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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

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