CLAYTON — With features that include two new exhibits debuting this year, the Antique Boat M…
CLAYTON — The Kansas City-based film crew that arrived in the north country last summer to film an episode of “Mahogany & Chrome” has created a shining beacon about the culture of antique, wooden boats in the Thousand Islands.
The film crew of the nearly hourlong, expertly produced film, “If These Planks Could Talk: Antique Power Boats of the Mighty St. Lawrence,” spent almost a week in the area, interviewing a variety of sources, from a boat broker to a boat restorer.
Host Tyler Harcott also shared various experiences, from rowing a classic St. Lawrence River skiff to taking a ride on the 1927 Vagabond King, built by Hutchinson Boat Works in Alexandria Bay with owner Drew McNally at the helm.
When Mr. McNally started his boat, sparking its distinct, powerful growl, an obviously surprised Mr. Harcott, who previously hosted shows such as TLC’s “Junkyard Wars,” had a one word reaction: “Wow!”
The film crew was also on hand for the 58th annual Antique Boat Show & Auction hosted by the Antique Boat Museum on Mary Street. The Antique Boat Museum kicks off its summer season today.
Now, the creators of “If These Planks Could Talk” and other episodes of “Mahogany & Chrome” are seeking wider distribution for their project. The videos can be found on YouTube, but a partnership through a TV channel or network is sought.
The idea for a show that focuses on classic, wooden boats and the culture behind them from restoration to collecting, was born at a chicken restaurant in Kansas City. To explain its origins, producers David Vickers and Forrest Bryant paused for a phone interview last week while they were at a rail yard in Kansas City.
“We’ve got a life outside of boats, unfortunately,” Mr. Vickers said, explaining their stop at the yard. “We do other video production work to pay the bills.”
But Mr. Vickers explained that one day a few years ago, he and Mr. Bryant were at a restaurant. Mr. Vickers is an award-winning writer and media producer with hundreds of production credits. He’s also a member of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, an avid outdoorsman and “chronic tinkerer.” Mr. Bryant has 40 years of experience as an advertising executive and agency owner. He’s a lifelong classic boat and car enthusiast, and an expert on classic power boats. He has served as an officer and director of Antique & Classic Boat Society’s Heartland Classics chapter and serves as editor of its award-winning magazine. He’s also an accomplished photographer, owns four classic boats and has restored a number of historic homes.
“We thought, ‘There are no shows about these boats,’” Mr. Vickers said. “There’s a show about everything else, from motorcycles to cooking. These boats are history, with their craftsmanship and restoration in beautiful scenery like what we found up in Clayton. We just felt like there’s a lot of appeal to that culture. We both have backgrounds in marketing, advertising and video and film production and we thought we could do that. So we did.”
Mr. Bryant has been an ACBS member since 2009. He had been to Clayton a few times for boat auctions and to visit the Antique Boat Museum. The purchase of his first wooden boat came after a 2006 visit to the museum. While there, he took a ride on a 30-foot Hacker-Craft vessel with a triple cockpit — his first ride in a wooden boat. He then sought out a 26-foot classic Hacker-Craft.
“It took me just over two years to find one, in Lake George,” Mr. Bryant said. “I bought it, took it home and had it up until about 2½ years ago.”
There’s a certain mystique about classic wooden boats, Mr. Bryant said.
“They’re a piece of art, particularly like the Hacker-Crafts, some of the Centurys, Chris-Craft and a lot of the Canadian boats like the Ditchburns and what have you,” he said. “There’s nothing like them. They ride differently. They sound different. They’re just great to be around.”
There are five “Mahogany & Chrome” episodes. Three are about 15 minutes in length. “If These Planks Could Talk,” posted in February and “The Power of Fun,” which focuses on mahogany and chrome power boats on various lakes in Minnesota, come in at 57 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively.
Filming an episode of “Mahogany & Chrome” in Clayton was Mr. Bryant’s idea.
“But the rest of the crew had not been there and they were very impressed by how beautiful the area is, how friendly the people are and how it all went,” Mr. Vickers said. “I think the Thousand Islands and the residents couldn’t be better representatives of what the classic boating lifestyle is all about. We’re just grateful for the experience and we want to come back and do some more.”
He said the classic boats he came across in Clayton had a “magical” element to them.
“You go back in time,” Mr. Vickers said. “And to do it up in the Thousand Islands, you’re back in the Gilded Age easily, just going out for a half-hour ride. It’s an amazing place.”
That travel aspect of “Mahogany & Chrome” is a key part of the series, Mr. Bryant said.
“We always try to feature the location, not just the boats,” he said. “We think it’s about the destination as well.”
‘THE WHOLE PACKAGE’
Mr. Vickers met Mr. Bryant nearly 26 years ago. Mr. Bryant owned an advertising and marketing firm, Bryant, Lahey & Barnes, for over 35 years, and at the time was looking for a video producer to assist on some projects with certain clients. “A mutual acquaintance introduced us, and we began working together,” Mr. Vickers said.
Mr. Vickers worked as a freelance writer and video producer for Bryant, Lahey & Barnes for several years. After Mr. Bryant sold the business, Mr. Vickers hired him to work at his agency, Kansas City-based IronMule Creative LLC, as a photographer. IronMule primarily serves the industries of railway, animal health and retail.
The “Mahogany & Chrome” series has received some sponsorship money, unsolicited, from the Heartland Classics chapter of the ACBS. Established in 1998, the chapter’s core membership draws individuals from America’s heartland including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. The chapter also produces a magazine.
“If we can raise enough money to keep doing this, from people who want to sponsor it, we’re very open to that too,” Mr. Vickers said. “We’d like to keep it going. We love doing it.”
The goal is to find a home on television for “Mahogany & Chrome” episodes.
“We’ve done this on speculation,” Mr. Vickers said. “We have an idea and a concept here that we think is broadly appealing. With the rapidly changing television landscape and the fragmentation of interest, there’s a show about everything. But our goal is to find a home for it. And we feel now, with the Thousand Islands episode, we have the whole package. We want to show the hands-on, the history, the lifestyle, the destination aspect of it and the people. I think the Thousand Islands episode does that for us.”
Regardless of how the marketing of the series turns out, Mr. Vickers left this area with another proposition, which he floated to someone else.
“I got home and told my wife, ‘We’ve got to go there!’” he said. “When we were there, we were working. We didn’t get much time to enjoy things. It’s a breath-taking place with the beauty of the water there, the islands and the homes. But also, just the genuine nature and the warmth of the people really appeal to us.”
“If These Plans Could Talk” segments:
■ Keri Jobson, operations manager of Boldt facilities, talks to Mr. Harcott about Boldt Castle and its yacht house.
■ Andrew McNally V, owner of the “mahogany and chrome classic” Vagabond King, is interviewed near the Boldt Yacht House. Mr. McNally, the fourth owner of the boat and a trustee at the Antique Boat Museum, explained the boat’s history.
According to Times files, the Vagabond King and a sister boat, the Go-Getter, were owned by brothers William T. Dewart Jr. and Thomas W. Dewart. Their father, William T. Dewart, president of the New York Sun, died in 1944 at the age of 68. His wife, Mary Louise Wheeler Dewart, died in 1958 at the age of 80. The family had a summer home at Keewaydin, a palatial summer estate on the mainland near Alexandria Bay. In the 1920s, the Times’ coverage of boat races often featured the “duels” of the two teen brothers in their boats. For example, in race results published on Sept. 7, 1926, it was noted that in the 35-mile class, William T. Dewart Jr. won the race in 20 minutes, 44 seconds. His brother’s boat dropped out due to engine issues.
The brothers were members of the editorial staff of the Watertown Daily Times during the summer of 1930.
The website of Antique Boat America lists the 1927 boat once known as the Go-Getter, twin of Vagabond King, is for sale. “Hutchinson-built triple cockpit runabouts were known for their speed and hull style as they were designed not to level off as their speed increased, making the hull more stable on the choppy waters,” the listing notes.
Go-Getter became Lazy Lady for a subsequent owner. It has a listing price of $75,000. “She went through a thorough and detailed restoration in 2000-2002, including replacement of the traditional bottom, framing, upholstery, wiring, fuel tank and floors. Engine upgraded to rebuilt 454 in 2002. Varnish updated in 2020. Last in the water and operating in the summer of 2020,” according to the listing.
Such antique boats, Mr. McNally told Mr. Harcott, are “part of the culture up here and the aura.”
“Just look around,” Mr. Harcott responded. “To eclipse the natural beauty out here, you almost need this kind of beauty to match it.”
Much of the interview was shot by drone, with Mr. Harcott and Mr. McNally chatting while Vagabond King cruises. Mr. Bryant said producers complied with drone regulations issued by Boldt Castle management and the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. “They had very strict rules about things, but we were able to do that because of the time of day,” Mr. Bryant said. “And we have a great drone pilot and drone cinematographer on our crew, Scott Jolley.”
Also for the segment, a chase boat, a “floating platform,” was supplied by Clayton-based Antique Boat America.
■ A visit to the Antique Boat Museum, a 4½-acre, 10-building “shrine to America’s rich boating heritage.” The segment explains how visitors can reserve a seat aboard its 30-foot triple cockpit Hacker Craft Miss 1000 Islands 3 for a 45-minute ride on the river. Mr. Harcott also visits the museum’s restoration shop and master boatwright Michael Gorman, interviews executive director Rebecca Hopfinger and is given a paddling lesson on a St. Lawrence River skiff by museum educator Molly Voth.
“That’s one of the things I like about your facility here, is that there is that immersion, that chance to get out and actually do the things and try the things, because they’re still here,” Mr. Harcott says.
■ Michael J. Hazelwood, owner of Wood Boat Brewery, 625 Mary St., next to the museum, is interviewed about the establishment and its brews.
■ Mark Krzyzanowski, vice president of operations at Antique Boat America, a broker for antique and classic boats with headquarters at 41444 Route 12, explains how the business facilitates matching a potential owner to the right boat. “We have everything from $5,000 to $500,000 and we think having enough options in that range, we can accommodate pretty much anybody,” Mr. Kryzanowski tells Mr. Harcott.
■ Lora Nadolski Hanson, executive director of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, Inc., with international headquarters at 422 James St., talks about the mission of the organization and the benefits of membership.
■ Randy Fletcher, president of the Thousand Islands chapter of the ACBS, is interviewed.
■ A visit to the 58th annual Antique Boat Museum Boat Show and Auction. It includes an interview with Daniel Acierno, owner of Long Island Boat & Motor Works who described the 12-cylinder Scripps 302 engine of the boat Foot Loose & Fancy Free.
Ms. Hopfinger told the Times that 4th Coast Fours, Waddington, has been the lead on the restoration of the Scripps 302, with many others having involvement, including Mr. Acierno. The engine is in its final stages of restoration at 4th Coast Fours and is heading for a final test before being installed into Footloose sometime this spring in the E.J. Noble Historic Stone Building at the ABM campus.
■ Mr. Harcott stops by the booth of Gregory Rice, who builds precise mini replicas of classic wooden boats. All are built from scratch, including all the metals and fittings, which are also all individually crafted. The models are also radio controlled. “The model does what the original design was designed to do,’’ Mr. Rice says.
■ The “Mahogany & Chrome” episode concludes with the boat show’s annual antique boat parade.
“The people in Clayton were wonderful to work with,” Mr. Vickers said. “What we ask for in a TV production like that is pretty demanding, especially with the volume that we shot. There’s always hiccups and changing gears on a dime, and that happened some. But everybody just rolled with us.”
Corey Fram, director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, said his agency provided some of the B-roll footage for the episode.
“Mahogany & Chrome perfectly captured not only the sights and sounds of classic wooden boats on the St. Lawrence River but also how they permeate the culture of the Thousand Islands,” Mr. Fram said. “When you live in a region as special as ours, you come across so many storytellers out there astonished with what they discover here, and it helps raise awareness and appreciation for what we have.”
Ms. Hopfinger said museum staff is pleased with how the episode turned out. “Working with both the producers and talent was a true pleasure, despite having the filming take place during one of our busiest weeks of the season,” she said. “We’re grateful to ‘Mahogany & Chrome” for bringing more awareness to the Antique Boat Museum through their YouTube channel.”
Mr. Vickers and Mr. Bryant said their “Mahogany & Chrome” video series is self-financed. “I will tell you that it’s been a very expensive proposition,” Mr. Vickers said. “Forrest and I are not high rollers. But we’re very proud of it.”
WHAT: “If These Planks Could Talk,” an episode of the series “Mahogany & Chrome.” The production crew spent six days last summer covering the 58th annual Antique Boat Show & Auction plus highlighting the rich antique and classic boat heritage of the Thousand Islands area.
WHERE TO VIEW: The “Mahogany & Chrome” YouTube channel at wdt.me/MandC. Producers are seeking a TV distribution partner for the series.
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