by Larry Austin
Gerald Bergdorf has the gift of gab, a trait that comes with his job selling home appliances.
"I've been a salesman all my life, so I can talk," he said from the dock of the Buffalo Launch Club Saturday. "And I enjoy talking to people."
Saturday he was talking up Grand Island during the annual Antique Boat Show and Raceboat Reunion, held over the weekend at the Buffalo Launch Club.
Bergdorf has come to the Island to display his antique wooden boat for eight years straight, because he said he enjoys the "camaraderie with all the people" he finds on the Island and among his fellow boat lovers at the event, hosted by the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. In fact, in past years he's taken his boat through the Erie Canal from his home in Latham, a seven-day trip.
When people see his 1959 Chris Craft, they say "Wow! It's a tank," Bergdorf said. He called his 24-foot boat a sport-utility boat that seats nine and goes 40 mph.
Chuck Thomas of Fairview, Pa., was making his third trip to Grand Island's show with his boat from the Cowell Boat Works.
What keeps him coming back?
"The people. It's a nice show. They take good care of you," he said of the annual Island event. "They've got a tractor that can bring our boats in and out for us. This is a nice show to come to."
And besides, Thomas said, the boaters with the classics have developed a fraternity.
"We just have a lot of fun. Most of us know each other," he said.
Though the shows are few and far between, he said, a trip to Grand Island is well worth the time and effort to make.
"You get to see a lot of different boats here. It's one of the bigger shows, it has quite a few boats. And if you want to see a variety, look at the inboards, the outboards - you have a little bit of everything."
"There aren't that many (shows) around, so when you get a chance to come to one and it's only a few hours from home, why, you come."
"It gives people an opportunity to look at a beautiful Chris Craft over here. That's been restored. Look how nice it looks," he said. "It gives people the chance to see all different types of boats and what it was like back in the day."