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Waterborne Services in the 1800s

February 17, 2022 in Uncategorized

Muskoka residents of a certain age likely remember the name of Hanna, specifically Hanna’s store. Various local grocery stores have come and gone over the years in Port Carling. The first I remember as a child was located up from Duke Marine, on the main street. The creaky wooden floors hinted at its years of service. The Rosseau General store comes close the ambience today. It was in the 1860s when the first summer residents created permanent footholds and by the 1870s, it was clear that their needs would require shipping services. Francis Forge, of Windermere, arranged for supplies to be delivered to wharves for pick up by rowboat.

As an avid rower myself, I am aware that it is one thing to hop into a modern performance craft and quite another to accomplish deliveries by skiff. But such were the options and the needs to be satisfied. Rowing a standard lapstrake skiff in a regatta looks like a lot of fun, for the two or three minutes of out-and-out speed. Strike out to row across the lake, in the face of a breeze, pulling back on the grips of cedar oars mounted in brass pins and oar locks and you will quickly know your fitness. While award-winning rower Ned Hanlan pioneered using the sliding seat, the humble Muskoka skiff had no such feature. Add the weight of supplies and there would be no need or time for tennis or golf in the afternoon. The Mills family of Beaumaris were among the first to deliver by rowboat.

By Tim Du Vernet

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