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You are browsing the archive for Uncategorized | Port Carling Boats - Antique & Classic Wooden Boats for Sale - Part 4.

by Don

Spring in the Shops

April 13, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

There is nothing like a warm spring breeze to put a kick in the step of a boat builder. With the water opening up and summer boating approaching, a new urgency looms over their heads! If the calendar were to follow its usual pattern, many of the wooden boat building shops across southern Ontario would be open for the annual ACBS Spring Tour. This is usually followed by the annual Dispro Owners Association spring gathering. The annual Spring Tour symbolizes the turn from snow related activities to full bore focus on summer. It also represents the renewal of boating connections across the region.

 

This year a virtual event will be happening instead. I will be visiting the shops around Muskoka to discover the latest in restorations and new builds. Luckily, COVID hasn’t slowed the need to preserve and create wooden craft and all the shops have been busy. For many generations, Muskoka in particular, has relied on the skill and craftsmanship of local boat builders. While all of the original businesses have closed and most of the original facilities destroyed or repurposed, the thread of talent and skill remains unbroken and can be traced back to First Nations and European origins. There are many ways to float on the water, from canoes to the Fairmile minesweepers. Nearly every major boat builder in Ontario was involved in the building of the Fairmile in the 1940’s. Grew, J.J. Taylor, Minett-Shields, Greavette, Ditchburn, Hunter Boats and Mac Craft were among those who contributed to their construction. This is a reminder of the deeply rooted legacy and history of the humble and not-so-humble boats emerging from the boat shops this spring.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Canadian Rowing Champion Ned Hanlan

April 6, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

For over a century, Canada has been a challenger on the world stage of rowing. Our rowing champions have rewritten history on numerous occasions, beginning with Ned Hanlan, “the Boy in Blue” and more currently with Silken Lauman, who in 1990, achieved a heroic singles silver at the Olympics and gold at the world championships. The Canadian Rowing Hall of Fame lists those who have achieved excellence in the sport. Rowing requires the ability to combine strength, endurance, balance and co-ordination. The wonderful thing about sports like rowing, is that different body types can compete against each other. Cross country skiing is another example where the little guy can fight it out with the tallest in the field.


I never tire of reading about the exploits of Ned Hanlan. He was such a showman as well as a tremendous athlete. Brought into rowing out of necessity, he had to row the few kilometers each day from the family house to school, and to market with fish ahead of his competitors.  His fame was so great that upwards of 100,000 spectators would come to watch a race and the purse was equally enormous. But best of all was his ability to put on a show. As the stories go, he would toy with his lesser opponents, feigning fatigue, zig-zagging the course, even crossing the finish line twice.  He lived from 1855 to 1908.

Hanlan’s achievements were significant beyond winning races. He is considered to be Canada’s first individual sporting hero as well as a pioneer of using the sliding seat. In one of his most famous battles, Hanlan used technique as well as strength and endurance to beat the much larger opponent,  Australian Edward Trickett. Hanlan reportedly won 300 matches and defended the world championship title six times. He would become the head coach of the newly founded University of Toronto rowing club as well as an alderman in the city of Toronto.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Adventures in a Hudson

March 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

About 30 years ago, I decided to take the plunge and get a real racing shell. The skiff was great fun, but certainly limiting for speed. I had tried a recreational shell, but there were too many compromises. It often felt awkward and clunky. There is a long tradition of rowing from my high school and my grandfather was a champion rower, so I thought I should at least look into the shells. By today’s standards, my shell is a tank, but a beautiful tank.

It is made of birch and mahogany laminates. The boat is about 26’ long and weighs about 24lbs. I ordered it with the optional fiberglass skin for greater protection and longevity. The hull cross section at the water is a perfect half circle. There is next to no rocker and the bow has a gentle entry. The whole thing is nearly silent except for the action of the oars or sculls, and sliding seat. Like walking on a tight rope, balance and technique keep you afloat.

With only inches of freeboard, racing shells don’t do well in waves, especially going across them. One morning coming south from Windermere in the open lake, I got caught in a blow up of waves. It was everything I could do not to swamp. Waves were washing over the plastic covered decks. But on a completely calm morning, the speed is mesmerizing. At speed, the boat starts to lift out of the water a bit, the bubbles churn beneath the outriggers with a dizzying effect, encouraging you to go faster and faster, like wings on the water. Makes me wish for summer! The newer designs are all fibre and likely quite a bit stiffer and lighter. But I have the real deal. Close to the same design my grandfather and “the Boy in Blue” (Ned Hanlan) would have used. Hudson shells are also Canadian legend.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Rowing For Speed

March 26, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Rowing has always been considered good exercise because it offers great all-round cardio and it is easy on the joints. In the last few blogs I looked at traditional skiffs and mostly those built in Muskoka. There are variations of both the Muskoka skiff and its oars. There are also other designs of rowing craft that are perhaps more performance-oriented. A first step to greater rowing performance can be had with a few tweaks to the oars.

I mentioned Jeremy Masterson a few blogs ago, the boat builder who restored a 1920s Peterborough square stern skiff. He also made a pair of custom “performance” oars for my Muskoka built skiff. They are quite radical as far as traditional oars go. Traditional spoon oars are about 7’ long with a round shaft and gentle spoon to the blade. The blades are typically finished with copper nailed into the end of the spoon to avoid splitting. The oars Jeremy made were made of cedar, which is traditional, but they are about a foot longer, the shaft is elliptical and the spoons are finished with oak inlay. The result is an oar that is lighter, stiffer and gives greater reach and leverage than a traditional oar.

Moving to a craft that can offer a bit more speed, the Whitehall, with a wine glass shaped transom, is a lap strake boat design that can be stable and efficient to row. My Whitehall is a cedar glass design and it has a sliding seat mechanism with outriggers attached. It is the best intermediate step between a rowing skiff and a full-blown racing shell. I have tried a fiberglass recreational shell, but the Whitehall performs better. I use relatively ancient Hudson carbon fibre oars to row the entire shoreline of Lake Rosseau from Windermere, Portage bay, Brackenrig Bay, the mouth of the river into Port Carling and back to Windermere calm mornings through the summer.

By Tim Du Vernet

by Don

Performance Skiffs

March 23, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Do you like to go fast? Speed is a relative experience and the closer you are to something while moving, the faster you will seem to be moving. Which relates perfectly to boating and the experience of speed. In my last few blogs I have been reviewing the features of rowing skiffs. In normal circumstances, the rowing skiff moves at a leisurely speed, ideal for making your way slowly around the lake.

On regatta day, the rowing skiff becomes a different beast all together. Speed becomes a paramount issue and all kinds of strategies come into play when trying to be the first person between the flags. First up is boat length. While 16’ or 18’ boats are heavier, they will go faster, especially with two rowers, than a shorter boat. You start to climb a short boat’s wake at a fairly modest speed. Next up are the oars. The curve of the spoon, the balance point and length help maximize your leverage against the water. Oar locks are also important since you want them to be smooth acting and secure. Port Carling built boats have the oar pin slotted into a block mounted against the inner hull. This uses the strength of the hull and the angle of the planking to give ideal purchase.

Oars are usually made of cedar, and Muskoka-style oars allow vertical movement of the oar lock on its sleeve. There is usually just a single stop made of leather, nailed into the shaft at a good balance point. If a shaft is round, it takes some practice to set your hands for the catch and swivel. Avid rowers are prepared for the blisters and callouses that develop, even with gloves and a good grip. Always dip the oar lock into the water, before placing the pin into the slot, to give it a bit of lubrication.

Giving it all you’ve got in a skiff also involves setting up the foot stops and sitting up straight. Before the days of sliding seat rails in rowing shells, racers would grease their bottoms to slide back and forth on the seat.

By Tim Du Vernet

Port Carling Boats – Antique & Classic Wooden Boats for Sale