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Charlie Cliffe, We Thank You.

Charlie Cliffe died at his home in Lansdowne, ON, on Friday, February 10th, 2017 at the age of 86. Certainly, his family and friends will remember Charlie for the outstanding contributions he made to our marine communities throughout the Thousand Islands.  Charlie Cliffe Workshop

We at TI Life will remember Charlie Cliffe from Tom King's November 2011 article "No son, It is a Cliffe Craft." The article, filled with photographs of Charlie's boats, referenced his life and his passion for building pleasure craft enjoyed by so many families not only in the Thousand Islands but around North America.  We take this opportunity on behalf of so many to say -   Charlie, you made a difference in building pride in our Thousand Islands and we thank you.

We present two special tributes:  

Suzanne Richter, Director, Thousand Islands Boat Museum, Gananoque, On

Charlie and Cliffe Craft boats have always been a significant part of the Thousand Islands Boat Museum. With his guidance as a boat builder, mentor and River historian, Charlie collaborated with the Museum on exhibits, was part of our events and most importantly shared his stories.

BrochureFor over 67 years Charlie was a River boat builder who constructed more than 2500 boats known for their sturdiness and superior design. Many of these vessels are still on Ontario waterways. Charlie always said the boat he was most proud of was the Joseph E. Rogers, a 35-foot patrol boat, used by the OPP to patrol Georgian Bay. It was one of the largest Cliffe Craft boats, most of which were 16-foot Island or the 26-foot Cruiser models. In 1989, Charlie, his wife Mollie, and his daughter Sarah opened Wilstead Woodcraft, a small family business that hand-crafted beautiful cedar strip, St. Lawrence Skiffs, in 16 and 18 foot models. Their small shop is just around the corner from the family farm, where Charlie got his start in the business. Each boat is a true, unique work of art.

Tom King, TI Life Author

I was very saddened to learn of the recent passing of Charlie Cliffe. Charlie was a true craftsman, who left behind a very impressive legacy, yet he was also a humble man. The boats that he and his company built touched the lives of a great number of islanders over the years. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to sit down with both he and Mollie to gather information on the history of Cliffe Craft and to be able to write an article on the subject that met with their approval. I am also very pleased to see that the 1000 Island Boat Museum is ensuring that examples of Charlie’s work are still available for the public to see and appreciate, and that Cliffe Craft gets a place in the local history that it deserves. Rest in peace, old friend.

A Blue Cliffe Craft
”No son it is a Cliffe Craft” by Tom King for TI Life
Photo Ford Family Archives

Written by Tom King posted on November 13, 2011 22:35

Opening paragraph: 

The warm spring sun reflected brilliantly off the freshly varnished woodwork as Jack Preston guided his brand new blue and white “Commander” into the fuel dock at Cuttle Marine. As the gas attendant assisted with the lines he gave the boat a thorough once-over before remarking, “That’s a beautiful new Lyman you have there sir.” Jack, slightly surprised at the comment, responded, “It’s not a Lyman”. Caught off-guard by his error the pump jockey quickly recovered and announced, with some authority, that it must be one of the new Chris-Crafts that he had been reading about. Chuckling to himself Jack proudly informed the young lad that, “No son, it’s a Cliffe Craft, and it was built right here in Gananoque”.  And so another case of mistaken marine identity was resolved and the name Cliffe Craft became known to yet another resident of the Thousand Islands.   Read More

  By Susan W. Smith, Editor, Thousand Islands Life Magazine

  • Charlie Cliffe photo.JPG

    Charlie Cliffe photo.JPG

  • Cliffe Craft Building Gananoque, ON. Cliffe Family Archives

    Cliffe Craft Building Gananoque, ON. Cliffe Family Archives

  • John W. Murray Police Boat, O.P.P. Museum

    John W. Murray Police Boat, O.P.P. Museum

  • Red-bottomed Link Boat, J.W. King Photography Collection

    Red-bottomed Link Boat, J.W. King Photography Collection

  • St. Lawrence Skiff. Wilstead Woodcraft

    St. Lawrence Skiff. Wilstead Woodcraft

  • Partner Tom Connor working with the Wire Reels. Cliffe Family Archive.

    Partner Tom Connor working with the Wire Reels. Cliffe Family Archive.

  • Joseph E. Rogers Police Boat. O.P.P. Museum

    Joseph E. Rogers Police Boat. O.P.P. Museum


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.


Randy and Linda Pilszak
Comment by: Randy and Linda Pilszak
Left at: 10:00 AM Saturday, March 18, 2017
We are very humbled to have known Charlie for the short time we did. His memories and stories were invaluable. We will miss him. We will continue to restore his boats and put them back on the river. If anyone reading knows where the 35' OPP cruiser is we would be grateful to hear from you. We wanted to find it before he passed but we're unsuccessful. We will continue the search in Charlie's memory. Condolences to his family. Rest in Peace Charlie.
John Holmes
Comment by: John Holmes
Left at: 7:25 AM Sunday, April 9, 2017
Charlie Cliffe was a one in a million. My family enjoyed owning a Cliffe Craft for 30 years and have passed the torch to the Pilzak family who restoring it WE enjoyed this boat every summer spending every moment possible on board 20 of those years berthed in Gananoque Municiple Marina When you see RELAXER II on the river think of Charlie
John and Carolyn Holmes
We wish Mollie and family the best Proud to have had them involved in our boating life