Life in a Lyman feels like a parade. The wooden boat gleams, the sun shines, the wind whips your hair as you glide through the swells of Lake Erie. You smile as people wave and honk, and you wave back.

The boat is a classic, white paint on “clinker-built” varnished wood. What was once utilitarian and family-friendly is now vintage chic. Pure Americana.

And I got to drive one.

“Do you feel the magic?” asked Michelle Burke, who founded the Lyman Life lifestyle brand in 2016.

Burke and her family took me out for a Sunday drive in their 26-foot, 1970 Lyman, with its shiny silver hardware and white and blue throw pillows, like you stepped into a perfectly styled Instagram post.

Lyman Life celebrates Lake Erie legacy boat brand

“One customer asked me, ‘What are you really selling? It’s not shirts,'” Burke said. “I said, ‘You’re right. We are selling nostalgia!'”
Built in Cleveland and then Sandusky beginning in 1875, Lymans are loved for their “clinker-built”  frames that glide through the rough chop of Lake Erie. The company experienced a heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s before ceasing wooden-boat production in 1973 and switching to fiberglass.

In all, Lyman built 60,000 wooden boats, about 15,000 of which are still lovingly cared for and cruising around the Great Lakes.

The Burkes’ brand has helped reenergize passion for Lymans. With the tagline, “The boat is just the beginning,” they aim to become a boating lifestyle brand, standing for family, quality and tradition.

They wrote in a newsletter marking the company’s second anniversary:

“For the boaters who know and enjoy the intricate design of a beautiful Lyman, but never had one in their lives, Lyman Life is to them a lifestyle brand that embodies the roots of boating at its best. Lyman Life simply embodies the boating life: Life by the water with family and friends; a life rooted in family, quality and tradition. Lyman Life is a brand perfectly crafted for the unique family known as the boating community.”

A pretty neat Lake Erie legacy.

See the Facebook Live video of our cruise, with the gorgeous lakefront houses of Catawba, the Catawba Island Club and me driving the boat, below.