Today we join contributor Cobourg Kid for Part 2 of his great report from the 2014 Trent Severn Spring Workshop on the shores of Lake Scugog, in eastern Ontario. Cedar strip runabouts (effectionately known as “strippers”) are commonplace in this area, and if you have ever wondered how to properly inspect a used cedar strip boat, look no further than today’s story.
Small but Mighty – 2014 Trent Severn Spring Workshop (Part 2)
Story & Photos by Cobourg Kid
In the wake of a short-lived question period, we took a quick refreshment break then streamed outside into the welcome sunshine only to find a crowd already gathered around a rare 15 foot Rice Lake Boat Co. cedar strip runabout.
In the centre of the mob, is Ken Lavalette, obviously eager to start his seminar on the proper way to assess the condition of small ribbed water craft.
With over thirty years of experience Ken and his skilled team of seven, have built and restored over 300 sail and powered watercraft of all sizes at a facility located in Nestleton, Ontario. Ken’s business is aptly named Woodwind Yachts.
From the accompanying photos you will notice our guide is a highly animated presenter and, not surprisingly, he quickly entranced the crowd as he demonstrated the many steps required to ascertain what an allegedly sound barn find cedar strip boat might actually cost to restore.
Ken began his presentation with this imaginary scenario. “You discover and follow up on an ad for a 15 foot cedar strip in the local paper.” The ad reads “Rice Lake Cedar Strip runabout, in good shape on trailer, ready to go in the water, just needs new varnish, motor not included $1000 takes her.”
You call and are told that the boat has been stored out of the weather and she only needs a varnish job and an outboard to get her back in the lake. So you make an appointment to check her out. But how do you assess the value of the boat when you get there?
Well according to Ken you need to do a little grunt work. Over the course of about 10 minutes we shadowed Ken as he guided us on a spirited inspection of this uncommon cedar strip. The following is my synopsis of Ken’s wit and wisdom on this topic.
Hopefully prior to arriving, you did a little research to determine if the boat is rare or desirable, or perhaps found some photos to give you an idea what she looked like when she rolled out of the shop? Its information like this (or lack of it) that allows you to assess originality, determine a fair price and allow you to assess whether you want to invest in a restoration, if one is needed.
For more information on Rice Lake Boat Company, Peterborough Canoe Company, Canadian Canoe Company, Lakefield Boats and other now vanished mid-Ontario small boat builders be sure to check out Oldwood Online Photos web site.
According to Ken once you arrive, introduce yourself, inquire about the history of the boat, then ask for permission to do some non-destructive examination. If the owner is OK with that – climb on in and pull out the floorboards. How do you do that? (Did you bring any tools?). Unscrew the floor clips that hold down the grating and don’t lose those screws!
Once you get the floorboards out, examine each of the sections for condition. Is there any apparent rot, broken or missing strips? Now get down on your knees in the bilge and inspect the ribs. The bilge of a cedar strip boat commonly harbours debris and other problems so you might have to brush out some crud to see things clearly. Did you bring a stiff brush?
Start at the stern and use your fingernails to determine if each rib is sound or rotten, also check for cracks and splits. What’s the count? It’s relatively affordable to fix a few bad ribs because the old inner keel can usually stay in while the bad ribs are extracted with handmade picks and gouges. Once done new ribs are bent in.
On the other hand, if you discover rot or cracks in say 42 ribs of a 50 rib boat you are looking at removal of the inner keel. It takes about 2.5 hours of shop time per rib to bend in new ribs and then there is reassembly of the keel member once complete. Not an inexpensive proposition. The alternative? Leaving damaged ribs in the boat structurally weakens it and definitely promotes leaking. In other words, if you ignore the ribs you may find yourself swimming rather than boating.
Having inspected the bilge we move on to the transom. Is there any apparent rot? If there is and it’s localized, it can be repaired fairly easily, however, if the edges where the transom meets the planking are rotten, the entire transom will need to be removed and replaced – once again not a simple job. Now let’s move up the boat, what shape are the seats and decks in, are they weathered and split? If so they may be beyond refinishing.
Let’s look at the outer stem, is it cracked? (common on strippers). If it is, it’s a relatively easy fix, unless there’s rot in the outer stem, in which case it will likely have also affected the inner stem. If that is confirmed, complete disassembly of the bow will be required involving quite a few more shop hours to make it right.
Moving on to the planks. Are there any splits, rot or gouges or wonky repairs that need to be remedied? To do this right, we need to climb under and inspect the bottom. Once again make a record of what you find.
Next it’s time to assess the mechanicals. Since there is no engine in this case, we only need to determine if the steering mechanism is operable. But what about the electrical system, is it intact and fused – and how about the fittings, windshield and trim, are they original, complete and serviceable? Finally what condition is the trailer in? Is it anywhere near roadworthy?
According to Ken, once you have gone through this exercise you should have a pretty good idea of the total number of shop hours that you might have to put into this ol’ Rice Lake Runabout. In this case, if you engaged a professional restorer to put it right you would probably be looking at spending upwards of $10,000 to $12,000 dollars plus the cost of an outboard.
However, as Ken points out that might not be a bad bargain considering that the finished product would be aesthetically beautiful, stable and easily trailered and with proper storage and regular maintenance, one could expect it to live another 25 to 40 years without any major repairs… an expectation that owners of many similar sized fiberglass boats are unlikely to achieve.
So it was with Ken’s final comments, the 2014 Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association Spring Workshop wrapped-up. Overall a fantastic event, spent with great people, gaining new skills, insights, and information, all on a warm sunny day. One could not ask for more… Cheers to all the volunteers and presenters that made the 2014 event happen, and let’s not forget to offer a special thank you to the winter of 2014 for finally taking a vacation.
Thanks again to Cobourg Kid for sharing another informative report from Ontario, Canada – an area known for it’s rich boating history and knowledgeable classic boating enthusiasts. Stay tuned, as we are working with CK on more great stories about boats and the people that use and maintain them.
For more information about the Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association, visit their website here.