Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and living in White Bear Lake, we are aware of the profundity and importance of our own crystalline shores. But aside from fun summer activities and ice-skating in the winter, what do all of these lakes bring? Boats—and lots of them! To the point where we hardly bat an eyelash at the big pontoons and speedboats being trailered on the highway when the weather turns warm and the water beckons.
And what of those vintage dandies? The men you’ll meet here collect boats that will make you pause and think of yesteryear. Between restoration and boat shows, these owners keep busy most of the summer, but were able to spare just enough time to tell their vintage boat stories.
Mid-’30s Larson Deluxe Speed Runabout
Roger Moberg remembers going to his mother’s hometown, Little Falls, as a child, where everything was about the boats. It was in that town that his uncle, Paul Larson, built his first boat at age 11, later founding the now-iconic brand Larson Boats. This makes it no surprise that Moberg’s vintage boat is a 14-foot Larson Deluxe Speed Runabout. “I bought it from a guy at a privately owned museum up in Little Falls,” Moberg says. Though the Falls Flyer is the better-known vintage Larson boat, “as a kid growing up, this particular model was always my favorite.”
His favorite has been a favorite at boat shows as well. Moberg has won numerous awards with this boat, including Most Original at the largest wooden boat show in the country in Florida. “[It] was really something, because some of these people come in with their six-figure boats and have crews to bring them in,” and Moberg’s small boat took home the prize. He’s won so many awards, in fact, that he doesn’t want any more, he says. “I don’t want to take the honor away from someone else.”
But taking it out of judging competitions doesn’t mean he’s slacking on upkeep. He estimates that he puts in a 40-hour week once every three years. It’s just “rough labor,” though. “You don’t have to be awful smart to sit and use a sanding block—just be sure you don’t take off too much.” He says patience is key, and making a mistake or two is inevitable.
Once, while varnishing, he started the project later in the afternoon. By evening, gnats had found their way to the still-tacky finish and in the morning he found the boat covered in the bugs. It was a learning experience, Moberg says, so “I started over.”
1958 Crestliner Voyager
Bob Matson enjoys vintage boats so much he wrote a book about them. What’s in Your Boathouse? Amazing Stories of Nautical Archeology, is a collection of stories about families and their boats. “Nobody was doing it,” Matson says. “Every boat has a story to tell. I was looking for a book … I couldn’t find one!” So he started collecting histories and filled in that gap in the book and boat world.
His love of boats started much earlier, though, when he was spending time at his family’s cabin in Cass Lake, and being in and around his dad’s motor shop. “As customers brought in boats to Matson Motors, I thought, ‘I have to get into vintage boats,’ ” he says.
Matson found his 1958 Crestliner Voyager on eBay, but didn’t know the first thing about bidding on the auction website, so he figured “there’s no way I’m gonna win.” But the next day, fate stepped in disguised as a customer who happened to hear Matson’s trouble. “He says, ‘That’s what I do! Make money by selling things on eBay!’ ” Matson recalls. With the customer’s help, Matson won the bid. Since it was posted online, Matson was aware that the boat could be anywhere in the country, and he was fully prepared to drive days to pick up this boat. “But it was in Virginia, Minnesota,” he says. And that’s not all—when learning the history of the boat, he discovered that it had been docked on Cass Lake at the same time he lived there as a kid: “It was meant to be.”
After about six months of restoration, the boat is now in top shape, and is more than a showpiece. “It gets me out to my island in Lake of the Woods in Canada, and I take it out in Ely,” Matson says. His boat’s story is what inspired his book and now, he says, he’s working on a second edition, “so if anyone has a rare boat story to tell,” you know who to call.
You can purchase Matson’s book on amazon.com; for more information, visit the website here.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Matson)
Want to see vintage boats up close and personal?
Head to the 11th annual White Bear Classic and Vintage Boat Show on Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the lakefront of the White ear Shopping Center.