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To Learn about Wooden Boats of Canada and 1000 Islands

The historic and picturesque lakeside city of Kingston, Ontario will become the focus of the Antique and Classic Boat universe on the weekend of April 5 and 6, 2013 when it hosts a well-respected group of speakers and old boat historians in the city known as “The Gateway to The Thousand Islands”. The Wooden Boat Expo and Seminar will bring together many of the most notable authorities in the Antique and Classic boat world of today. 

A first class educational line up will be the key feature of the symposium and will include a stream of Canadian and St. Lawrence River themed presentations focused on the history of the region’s legendary watercraft. The wooden boats of Canada and the Thousand Islands have been known for more than one hundred years for the fine craftsmanship, unique styling, design and construction that made them superior in the eyes of their buyers and owners of the early 1900s. Those characteristics are even more highly prized by enthusiasts and collectors today.

Wooden boat building has been a central piece of the economy of Ontario and the shores of the St Lawrence River since before the advent of the steam and internal combustion engines. The early builders who had specialized on building St Lawrence skiffs and sailing craft adapted their skills to make use of the light weight steam power plants and gasoline engines as they became available in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Canadian boat builders such as Ditchburn, Greavette, Barnes, Minett, Minett-Shields, Shepherd, and Peterborough were joined by Thousand Island builders such as Hutchinson Brothers, Fitzgerald & Lee, Andress, Gilbert, and many other small one man shops too numerous to list.


Symposium Speakers

Denny O’Neil, One of the highlights of the seminar will be Denny O’ Neil presenting a screening of his feature film “Dreamboats of Muskoka “. The Muskoka region of Ontario has long been famous for its magnificent collections of antique boats housed in architecturally significant boathouses. Mr. O’Neil’s film introduces many of the key Muskoka boat personalities to his audience.



Tony Mollica, the noted wood boat historian and author of many books on classic boats, will present a discussion on Hutchinson Brothers boats. Hutchinsons are well represented on the St. Lawrence from Kingston to Brockville, and an essential key part of the collection of the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. The world’s largest runabout, Pardon Me, was built by Hutchinson’s and is currently being restored by the ABM. Mr. Mollica has published award winning books on many of the historic wooden boats built and running on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Tony is a long standing Trustee of the Antique Boat Museum, and was just recently inducted into the Hagerty Marine Classic Hall of Fame.



Bev McMullen-Ditchburn Boats

Bev McMullen is an award winning journalist and principal photographer for Metroland North Media in Muskoka, Ontario. She has produced a number of books with Boston Mills Press and with American Publishers on subjects close to her heart - wooden boats and roads. She wrote the book Ditchburn-a Muskoka Legacy with Harold Shield and continues producing books with Andrew Wagner-Chazalon.

John Zidner-History of Shepherd Boats

John has been involved in the construction of boats since he was a child, working with his father. A cabinetmaker by trade, John’s father had built 3 boats by the time John was in his teens. Three of John’s friends owned Shepherd boats while he was growing up, instilling in him a lifelong interest in these classic Canadian wood boats. Ownership in an 18 foot and 28 foot Shepherd boat along with a 28 year history of hands-on restoring and photographing Shepherds affords him a unique perspective to share.


Fred Gilbert- Gilbert Boats

In May of 1893, Nelson Gilbert boarded a train with two paddling canoes headed to the Chicago World’s Fair. “Miss Canada” and “Geraldine” were so well accepted that upon his return, Nelson was in the boat building business. Gilbert Marine went on to build a variety of boats ranging from skiffs to runabouts, and some exquisite long deck launches. Fred Gilbert is the grandson of the man who started it all, and continues to operate Gilbert Marine- an operation rich in wooden boat history along the St. Lawrence River.


Tim Duvernet- Contributor to Wood and Glory

Timothy Duvernet’s family has cottaged in the Muskoka region since the turn of the Century. For well over 30 years, the family cottage near Brackenrig Bay has been his summer home. Tim has a long standing association with the Antique & Classic Boat Society and is the photographic editor of Classic Boat Magazine. His photographs have been featured in numerous books, national publications, and boat show posters.

Ian Turnbull- Boat Builders of Muskoka

As a youngster at the family cottage on the Indian River near Muskoka, Ian fell in love with wooden boats. From 1960-1966, he had a summer job driving commercially owned Ditchburn boats for resorts on the three Muskoka Lakes. Ian lives in Port Carling and has a long association with wooden boat shows and the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Center. He loves exploring the story behind certain boats built by the Muskoka builders and their place in time.

Mary Storey- Archivist of the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society

Mary serves as an archivist for the Toronto chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society, The Dispro Owner’s Association, and The Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society. She is a proud owner of two Greavette boats and has spent countless hours researching Muskoka boatbuilding heritage. She has been a teacher, consultant, and professor for over 45 years. As an active member of the education, collections, archives, and exhibit committees at the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Center, Mary has an endless passion for wooden boats and Muskoka history.

Jamie Smith- Miss Canada IV

Jamie Smith, the authority on Miss Canada IV, is the Executive Producer of Harold & Lorna World Water Speed Champions and the Miss Canada IV Restoration Project manager. He is a past president of ACBS Toronto and a former Director of ACBS international. In 2005 he was responsible for publishing Celebrating 25 Years ACBS Toronto. He was also a consultant to the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society’s philanthropic programs for RMS Segwun, Wenonah II, Wanda III and the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst from 2005 through 2007.

Most antique and classic boat enthusiasts are aware that Kingston was once Canada’s Capital. However, they may not be well versed in Kingston’s rich heritage of ship building. The April 2 and 3, 2013 Wooden Boat Expo and Seminar will be co-hosted by Kingston’s Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes and Kingston Steam Pump Museum. Both Museums have graciously offered to open their doors to their facilities and exhibits to attendees of the Wooden Boat Expo and Seminar. Event organizer, Peter Mellon, President of Antique Boat America/ Antique Boat Canada, says his ”organization is working hard to bring together a renowned group of wooden boat lecturers to provide an interesting and informative event for antique boat enthusiasts at the mouth of the St Lawrence River.” Attendees will be able to stay at the Marriot Hotel one door away from the Maritime Museum located on the shores of Lake Ontario. Mr. Mellon promises a weekend of learning about classic boats with interesting lecturers and exhibits, great food and camaraderie, and a chance to see some of Kingston’s most historic sites.

*Information on the April 5th and 6th 2013 Wooden Boat Expo and Seminar can be found at www. or (800-675-4089)*

By John Peach

John Peach and his wife, Pat, live on Huckleberry Island near Ivy Lea from May through October. The rest of the year they reside in Princeton, NJ, although John continues to make frequent return visits to the Islands throughout the winter. John retired several years ago from his career in international business. His family has owned a place in the Thousand Islands for over 50 years. John is a past president of Save The River, and is still active on the Save The River board.

Click here to see John’s other articles for TI Life.


  • April 5 & 6 2013 conference in Kingston, ON

    April 5 & 6 2013 conference in Kingston, ON

  • Two locations for the conference

    Two locations for the conference

  • Pump House Steam Museum, 23 Ontario, Kingston, ON

    Pump House Steam Museum, 23 Ontario, Kingston, ON

  • Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes, 55 Ontario, Kingston, ON.

    Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes, 55 Ontario, Kingston, ON.


Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Linda Springer
Comment by: Linda Springer ( )
Left at: 9:18 AM Friday, March 15, 2013
I have a question, Do you have any records of boat builder , William Cirtwill, or Cirtwell, Rockport , On..Hill Island?
Our grandfather built Last years of life lived in Landsdowne,On.. Really like this site.
Tom King
Comment by: Tom King ( )
Left at: 4:23 PM Friday, March 15, 2013
I am really looking forward to attending this symposium in April. The line-up of topics and speakers looks terrific!
John Peach
Comment by: John Peach ( )
Left at: 5:26 PM Friday, March 15, 2013
Linda. I am not familiar with Cirtwell Boats, but i will keep my eyes and ears open. It is always fun to find "new" builders. We live on Huckleberry island, about 100 yards from Hill Island. The rockport area had some very skilled builders,
Thank you
Tom. I
ll look forward to seeing you at the Symposium.
Comment by: Linda
Left at: 9:48 PM Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Anyone have an image or manufacturer of what appears to be an Aqua Flyer small wooden vintage boat? Kingston or Gananoque Ontario Canada area?
Rob Calver
Comment by: Rob Calver
Left at: 10:55 AM Saturday, November 19, 2016
Enjoyed the article. As the former owner of River Runner I'm reminded of how quickly the experiences pass. I purchased that boat from Mark and Christine Armstrong of T.I. Park many years ago. Put a new transom in it and loved the cab when the river became angry. Spent many days on the river with this beauty fishing, picnicking and potters Beach swimming. Awesome memories. It brings back.lasting memories if Jim and Toni and rides in the Pardon Me with friends and Cedric. Thank you !!!!

Rob Calver
Jupiter, Florida