Last weekend Brenda and I visited Disney in Orlando with our son and his family. August you say? Yes, it was hot, very hot, and I was surprised to learn that it’s the busiest month for Disney in Florida. It seems that the cooler months are actually “dead” according to one of the “cast members” that I spoke to. It’s all about vacation, hot or not and when the kids are free, off to Disney!
Before I get started, I’ll put up a photo of our grandaughter Tori trying on one of Brenda’s hats. Cute right?Ok, now that’s out of the way.
Yes, I know, this is a blog about boats so, as always, I was hot on the trail to come up with something to write about but after three days of looking for something that was “blog worthy” the best I could do was this shot of, well, I think it was the little mermaid, Ariel or something like that. Not exactly a collector’s item but it is a boat. Not actually.Disney has some interesting boats but they are certainly more for looks than a “real” boat. In spite of that, these ferry boats were nicely proportioned.This one would look nice traveling down the ICW. However, I was trying to find some “real” boats and as we reached Monday, our last day in Orlando I wasn’t optimistic that I’d come up with anything to write about. However, as luck would have it, the gang decided to head out for lunch at nearby Disney Springs Mall. Have you ever noticed that just about everything in Florida has a “theme”? Well, I have and where we went for lunch, The Boathouse restaurant also has a theme however, it’s a boat theme and a very good one at that.
The restaurant is owned by Steven Schussler, the same guy who brought you such fine dining experiences as The Rainforest Cafe and T Rex and yes that one has a dinosaur theme. After seeing so being baragged by “everything themed” I was really surprised,and pleased, to find his nautically themed place “themed” with real-life antique runabouts and outboard motors. How about this odd boat near the entrance? I can’t imagine that it works well buy it’s cute in a sort of “you’ll be killed riding in this thing but have fun doing it” sort of way. Of course, as you’d expect, you are greeted by a nautical pinup girl as you enter to get you into the spending mood, of course. On the walls are some real antique outboard engines. And, unlike the decorations in most nautically themed dining spots, these motors are indeed real, and there’s lots of them, dozens, actually. And, given their condition, I expect that they all work. As you approach the Boathouse, you can even take a ride in an authentic Amphicar, a half dozen of what was a production run, over an 8 year period in the 60s, of about 3,700. Want to take a closer look? It’s going to cost you as a 20 minute ride will set you back $150. Want to learn more about how to get your own ride in one? Click here. Pay the fare and off you go. Down the ramp and you are on your way. Their non-customer descent is sedate but if you are willing to pay the fare, they launch with flare. And a big splash.As this very short video shows, these are tough little cars. Want one of your own? If it’s a “driver” one in good shape but it won’t win any awards, it will set you back about $50k. Want a really nice one in “concourse” condition? Be prepared to plunk down nearly $100k. They wonderful little cars are awesome, that’s for sure. These are complicated little macines and I can’t even imagine where you’d get one fixed if it broke down.
However, amphibious cars aside, the best part about this place is the boats “moored” out back on the lake near the outdoor bar. I decided to take a look and was frankly expecting to see some down-on-their-heels reproductions but these were unique and rare.
We have all seen many classic mahogany runabouts but some of the early fiberglass runabouts like this 1958 14′ Falls Flyer with a 50hp outboard is wonderful. Fiberglass not for you? Need it to be wood? I missed the name but loved the curved plywood fins. In spite of the harsh Florida sun, they were all in excellent condition. This 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark cost $11,000 new and is reported to be the most expensive outboard powered fiberglass outboard ever built. As they never went into production, only two of these were ever produced. The designer was Brooks Stevens, who also designed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Another classic beauty is this 1961 Redfish Shark. If I was to get a pink boat, this one would be my choice. It’s a 1956 Marilyn’s Meteor Mate. Follow this link to some better photos of this exact boat. I can’t imagine what it’s worth today but it cost $1,600 new. Well, it seems that Stephen, the owner of this spot and lots more, has clearly done very well for himself. I could go on all day about these wonderful boats but perhaps you just have to go to Orlando and eat there yourself.
However, be prepared as eating at The Boathouse is sort of like buying a boat, expensive but it’s fun. And, to help you feel better when you get the bill, they have an impressive collection of antique runabouts including some very unique and rare classics to take the edge off.
So there you have it… and you thought that Orlando was all about themed restaurants and things that only look authentic. Now you know. It IS all about the theme but at least there’s one place to eat with “real” boats which proves, sor of, that there’s,more to Orlando than Disney.