Snake Mountain Boatworks

Vintage Boat Preservation

We are laser focused on saving old wood boats and reversing the ravages of time through preservation, not “restoration”. I cringe every time I see a boat for sale ad exclaiming that you should buy her because her transom, bottom, topside and deck planking is new. Such a boat is no longer old; she is little more than a copy of what she once was.

Old boats are old because they retain all the old wood and old components that could be saved. Sometimes, and especially with bottom planking, the original wood is just too far gone to save. That’s why our guiding criterion is, “Replace only what cannot be saved.” The SMB crew knows its way around old wood boats and how to preserve them, and that we uphold the highest standards of craftsmanship in the process.

1938 Chris Craft Runabout preservation: “Flyin’ By”

Flyin’ By won Best of Show in the 2017 Lake Champlain ACBS Antique and Classic Boat Show.

Snake Mountain Boatworks YouTubeWatch our preservation videos on YouTube.

Our Story

Preserving, Repairing & Restoring Antique & Classic Wood Boats

Arriving in 1970 to begin our teaching careers and grow our family, my wife and I bought four acres and a dilapidated circa 1826 house in Addison, Vermont. Putting four sheep on the land offered the “perfect” solution for keeping it open. Well, four soon became 30, trying to eke an existence on way too little land.

The solution was obvious: Buy land and build our own place, which we did, and in October 1976, we moved into our brand new colonial saltbox sitting on 93 acres of land. We cleared the land, built a barn and figured we were all set.

The sheep had other ideas. Those thirty-odd sheep did what comes naturally, and before our eyes, the flock doubled and then doubled again.

In 1979 we built the 42′x80′ barn that now houses Snake Mountain Boatworks. By 1990, with our lives moving in other directions, the flock was sold and those barns stood empty until 2009, when what would become Snake Mountain Boatworks began rising out of the big barn’s dirt floor. The sheep, hay, and all else that farming means have been replaced by 5,000 square feet of superb restoration space… (READ MORE >)

About Michael Claudon

Retiring from teaching at Middlebury College has enabled Claudon to create his latest entrepreneurial endeavor, Snake Mountain Boatworks LLC. SMB preserves, restores and repairs antique and classic wooden powerboats in 5,000 square feet of shop that had previously served as the main barn for the commercial sheep operation that he and Shirley, his wife of 42 years, ran from 1976-1990.

Restoring, preserving and repairing these majestic watercraft is so much like doing the same for clocks, albeit on a footprint that is hundreds of times larger. Blessed with his crew of able experts, Claudon is again feeding his passion for trading, for preserving old things, and for meeting and bringing enjoyment to wonderful people… (READ MORE >)

What We Do

Snake Mountain Boatworks means:

Snake Mountain Boatworks is Michael Claudon, John La Fountain and Roger ‘RJ’ Towle. We know our way around, in, under and through wooden boats.

We Will:

Communicate with you while we work to uphold the highest standards of craftsmanship and return your boat to you when promised and without excuses.

Store your boat inside or outside in our facility that is protected 24/7 by sophisticated security systems. Let us address her issues small and large during the winter so she is ready to go in the spring.

Our vintage boat Preservation Services include:

Vintage Boat Preservation How-To

Introduction to how-to archives

I had just purchased my first wood boat, a 1949 22’ Shepherd utility, as I launched Snake Mountain Boatworks. I knew much about wood from my 30 years restoring antique American clocks. Even tall case clocks are miniscule compared to wood boats in general and the monstrous Shepherd.

Clearly I had much to learn, as did John, an experienced finish carpenter and cabinetmaker, who would be my first employee.

One thing was certain. The challenges and techniques presented by preserving wood clock cases and movements, trimming out interior doors, and building kitchen cabinets paled by comparison to what this hulking beast that stood glowering at us would need.

I made one decision that has guided all that we do. Ours would be a preservation shop, not a “restoration” shop. No piece of wood that could be saved would be replaced. Nor would we “restore” one of these magnificent artifacts of history by replacing topside, transom and deck planking. An old boat is only old once, and that includes the original wood fastened to her as she left her factory.

So… what to do? Given my 41 years as a college teacher, the answer was straightforward. Buy and read books. Until I happened on Don Danenberg, doing so was an exercise in frustration. So many of these books were packed with content that was true, but again and again, I found it wanting. Almost none of it was actionable.

Then Danenberg’s two volume The Complete Wooden Runabout Restoration Guide. Yes, its contents were just as true as other boat books’, but there was a major and material difference. Danenberg’s content is 100% actionable, if not just a bit intimidating to the uninitiated wood boat preservation wannabes like us.

But we preserved and we learned. Each of us had our own copies in addition to the one that, albeit a bit dog-eared by now, lives in the shop as I type.

As we learned and as we first preserved “Class of ’49,” the Shepherd that started it all, and then “Little Chief,” a 1948 18’ Chris-Craft Deluxe Utility who now lives in Salzburg, Austria.

No longer intimidated by Danenberg’s blunt guidance, we also began evolving variations on his themes as we developed sources, methods and materials that delivered the highest standards of craftsmanship in a preservation environment where simply installing a new plank when an original one proves cranky just does not happen.

The teacher in me challenged me. How can we share what we are learning, including our mistakes, with other aspiring wood boat preservationists? I especially wanted to help owners and their families learn and use sources and methods that work for us.

Then one day I happened on a YouTube video offering (incorrect) guidance on bleaching wood hulls. “No! Don’t do that!” And our channel, www.youtube.com/snakemtboatworks, was launched.

Now is the moment to take that sharing process one step further. Navigating YouTube’s search engine is at best challenging, and at worst down right awful.

Following below is a library of our 500+ videos focusing on “how-to…” Our how-to YouTube Channel videos are organized by task.

Be sure not to miss reading the detailed narratives that accompany each clip. Here you learn the why and wherefore of each activity as well as the names and where to buy the materials and tools we use.

Ours is a living library that will grow as we shoot and upload additional how-to videos so please keep coming back to see what we have added.

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Contact Us

Call, email, or come by the shop and meet the crew.

Ask questions. See boats being restored.  View our inventory of gorgeous, fully-restored wooden boats. Quotes are always free. No job is too big or too small.

Snake Mountain Boatworks LLC

7080 Weybridge Rd
Weybridge, VT 05753
Phone: 802.734.1019
Fax: 802.545.2269
Email:michael@snakemountainboatworks.com