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by Don

Rita Arrives

July 22, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

It is always a special occasion when Rita leaves her boathouse. This 50-foot private launch was built in 1914 by Minett.  At 107 years old, she is one of the longest surviving wooden boats built in Muskoka. She arrived at the Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre yesterday morning after a brave journey through very windy conditions on Lake Muskoka. By all accounts, it was smooth sailing and a first-go success at navigating the narrow slip at the MSDC. Her flagstaff had to be removed to make it through the door unscathed. Not a mark was put on her bright, white hull.

All the family was aboard for the event to celebrate her transfer to the Centre. She will be on display for the summer and possibly through the winter storage months as well. She features all the classic elements of an early Minett launch including the ornate dash. Her controls show just how complicated she might be for a less experienced captain to drive.

Not seen from the exterior, Rita has a cute little “head” and kitchen area, set off in traditional porcelain. She offers a cozy interior cabin space to protect from the sun and other elements, but her showcase feature is the stern deck, with elegant canopy. The circular rope floor covering creates a dazzling effect to the space.

Rita is powered by a Sterling Petrel engine with twin ignition.

There are only a handful of private launches now in Muskoka. The old boathouses around Beaumaris indicate just how many large private launches once plied the waters of Muskoka.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Grace and Speed Boats

July 20, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Most of the summer display boats have arrived at the Murray Walker Grace and Speed boat house in the Muskoka Discovery Centre for the summer. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Rita arrived June 16, having cruised without incident on one of the windiest days of season. At 50 feet long and two open decks with canopies, she would have been a lot of boat to handle in such conditions.

Joining her in the boathouse are Chimo, a long deck Minett-Sheilds, and Crusoe, a Greavette triple cockpit runabout. Both are owned by Alan Cranfield. Crusoe was filled to capacity during the Vintage Boating Day cruise last summer. She made quite a splash.

Also in the slips is a Ditchburn called Highlands II. She is a 1927 Ditchburn owned by the Wilson family of Windermere. I remember when she was at Duke Boats for repairs many years ago. Apparently, when she was being pushed out of the second floor space, part of her hull got damaged and the mark has survived. She demonstrates the distinctive features of a Ditchburn with her raised engine hatch and round vents running along the side of the hatch. She is a mid length launch at 27’. She is powered by a 100HP six cylinder Kermath.

Gord Wilson, who passed away several months ago, was a regular participant with his boats at boat shows. Highlands II and BIV were popular attendees.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Kavalk – New Boat Designs

July 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

There is no question that the hey day of boating building in Muskoka was a short span of maybe 20 years from the mid-teens to just after the Great Depression, but many wonderful boats were built in Muskoka and continued to be built here and elsewhere. With our wonderful lakes, our region is naturally going to attract a wide variety of craft, both newer and from that classic period.

Kavalk boats is one brand that attracted attention in Muskoka. The models I have seen are sleek and sporty boats that perform every bit as well as new fiberglass boats. Their design is a two-tone look with mahogany decks and inlaid bright woods to give contrast. Originating in Croatia seven generations ago, the Kavalk boats in Muskoka have become classics of their own design. In the 1980s, 19’ Mahogany Mistral, with its black hull, was displayed at the Toronto International Boat Show, and became a hit in Muskoka. This photo shows two in the Lake of Bays area. The Kavalk line of boats, which came to Canada in the 1970s, is the ideal combination in the eyes of many happy boaters of wood and technology. There are several Kavalk boats in Muskoka. Black J, once owned by Lt. Gov. John Aird and then by George Whyte, Lake of Bays. She was the poster boat for the Baysville Boat Show on Sunday, August 15. New paints and epoxy materials make it possible to show the beauty of wood and protect it with a durable covering.

I suppose the Kavalk could be considered an exotic line, like the Riva boats from Italy, that have become sought after in Muskoka as well. The more modern look of these boats is definitely in contrast to the long deck launches of Muskoka, but they serve a completely different purpose and appeal to a different taste. In another 40 years, will we be looking at the Kavalk and similar designs, with a nostalgic eye?

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Wanda’s Journey Continues

July 13, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

It may not look like it from the outside, but the hull of Wanda III is made of iron, just like the Segwun. She was built by Polson Iron Works in 1915 for Margaret Eaton, the wife of Timothy Eaton, Canada’s department-store king.  Wanda III was the fastest boat on the Muskoka Lakes, despite her steam power. Mrs. Eaton had her built to be fast in order to go from the train in Gravenhurst to her Ravenscrag cottage in just two hours. From the side, at 94’, she looks long and graceful with sweeping lines. She is now a soon-to-be prime exhibit and tour boat at the Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre.

It wasn’t that long ago that she was still in use, powered by her steam engines. I can remember several celebratory events where she participated. Wanda II burned in a boathouse fire and her replacement had to be sure to never be bested in a race. I can’t imagine “racing” a steamship this long and narrow, especially if the course had any turns, since she is only 14’ wide. She is one of the few boats to survive with the triple expansion steam engine. She was capable of over 20mph.

She has been declared by many as the finest yacht of her time. Randy Potts, who now has his own private tour boat business, has captained Wanda as well as the Segwun. Wanda III will make a striking statement, but smoke-free and in near silence, when she is finally launched and powered by electricity.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Wanda III Coming Back to Life

July 9, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Rita, like the RMS Segwun, is a creation of the Polson Ironworks. She was originally also steam powered. The logistics of safety and operation make the steam aspect less viable today, and she is in dry dock at the Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre (MSDC) in Gravenhurst.

MSDC President John Miller is passionate about the restoration/conversion project that is underway. A lot must be accomplished to finish the project. She will have her own slip all for viewing, passengers coming on and off, as well as dry dock. The space is a remarkable structure with soaring laminated beams and eventually, specialty lighting that will highlight different elements of the craft.

Wanda III was originally an Eaton boat and a familiar site on the lakes. She is very narrow, and commercial viability for cruises is affected by her design. Miller explained that part of the challenge in converting her to electric relates to the differences in the way electrical power is delivered. Ships like Wanda and the Segwun were brought to Muskoka originally by rail. Their size was limited by the dimensions of the rail system, bridges, tunnels and so on.

Currently, her rudder and propeller are wonderful works of rusty art, all barnacles and bubbles. Miller also explained that the interior would be rejigged a bit to include a second bathroom. Otherwise, her wood is in amazing shape and the ship will create a very special cruising experience. The Muskoka Fleet will include the RMS Segwun, the Wenonah II and the Wanda III.

By Tim Du Vernet

Port Carling Boats – Antique & Classic Wooden Boats for Sale