Classic Muskoka Part 4 – Toronto ACBS Summer Vintage Boat Show

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Off we go to Gravenhurst for the Summer Vintage Boat Show with Karen & Bill Ballard from Michigan in their 1954 Century Resorter,

WITHOUT A DOUBT the best way to attend a classic boat show is to cruise down the lake on a warm summer morning in July. That’s exactly what we did on Saturday morning in Muskoka.

Chris & Julie Bullen had a few boats to ferry down Lake Muskoka from their cabin on Morris Island – an 18 mile trip (around 30 minutes) down to the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst for the 35th Annual Toronto ACBS Summer Vintage Boat Show.

We all left the island at 8:30 sharp and it was tee shirt warm as we cruised down the lake, with bright sunny skies. I was in charge of driving the all original 1988 Century Coronado which was a real treat. They also brought “Riot” (the Clarion Gold Cup boat), “Sam’s Smile” (a 2001 Homebuilt outboard), and “Gatsby” (a W.J. Johnston 22′ triple).

We were also joined by Bill & Karen Ballard from Michigan in their 1952 Century Resorter.

Our host this week, Chris Bullen en route to Gravenhurst in “Sam’s Smile” a 2001 14′ Homebuilt prepared by Rich Hughes. (Notice the reflection of the lake in the hull side – Texx)

Toronto Boat Show

Ron & Wilma Jelley were in charge to ferry “Gatsby” to the show, a rare W.J. Johnston triple cockpit runabout.

Not long after arriving at the Muskoka Wharf, with over 120 boats in either land display or at the docks, the crowds streamed through all day. The vendors area was clean and well organized, we went for a one-hour cruise on the steamship “Wenonah II” which was fantastic, the main pavilion provided a perfect area to gather in for lunch and to escape the sun for a while.

Toronto Boat Show

One of the three crowded docks at the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst.

The great folks at the Toronto ACBS organized an incredible line up of activities during the 35th Annual Summer Boat Show. A crowd favorite is the “Boats in Motion” demonstrations where antique & classic boats of all shapes and sizes make (safe) fly-bys in the bay for the spectators. Fellow Woody Boater and Chapter member Bryan Rhodes does an outstanding job with the organization and descriptions of the boats for the crowd over the public address system.

John Unsworth in the legendary “Wa Chee We” a perfectly restored 1923 35′ Ditchburn during the Boats in Motion demonstration.

Another shot of our friend John Unsworth in “Wa Chee We” with the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Center in the background.

From the Lee Anderson Collection in Nisswa, Minnesota – It was great to see “Royaleze” in Gravenhurst for the show. This remarkable 1929 36′ Ditchburn is powered by a Kermath 6 and is fresh out of Peter Breen’s restoration shop.

Toronto Boat Show

“Muggins” also made a fly-by for the crowd. She’s a 1947 Greavette 18’5″ Dippy owned by Mary & John Storey. These boats are very cool.

Toronto Boat Show

“Ruth Ann” is a stunning 1928 29’5″ Ditchburn. (Looks like the captain is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan…)

Toronto Boat Show

Two of the four 1991 Dwight Boyd / Clarion Gold Cup boats were at this years show. They decided to go out together in the afternoon to make a few laps for the crowd. GC-2 “Curvaceous II” is owned by Bill Bernhard.

The other 1991 Clarion Gold Cup boat at the show “Riot” is owned by our hosts – Julie & Chris Bullen. I had the opportunity to test drive the boat this week and can say it performs great, it’s lots of fun to drive quickly. Both Julie & Chris love how it handles and performs with it’s big block Chevrolet power.

Toronto Boat Show

Another shot of “Riot” during the “Boats in Motion” fly-bys.

Toronto Boat Show

Interesting contrast in technology between the Dippy and the Gold Cup boat.

Months ago when Julie & Chris Bullen invited me to come out to Muskoka for the boat show, I asked them “If I come out, can you arrange to get me a ride in a vintage Dippy?” Chris said no problem…

Well – they came through on their promise and this afternoon I was invited to join Ron Jelley in “Florence” a 1919 Disappearing Propeller Boat Company boat for a ride around the bay.

Toronto 14

“Florence” is a wonderful boat in every way.

Toronto 15

Ron has owned “Florence” for over 20 years and knows her well. He got on board and went through the traditional start-up procedure, we got her aimed in the right direction and a few spins of the wheel and she came to life. We sat together in the middle to balance the weight, Ron dropped the propeller down and away we went!Toronto 16

These Dippys provided lake access for thousands of people back in the early 1900s, as they would load up everything they needed in the Dippy like groceries, clothing, tents, all the essentials and they would take off through the lakes to their cabins.

This was a great experience that I will always remember – thanks Ron for taking me out in “Florence”.

The Toronto Summer Vintage Boat Show is not a judged event, but they do offer sponsors awards which are fun.

Best Presented Boat
1959 Redfish Fiberglass & Tee Nee Trailer
Boat owned by Ross & Charlene Gray

Founders Award
“Bimbi” – 1916 26′ Minnet Launch
Owned by Mike Windsor

Best Classic Glass
1959 Redfish Fiberglass & Tee Nee Trailer
Boat owned by Ross & Charlene Gray

Longest Haul Award
Bob Breidert from Jacksonville, Florida.
1928 27′ Chris-Craft Replica “Apparition”

Best U.S. Built Boat
“Edith II” – Circa 1905 26′ Fay & Bowen
Owned by Gerry & Catharine Codge

Best Dispro Award
“Auntie Mae” 1924 18′ Dispro
Owned by Dr. Eric Luks

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“Apparition” 1928 27′ Chris-Craft Replica


“Auntie May” 1924 18′ Dispro.

Towards the end of the day, sadly it was time to load up the boats and take them home. This family was all ready to leave, the Captain tinkered with the engine, exchanged a few e-mails to resolve the starting issues and after making some tweaks to the ignition, the little motor sprang to life, and everyone on board celebrated with cheers and high fives!

Smiles all around from the crew and passengers as the Dippy putted away, keeping the tradition alive on Lake Muskoka.

To learn more about the Disappearing Propeller Boats you can visit their informative Dispro Owners Association website by Clicking Here.

The combination of great – passionate people, great boats, the venue and the Muskoka region, perfect weather, and excellent organization made this an outstanding and memorable show for Woody Boater. We will return for more in the years to come.

Special thanks to Kathy Rhodes, Boat Show Chair Tom Crawford, the Toronto ACBS Chapter and all the volunteers who made this wonderful show possible. Tom Crawford also wanted us to note how excited they were to see so many participants from other Chapters travel far and wide to join them for the show. Chapters from Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ottawa, and even Florida were represented this year. The Toronto Chapter sent invitations to various Chapters well in advance, and the response was excellent.

Three Boat Building Schools were represented at the Gravenhurst event, a story that we elaborate on in the next few weeks.

You can visit their huge Toronto Chapter ACBS website by Clicking Here.

Also to Julie & Chris Bullen for the invitation to join them at their cabin in Muskoka for the boat show. It was a fantastic experience.

The nightly train whistle is blowing in the distance on the other side of the lake – and the loons are having a party on the lake – that must mean it’s 3:00 AM again. Stay tuned for more stories from Muskoka!


31 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Congrats to the Toronto chapter for another wonderful Lake Muskoka event. Congrats to you, Texx, for the great coverage and finally getting out for a live report, even if you don’t get any sleep. I hope you can get out to Michigan for an event next year.

  2. Harry W
    Harry W says:

    Tex’s coverage of the show was really great but there a number of boats that were missed like – Lady Shores a 26ft Gold Cup racer boat based on the APBA design by John Hacker built by a retired Gentleman from the Ottawa area who spent 6 years crafting arguably the finest boat at the show. The entire boat including parts of the drive train were custom created by the owner. His level of detail and craftsmanship was second to no one.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Harry. I met Keith Kipp yesterday and we had a great visit – which eventually led to us going on a wonderful ride in “Lady Shores”. It’s an amazing story of patience and determination, we are planning to do a feature story on the project with the help of Tom Keys in the next few weeks. – Texx

    • Keith Kipp
      Keith Kipp says:

      Harry, thank you for your kind words. Happy to bring the boat to the show. There is not much sense in having it, if you can’t share it.

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      Royaleze had captured my attention as a show stopper with her beautiful lines, great history and attention to detail… She’s the perfect restoration boat. But, my heart sang out when I saw Lady Shores…. and I was breathless when I saw her run and heard her engine. My new “favorite boat on the planet”!

  3. Harry W
    Harry W says:

    Bimbi the – 1916 26′ Minnet Launch rebuilt by its owner Mike Windsor won the founders award. Mike boat is a marvel in light of the fact it was partially burnt many years ago and so much research was acquired to insure the restoration was so exact. This is a significant achievement in reclaiming a vital link in the Minett Boat building legacy. Thanks for showing the boat mike.

    • Harry W
      Harry W says:

      wrong picture- here is the right one; but boomerang is a lovely Muskoka boat all the same

  4. Kathy Rhodes
    Kathy Rhodes says:

    Thanks, Texx, for the awesome coverage of our show and your kind words. We were fortunate to have so many participants from our own club as well as all those who travelled from across Ontario, Michigan, New York State, and even Florida to add to the show. From the comments we received yesterday, everyone had a great time. Thanks to our show chair, Tom Crawford, for his leadership over the last 10 months, and thanks to the many, many volunteers who helped it all come together

  5. Harry W
    Harry W says:

    The show all featured some of the finest cars from the Cobble Hills Concours D’Elegance that is Canada’s version of Pebble Beach. Here are two convertible Auburns with Superchargers. There were approximately 30 top class cars at the show as well as some interesting boats in the field of dreams including a triple cockpit. Plan to make the Muskoka shop a stop on your calendar for next year.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for the help with the other features at the show Harry. It was hard to shoot many of the boats at the docks due to the huge crowds and blazing Muskoka sunshine. – Texx

  6. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    What great coverage this series of pieces has been. What a variety of boats and people. Super pictures and commentary.

  7. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Thanks for the hard work and long hours Texx, and thanks to the Toronto folks for showing off your very worthy collection of boats.

    I think the organizers of the Algonac and Sunnyland shows should consult with the Toronto chapter’s weather chair. It looks like they delivered perfection to match the quality of the boats!

  8. Chris & Julie
    Chris & Julie says:

    Texx did a super job covering the show. He was a delight to have around. He worked his butt off as we had many boats to shoot and things to see. I think we will keep him. … Thanks to Woody Boater ,Texx and Matt for the support of our show. Harry I know Texx will be posting more of the show as the days past he gathered many stories and photos.

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Hi Tom / If you are referring to “Karen Ann” the 20′ Century Resorter it is owned by Bill Ballard from Traverse City, Michigan.

  9. Matt
    Matt says:

    Harry, I will have Texx talk to our HR department when he returns and wakes up.. Texx, there is a row boat over on Dock A.. Could you please, PLEASE go shoot that. Oh, and a 1976 Granada in the parking lot. HA!

  10. Alex
    Alex says:

    Very nice write up Texx. And more of the gorgeous photos you always provide. Someday, I’ll get to Muskoka. Maybe even bring a boat.

    I loved the idea of the flyby and will be passing out along to the folks organize our own show in Les Cheneaux (Hessel / Cedarville). This years show is August 8th. Too late to propose it for 2015, but ideal to start that in 2016. The reason it would suit us here is because our boats are not allowed to move during the show. And the reason for that, it’s because they are packed in like puzzle pieces. There are too many of them, and quarters are too tight to allow movement. An organized flyby, or simply encouraging nonparticipant boat owners to flyby during the day would provide sound and movement to our day.

    Thanks again.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      The boats at the show were continually moving in and out of the marina, and thankfully there is enough room to move around while the Boats in Motion demonstrations were under way. The spectators LOVE seeing show boats operate.

      When Keith Kipp took me out in his race boat, the moment the engine fired up the crowds gathered at the dock to watch the action. – Texx

  11. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Exemplary coverage. Don’t know how you shot all that and then got it formatted for WB presentation and then be ready for the Sunday morning brunch cruise. I know its all I can do to shoot and load it all to my laptop let alone resize, crop, write, get the facts/data straight to match up with the pictures, remember all the details. Great job. That’s not to mention having people at the show pull you aside for this, that, or the other. Oh, yea, there’s field of dreams, flea market, car show, outboard motor club display, retail expo, and in water boats for sale – and you might want to eat or get a drink at some point, maybe even take a bathroom break, lol – no time for that. Oh, cardboard boat race, r/c replica woody boat display, the steamship Segwun and sister ship Winona and the Dippy and Toronto ACBS Club tents to visit – lots of stuff. I’m sure I left something out.

  12. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    The Gravenhurst town docks are the best I’ve ever seen for a show and the photo only shows 2 of the 3 they are so vast. A fly by is great but the bay is so large its hard for any but those on the end of the dock to see the boat off in the distance as they get far enough out so as not to create that much wave disturbance for the boats on display. An “idle by” is/would be more appropriate.

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Gravenhurst show is kinduva photog nightmare because all the boats come in Saturday morning at 800-830AM and show open to public at 9AM. Show ends at 5pm or so and all boats leave. Best shooting time is limited to boats coming in and there’s a deluge of them. If you don’t get shots then, you’re fighting the crowds and the sun for a mediocre dock shot. I’ve got plenty of those and as Texx said, the mid day sun washes shots out – not as good as early morning, late evening photo ops. This is Kenny MacStephen’s R&H a 1914 Mullins launch I believe.

    • Jim Staib
      Jim Staib says:

      Did Kenny buy that boat new?
      A guy his age with TWO ladies in the boat.
      I’ll have to get some pointers from him.

      • floyd r turbo
        floyd r turbo says:

        You’ll have to ask Kenny, but I think R&H came with the house. Canadians don’t throw anything away cause its either too cold or it cost too much to go to the dump. As for the ladies – you know they say women like the sensitive type but in reality they really fall for the bad boys and Kenny’s one bad cat, lol.

  14. Matt
    Matt says:

    Thanks Floyd R. for calling out Texx on the hard work. He has been up til 3AM doing it. On a normal schedule, I get up at 4 AM most mornings, while Texx is just going to sleep.. It’s funny, we really are a 24/7 operation, and its all done with the love of all you guys and the passion of woody boating. Texx deserves a huge ataboy this weekend though. I can not image capturing all that detail.. And most of its spelled right. Whats that all aboot!

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