. Years later he returned to Michigan and found the wife of the man who had owned the boat. The owner had died and the wife had the boat stored in a barn. Lyman was able to make a deal with her, probably paying more than it was worth and it ended up here at the lake nine years ago. 

He said the Lyman can run a top speed of about 30 mph, but as one who likes to take in the views around him, he said he usually cruises at about 15 mph. 

Although the boat has a smooth ride and definitely is built to withstand rough water, he prefers boating during the week when things are a bit more laid back on the lake

“We draw a lot of attention. Everybody waves when they pass a wooden boat,” he said. “When we dock, the other boaters in their big boats with all the engines, they will come over to check the Lyman out. It’s fun.” 

To take in the beauty of the old wooden and classic boats, Lake of the Ozarks is the place to be. This weekend the Heartland Classics Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society will be visiting the Lake of the Ozarks hosting its 2021 Classic Boat and Engine Rendezvous. On display on land and water will be mahogany works of boating art dating from the 1930s,  to ‘newer’ 1960s to 1980s wood, fiberglass and aluminum boats that reflect design styles of another era. The boats will range from smaller 15’ wooden watercraft to larger classic cruisers. The homeport of the event will be Margaritaville at Lake of the Ozark Resort. The event sponsor is Big Thunder Marine. 

One of the classic wooden boats that will be on display is a 1947 Century Standard owned by Ken and Rolina Everett. The Everett’s live in Kimberling City on Table Rock Lake but this weekend will head to Lake of the Ozarks to meet up with others who are as enthusiastic as they are about the wonders of owning a classic boat. 

Ken has been fascinated with boats since he was a child which eventually leads to him retire to Table Rock where he could pursue his interests. The Century he now owns has taken some time and effort to restore but there’s nothing that quite compares.

“When you think about someone building that boat, sanding the wood, in a shipyard, there’s a connection,” said Ken. Four or five times a year Ken and “Ro”, head to shows highlighting the classic boats and share their love of these older watercraft that captivate their attention. 

The camaraderie is part of the draw, he said. Owners of the classics share their knowledge and are great resources for restoring and maintaining the older boats. He said you get to know folks and connect with them over a common interest. 

Ken said the Century Standard isn’t their everyday boat. For that, he and Ro have a 21’ 1990 Cobalt BR Classic that they run on Table Rock. The Cobalt is also an older boat and features a teak wood interior.  

John Thompson and Carolyn will also be making the trip from near Branson on Table Rock Lake. For Thompson, it is a homecoming of sorts. A chance to come back to the place where he spent summers as a kid at his aunt and uncle’s cabin. 

“They had a small cabin across from Bridal Cave,” John said.  “I learned to ski behind and fished out of, a 16’ Thompson outboard and later an 18’ Thompson outboard boat they owned.  The sound of the water hitting the hulls of those open wooden lapstrake boats is magical.”

 This will be the second of the Heartland Classics events for the Thompson’s at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The local chapter members and classic boat enthusiasts have done a great job in finding classic boaters on LOTO and by encouraging other classic boaters from across the region to attend their events, he said. 

A 22” 1950 Chris-Craft Sportsman, called Mischief.

For the weekend, the Thompson’s will be trailering their 22” 1950 Chris-Craft Sportsman, called Mischief. 

John said the Sportsman isn’t a showboat. Although it's beautiful and shows the craftsmanship of the classic older boats, the Mischief is their pleasure boat for getting out on the water and cruising. 

If you are out this weekend on the water, be sure and wave if you see one of these older classics enjoying a cruise.