For a long time, George Curnow thought his dream of owning an antique Chris-Craft boat was out of reach. And the prospect of a vessel he owns being featured at an event like Smith Mountain Lake’s Antique and Classic Boat Show? Even less likely. But wife Marlyn, and others who know him best, would likely agree it’s about time both dreams come true.
“I had put the notion of owning a wooden boat out of my head because other things such as career, family and building a house were always more important. It felt like a frivolous thing to have,” George Curnow said.
Still, it was the luxuriousness of a gleaming post-World War II utility vessel that first caught his eye.
“I remember going on vacation with a friend to his family’s cottage on Devil’s Lake in Michigan when I was a kid. No sooner did we get there than I could see his grandfather’s Chris-Craft in the water, and it struck me as being a really beautiful boat. Frankly, it reminded me of our mahogany dining room furniture. I stared at that boat all week long,” he said. “It’s one of those childhood memories that stuck with me my whole life.”
For years, Curnow appeased his love for old wooden boats by seizing every opportunity to catch a glimpse of them at boat shows. If there was a lake nearby with wooden boats on display, he would drop everything to go check them out. When his financial services career moved him from Chicago to Long Island, New York, he and Marlyn began vacationing on Lake George, in part because it is a hot spot for old wooden boats. After several more moves, the couple retired to SML in 2010.
“We were drawn to Smith Mountain Lake because it reminds us of Lake George,” said Marlyn. “And it’s convenient to where our daughter lives in northern Virginia, and our son in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
Shortly after their arrival at SML, the couple attended a boat show sponsored by the local chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.
“Of course we went over to see the boats, and we ended up meeting a bunch of really neat people from the club,” said George. “We were invited to a meeting, and that’s when we realized we didn’t have to own an antique or classic boat to belong to the club.”
For the next two years the couple focused on building their lake home and other hobbies. Marlyn, who used to own a graphic design business, is an expert quilter and works part time at The General Store at Westlake Corner. She lends her skills to many of the SML Antique and Classic Boat Society’s design needs. George enjoys financial consulting for some of the companies he used to work for and serves as vice president for the club.
With encouragement from his club friends, George finally fulfilled his dream by buying a 1948 Chris-Craft U-22 Utility Sportsman in 2012.
“I was a little intimidated because I’m not the craftsman that some of the other boat owners are. But I learned so much from them and realized there wasn’t anything I would run into in searching for my own boat that one of them hadn’t already experienced,” he said.
The Curnows say they enjoy keeping the boat operational.
“One of my favorite aspects of the classic boat is the deep, throaty sound the engine makes. And it’s such a smooth ride, which provides an experience you can’t get from modern boats,” said Marlyn. “We often take her out early in the evening and cruise along slowly. ... Or if our children and grandchildren are visiting, we’ll take them out. Our grandsons love the boat.”
Though maritime lore holds that changing a boat’s name is a bad omen, the Curnows said they believed their vessel deserved a moniker that told their story.
“The previous caretakers had named her Waves Gone By,” said George. “But when we thought of coming up with a new name, Marlyn and I just looked at each other and I said, ‘Well, it’s about time.’” So her new name became It’s About Time, and it certainly is.”
WANT TO GO?
24th SML ANTIQUE & CLASSIC BOAT SHOW AND FESTIVAL
What In-water display of about 50 antique boats and 25 classic cars from up and down the East Coast. Family-oriented event with food, antique car show, demonstrations and a variety of vendors offering crafts and collectibles. Limited docking is available for those who want to go by boat.
When Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where Mariners Landing Resort, 1217 Graves Harbor Trail, Huddleston
Cost Free, however, donations will be accepted for the SML Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society, which supports local charities.