Classic Boating (September/October 1989)
27 January 2009
Go Further West Young Man
By: Jim Wangard
Photos by: Norm Wangard
In the 1860s, prospectors discovered gold in Idaho and before long, thousands of miners gravitated to this Rocky Mountain state to strike it rich. Farmers, cattlemen and ranchers soon followed. As the mines were depleted, many of the get-rich-quick prospectors moved on. The farmers, cattlemen and ranchers stayed in the region and built the state whose popular name is the Gem State, reflecting its wealth in abundant resources and opportunities. Among them are big bodies of water and a large population of classic boats now in need of a restorer.After the 1979-80 recession nearly devastated the pleasure boat industry, an untapped market for vintage boat restorations in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, led Syd Young to uproot his second generation boating heritage from Flathead Lake, Montana, to the 30 mile long northwest lake where he hung out a new shingle called The Boat Shop.
No stranger to the classic hull, Syd had grown up in his father’s shop building boats. In 1933, Stan Young, just out of college, had decided to get into boat building. He, like Chris Smith three years earlier, borrowed on his own identity and named the new company Stan-Craft. Stan Young built utilities, three cockpit runabouts and cabin cruisers. By the age of 10, Syd was working in the shop with his dad. At 11, he built his first boat, a plywood rowboat with three seats. His second project as a teenager was the construction of an 18 1/2’ runabout.
"I never took my childhood for granted," says Syd. "I loved the lake and inherited my father’s passion for boats. I learned everything I could from him. He was the master in my life."
After World War II, Stan-Craft, along with the rest of the industry, saw sales burgeon. Two unique postwar Stan-Crafts were the Beavertail, featuring a sloped transom and hydroplane-like fin, and the Torpedo, a boat on which Stan took streamlining to the nth degree.
In 1966, a fire burned down Stan-Craft Marina and Boat Manufacturing. After rebuilding the facilities, Stan Young, like the boating industry in general, got out of traditionally built boats.
In 1970, Syd Young bought the business, along with another boat building facility five miles away, and commenced construction of a line of 40 mph 26’ twin screw fiberglass flying bridge cruisers competitive with the likes of Tollycraft and Uniflite. Searching for a model name with a salty ring to it, Syd found himself thumbing through a dictionary and Nor’Wester caught his eye. Over the next ten years, Syd and his 25-man crew built some $5 million worth of boats before the troubled economy of 1980 depressed sales and forced him to sell the business. Disheartened after spending a decade building up the business, Syd is glad to be out of the cyclical industry of full-time boat manufacturing, but he concedes experience, "I learned a lot of hard lessons in the 70s."
After moving to Post Falls, Idaho, to assume supervisory duties at Unitec, Syd left that company in 1983 to start The Boat Shop doing fiberglass and wood repairs. "I really wondered when I opened the doors if I had made a mistake," Syd said of his shop. "The response has been terrific." One of his first restorations trucked in from Montana was the 18 1/2’ boat Syd built as a teenager. In addition to doing warranty work for other marinas, Syd’s shop offers the diversity of building and repairing in wood or fiberglass.
With a full service facility, Syd was without a boat of his own. He built facsimilies of three designs that most impressed him as a teenager – the Beavertail, Torpedo, and a three cockpit named Arrow – boats his father had originally built.
The 17’ Beavertail was a 750 hour project by Syd’s head wood worker, Dave Kaschmitter. Nearby, Syd was laying up the hull of the Torpedo. "When we were kids, the torpedo was the wildest boat we could imagine," Syd recalled of the six passenger, 45 mph speedboat. "It’s without a doubt the most complicated boat design I have ever seen. There are triple compound bends in some of those boards."
With new boats and re-planked old boats along with scaled-back production of Nor’Wester 260s representing the capabilities of Syd and his crew to the new community, it didn’t take long to make an impression. "When we opened shop, it didn’t take long for people to start dragging them out from everywhere," said Syd of the boats that came in in any condition. "If the boats come in as firewood, we can recreate it."
One of Syd’s own basket cases was his lat 40s 33’ enclosed cabin cruiser that he took down to the wood, replacing most of the forward bottom. Used as an overnighter on the 185 square mile Coeur d’Alene Lake, Syd calls his four sleeper their cabin on the lake. He sees the boat creating as much interest in cruisers as his Torpedo and beavertail did in developing the area’s runabout market.In the first half of 1989, The Boat Shop did a staggering 100 complete restorations. "They were just waiting for someone to come along," says Syd of his northwestern corner of Idaho. "Boats come from all over." Six years after heading westward to the Gem State, it appears that Syd Young has struck gold.