More Than Just A Boat Show: Education for kids of all ages at the Antique Boat Museum


By: Margaret Hummel

The Antique Boat Museum (ABM) in Clayton was founded 50 years ago in 1967 and is celebrating a half-century of growth, milestones, and memories. The ABM was born out of the Antique Boat Show, first held in 1965, when a group of wooden boat owners and enthusiasts gathered on the Clayton Village Dock to proudly display their vessels. The annual show, now in its 53rd year, continues to draw exhibitors and visitors from around the country and world. That single special event is perhaps the most well-known part of the ABM, but there is so much more to the museum! Did you know that the ABM is chartered by the New York State Department of Education and therefore education is at the very core of the ABM’s mission? Each summer the ABM hosts a variety of educational programs for kids (and adults) of all ages to learn more about boating, local history and traditional woodworking skills. Here is a preview of just a few of the programs offered at the ABM this summer; complete information including session dates and tuition fees can be found at


Sailing is fun, easy to learn at any age and is a sport that will last a lifetime! The sailing programs at ABM give area youth and adults the opportunity to learn this sport or improve their skills. As students learn self-reliance and independence, they will be transformed into sailors experiencing an exhilaration that will not be forgotten. The ABM sailing programs are the most popular educational programs at the museum and are offered with multiple sessions late June through mid-August each summer.

Beginner Sailing: The introductory sailing program is designed for students ages 6 to 10 with little or no sailing experience. Students will sail a variety of sailboats with instructors. Junior Sailing: This two week course is designed for both new and returning sailors ages 8 to 15. Hands-on boat handling and sailing classes will be taught using the ABM’s fleet of International Optimist and Sunfish dinghies. Advanced Junior Sailing: Students must have completed the U.S. Sailing “red book” and have instructor’s permission to take the advanced course. Open Sailing: This evening program allows people to sail after work and is open to ages 13-plus. Students of different experience levels will learn more about sailing on the ABM’s fleet of Sunfish. 

Decorative Knot Tying

Two sessions of decorative knot tying will be held this summer, giving students the opportunity to learn the most common maritime knots. This introductory class is open to all ages and participants will take home their completed project, a keychain.

Paddle Painting   

Local artist John Miller III is well known for his Thousand Islands Picture Paddles and will lead a Paddle Painting class for youth and adults. Participants will draw their own river scene and transfer that image to a wooden paddle. Using acrylic paints, students begin with painting the background areas and finish the paddle with foreground and finer details. All materials will be supplied and students will leave with their own unique souvenir paddle painting.

Paddle Making

Join instructor Caleb Davis of Long Lake, Hamilton County, and learn to carve a double-ended cherry paddle, similar to a kayak paddle. The graceful design is a native style that is slightly narrower, but one of the easiest paddles to use in a kayak or canoe. The Paddle Making class is suitable for all skill levels.

River Rat Days

Sign up for the newest, coolest kids program at the ABM! River Rat Days is a series of interactive workshops and field trips for children ages 4 to 12. Each River Rat Day will focus on a different St. Lawrence River-related theme.

Grindstone Life – June 27

Take a step back in time and learn what it was like to live on Grindstone Island. Students will take a boat ride to the island where they will visit historic sites, hear what life was like for schoolchildren, see the old homesteads and learn what people did to earn a living and to have fun.

Fishing Now and Then – July 19

Visitors having been traveling to the 1000 Islands region to enjoy fishing here for over a century. Upon arrival, local fishing guides would lead their clients on the search for the best fishing hole. Students will meet a local fishing guide, board his boat and see the equipment that guides use on charters.

Work Boats on the River – August 2

Students will be introduced to the boats that provide valuable industrial service to the river communities and will visit the Clayton Fire Department’s boat, Last Chance, and the work boats at Seaway Marine Group.

Winter Life on the River – August 14

Learn what winter life was like on the St. Lawrence River in the past. Students will take a boat ride to Calumet Island to visit one of the few remaining ice houses on the river and hear from the island caretaker about the fun and hardships of winter life on an island.

This is just a taste of the variety of educational programs offered by the ABM this summer. Learn more about the ABM’s website,