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by Don

Queen of the Isles Steam Barge/Tugboat

January 20, 2022 in Uncategorized

The profiles of Muskoka’s steamers were a well-recognized sight, but they weren’t the only transportation using steam. Besides the number of smaller private steamers, steam was an ideal power for slow moving barges and tugs.

The Queen of the Isles was one such craft. Reported in the July 19th issue of the Muskoka Sun, were two remembered tugs. Captain Croucher operated the steamer “Niska,” and the “Queen of the Isles,” delivering tan bark to the “old tannery,” was owned by the Beardmore Company, which operated upstream from Williams Memorial Park in Bracebridge.

It was part of the summer ritual for staff at the tannery to be given a day off with the company each summer to go blue berry picking. Peter Smith, manager of the company in 1916 arranged this day and for a group photo aboard the Queen of the Isles. Perhaps as many as 100 people crowded onto the scow to recognize the day.

The tannery opened in 1877 as the Beardmore Co. tannery but was sold in 1882 to Muskoka Leather Company. By 1890 it was one of the largest in Canada and was re-acquired by Beardmore. The tannery was expanded in 1913 but with the decline of demand for leather soles, the tannery in Bracebridge was closed in 1922. At the time, the tanning business provided employment for many farmers throughout the District as well. Muskoka is rich in Hemlock forests, and the red hemlock bark was key to tanning.

Annie Williams Memorial Park is now the annual host of many events such as the Muskoka Arts and Crafts annual summer show. The shoreline looks very different today, than it did with the tannery in place.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Island View

January 18, 2022 in Uncategorized


Before roads serviced the distant shores of Muskoka, shoreline residents and islanders faced the same challenges with transportation and supplies. The Keewaydin Island and the Seven Sisters Islands of Lake Muskoka were an island community that depended on the steamships.

David Gibson, a summer resident of Keewaydin and then President of the Keewaydin Island association, took the initiative to capture memories of life on the island. In the process of putting the book together he also came across a collection of photographs by Edgar Hugill, who ran a photo studio in Ingersoll, Ontario from 1880 to 1896. He was also postmaster of the Island for 51 continuous years.

Image from Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre Archives”

Returning to the focus of the steamships, the earliest landings were in 1890, by the Muskoka and the Oriole. The Medora would land on special occasions and the Kenozha and Nipissing were regular callers. Gibson reports that Hugill had a parrot that had been taught to say, “Here comes the Nip.”

After the Nipissing evolved into the Seqwun in 1925, she would make two stops a day for mail. She stopped at 9:30 am to pick up mail and returned at 5:30 pm to deliver mail. Such were the duties of the Royal Mail Ship.

The Sagamo, on her 100-mile route, would also stop occasionally to pick up passengers for this long excursion. The commercial steamships of the Navigation Company and many other privately run boats were critical sources of summer supplies and transportation. More on that in the next blog!

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Robert Attfield 1948 – 2022

January 13, 2022 in Uncategorized


It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our friend and colleague Robert Attfield.  Rob passed away on January 6, after a courageous fifteen-month battle with stage four glioblastoma.

Rob was editor and writer of all the Port Carling Boats website blogs for 12 years, from 2008 to 2020, when he retired due to his illness.  Rob was known for his kindness, undaunting energy and dedication.  As many of you know, and as evidenced by the many blogs here from the past, Rob worked tirelessly for Port Carling Boats to contribute interesting and fresh editorial content. That involved attending classic boat workshops, ACBS July shows and other boat shows, displaying PCB’s fabulous classic boats.   He often visited boat shops and shows, making videos that we proudly show on this website.


Rob was always upbeat, thoughtful, and attentive to others.  My company used to have staff parties, and I always asked Rob to come up with entertainment / games, which he always gladly prepared; I was never disappointed. That’s what Rob was like: a hard worker with a sense of humour and thoughtfulness that went well beyond most people.


Rob was also a good friend.  Long after he had retired from PCB, he often visited me at the office with food, humour, or just camaraderie. I will never forget that.  Even during his final days he visited me at the office, and despite the problems with brain cancer, he was doing a better job of the conversation than me. That’s how kind and thoughtful he was.  Rob was a friend for almost 20 years, and his passing will leave a big hole in my life, as well as some of our readers here at Port Carling Boats.


To view some of his boat tours, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEUXj-UmUq8Gy496KxF8iTg

by Don

Emily May

January 11, 2022 in Uncategorized


A real estate ad in the 1979 Muskoka Sun promotes 220’ of Muskoka shore and a three-bedroom cottage for $113k. Was it ever possible? Ralph Hunter of Muskoka Water Ski services explains the correct hand signals for the water skier. Jeff Land shares instructional advice on how to get into sailing and correct strategies for different points of wind. Ada Mackenzie’s shop promotes that latest in “fairway flattery”.  It was also a time when renewed interest emerged in historic sites such as Woodchester Villa in Bracebridge and the Bethune House in Gravenhurst. Both were receiving restorative attention and remain informative sites in their town. Such was the promoting of Muskoka 40 years ago.

If you stretch your reach 100 years earlier, you can read promotional news from The Northern Advocate beginning in the late 1860s. Stories tell about the latest happenings at the Sabbath School Night of Entertainment, which was held to raise money for the school library. There is discussion about the importance of immigration to Canadians and the “successful working of this scheme.”  It also tells the story of latest developments like the construction of the steamships, such as the Nipissing. Mr. McMurray, author of the article writes that she will be powered by a low-pressure steam engine manufactured by Messrs. F. G. Becket and Co. of Hamilton, Ontario.

The Nipissing was to be the equal of the “Emily May”, a steamer that serviced Simcoe and Couchiching. “She would be the model of design, comfort and beauty, being an exact copy of the “Emily May”, only 1/6th smaller.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

NIKA Arrives

January 6, 2022 in Uncategorized


NIKA is one of those Minett 36’ launches that is instantly recognizable at any show or along any dock. With her crystal bow light ornament, she makes the quintessential statement of Muskoka elegance.

As with any of the traditional wooden boats, there comes a time when they need attention in order to preserve the integrity of the hull. Rob Gerigs, aka “The Boatbuilder”, located just west of Port Carling, will be taking on the task of giving her a new bottom.

It is a full winter’s job, with new ribs and a complete refinishing as well. The organic nature of wood is such that despite all efforts to protect it from rot, all you can do is to delay nature’s process.

She was in the process of being stripped of hardware and seats when I was at Rob’s shop. Eventually the entire hull will be cleaned out to expose the bottom.  Built in 1924, she is nearly 100 years old and Harry Littler has owned her for many years now. I wonder how many new bottoms she has needed in nearly a Century? While replacing a bottom is straightforward process in concept, I know of at least one situation where the new bottom transformed the ride of the boat quite dramatically.

A similar Minett launch was always known for its huge spray at speed. After the new bottom was fitted, the launch rode with nearly no spray at speed. The explanation was that the hull may have developed a twist that was corrected in the restoration.

By Tim Du Vernet

Port Carling Boats – Antique & Classic Wooden Boats for Sale