Penn Yan Boat Company

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Penn Yan Boat Company, which produced a wide range of wooden and fiberglass powerboats, sailboats, canoes and rowboats,[1] was founded in 1921 by German-native Charles A. Herrman.[2] It derived its name from the location of its headquarters, Penn Yan, New York.[2] At its founding, the company built wood boats and canoes, switching to all fiberglass production in the early 1960s. No records are known to survive.[3]

In 1936, Penn Yan introduced its "Car Top" outboard boat. The Car Top, which Penn Yan marketed as being easily lifted by two people, was designed to be light and narrow enough to fit on top of most cars of that era.[4]

Among other innovations, Penn Yan was known for its patented "Tunnel Drive" concept, whereby a cavity was molded into the bottom of the boat's hull, partially enclosing the propeller and drive shaft.[5] The tunnel drive system provided better boat speed and stability.[2]

The company was sold to new owners in 1979 and finally ceased operations in 2001.[2] Further contacts for remaining final production indicated that the last owner (Female name; Camilla) had fallen ill with cancer forcing the decision to close. At the time, she stated that supporting the business at their present location was too costly, non-profiting and conflicting with the latest NY state hazardous waste issues and therefore the added expense of implementing new emissions regulations and chemical pollution controls on their buildings sealed the final blow. The "Penn Yan" trademark has since been cancelled by the United States Patent & Trademark Office.[6] The former Penn Yan boat works property is abandoned and has fallen into ruin. Many of the buildings have collapsed, and the grounds are full of debris. There is a plan to clean up and redevelop the site into residential property.


  1. ^ McKenna, Robert. (2003). The Dictionary of Nautical Literacy. International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press. ISBN 978-0-07-141950-5
  2. ^ a b c d Oben, Bill. (July/August 2008) "Penn Yan: How a Boat in a Barn Gave Rise to Eight Decades of Innovation". Wooden Boat, 203:72-77.
  3. ^ WCHA Forums, Knowledgebase, Manufacturers: The Penn Yan Boat Company, accessed October 2, 2016, [1]
  4. ^ Bond, Hallie E. (1998). Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0374-0
  5. ^ Stuart, Robert B., "Planing Boat", US patent 3515087, issued 1970.
  6. ^ "Penn Yan". US trademark reg. no. 1507025, cancelled May 16, 2009.

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