The Raising And Restoration Of “Wa Chee We” – An Amazing 1923 Ditchburn Class Racer


And now for something completely different. It’s Friday, and if you love wooden boats – you need to take 21:59 minutes out of your busy schedule today, grab a fresh cup of coffee (or beverage of choice), sit back and enjoy this great video courtesy of fellow Woody Boater John Unsworth in the Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario, Canada.

The link to the YouTube video came in from Jeff Mitchell (thanks Jeff) via Jamie Smith & Harold Wilson, our friends heading up the Miss Canada IV Restoration Project and the Harold & Lorna docudrama project. Jamie commented “Texx – It’s amazing what’s going on in Muskoka!!!!”

Jeff Mitchell commented in his e-mail,

“Pride in Muskoka – Check out this great video that a friend of mine, John Unsworth’s brother made of the finding (at the bottom of Lake Muskoka) and the amazing restoration process of the 1923 Ditchburn “Wa Chee We”. While we are so proud of what has been accomplished on our quest with the Harold and Lorna Docudrama and the restoration of Miss Canada IV; it is just wonderful to see everything that John is doing.” – Jeff Mitchell

This remarkable restoration project is being completed by Gary Clark and his crew at Clark Wooden Boats in Bracebridge, Ontario.  The 1923 Ditchburn Fisher-Allison Class Racer was raised after being under water for the last 40 years!

Also, if you have time, there’s some bonus video on YouTube of the crew floating her for the first time back in April, 2012.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Thanks to everyone invloved for sharing this amazing story with us here at Woody Boater… Man I just have to get back over to the Muskoka’s this summer and see this stuff in person.


26 replies
  1. Bill
    Bill says:

    now theres a group of guys with some real skills what a great feeling it must be to bring something like that back to life what a sence of accomplishment and as a bonus get paid to do it dosent get any better than that

  2. Keith Venables
    Keith Venables says:

    Fabulous! Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a video for every restoration!

  3. Alex
    Alex says:

    What a ginormous boat! Achingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Anybody think they’ll be raising pontoon boats 40 years from now and putting them through painstaking, money-is-no-object restorations? Naw, didn’t think so.

  4. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    What an amazing restoration and great craftsmanship. I need to see more, can’t wait to see the motor and hear it run.

  5. Tom Frye
    Tom Frye says:

    AWESOME!!!! Would that be a “lake find” instead of a “barn find”. Loved the underwater salvage portion of the video. Beautiful work by Clark Wooden Boats.

  6. Carl Garmhaus
    Carl Garmhaus says:

    Went up to see this boat during the Toronto Spring Workshop Tour. Just amazing how it all came together!

  7. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    If that boat can be recovered and restored, think about all of the Century’s that must be strewn about lake bottoms across North America! This could really grow the hobby!

  8. m-fine
    m-fine says:


    Headed to Clayton in a few minutes. The Sons of Varnish shirt is packed and ready to represent woodyboaterville during the workshop. Thanks again to Woodygal.

  9. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    WOW! The quality of workmanship by Clark and his group is tremendous. For those of us who are challenged by keeping a 16 footer square during the “process” – I can’t imagine the skill and experience that goes into a project like this.

    I guess one can never have enough clamps!

  10. Randy
    Randy says:

    Incredible undertaking, and final product! It would be interesting to know a bit more about her: was she stripped of machinery/parts and sunk intentionally, is there any original wood left in her, reason for bringing her up now after all these years, etc.

  11. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy says:

    OK you guys convinced me , im going to watch the video after reading your reviews!

  12. Kim Kadimik
    Kim Kadimik says:

    Okay so now I know where some of the wood that’s recovered from the swamps and rivers on that Ax Man show that John makes me watch goes. It makes sense to put it on a boat bottom. This video was a wonderful way to show the time and workmanship that went into this restoration. Great Job on a really beautiful boat!

  13. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    OH CANADA!!!!

    Pockets deeper than the depths from which that classic was raised!!!

    Thank God people have such committment!

    John in Va.

  14. Kathy Rhodes
    Kathy Rhodes says:

    Please join us at ACBS-Toronto’s 32nd Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show in Gravenhurst, Ontario on Saturday, July 7 to see all that our club members and Muskoka have to offer!

  15. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    In regards to Randy’s question about why boat was sunk, etc. From what I understand, the previous owner felt the boat needed a lot of repairs and its “time” had past but he didn’t want to destroy it. So he selected a place to scuttle her intact and made note of general location. There were also financial costs required to repair/restore.

  16. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Also, regarding the restoriation, John bought the salvage rights from the family/owner after finding out about the boat and the possibility of restoring her. I hesitate to answer in John’s place, not sure of his access so I respectfully answer based on my knowledge from him and his brothers info relayed to me through conversion. I’ll stand corrected if anyone has more accurate info.

    I’m am totally in awe of this whole project, the search, raising, documenting, restoring, etc that’s going into this project. Its exciting to see all the participants including John Archer and his barging service whom I’ve met through the construction of a cottage on Browning Island which is the closest land mass where the boat was scuttled on Muskokal

  17. Jim Unsworth
    Jim Unsworth says:

    Over the last couple of years my company, Video-Prom, captured the recovery and restoration of The Wa Chee. We are very excited about adding the final segments, the ‘official launch’, (sometime in June), and of course ‘the ride’, I can’t wait to experience the thrust of that 700 h.p. motor as it kicks in and I really want to find out ‘what she will do’.
    The, soon to be available, DVD will be expanded greatly, with Voice Over & additional footage and details of the 3 R’s, ‘Recovery’, ‘Restoration’ and the ‘Ride” as well as an accompanying booklet with more photos telling the exiting story of the great ‘Wa Chee We’. Jim Unsworth

  18. Jim unsworth
    Jim unsworth says:

    News Flash
    The WA CHEE We will be launched
    Tomorrow. Friday in Gravenhurst at the museum
    At 2 pm.

    Be there.

  19. sue turner fitches
    sue turner fitches says:

    I am an old friend of John Unsworth’s (and Jim’s) from growing up on Browning Island. Many a weekend Wib Archer would pick us up at the Government Dock in the B’Isle to take us over to our cottage. What John has done is truly amazing. One other amazing fact, we just saw John in the B’Isle whiz past our bay, the boat is just gorgeous! Nicely done, John!

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