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by Rob

The ACBS Home Shop Tour offers some stunning vintage boats.

October 28, 2017 in Uncategorized


Many thanks to our secret sleuth, N.H. for documenting the ACBS Home Shop Tour, held this past weekend (Oct.21 2017). Gracious private wooden boat restorers kindly opened their shops and garages to members of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. Shops in Port Carling, Barrie and Port Perry were visited by our sleuth.  In Part I, below,he describes the Port Carling visit in his own words.

“The 2017 Toronto ACBS Home Shop Tour began on a bright, sunny and warm day. It was magical to drive up Hwy 400 to Port Carling free of traffic.

I rolled into David and Rosalie’s lovely cottage on Peninsula around 8:30 am. Several  people ahead of me were enjoying some freshly brewed java and cookies. As I strolled up the driveway approaching the double bay garage, I was immediately drawn to the shape of the long deck of the Clarion 23ft Gentleman’s racer that just had its inner mahogany plywood skin installed. Sleek lines and a subtle raised cowling ensconced the driver.  I imagined bombing around the lakes in what will be a lovely boat when it is completed.

My eye was then drawn to the narrow beam of an old hull with a lovely bow flare that clearly signalled a Ditchburn boat. As I was walking around taking in the angles and noticing details of the boat,  I overheard David’s son, Chris telling the story of this boat to an old gentleman who is recording all the history of the Muskoka boats for Grace and Speed- Muskoka Hertiage Centre. I knew this was a magical boat but it was a stunning story at that; so we begin.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon that was taking Chris and his fiance at the time, Amy, to the village of Windermere Ontario. They were in the process of planning their wedding and were in the Village to meet with the local minister. Being punctual they arrived early and proceeded to take a walk to kill some time. While walking they came upon an open garage. Inside, an older gentleman stood beside an old boat. Chris introduced himself and his fiance  and  asked him about the boat. It was a 1927 Ditchburn, 23ft long and sister ship to Whip Poor Will and Pimento. The Gentleman said he had had it for approximately 30 years but he had not had the time to get around to restoring the boat. The cedar hull had its paint removed and you could see it was in great shape; it had all its hardware removed and he had the original engine as well as a rebuilt duplicate engine. Chris asked the Gentleman, “How much would you like for the boat?”,  and then proceeded to write the him a cheque. This barn-find boat came with all original hardware; steering wheel, and she is a survivor. The boat will be named The Good Friday, as he meet his wife-to-be on a Friday and he found the boat on a Friday. Very rare boat; Nicely done Chris and Amy.

I then moved over to the 2nd garage and noticed a Corvette being restored and a Wood utility boat in the garage.

I then took the stairs down to the lake boat house and noticed David’s awe inspiring Ditchburn Viking replica Hull that at 27ft is a dead ringer for the real boat. I have always admired Dwight Boyd’s Gentleman’s Racers and his 21ft racer is no exception. This is one exciting boat house that also had a dippy sitting on the cedar plank floor. What a great setup for these wonderful boats. Thank-you to the family for sharing your home with the boat tour visitors.

Since I keep my boat in Port Carling, I dropped by to remove the battery and other items from the boat for winter storage. I also had to take some measurements for relocating my gas tank from the front of the boat to behind the driver’s seat. I left the car key in the ignition and off I went to work for an hour. On returning to the car and turning the key, I could hear the ignition relay working –  but the starter was not activating. “Oh No”. I had left the high beams on and killed the battery. No jumper cables and CAA was an hour away, so I tried push starting the car on gravel.. No luck –  there is also a slight upward grade where I parked. UGH! So off I trudged to the road and after 40 minutes of waving at people, a kind man by the name of Scott driving in a blue pickup truck from Property Care is a Briese pulled over. He decided to help me out. we push-started my car and off I roared down hwy 169 to Barrie. (End of Part One)


by Rob

An incredible moment in the vintage boating world: “Rita” is re-launched!

September 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

It’s not every day that we’re privileged to behold the spectacle of a 103 year old, fifty foot cabin cruiser rise like a phoenix from a restorer’s shop. Yet that’s what happened today on Lake Muskoka, to “Rita”, an iconic 1914 Minett Day Cruiser. All 17,000 pounds of her were carried on a massive flat bed trailer, transported to Gravenhurst Bay, then hoisted skyward on a huge crane for a re-crhistening in Lake Muskoka. Rita has spent over two years in Tom Adam’s Port Carling Boat shop,  where she received a completely new bottom and transom.  This is no small feat in a fifty foot vessel. Rita’s massive 200 horse-power, 2500 pound, six cylinder Sterling engine was also completely rebuilt by Matt Fairbrass.  Matt, Tom Adams and his staff have every right to feel proud of the results of their hard work. They (and Rita’s owner) have saved this unique piece of nautical history for future generations to enjoy. Hats off to you all.! (Enjoy the photo and video below)

by Rob

A winter visit to three Muskoka boat shops: photos and a video

January 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

There’s lots of activity in Muskoka boat shops this winter…everything from a Dodge Water Car to a Stancraft “Beaver Tail”. The photos and video below tell the story
dscn0486Mike is working on a 26 foot Chris-Craft Special: 27 ft. late 1920s  (above
Also in Mike’s shop is a 22 ft Greavette, 1958…awaiting a new bottom.
Meanwhile,  the historic Segwun and her much younger sister WInonah II, wait out the winter in Lake Muskoka ice


“Barracuda” above. is a 26 ft, 1929 Dodge Water Car


The Water Car’s engine is the original DOdge-Curtis 8 cylinder engine



Tim Butson’s shop includes a Duke runabout, (above) designed to Chris-Craft specs.


An elegant Butson long deck launch, begun late 2014,  awaits some finishing touches.


(A bow-on view of the beautiful Butson long deck launch.)

Check out the progress being made on the above boats  in this video visit to the shops of Mike Windsor, Paul Brackley and Tim Butson.

by Rob

Peter Code: Traditional Boat Builder

November 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


Peter has crafted a magnificent fibreglass/epoxy Chestnut patterned cedar-strip canoe

Peter Code is a master traditional boat builder with a shop in Port Credit, Ontario. A former boat building instructor, he has also recently purchased the Tender Craft Boat inventory. Peter’s craftsmanship is exemplary and his knowledge of wooden boat building techniques and materials is extensive.
For an introduction to Peter and his work, enjoy the additional photos and video below.


This mold is an exact replica of an original Chestnut Prospector canoe mold.


This Century ski boat is in for a comlete restoration. The rebuild will boast fir stringers, and a cold molded bottom with epoxied marine ply frames.


by Rob

The use and misuse of epoxy in wooden boat building and restoration.

October 26, 2016 in Uncategorized


In general, it is less potentially problematic to employ epoxy on a new build than a restoration

The Epoxy Question
“To epoxy or not to epoxy; that is the question.Whether ’tis nobler in the hull to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous dry rot….or by opposing, end them!”
Shakespeare, Hamlet
All joking aside, there is no shortage of differing views on the pros and cons of applying epoxy or polyester  resin and cloth, to seal the hull of a wooden boat. The perceived advantage of an epoxied hull is the lure of a no soak, leak free bottom that lasts for decades with minimal maintenance. But is epoxy the answer? In conversations with builders and restorers over the years, and in researching this article, I had hoped to find some common ground between traditionalists who prefer other methodologies and those who prefer the use of “modern technology” in their restoration or new build work.

Thoughts from the “Anti Epoxy” School:
The danger with creating an impermeable barrier to the exterior surfaces of wooden planking (or marine plywood), is accidental water penetration. If water becomes trapped inside an epoxy “sandwich”, it will gradually soak into the wood fibres, sponge like, with no sufficient means of evaporating or dripping out. The result creates conditions ideal for dry rot.

Three potential candidates for dry rot include:

  1. an older hull that has been encapsulated with epoxy or polyester resin and cloth, when the moisture content in the planking is too high, or the planking has not been adequately sealed.
  2. a through-hull fitting has been drilled without properly sealing the area around the hole
  3. a hull scrape (submerged rock, anchor bump, etc) that breaks through the epoxy layer and goes unnoticed until significant rot occurs.

Dwight notes as an aside, that for dry rot, a misnomer in itself, to occur, three things must be present. 1 – a food source (the wood),  2 – moisture,  3 – oxygen. If you eliminate any one of these rot can not take place

A significant number of Muskoka area boat builders/restorers, shy away from the use of impermeable membranes for the reasons mentioned above.

Paul Brackley, of Brackley Boats in Gravenhurst, for example, has commented that properly maintained wooden boat hulls will last for decades without the use of so called modern technology. He has had boats of fifty to sixty years of age in his shop, with hulls still intact and functioning well.

High speed, hard chine “woodies” may be particularly susceptible to epoxy issues when pounding in heavy wave action. If enough stress is induced in the hull, hairline cracks may appear between the planking, again allowing water penetration

Tim Butson, of Butson Boats in Bracebridge, Ontario, can share horror stories of owners bringing in boats for routine repairs, only to find major structural damage to encapsulated hulls rife with hidden dry rot.  Attempting to remove epoxy or polyester resin from a damaged hull is akin to scraping concrete from a sidewalk!

What about epoxy applied solely to the exterior of the hull surface, so as not to sandwich the wood?  In theory, that should help to reduce the risk of water entrapment in the planking.  The ability of moisture to dissipate then becomes more dependent on the type of coating applied to the interior hull surface. Alkyd based paints in general are not particularly porous, and water retention issues may remain…

For those determined to use an epoxy/resin coating, in theory at least, the use of a thin, penetrating epoxy sealer such as  “S1 or S2”, for example, before encapsulation, may provide a greater degree of protection from wood rot. (But perhaps not…see Dwight Boyd’s comments on the effect of these thin sealers later in this article)

For double planked hulls, a layer of waterproof flexible “5200” sealer between the wood layers, will provide consistent, waterproof protection for the interior wood layer. The exterior bottom layer can then be treated with a traditional bottom paint.

In general, the “Anti-Epoxy” school would likely support the argument that epoxy-sandwich type applications are best suited to smaller, lighter, water-craft. Kayaks, canoes and smaller sailboats that suffer less high speed pounding and can be more easily inspected for hull damage can make a strong case for the use of hard shell resins.

Mark Harwood, of Harwood Water Craft, for example, has produced a lapstrake Disappearing Propeller Boat encapsulated with epoxy. The relatively small size of this very trailerable boat makes hull inspections easy.

Notes from the “Pro Epoxy” School:


“Before” and ‘after” photos of applied epoxy

A conversation with Dwight Boyd of Clarion Boats in Campbellford, Ontario, provided serious food for thought in terms of the value and use of epoxy. Dwight has been in business for thirty years and uses epoxy for specific applications.

Dwight cautions that epoxy use must be determined by the nature of the boat work being undertaken.  For boats being restored, Dwight only uses epoxy as an adhesive, for example, in scarfing a frame, rib or length of keel. He does not use epoxy as a coating or finish on any pre-built boat.

New construction for Dwight is another matter. The skeleton of a new Clarion boat… frames, battens,  keel, etc. is pre-coated with three layers of West System epoxy before assembly. Over that frame assembly or skeleton, a one quarter inch thick marine grade mahogany plywood skin, also pretreated with epoxy resin, on the inside surface is applied, creating a rigid structure like an aeroplane fuselage; strong, light and stiff. Above the waterline, Dwight applies solid mahogany planking, to the inner skin substrate, laminated on with epoxy. On the bottom, made of the appropriate thickness plywood, a layer of 10 ounce fiberglass cloth set in epoxy is applied, to provide a tough and durable bottom. Dwight does not use epoxy as a surface coat ( as a substitute for varnish).

Dwight does not use penetrating sealers like S1 and S2. Apart from the toxic fumes they produce in application, he argues that the flashing off of the volatile thinners used in these products during the curing process shrinks the sealer, leaving tiny pores where moisture can penetrate, much like a hard sponge toffee. He argues that the use of a penetrating sealer is redundant in a properly epoxied hull.

In terms of resins, Dwight commented that epoxy is far superior to polyester or vinylester resins, neither of which have strong adhesive qualities. Technically, the latter two resins also continue to cure indefinitely and continue to shrink microscopically, which leave tiny pores and hence, gradual moisture penetration.  In Dwight’s words, these resins are “pretty useless for our applications!”  When questioned about the “cons” of epoxy use, Dwight commented that if a resin treated hull suffers an impermeable seal-breaking scrape, prompt action by the owner will prevent  any long term damage.  He stated that in his 25 years of  building “woodies”, customers have not complained about failures in the epoxy system.  “King Of Hearts”, a Gold Cup 25 build by Dwight in 1995 was recently assessed as virtually flawless by an expert at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York.

Paul Hunter of Blackbird Boat Works in Port Sydney, (now retired) is certainly on the same page as Dwight in terms of  “how to| and “when to” use epoxy.. Paul has been employing epoxy for ten years.  For new builds, Paul uses three Mas (brand name) epoxied layers of ¼ inch marine plywood. A layer of mahogany planking is then epoxied under that substrate. For abrasion resistance, Paul, like Dwight, includes a ten ounce fiberglass mat for additional strength and abrasion resistance. There are no screws left in the hull of a Blackbird boat, once the cold molding process has been completed. Any through hull fittings are again coated with epoxy and Sikaflex. There is virtually no flex in a Blackbird water craft. Blackbird hulls are completely rigid.

Paul comments that older wooden boats are designed differently, and are not suitable for an epoxy encapsulation system.  Having said that, Paul was questioned about the use of epoxy on a beautiful Streamliner in his shop. He replied that when an entire hull has to be replaced (stringers, battens, frames, planking) epoxy becomes a viable alternative.

Like Dwight, Paul reports no epoxy failures with his watercraft. His boats are “bullet proof”, he asserts.

Paul also uses epoxy as a finish coat above the waterline.  Epoxy will accept a water based stain and varnish for UV protection. Rather than varnish, Paul prefers a clear coat urethane. Epoxy will “chalk” over time, if not protected, but will not delaminate.

Ken Lavalette of Woodwind Yachts considers hmself a “traditionalist” and argues that a well built wooden boat will last many decades if cared for properly. Many of the boats in Ken’s shop are there because of poor maintenance, improper storage or other forms of neglect. He generally removes andreplaces bad wood, then reseals, varnishes and paints as appropriate without using epoxy.

Ken is comfortable using epoxy for a plywood bottom becuase plywood is “dimensionally stable”. It won’t expand or contract the way planking will, when exposed to temperature extremes. When epoxying two wooden surfaces together, Ken pre-coats each piece, then adds another layer of epoxy between the two surfaces., finally clamping gently. Clamping too tightly squeezes out too much epoxy and weakens the bond.

Ken noted that no one brand of epoxy is best for all applications. For general use, he usually employs Mas epoxy., which he finds has the greatest tensile strength and cures with greater flexibility.. For oily and tightly grained woods like teak and oak, Ken utilizes a product called G2 (a System 3 product).

Another Approach:

For double planked hulls, some restorers argue that a layer of waterproof, flexible “5200″ sealer between the wood layers will provide consistent, waterproof protection for the interior wood layer. The exterior bottom layer can then be treated with traditional bottom paint. This eliminates the nbeed for epoxy entirely.

Les Rue., a former ACBS International president and highly respected “amateur” restorer, with between ten and twenty restorations under his belt, follows the Danenburg method.  (Mr. Danenburg has written a very popular book on wooden boat restoration) When replacing the bottom on a “woody”, Les applies an inner layer of marine plyt, cut to fit, following the curve of the frames. When that layer has been attached with stainless strell or coppere staples, Les coats the exterior play surface with a 3M product called 5200, using a trowel.  (Sikaflex can also be applied in this manner). The 5200 provides a flexible rubber membrane on the underside of the ply layer. Mahogany or cedar boards are then screwed to the frames through the sealant and plywood layer.  Les reports no problems with water penetration through these screw holes. The rubber membrane apparently provides a leak proof barrier.

On the bottom planks, Les applies a very thin penetrating epoxy sealer (Smith’s S1 or CPES are similar products). This protects the outer plank layer from rot. Coats of traditional bottom paint can then be applied to the bottom.

Les believes that a 5200 bottom “rides better” than an epoxied bottom,. It offers some flex and doesn’t make the “slapping sound” against waves that he encounters with a rock-hard epoxy hull. Les has reported no bottom failures or weaknesses in boats up to fifteen years of age treated in this manner.

Well, there you have it, readers. Now that the issue has been decided (as clear as mud) I leave you to draw your own conclusions. For do-it-yourselfers, all of the above techniques are likely worth consideraiton. If a bottom job is done carefully and correctly, you should end up with a “hull-ova boat!

 (For further reading on this topic,  check out the “rot doctor” website or search epoxy in wooden boats)