Monday, June 29, 2015

Vintage Boat Show

Kittyhawk - copyright Gabriele Wills
There’s something seductive about vintage wooden boats. Perhaps it’s the rich lustre of lacquered mahogany, the gleaming brass fittings, the sumptuous leather upholstery, and the way the long, elegant displacement hulls glide effortlessly through the water. Admirers of these Rolls Royces of watercraft are in for a treat on July 11 in Gravenhurst, Ontario, for the 35th annual Antique and Classic Boat Society Show. Well over 120 of these lovingly maintained or restored boats will be lining the docks of Muskoka Wharf.

The photo above, taken at the Boat Show in 2011, is of the Kittyhawk, once owned by aviation pioneer, Orville Wright, who spent over 25 years summering on his beloved Georgian Bay island.

 This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Disappearing Propeller Boat – more affectionately known as a Dispro or Dippy – which was first designed and manufactured in nearby Port Carling. The clever craft was basically a skiff with a small engine. The propeller could be raised into a housing and would do so automatically if it hit an obstacle or the boat was beached. Touted as “the greatest little motor boat afloat”, some still putter around the lakes. And yes, that’s a Dippy on the cover of The Summer Before the Storm. For more info, see this previous post.

My characters own all manner of watercraft, from Dippies to steam yachts and “gentleman’s racers”. In Under the Moon, a couple of them become boat builders, inspired by the legendary Muskoka craftsmen like Ditchburn, Minett-Shields, Greavette, and Duke.

Showcasing these magnificent craft year-round is the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst, which features North America’s only in-water display of working antique boats. Admission to the museum is free for those attending the Boat Show or taking a cruise aboard one of the steamships.

Many would agree with Ratty, who says to Mole in The Wind in the Willows, “there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

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