WE ALWAYS LOOK FORWARD TO THE ANNUAL TORONTO ACBS SPRING SHOP TOUR REPORT from contributors Chris & Julie Bullen. This gives us a glimpse into a number of top boat restoration shops in Muskoka region which is rich with rare wooden boats. Always an amazing tour, so let’s get started. (By the way, today you can click on the photos to enlarge them. – Texx
2016 TORONTO ACBS SPRING SHOP TOUR
Story & Photos by Chris and Julie Bullen
With the mild winter hanging on, with snow and below normal temperatures this month, we are happy to be on the last day of it.
Today is the Toronto ACBS Spring Shop Tour, and for us classic boaters it brings hope for a boat ride just around the corner. The ice went out a week ago, unfortunately not before the Muskoka area lakes water level came up with ice still on the top. This blew in the wind and took out a bunch of boat houses at the ankles. A bad tripping penalty that took out a few walls just above the docks, leaving the boats inside to support the loads.
The day started off with frost on the windshield at -3c (26.6 F.) as we left our home. An early start to the day as the 2016 ACBS Toronto Spring Tour travels to 12 different boat shops. This takes time just to do the driving between shops, but the meet and greet with your boating friends that have been hibernating all winter really is what slows down the travels.
Having the opportunity to visit with everyone is for me – the greatest benefit of the club. Wonderful folks with big smiles and a love for the open water.
As the sun came up we arrived in Gravenhurst (north of Toronto), the town that claims to be the gateway to Muskoka as it was the first stop for the trains arriving with the eager summer tourists.
Wooden boat restorer Mike Windsor’s shop is here just past the gates to the town. Mike had to move out of his shop for the winter as he had to clean up a rather large boat that did not fit in his shop next to his home. “Blythewood II” is a 1926 Ditchburn sedan that is 37-feet long and powered by a 185 hp 8 cylinder Packard engine.
Next – We left Mike’s shop after a coffee and donut headed for Paul Brackley’s boat shop. Paul had 2 boats, one was a nice 1939 Chris-Craft 27-foot Custom Runabout, powered by a rare Chris-Craft A-120. According to Paul, this boat was originally purchased from the Worlds Fair and lived on Lake Tahoe.
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We left Paul’s after a cinnamon Danish and juice – and headed to Gary Clark’s boat shop, still in Gravenhurst on the north end. Gary always has a few big boats in his shop. Two Riva Aquarama’s with twin inboards, “BIV” one of our favorite gentleman race boats and a unique wooden hydroplane built in the 1930’s by Minett Shields – but designed by Ventnor.
One more stop before Lunch. Sharon’s butter tarts. Yes she has been handing out these amazing treats for 30 years to the ACBS Toronto Spring Tour participants – they are now legendary. Oh and her husband restores boats. Tim Butson had a lovely boat from the Lake of Bays in his boat shop. “Heather Belle” is a 1902 Marine Engine & Machine Company Boat. (they needed Matt’s Marketing skills with that name!) “Heather Belle” was saved by Graham many years ago.
I remember her sitting on the beach just to the east of my dock growing up in Muskoka. She was repowered by Elco so she has a quiet running electric motor and she is currently in Tim’s shop for some bottom work. Rich, Jim and I are planning a pre-event for 2017, the week before our show on the Lake of Bays, so we will see “Heather Belle” back in the water by then.
Now we are off to nearby Port Carling for Lunch. We gathered at the Community Centre for more meet and greet with fellow woody boaters, as well as a nice catered lunch. Sean was there with a newly design shirt celebrating our Toronto ACBS boat show theme for 2016, “Greavette 85 Years – Heading Home to Gravenhurst.”
Back on the road again, we went to Dukes and saw many boats in the old boat shop. That building has been here since the 1930’s. It’s a legendry spot for us and has had new life and some needed support beams put in place by Jamie Fowler who took over the business a few years back.
As the day was slipping past us so fast, we only had time for one more stop. The newest and youngest wooden boat restorer in the area named James Osler. This is his second year in his newly constructed work shop. He had three boats that he was currently working on, so a healthy load of work to keep him going.
As the days turn to evening, we look forward to even sunnier days and hitting the water for some much needed time in our classic boats as the season is almost here in Southern Ontario (thank goodness for that!).
Special thanks to Chris & Julie Bullen for sharing their story with us today. Also to the Toronto ACBS Chapter for organizing these popular annual events.