Texas Boat Graveyard: What We Learn From Old Boats
When it comes to boats, like many things, “what is old, is new again” or something like that. Rummaging through a boat graveyard in south Texas proved this theory nicely. I literally came across this graveyard by accident and ended up roaming around, feeling my way through this giant time capsule like a kid going through a Toys ‘R’ Us store that was closed and looted years ago. It was depressing and satisfying. The depressing part is that I’m old enough to remember some of these boats when they were new, but the satisfying part is I haven’t been left for dead yet like these beautiful pieces of fiberglass artwork.
Here is footage of some of the boats mentioned in the article.
First, I got permission from the yard owner, mostly so he knew I wasn’t trespassing or stealing, and also to avoid being mauled by a pack of Rottweilers. My first hope was to find a real hidden gem, something really rare, or worth restoring. There were a couple neat old bass boats, an old Ski Nautique, and a few old Glastrons, which I like, but nothing worth dragging out of the beautiful vegetation and mud. Anyone who has been to south Texas in the summer knows how hot it is too, so I couldn’t spend too much time out there.
One takeaway for me was how some things have gone full circle. For one, there were a few different vintages of jet boats. This is interesting to me because Yamaha, has sold tons of new jet boats from 19 to 24 feet. Yamaha’s designs are horrible, the quality is pretty bad and jet boats, just aren’t efficient; yet they keep coming back.
Jets were popular in the sixties and seventies, they had a huge advantage over sterndrives at the time, Jet drives are just a pump, and can handle huge horsepower. Extremely reliable, simple to rebuild and there are no gears to break, on top of that, you never have to worry about hitting a rock and ripping your lower unit off. Plus, they accelerate like crazy and are fun to drive. But, compared to a prop boat, they are very inefficient, despite the image, they are very slow comparatively. So they went from low slung lake and river rippers, to more family style performance boats in the seventies, to disappearing for a while when sterndrives got better.
Then, in the nineties, they came back in a big way. Back then, they became little bath tub boats, mostly 14’ to 16 footers, and everyone was making them. From Boston Whaler to Bayliner, and even companies like Baja, and Checkmate were making little jets that mostly looked the same. All were powered by little two stroke engines and little jet drives similar to ones on PWCs. Wellcraft Scarab actually had one that were quite a bit better than the mini bathtubs others were making, the Scarab Sprint 19 had a “Volvo” branded engine and drive, which was actually an American Turbine drive I believe.
Anyway, the history of jets was on full display at the graveyard. I saw an old daycruiser style jet, Glastron CV 19 jet, and a few Sea Ray and Bayliner jets from the nineties.
Another interesting thing was the the number of bass boats and fish and ski type boats. Many actually looked pretty cool from a design perspective. A vintage Ranger 138 V, some really old Skeeters, and a few others. These were kind of cool. There were a few Bayliner Cobras too, a couple fishing versions, and a regular Cobra too. When you see what a nightmare Bayliner has turned into, it’s easy to forget that, even though they have always been shitty, the Cobra actually had some interesting styling. Don’t get me wrong, the word interesting can describe a dead squirrel, but compared to the current lineup, the Cobra is a decent looking boat. They could literally just make that again and it would be light years ahead of what they make now.
But that’s how the boat industry works. There was an old Chaperral 21 there and I honestly think it looks better than anything in their current lineup, and every other generic manufacturers lineup; lower, sleeker and a better interior layout. Mass produced modern boats are all the same, super generic and lacking basic design principles. In fact, you see how all the boats from the eighties to nineties had squared off windshields, then they want to more rounded setback windshields, and now you see squared off windshields came back a few years ago. Cobalt boats used to be one of the better designed family boats on the market up until a few years ago, then it looks like they hired a drunk Russian car designer to take over.
Those are my basic takeaways from wandering around a Texas boat graveyard. If you ever come across and old boat graveyard, take the time and look around, you never know what you might find.