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by Don

Bracebridge Father’s Day Car Show

June 29, 2022 in Uncategorized


There is nothing like an auto show to bring out a crowd. It was a beautiful sunny day for the Father’s Day car show in Bracebridge and the town was filled with cars prepped for display. Every manner of vehicle came from far and wide for the event. Cars came from as far as Oshawa and the oldest was a 1913 REO owned by Paul Gockel, from Port Sandfield. Riding high on its spoked wheels, this antique car drew a lot of attention for its primitive and elegant style. American muscle cars were well represented with nearly every brand covered. Corvettes, Chevs, Pontiacs, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, Plymouth, Ford and more.

A few English cars showed off their subdued sporty nature, with pale colours and modest chrome work. There was even a Corvair, noted for its placement of the engine in what should be the trunk and its special handling characteristics. Not all the cars were “classics” in the traditional sense. For some owners, the automobile is just the start of a creative adventure and not everything needs to shine and sparkle with perfection.  While many owners displayed their vehicles to period perfection, including the tires, for others the rust and the aging just increase the character.

Interest in historic automobiles and boats definitely overlap. Ron Stevenson, the outboard man, brought a blue Pontiac Parisienne convertible with period proper BF Goodrich tires. Blue was certainly the theme of this vehicle, with the dash, the seats and the paint all deep blue.

Participants too young to drive were kept busy blowing the horn or ringing the bell of the Shriner’s fire truck. There were also remote control cars to challenge visitors and cool cars where spectators were allowed to sit behind the wheel and dream.

This event also brought out many of the local service and social clubs. The Bracebridge Lions Club was flat out serving sausages and hot dogs and the local Scout troop were among those that had a tent. It was a wonderful coming together of community for Father’s Day. Imagine what Canada Day will look like!

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Unique 1933 Minett-Shields

June 24, 2022 in Uncategorized


The Minett-Shields sport runabouts are the casual water hot rods of the 1930s. The inset riding lights just ahead of either side of the cockpit are a quick identifier as to the manufacturer of the boat.

John Hacker designed these short sport boats; and Altair was built for John Peck’s father’s 18th birthday in 1933. She is perhaps the prototype to the sport runabouts that followed, such as Shadow, built for by Chas Wheaton in 1934.

John Peck told me some of the story behind her power and performance.  Altair’s current engine is a Ford Interceptor 289 cu.-in.-V-8, which develops 190 HP. When she was new she had some smaller engine, which appears in some of Cameron’s archive photos. The Ford engine came from one of their other boats, which was repowered.

John explains that Cameron Peck took the Ford V-8 from Cetus and dropped it into Altair. Since the engine had been used with a V-drive, its rotation was the reverse of the usual, causing Altair to pull to starboard in reverse – not the usual pull-to-port for an inboard. “In 1968, when my father sent Altair to be restored and a new engine (the Interceptor) to be installed, he ordered the new engine with reverse rotation, so she still pulls to starboard in reverse.”

“A V-8 in an 18’ or 19’ sport runabout is a lot of power. I bet she got up to speed without much difficulty.” The sport runabouts of the 1930s would “compete” against each other over on Lake Rosseau and Muskoka. Naturally, competitors, such as Greavette, created their own versions of the sport runabout. This was likely also based on the Hacker formula.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Family history linked with boat history

June 21, 2022 in Uncategorized


Cameron Peck’s collection included some of the most dramatic and spectacular boats of the day.  He purchased some of the boats as they came available; others he ordered directly from Minett; and some were built for his parents.

According to John Peck, Cameron Peck’s nephew, Cameron’s passion for Muskoka came from his parents, who first came to Muskoka around 1910.

John Peck explained “David Billings Peck (my paternal grandfather) and Janet Cameron (from Toronto) met in 1908 at Fox Point Resort, where both of them were vacationing. Janet’s sister Constance was also there at that time and met her future husband, Grieves Robson, a steamboat captain on Lake of Bays, that same summer. That expanded our family’s relatives to the Robsons (such as Rev. John Robson, who baptized me in Baysville) and the Walkers.”

John explained that “as far as I know, the following boats were built for Cameron:  the Allez series of sea fleas, Cetus (our work boat), Astrea and Astrea II (his racing boats), and Lightning. Other family boats, like Scud and Scud II were built for my grandparents. Altair was commissioned by my grandparents as my father’s 18th birthday present.”

There is no longer a direct family connection to the Peck boats, all having been sold, but the legacy lives on in the photos and the memories of John, those who knew the family and the boats or were lucky enough to see John in Altair at the Baysville Boat Show many years ago.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Peck’s Historic Collection

June 15, 2022 in Uncategorized


The construction of wooden boats as a serious business endeavor began just over 100 years ago. The boats we see at shows, having been repaired and restored and repaired and restored again over the generations, were at one time ordered as brand new boats.

Every generation or so, many of these boats will come together again in the form of a large collection. One of the earliest collectors of wooden boats was Cameron Peck, from Chicago. He was truly passionate about wooden boats to the point that he had a boat yard on the Lake of Bays.

The Peck cottage and collection of boats has gone and the boats have new owners, but John Peck, Cameron’s grand nephew, has given me some insight into the collection and the passion that once floated on the Lake of Bays.

I was in the process of inquiring about the outboard on one of his Cameron Peck’s sea fleas, and John Peck said ‘It looks like an old Evinrude.’

Cameron Peck had a whole stable-full of old outboards. They were kept in the engine shop that became part of Kelmar Marina in Baysville. I worked for a couple of summers at Kelmar Marina as a dock boy and then as a grease monkey and boat gull repairman, and I remember them well. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed that building, and with it all of Cameron Peck’s old outboards. It’s too bad they weren’t moved to a museum before that happened.’

Fortunately some aspect of the history had been captured in photographs, which have been generously shared by the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation for historic uses.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Beacon of Light in Gravenhurst

June 9, 2022 in Uncategorized


Mesqua Ukee, or Muskoka, has both an ancient and recent history. The lakes of Muskoka were formed millennia ago and inhabited by peoples unknown and known. But this small beacon, as described for its original construction, is situated on the south-east point of Denison’s Island, at the northern entrance of Gravenhurst Narrows. It is to be fixed white dioptric light, shown from a lantern hoisted on a mast 25 feet high, and is elevated 23 feet above water mark, and should be visible 10 miles from all points of approach.

The group named Lighthouse Friends explains that David Schell was appointed the first keeper of the light at an annual salary of $100 in the 1880s. By 1905 a more permanent fixture was installed. At the site of the old pole light, the pole and shed were removed. The tower would be an enclosed, square wooden building, with sloping sides, surmounted by a square, wooden lantern, the whole painted white. It would be 27 feet high from its base to the top of the ventilator on the lantern, and rests on a masonry foundation 4 feet high. The light is a fixed white dioptric light of the sixth order, elevated 28 feet above the level of the lake, and visible seven miles from all points of approach by water.

By 2017, decades of wear and tear had taken a toll on the light house and there were discussions about replacing it with something modern. Local efforts to preserve the 110-year-old structure prevailed, and it was restored with modern materials in a manner that preserved its historic character.

By Tim Du Vernet

Port Carling Boats – Antique & Classic Wooden Boats for Sale