Cliff Hanger Story – Or Springtime In Woodyboaterville. By Sean Conroy

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Shirley-Jean and her Muskoka vista atop crumbling decks and cribs

Thanks to long time fellow Woody Boater Sean Conroy for send us in this Springtime adventure.

While we anxiously await spring and the upcoming woodyboating season, it is common to follow up on leads for the acquisition of new projects to ensure we stay busy and in near poverty. This spring is no different and with that here is the story of Shirley – Jean, a 1964 20’ Clinker style utility Grew Cruiser.

Back in 1964, Murray brought a brand new boat home to his cottage home on Acton Island, Lake Muskoka. With a permanent home in the wet slip boathouse, “Shirley – Jean” ran faithfully every summer witnessing the kids become better water skiers, taking trips to the lakeside towns, touring the lake and basically providing the joy of all things boating to her growing family. As the years passed, the kids acquired their own boats to pursue their interests but, Murray kept Shirley – Jean running alongside her newer fiberglass boathouse companions.

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Early Mercruiser drive and stern patina

In time, the old Grew was used less and less until the efforts of summarizing and launching outweighed the benefits of sporadic use and the effects of age also crept up on Murray. So, for a number of years in the boathouse she sat suspended on timbers over her slip….unused. Sadly, in late 2014 Murray passed away (at age 92) and one winter later, the old boathouse collapsed on top of Shirley – Jean. Efforts in the summer of 2015 concentrated on the removal of the boathouse remnants but, the entire weight had come down on the Grew Cruiser. Once uncovered from the boathouse wreckage, it was plain to see (and expected) that the windshield had been flattened however… the crushing weight had driven the keel on to the unyielding support timbers causing a large hull breach.

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Trying to get a look inside was slippery and dangerous.

Shirley – Jean did not have any further damage inspection as the old boathouse cribs are also deteriorated and the area not exactly safe to be crawling around. Awaiting a family decision on her fate, she saw her first full season outside with nothing but a tarp for protection. With a desire to preserve rather than burn her on the shore, the family has reached out to find Shirley – Jean a home where every practical effort would be made to save her. Once that home was found, the project started.

Ideally, winter and a frozen lake would have been the ideal time to move the old boat from the scene. However, the deal wasn’t done until spring and she must be cleared to make way for a new boathouse this summer. So, in March of 2016 we went to Lake Muskoka to see Shirley – Jean on her precarious perch with a view to rescue her. Despite the obvious…overall she looks to be in decent condition. Interior, gauges, steering, decks, bilge, engine etc…. all clean.

Now, due to the 12” x 12” hole in her bottom and present location still atop the timbers, extraction will prove to be difficult. The shore is tree lined and rocky without a place to wedge in a trailer. The closest boat ramp is several miles down the lake and keeping her afloat for that long journey is improbable. At this point there are two possibilities. 1) Use a barge to maneuver into the slip and lower onto blocks for transfer to a trailer or; 2) Patch the bottom, install several bilge pumps and attempt to float her to the closest point where a trailer may be set to mate with her (300 feet away). This option is not a ramp and will entail its own challenges.

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted as to the rescue of the Grew, Shirley – Jean and her ultimate fate. Keep your fingers crossed.

17 replies
  1. Ed F
    Ed F says:

    How about a couple inflatables such as tractor size inner tubes, inflated under the hull and strapped to the hull with ratchet straps. 300′ should be doable that way. Getting it from the tubes to the trailer could present other problems but a sharp knife used on the front one first then the rear could help.

  2. Bill Hammond
    Bill Hammond says:

    I do not know what will work best but I like the idea of the poly wrap. You’d want to bring additional timbers to try and span the distance back to something solid so it could be approached safely. Best of luck! Hope to see that it happens and is put back into use!

  3. Bill Bernhard
    Bill Bernhard says:

    Plastic shrink wrap (poly) as mentioned above has been successfully used in situations like this. Can’t remember where I saw photos of this technique for short haul.

  4. Rob
    Rob says:

    Without seeing a picture of the hole, I tentatively offer the following free advice. Securely fasten a piece of 1/2″ plywood over the hole on the inside, overlapping the hole by a few inches all around. Have several 1/4 inch holes drilled through. If this is not possible, my free advice is over. Do the same on the outside, also with a 1/4″ hole in the middle. Take a can (that should be enough) of the the foam used to fill the voids when house windows are installed. Blow the can in from the top through the 1/4″ holes. Being clinker, you should see excess foam come out the sides of the plywood panels both inside and outside, and out the 1/4″ hole at the bottom. The foam will expand, filling the void, set and should be tough enough to get you where you are going. I have never tried this nor ever heard of it being tried.

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      I think this method of patching , along with a poly diaper wrap and some external flotation (plastic barrels?) will help us move the 300′ above the water. I would not trust this to go the 2-3 kms to the closest ramp. note*** We can’t copy Wa che Wee because they had a HUGE budget!

  5. Mr. Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Mr. Andreas Jordahl Rhude says:

    SAD. The boat is a copy of wooden lapstrake vessels designed and made by Cruisers, Inc. of Oconto, Wisconsin. Cruisers, one of the spin offs that came out of Thompson Bros. Boat Mfg. Co., had a licensing agreement with Grew starting in 1963. The boats made by Grew were exactly the same as those made by Cruisers.

  6. John Gannon
    John Gannon says:

    There’s an old Chris Craft, probably a late ’50’s 19 or 20 footer suspended in similar fashion in a boat house on lake near where I live in Northern Illinois. This boat house is still intact for now, but the boat looks to have been there for decades unused. The last registration sticker says 1977. This boat house runs parallel to the shore on a small peninsula that looks to be accessible only by a foot path. There’d be no way to extract this boat without floating her. She looks untouched and is probably a time capsule. I’ve never seen anyone at this house to ask about the boat.

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