SeaBirD triple cockpit.. 18 ft. 1941. $15,000 Ad #pb881
The C.J McCulley Years – 1945 to 1959 Immediately after World War II the building of boats for private use resumed. Many inboards were built by the Port Carling Boat Works in Honey Harbour. Outboards and row boats were built in Port Carling.
SeaBirD utility: 20 ft., 1940 $29,900. Ad #pb786
In 1946-47 the Company was reorganized. The Honey Harbour plant was sold and eventually taken over by C. J. McCulley. “C.J” was not only an accomplished builder but a good business man. He had been involved with the Company since 1920! IN many ways, he was the most successful of the Muskoka boat builders.
The SeaBirD line is largely credited to C.J., who was ably assisted by several family members.
The Company’s boats were sold to department stores such as Eatons and Simpsons, as well as other distributors.
From 1945-to 1959 Port Carling Boats works employed about 25 staff membrs, and produced approximately one thousand boats.
SeBirD triple cockpit: 20 ft., 1937
By the late 1950s, fibreglass boats appeared on the scene. During its last few years, the Company sold a number of fibreglass vessels. BY 1959, many of the older workers had retired and it was difficult recruiting skilled wood workers. That, and the emergence of fibreglass sounded the death knell to the Company , which was sold in 1960 to a marine sales and service company. Fortunately, a significant number of SeaBirD boats still ply the waters of the Muskoka Lakes and elsewhere.
Many thanks to Neil T. Kuopas, for submitting his recollections of Gar Wood of boat racing and building fame. Unfortunately, Neil lost his home and personal artifacts in the Nov. 8, 2018 Camp 🔥 Fire, lived in Butte Creek Canyon one mile north of Paradise, California. However, now in his eighties, Neil still has very vivid recall.
“My young dreams were centered around boats and engines. Had many boats and engines until college. After college I came across a 1931, 28-ft Garwood double-plank mahogany runabout Garwood ( Ed. reportedly) lent to his mistress to watch the Detroit Garwood Gold Cup Trophy Unlimited hydroplane races in the infield of the river course. The Black River Marina owner, in Marysville, MI, had stripped down the finish and painted the boat black with gold waterline so Garwood’s wife would not recognizing it. It was ‘old man’ Baker’s first job as an 18-year old apprentice and he taught me the same methods at 85-years old to me in 1973. The Chris Craft straight-six (in the Garwood) had been replaced by a Packard straight-8, 356 cu.in., crowned pistons, separate sea and fresh water cooling systems, etc.
No one else knows what I am talking about! However, at the North Shore of Lake Tahoe there is a classic wooden boat shop which sponsors an annual gathering and parade of the classics. They don’t believe my story! Canadians get it and thought you might enjoy this. (A Garwood similar to mine is seen near the beginning of the video)
My own Garwood
I bought my Gar Wood 28-ft. runabout after it was taken out of storage and the transom was weathered to Bare Wood.
Also, the previous owner had docked it on two slings and the Chine-board and adjacent structure was dry-rotted!! If Old Man Baker hadn’t offered to show me how to fix it I would never have bought the boat.
Needless to say, three-months of hard and sometimes meticulous labor was required to make the repairs and start the process of staining and varnishing, and Baker still had enough of the original stain and varnish!!! What are those odds?
One more tidbit…the boat had a false deck below the inside deck – just the right amount of space for fifths of liquor, as the boat was used as a “RUM-RUNNER” during the Prohibition Era!!
I have many more stories and should write an article to preserve the history.
Garwood was quite the character. He raced Dick Bertram of the deep-V hull-concept from Long Beach California to Catalina Island and back for a large amount of money in the mid-60’s with his Garwood Express Cruiser vs. Bertram’s deep-V race boat. The bet and time/day were finalized.
Garwood modified his Cruiser with hydrofoils and twin-Supercharged 440 V-8 engines, as I was told. Needless to say he won the race going away. Ha!! These are the stories you don’t read about. There are more to share with anyone who appreciates the classics.
I wrote to you last week hoping to contact Alan Empringham or his sons before I pass away, love Canada and many fine people across the Dominion.”
Neal T. Kuopus
In one of Garfield Wood’s races, he broke the World speed record at 102 m.p.h
Dolly Durkin Jr. is a 2009 29′ Breen Fast Limousine that took 5000 hours to complete. Based off a very successful Gold-Cup John Hacker-designed race boat hull of the 1920’s, and powered with a 496 cubic inch Mercruiser V-8 , this boat provides a stunning ride at all speeds. Hull is solid mahogany on white oak framework, sealed inside and out, to create a maintenance-free wooden boat experience. Decks are 5/8″ thick mahogany strips, book-matched out from the centre king plank. The cockpit is enclosed with a hard-top made of cove and bead strips incorporating two gull wing hatches for easy entry. Six model T roll-up windows provide shelter in unfavourable weather, and a cool, airy ride in nice weather. Main cockpit holds 4-5 comfortably and the forward “mother-in-law” cockpit holds an additional two passengers. All hardware is sand-casted bronze, chrome-plated. Mechanical drag-link steering with outboard rudder assembly provides sports car maneuverability and feel. This boat was built to be a sales tool for Peter Breen Antique & Classic Boat Co. Ltd, and attended shows across North America including Tavares – Florida, Houston – Texas, Bay Harbour – Michigan, and Brainerd – Minnesota where she won awards at each show. After a decade of showcasing our work, we are looking to find a new home for this unique and truly labour intensive creation. Construction details can be seen at www.breenboats.com.
Asking $195,000.00 CAD. ( or about $148,000 USD on Jan 10, 2020)
For further details and contact information, please click on the link. Ad number pb893
Hacker-Craft Gentleman’s Racer; (rebuilt) 22.5 ft., 1995 RagTime- This is a 1995 Hack-Craft, that came to us in 2015, and over 18 months, underwent a forensic re-construction. The rotten west-system bottom was replaced with a solid and sealed Breen plank bottom. The entire boat was stripped, re-fastened, and refinished. Deck grout also replaced. New leather upholstery. Additional hardware and details such as the tear-drop engine ventilation scoops were added, to give the boat more sex appeal. Since delivery in 2016, the boat has only been used three times, as the owner had been busy with an expanding family. This is a tremendous value for a turn-key, perfect gentleman’s racer that will stand the test of time with minimal maintenance. Restoration details can be seen at www.breenboats.com
Price :$115,000 CDN. (about $87,400 USD ( on Jan.10, 2012) For further details and contact information, please click on the link. (Additional photos below) Ad number pb892
Soon after war was declared in 1939, a call went out from the Canadian government for ships – large and small – for use by the armed forces.
Port Carling Boats Works (manufacturer of SeaBirD boats) was one of the first companies to respond. To supply the necessary number of watercraft, staffing had to be increased to several hundred employees. The owners promised the Government that they would turn out boats of eighteen to twenty-eight feet at the rate of one per day. Port Carling Boat Works was soon awarded the contract for building smaller boats. To build the much larger Fairmiles, (coastal patrol boats) the contract was initially shared with Minett-Shields. The first Fairmile (Q 057) was prefabricated at the Minett factory in Bracebridge, Ontario then shipped to the Port Carling Boat Works at it’s Honey Harbour factory on Georgian Bay. A total of thirteen Fairmiles were constructed.
The P. C. Boat Works also produced 20 foot utilities, first snapped up by the Air Force. These were followed up by crash boats, whalers, mine sweepers and Destroyer tenders, as well as hundreds of assault boats for the D Day invasion.
Government financial manipulation had the sad result of leaving the Port Carling Boats Works starved for cash at the end of the war in 1945.
Note: Photos in this posted were taken by the official Canadian Navy photographer, J.E. Russell.
Text for this post is condensed from the book “SeaBirD“, by Douglas Garfield McCulley.