The Spirit Of Lal Buddi Is Still Alive!

Original Lal Buddi-1

Original Lal Buddi

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Chris Ritchie for send in this nice story about his life long love of Woody Boats.

As a child I grew up on The Big Rideau Lake, Ont Canada.  So fortunate to literally spend every summer on The Big Rideau until I was about 16.  My first real memory of a wooden boat was about 7 yrs old.

Original Lal Buddi-2

Original Lal Buddi

It was early spring/summer and I was looking for my blow-up raft.  I headed into the boat house and dad was in it, floating under the family boat which was still on rafters from the winter painting the hull.  I think I was upset because it was now all covered in copper colored paint!  I just remember that day because it was the first time I remember seeing the Lal-Buddi out of the water. So big, so massive.  The Lal-Buddi was a 1952, 24ft, 3 cockpit Richardson built for my grandfather, Jake.  So many great memories.  The sound when she initially firing up, the low deep rumble when idling,  the jet of water firing out of the exhaust,  how she slide through the water, how her bow raised when planning,  the rainbows caused by the spray off the stern….it was always my happy place.  Unfortunately the Lal Buddi has been lost.  However, this did not stop my lifelong appreciation and love affair for wooden boats.

Just recently my childhood dream of replacing the Lal-Buddi presented itself.  It’s funny how if you ask the universe for something, it will deliver.  I was fortunate enough to pick up a 1949 Century Resorter.  Actually my Dad found it.  It has a very similar hull design as the Lal-Buddi.  I currently live in Scottsdale AZ, and the boat was is Kemptville Ont, about 4hrs East of where my Dad lives.  With that being said, next thing I knew the boat is in my Dad’s driveway.  What just happened?!?  Ha.  So booked my airline ticket and off I go to see, touch, smell, bond with Lal-Buddi II.  No doubt she needs a “hug”.  We really didn’t know the last time she was in the water or ran.  So off I go to Picton Ont, for a week.


My goal was to drive it off the dock!  What a fantastic week.  I spoke with Dave Van Ness, what an amazing experience with him.  Order new carb kits, fuel pump, points/condenser and cap & rotor.  My dad has an amazing local mechanic (Les Walker – Picton Ontario) who knew these Gray Marine Fireball V6 motors.  So, was able to be Les’ assistant while going through the systems etc.  Then the moment arrived.  Hearing it run!  Les and I did the bucket/by pass hose deal while at the shop and got it to fire. After a very long nap, she woke up with a vengeance, she’s alive!  What a moment!!  My heart was jumping through my chest.

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OK, half the battle was done.  She ran.  Now phase 2 was getting her in the water.  Yikes.  The following day, time to go down to the harbor.  Oh boy.  Had a commercial pump in the bow and another in the stern.  Slowly backed the stern into the drink and just let her float a bit off the trailer.  Then water just started flowing in.  Not having anything to compare to, I thought for sure something was wrong. It was like the kitchen sink faucet was on.  But over a few hours, the water level maintained and then said screwed it.  Backed it all the way in.  She popped off the trailer and you could see her smile!  What a great moment.  Seeing her tied up at the dock, bathing in the sun.   She continued to soak up over the next 36 hrs.  The pumps were not kicking on and the bilge was doing her job.  That’s another story, she’s a 6 V system.  The bilge is a 12v.  My mission was almost complete.  She runs and floats but my goal was to get her off the dock.  So, got her running, up to temperature and Les tuned the dual Zenith carbs.  I turned to Les and said….c’mon let’s do this.  Let’s leave the dock.  I can’t do it without you.  My dad was in his boat as a chaser, just in case we needed a tow.  We threw the lines and I engaged reverse.  Just love that rear gear engagement sound.  Goal accomplished…she floats, runs and off the dock!  Engaged in forward and off we go.


And wow, even at idle she wants to run!  She been woken up from her long nap and ready to stretch her legs.  Unfortunately I was not able to keep the transmission engaged in forward by herself.  Hopefully just an linkage adjustment.   Without really looking into the tranny, didn’t push it and we just idled around the harbor. Even though we didn’t get open her up, still such an amazing buck list moment.  So fun!

What is/was amazing to me was everyone’s love, help and appreciation for this old wooden boat to see water again.  No way, couldn’t  have done this without the help of my dad.  Huge help!  Les, left the hospital the day after his son was born to wrench on the motor.  Mr. Publow for allowing me to use his boat launch and dock to soak up, checking on her during the first night.  Fellow wooden boat owners on the Big Rideau checking in.  In a time where “community” seems to be falling way side, this was not the case here.

Now back in Scottsdale and will be heading up to Big Rideau for a couple weeks with the Lal Buddi in August.  I can’t wait to really get some hours on her on my childhood lake!

Chris Ritchie

17 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great story. That is what the Woodyboater life style is all about. Enjoy her Chris, and thank you for saving another one!

    • Chris Ritchie
      Chris Ritchie says:

      Thanks for the support Greg! It’s been such an amazing journey. I’m heading up to the lake for 2 weeks at end of July, so will really get some hours on her this next go around!!


  2. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    Love the boat and story. Will the boat stay up north or do you have thoughts of taking back to Arizona? I hear the desert climate isn’t kind to wood boats.

    • Chris Ritchie
      Chris Ritchie says:

      Thanks John! Family is still on The Big Rideau Lake and in Picton Ont, so she’s stay north. I need the excuse to get out of the 115 AZ summers 🙁

  3. Tom
    Tom says:

    Nice story Chris. You bought the boat in Kemptville that is where I live and I didn’t even know the boat was around. Looking forward to seeing it in August at the show and perhaps in July while I am on vacation up at Chaffeys.

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Thanks Tom! Enjoy your vacation at Chaffey’s. Always loved that part of the system. My intent was to drop in at Kingston and run through the system to Big Rideau (Portland). Unfortunately just enough time in the boat to feel confident enough. Next year for sure!

  4. Doug Vittum
    Doug Vittum says:

    Great story Chris.
    Have friends on Big Rideau Lake. One of my favorite boating
    areas in the North East.
    Not many Centuries up there, we may spot you as we cruise
    Happy Boating,

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      Hey Doug, I’m right there with you. Big Rideau is a little slice of heaven and no doubt we know some of the same people. I’ll be looking for any excuse to get out the water, so please say hello if you see the boat.


  5. Randy White
    Randy White says:

    Was lucky to spend two summers on that boat with my grandparents (Jake and Helen) as well. So very nice to see that the memory of the Lal Buddi is alive and well.

    I miss those times of my childhood.

    • Chris Ritchie
      Chris Ritchie says:

      Hi Randy,

      Thanks for the kind note. Did you know my grandparents or my dad or aunt’s?

      • Randy White
        Randy White says:


        I wish I knew them more but being on west coast limited access to everyone. I spent 2 glorious summers at their cottage. I remember Larry, uncle Harry next door, Andrea, Ron, etc. Diane (Larry’s sister) is my mom.

        My memories are still so vivid, I want to take my wife and son to Fancy Free island for a holiday so they can have experiences like I did.

  6. Carole Decker
    Carole Decker says:

    My dear Christopher… I am an old lady of 76 years and my very best friend in the world was Diane Ritchie, daughter of Jake and Helen. I started going to Diane’s cottage around 1950. I have wonderful memories of the old boat house and the majestic Queen that lodged in it’s belly. I had never seen such a wonderful boat and I can still hear the purrrr of its engine when we were taken out in all kinds of weather. Such beautiful wood.. . such opulence…… Your description of your own boat, now coming to life, was wonderful. … it brought a little lump to my throat. Good Luck to you as you lovingly restore her… Thanks to your Mom who shared your story with me – and regards to your Dad – that little nuisance that followed us everywhere.. Hi Lawrence! – Carole Crumback Decker

    • Chris Ritchie
      Chris Ritchie says:

      Hi Carole!! Thank you so kindly for the great note! I hope you are well and having a fabulous summer!


  7. Beth
    Beth says:

    Great Story Chris, I remember your dad and grandfather. We are located at the Pines. Neighbours. Your story has been posted to the BRLA Facebook page. Happy Boating. By the way, next year Parks Canada is offering free lockage for Canada’s 150th. Birthday. Beth Evans

  8. Chris Ritchie
    Chris Ritchie says:

    Hi Beth! Small world. I know your place so well and your boathouse. I use to play with the Esterbrook kids. My mom side is a Callan, down by Briton Bay. Thanks for posting on BRLA FB page. So fun. I’ll be up on lake next weekend, I’ll look for you on the dock. Can’t wait!!


    • Beth Evans
      Beth Evans says:

      Enjoy your visit!! By the way, the Estabrooks are our cousins and Kerry is there this week.

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