Road Trip, Part 2 – The Spring Workshop

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An unrestored late 1930s’ 19 foot George & Bliss creation built in Lake Placid, NY.

Lights, Camera, Action-ish! – Last Saturday fellow Woody Boater and Contributor “Cobourg-Kid” set off on a marathon classic boating road-trip through the “yet to become spring but any day now” central Ontario countryside, making some interesting stops along the way. Yesterday in Part 1, he first stopped in at a huge antique outboard & marine engine auction in Newtonville with an empty pickup truck and some cash burning a hole in his pocket. You can see yesterday’s story “Saturday Road Trip, Part 1 – The Auction” by Clicking Here.

Part 2 of the story takes us 20 minutes up the road to Wayne Robinson’s workshop for the 5th Annual Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association Spring Workshop. The scent of spring may not yet be in the air, but the scent of classic boats is strong at Wayne’s workshop – “Hooah”

Road Trip, Part 2 – The Spring Workshop
by Cobourg-Kid

Reluctantly leaving the outboard and marine engine auction, I pointed my truck north-east and after a leisurely 20 minute drive arrived at Wayne Robinson’s shop near Port Perry, Ontario where I was warmly greeted at the gate by Rich Hughes, current President of the Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association. This workshop has become a spring ritual for this dedicated group of wooden boat enthusiasts and 2013 marks the fifth anniversary of the event. As in the past, it was well attended with about 70 eager participants on hand.

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Wayne Robinson’s collection of vintage Aristo Craft boats equipped with early Mercury outboards.

Wayne has been gracious enough to host the workshop on three separate occasions. Turns out that his private workshop is in actuality somewhat of a cross between boat shop-garage and man cave featuring, among other things, a collection of vintage AristoCraft boats equipped with early Mercury outboards.

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Wayne Robinson’s vintage AristoCraft – Photo courtesy Sean Conroy

Other unusual boats also lurk in the rafters, lofts and corners of this building including an unrestored late 1930s’ 19 foot George & Bliss (Lake Placid, NY) built utility that (long ago) had been converted to a gentlemen’s racer (also shown in the opening cover photo above).

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Another shot of the 1930s’ George & Bliss converted gentlemen’s racer – Photo courtesy Sean Conroy.

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Wayne’s workshop is in actuality somewhat of a cross between boat shop – garage and man cave featuring all kinds of cool classic boating related collectibles.

After we gobbled down some gourmet donuts and coffee and browsed through the various sponsors booths, the first of the three scheduled workshops began on time with a presentation by Jim Watt and Rich Hughes on to properly install modern power in a vintage hull.

Jim initially conceded that for many in the hobby, installing modern power in their vintage hull is anathema, but pointed out that in actual fact the actual use of the boat sometimes dictates a change for reliability and safety issues. He pointed out that for those who use their boat regularly to travel along Ontario’s historic canal systems or to water access properties, reliability is a foremost concern.

He also pointed out that in cases where the engine manufacturer has been long out of business, the failure of any part means that the boat could be out of commission for some time, even an entire season while parts are sourced or made and installed, thus putting a distinct crimp in your summer cruising plans.

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Jim Watt and Rich Hughes presentation on how to properly install modern power in a vintage hull.

Jim further mentioned that the State of California has recently begun to enforce emission regulations on vintage boats, a trend that may migrate across north America. This could mean costly upgrades, rebuilds or replacement of original equipment.

Recently Jim assessed all of these factors before making the decision to hire Rich Hughes’ firm to swap out a Grey Marine engine and transmission in his 1956 18 ft Greavette Cadet in favour of a new six cylinder Mercruiser and Borg Warner – Velvet Drive transmission, sourced as a package from a company in Troy, Michigan.

Jim and Rich explained that swapping out the engine was only a small portion of the work involved in completing such a transplant. Other aspects of the power train, fuel, exhaust and electrical system also had to be assessed and upgraded at the same time to make sure the entire system was safe and reliable.

Some of those considerations could include:

• Removal of the original fuel tank and replacement with a new internally baffled aluminum tank.

• Removal of old copper fuel lines and replacement with stainless tubing shut off valve and modern fuel filter.

• Removal of all original wiring and replacement properly designed new electrical harness, breaker panel and ignition switch.

• Assess existing engine bed stringers and upgrade if required.

• Install new aluminum engine mounting brackets, replacing old direct bolt system.

• Assess existing propeller shaft diameter and upgrade if required.

• Consider changing three blade prop to a four blade prop if you want more low end thrust.

• Replace shaft log, install a new traditional stuffing box, with packing or alternately use a new pack less seal.

• The new velvet drive will shift more easily than the original transmission. To prevent accidental shifts the existing transmission linkage must be modified to add detent or alternately substitute a modern dash mounted shifter.

• Upgrade exhaust system from 2.5 inch to 3 inch pipes using high strength stainless connectors and new outlets.

• Bond all metal parts in the gas tank system and provide proper venting to meet current standards.

• Replace or convert all mechanical gauges to operate with Mercruiser sensors.

Following a break for a barbeque lunch we soon reassembled for the second session led by Dan and Pam Truax, using their newly acquired project boat, a 1961 Century Coronado, as a demonstration platform.

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Dan and Pam Truax with their newly acquired 1961 Century Coronado.

Having previously restored both a 1960 19 ft. Century Resorter and a 1955 24 ft. Shepherd Runabout, the Truax family have, through research and trial and error, developed the following restoration methodology that works for them.

1. Before doing anything thoroughly document the boat and take pictures of everything.

2. Do your research. Obtain original factory promotional material, consult Robert Speltz‘s Real Runabout’s series and get a copy of Don Danenburg’s book The Complete Wooden Runabout Restoration Guide.

3. Identify and catalog all changes have been made to the boat over its life then determine if you want to restore it to the factory design or leave some or all of the modifications.

4. Unless you are qualified, hire a good marine surveyor to assess the boat and identify what issues will need to be addressed. This is particularly important if you plan on engaging a professional restorer to complete the work as it sets the work plan and helps keep both of you honest.

5. Plan to upgrade systems as part of the work, particularly those related to safety such as the electrical, mechanical and fuel systems.

6. Find a “friend” that has a boat like yours.

7. When you start to dismantle start with hardware, bagging all parts of each assembly together including screws, then remove engine, transmission, fuel system, exhaust etc. cataloging all of those parts as well.

8. Devise a system to roll the boat half way up. This allows you to work on one side of the bottom at a time while standing up thereby avoiding tedium that results in sloppy work.

9. Research the three options for bottom replacement, traditional, encapsulated epoxy (west system) or the 3M 5200 method and choose one that suits your needs.

10. Framing replacement work, particularly on a century is a given but it can be accomplished if you use the old material for patterns and tackle each frame one at a time.

11. Replace planks as required and scarf them if they will be hidden by the white paint that is common on Centuries.

12. Remove plugs on all planks, inspect fasteners and tighten or replace them as required.

13. Don’t fight gravity, flip the boat to paint the bottom and varnish the planks, it flows better.

14. Tackle the decks after the hull work is done.

15. Assess all wood and replace remove and fill seams as required.

16. Document all hardware mounting holes and plug them.

17. Send out hardware to be re-plated in small bunches. This helps avoid “sticker shock”.

18. When doing your final sanding stop at 80 grit.

19. Apply no less than 8 coats of varnish and no more than 13, sanding lightly in between.

20. Thinned medium grade spar varnish can be used to establish a base coat.

21. High end varnish with UV inhibitors must be used for top coats.

22. Don’t install deck hardware so tight that it cuts through the varnish.

23. Modify seats to fit your passengers before reupholstering.

24. If you intend to show the boat put in the time to get the deck and interior right.

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Dan and Pam’s very cool 1961 Century Coronado project boat – Sean Conroy photo.

Next up Randy Milligan introduced his newly re-acquired 280 CE Class Hydro to the workshop participants.

This little Hydro was built in 1960 by Ron Jones Sr. in his Seattle area shop. Randy’s uncle, Frank Milligan, acquired the little hydro as new and named it “Taboo”. The boat was subsequently campaigned at events across Ontario, at Valleyfield Quebec and in New York State until 1969 when it was sold out of the family.

“Taboo” subsequently changed hands a number of times and was ultimately left to languish in outside storage. Fortunately in the late 1990s the boat was rediscovered by Wayne Trotter of Lagoon City, Ontario. He purchased the badly deteriorated hydroplane and arranged for its full restoration by Burns Boats of Port Carling which completed the project in 2000. The revived CE-36 was appropriately christened “Busted”.

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Randy Milligan introduced his newly re-acquired 280 CE Class Hydroplane

Through sheer coincidence in early 2012 Randy’s uncle noticed an ad in (a Canadian version of Ebay) offering what appeared to be his long-lost race boat. An onsite visit confirmed his suspicions. The Milligan’s subsequently reacquired the little hydro bringing her home in mid-summer 2012. During his presentation, Randy revealed that he is planning some cosmetic changes that will make the boat look more like it did 43 years ago when his family first owned it.

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Randy Milligan’s 280 CE Class Hydroplane outdoors – Sean Conroy photo.

For those that missed this preview you will have a second chance to see this little bit of vintage hydroplane history, Randy has indicated that he will be taking “Busted” to the Toronto Chapter ACBS “The Greatest Race Boat Show In Canadian History” scheduled for Gravenhurst, Ontario on July 4-7, 2013. For more information on this big event, you can Click Here to go directly to the Toronto Chapter ACBS website.

A great resource for a little more information on the evolution of the modern hydroplane, you can check out The Vintage Builder’s Guide by Phil Kunz.

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This little Hydro was built in 1960 by Ron Jones Sr. in his Seattle area shop and was originally named “Taboo”.

Just prior to the end of the workshop Rick Potts brought in a highly detailed 1/6th scale remote control model of an extremely rare 1933 Scott Boats Inc. (Toronto) triple cockpit runabout. Based on research conducted by the Potts family, the original boat was a Bert Hawker design, built by some of the craftsmen that had been let go from the Ditchburn Boat Company when it began its depression induced decent to bankruptcy.

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Rick Potts with his 1/6th scale 1933 Scott Boats Inc.triple cockpit runabout.

The most amazing thing about the model is that it is an exact replica of Rick’s Dad’s boat and much of the mahogany that it is built of came from the few cracked mahogany planks that had to be removed during the restoration of the full size original which was recently discovered in a barn… But that’s another story.


Thanks for sharing the great stories from your Saturday Road Trip with us here at Woody Boater and also to fellow Woody Boater Sean Conroy who contributed some great photos from the Spring Workshop.

Also, special thanks to Wayne Robinson for opening up his amazing workshop / museum to host the Spring Workshop and to Rich Hughes and the nice folks from the Trent Severn Antique & Classic Boat Association for putting this event together again this year.

I have a feeling that we have just seen the “tip of the classic boat iceburg” in central Ontario.


11 replies
  1. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    Gee, 11:04 and no body has posted yet this morning??? It is either sunny out, or people are sleeping in cause of the STILL cold weather. It was a record low of 18 degrees here in Spring Lake over night! At this rate, Lake Michigan will NEVER warm up to swim in!!!
    It is to warm up to 58 drgrees today, I plan on pullin out the Lyman and putts around in her finally.

  2. John D
    John D says:

    The Cobourg-Kid stories are great – from the Symposium summary two weeks ago to this combo over the last two days. Never enough Canadian manufacturer articles for me.

  3. Cliff
    Cliff says:

    I just read that California has passed legislation on emissions on vintage boats in this piece. WHAT THE F#@&!!! Ok when did this happen? This is news to me, how did I miss that? I blame my self but um……what else have I missed….in woody boater land? Other than that, this great story. Oh I know what I missed did Matt deside on a 26′ Sea Skiff or a Riva or a XK-19?

    • Cobourg-Kid
      Cobourg-Kid says:

      Hey Cliff . With reference to the California emissions issue. I didn’t do any research to determine what emission standards or enforcement proceedures for recreational boats may have recently changed in Cali.

      Accordingly further research will be required to determine the extent of the current emission standards as they apply to recreational boat operation in Cali (and elsewhere).

      Perhaps some of our Cali viewers are knowledgable and can enlighten us?

  4. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    or a cruiser?

    btw, great coverage CK. We missed the Ontario workshops, great time to see everyone on that weekend, but a bit of a drive from the ATL.

  5. Dave Clyne
    Dave Clyne says:

    Another super report. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read Rich Hughes list. Just what I need to know and now I know why I have to keep in touch with Rich. Unable to attend that tour this year but will make every effort next year.

  6. Randy Milligan
    Randy Milligan says:

    Wanted to thank everyone for letting us showcase my uncles 280 Hydro. I can tell you that these events drive my passion for the regatta history. I was taken back to my memories of racing when I spoke with Brian Rhodes (70’s tunnel runner) and David Potts (hydro) who raced against Busted. See you at Gravenhurst I’m taking up both of my legacies.

Comments are closed.