Keep your superyachts. These classic boat owners turn heads everywhere they go.
by Kate Robbins
From flashy catamarans to sleek cruisers, Lake of the Ozarks is home to some incredible boats. But for some, the best boats on the water are from years gone by. Antique boats have a dedicated fanbase at Lake of the Ozarks: these vintage boat owners know that while some boats are expensive, others are priceless.
30-foot 1960 Chris Craft
Owners: Cheri and Dave Bonacker
Location: 4 Mile Marker
Cheri and Dave Bonnicker have called Lake of the Ozarks home for more than 51 years — they first came here right around the time their 1960 Chris Craft was first launched. But they didn’t own the boat until 2016.
“We spend the night on it, we cook out breakfast on it the next day, we putter down the Lake. It’s just great,” Cheri said. “I enjoy working on it too,” Dave chimed in.
But owning this vintage beauty hasn’t been without drama. Once when the couple was boating in Linn Creek Cove, the vessel started taking on water. They managed to get it back to their dock, but Cheri recalls as Dave was working on the problem: “He says ‘Cheri, you need to get out here quick!’ And I get down into the boat, and he says, ‘You’ve got to stick your finger in this hole!’ Just like the little Dutch boy!” A church musician, Cheri laughed, “And I was like ‘I hope I can play for church the next morning,’ because my finger was really jammed in there!”
With Cheri keeping the water at bay, the leak was fixed, and Still Floatin’ is still floating on Lake of the Ozarks today.
The Little Skipper
1967 Larson Lapline All American
Owner: Skip Bornmueller, pictured with his daughter, Kelly Lubker
Location: St. Louis
The Little Skipper has been through quite a journey to find a home with Skip Bornmueller and his daughter Kelly Lubker. The boat was originally bought new by Skip’s parents. It was in the family until the 80’s when the motor went out and The Little Skipper was sold. But a few years ago, while searching Facebook Marketplace, Kelly found the boat for sale. The price: $60!
“It was the exact same boat, same trailer, everything,” she said.
The whole thing had to be gutted. They installed a new transom and motor, and made many more repairs, but The Little Skipper is back in the family and looks rather dapper on the water.
“The nostalgia is the best part about it. This boat has been on every inch of the Lake,” Kelly said.
And it’s not only the boat that makes getting out on Lake of the Ozarks a joy; it’s also about friendship on the water. Richard Wrablik — the owner of a 1978 Century 2000 named Heska Holka — and Bornmueller have been friends “since before they were born.” They docked next to each other at last fall’s Vintage Boat Show, at Captain Ron’s.
“We went into the Navy together and were on the same ship together, and we made two tours of Vietnam,” Richard said. “He’s one of my brothers.”
18-foot 1955 Chris Craft Sportsman
Owners: Roseanne and Dave Rutkowski and their son Matthew
Location: 44 Mile Marker
For the Rutkowski family, vintage boating is a family affair. The family has four wooden boats in various states of repair, but the one they brought to the Vintage Boat Show at Captain Ron’s belongs to and was restored by their son Matthew.
“Everything is original on it down to the color of the upholstery and the flags. Everything is how it originally came out of the factory in 1955,” Dave said. “He did the entire restoration with only a little bit of Dad’s help.”
These wooden boats are a passion project for the family and Dave is as proud of his son as he is of the boat: “He [Matthew] is a very skilled woodworker, he’s a professional engineer by career and a passionate woodworker by hobby. Every inch of this boat we know, and every inch of this boat we’ve sanded and varnished.”
The off-season is what keeps them coming back to the Lake.
“The beautiful late-summer, early-fall mornings and evenings are just wonderful,” Dave said. “Absolutely wonderful. The water is quiet, the scenery is beautiful. The Lake is a beautiful place. We’re fortunate to have a home here and have boats here to play.”
17-foot 1963 Century Resorter
Owner: Bob Riggle
Location: 10 Mile Marker
For Bob Riggle, wood-bottom boats have been a years-long passion, ever since he was 13, eyeing the boats at Link’s Landing, on Lake of the Ozarks.
“We were always looking at the new Centuries that were on display at the marina there, and of course at that time they were all wooden boats. I’d always dreamed of having one, and eventually ended up buying one,” Bob recalled. He bought his 1963 Resorter in 1973.
Now the boat is a pastime for three generations who all share a passion for the same sport: water skiing.
“My wife and I started skiing as teenagers, and my kids grew up skiing behind my Century. Now the grandkids ski behind it,” Bob said. “They just love it.”
Bob has immaculately maintained his Century over the years, even taking it back to Manistee, Mich. in 2006 for some TLC from the people who originally built these boats.
“And that was pretty special because we were able to find some of the original people who worked at the Century boat company to do the restoration work. Ended up going to one fella who did the woodwork, a fella who did the engine work. And one fella who did the upholstery,” Bob said.
Through the many changes Lake of the Ozarks has seen since Bob bought his Century in 1973, he says he still loves it here.
“I just always have enjoyed the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s grown so much and changed a lot but you know, I think it still offers a good family environment for people like myself who enjoy watersports,” he said. “I certainly would recommend the Lake of the Ozarks to anyone who enjoys the water and enjoys boating.”
Wood Duck Three
Wood Duck One, 15ft Lyman Runabout
& Wood Duck Three, 1960 Chris Craft Sportsman
(Wood Duck Two was totaled and sold in 2020)
Owner: Steve Bradbury
For Steve Bradbury, his love of vintage boats began in Empire, Mich. He and his wife were walking around the neighborhood when they spotted a man who was refinishing a vintage Chris Craft.
“And it turns out — and a lot of people who are interested in old boats and old cars will recognize that name — that man was Frank Hagerty,” Steve said. Hagerty is the founder of Hagerty Insurance, where he pioneered specialty insurance for classic boats and vehicles after he couldn’t find an insurer for his own collection of wooden boats.
“Frank was showing us pictures and telling us stories about all the different cars and boats that he’d pulled out of barns and whatnot and had restored. And that got us interested,” Steve recalled.
After getting his first boat, Steve’s interest in classic vessels expanded to vehicles as well. “He [Hagerty] actually ended up causing much more trouble than that,” he laughed. “Since we had this boat motor and trailer all 1957, we decided we needed something ‘1957’ to tow it, so we bought a 1957 Lincoln Coupe. Now when we put them all together, we call it ‘The Ensemble.’”
With vintage boats on the dock, Steve is in friendly competition with his son, Cole Bradbury, a local attorney and co-owner of the Osage Beach Anytime Fitness whose much newer boat sits in the same dock. Steve laughed, “He was kind of disgusted because there are two boats on his dock, my Chris Craft and a nice, very new fiberglass boat that he keeps there. And everybody is complimenting the Chris Craft and not mentioning the other boat.”