There’s something seductive about vintage wooden boats. Perhaps it’s the rich lustre of lacquered mahogany, the gleaming brass fittings, the sumptuous leather upholstery, and the way the long, elegant displacement hulls glide effortlessly through the water. Admirers of these Rolls Royces of watercraft are in for a treat this weekend in Gravenhurst Ontario for the 29th annual Antique and Classic Boat Show. Well over a hundred of these lovingly maintained or restored boats will be lining the docks of Muskoka Warf on July 11. They range in size from small skiffs, like the Disappearing Propeller boats - or “Dippies” - to 70-foot steam launches. Hand-crafted, often unique, each has a story to tell. Many were built by the renowned Muskoka boat builders Ditchburn, Greavette, Minett, and Duke for the affluent who summered in Muskoka, like Sir John Eaton, whose family had built a mercantile empire by the turn of the last century.
When I was doing research for my historical “Muskoka Novels”, I visited the Boat Show in 2005. Asking one of the owners about a beautiful 37’ Minett built in 1924, I was invited to go along for a spin. What a thrill that was! How quiet and smooth the ride. What better way to immerse oneself in research? Above is a photo that my daughter took over the stern of that boat, as she was also invited along. Another of her photos - of a Dippy - graces the cover of my first Muskoka Novel, The Summer Before The Storm.
So this weekend I will once again be at the Antique and Classic Boat Show, but selling books this time. I plan to take a few minutes to wander the docks and admire the launches that so readily and delightfully conjure up a bygone era.
Those who can’t visit the show this Saturday can still see antique boats at the only in-water exhibit in North America - the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst.