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Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again

One of the most luxurious steam yachts of the Thousand Islands was a floating fixture on the St. Lawrence River during the area's Gilded Era.

Now the restored vintage vessel - which once sank in the Boston Harbor - is almost ready to sail back to Brockville. Today the majestic Magedoma is afloat again, under its original name, the Cangarda, in California.

"The boat's up and it runs fine," said boat builder Jeff Rutherford of Rutherford's Boat Shop in Richmond California. "It's due to leave for New England soon."

The 109-year-old steam yacht will sail from its current port at a marina in California to the Atlantic Ocean after a remarkable restoration project to owner Bob McNeil's summer home in Maine. The boat will winter at a maritime museum in Mystic Connecticut and McNeil hopes to sail the steam yacht back to the St. Lawrence as soon as next summer, said Rutherford.

"He wants very much to do a visit in the Thousand Islands," he said.

The restoration of the 138-foot steam yacht is to be featured on a television program called Ultimate Restorations. The Cangarda is considered among the last Victorian era steam yachts in the world. It took a crew of 30 eight years and to bring the vintage vessel back to its original glory. The cost of restoration is at $12 million US.

It was an epic project for Rutherford, who restores classic yachts and specializes in marine woodworking. "I didn't know the first thing about steam yachts until this came along," he said, adding: "You just look at it one piece at a time."

The Magedoma sailed the Thousand Islands for more than four decades. Senator George Fulford bought the steam yacht for $100,000 in 1904 from owners Charles Canfield, a Michigan lumber mogul. The Cangarda was named after owner Canfield and wife, Belle Gardner. Fulford rechristened it, The Magedoma after his family (MAry, GEorge,DOrothy,MArtha). The boat had a crew of up to nine men including a cook, steward and fireman. It had four double staterooms, drawing room, dining room, staterooms for the captain and engineer and a bathroom with a shower.

The millionaire famously made his fortune by patenting "Pink Pills for Pale People” in 1890 and marketing them around the world.

He held lavish parties aboard the yacht which he kept outside his Edwardian estate in Brockville. But he didn't get to enjoy the Magedoma for very long. He died in one of the first motor vehicle accidents in North America a year later.

The Fulford family kept the steam yacht for decades, entertaining dignitaries aboard including Prime Ministers and British royalty. High profile guests included Canadian Prime Ministers Sir Wifrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Kent and the British Prime Minister. Fulford's daughter Martha's wedding to second husband Charles MacLean was also held aboard the Magedoma in 1908.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King kept handwritten notes of one such voyage in his diary, noting on Aug. 5 1927: "It was a perfect day, a perfect sail, the scenery exquisite, the passage smooth."

The family loaned the yacht to the Canadian Navy during World War II as a training vessel in the St. Lawrence. It was returned to the Fulfords after the war with damages in need of $13,000 in repairs. They sold it shortly after and it changed hands several times.

An attempt was made to restore the boat in the early 1980's. The ship was disassembled and an effort was made to rebuild the hull but the project ran out of money. In 1999, the gutted hull sank at Boston pier. But it was rescued shortly thereafter and a search began for a new owner.

McNeil, a venture capitalist in Marin County California, bought the Cangarda in 2002 and the restoration project started at Rutherford's Boat Shop. The yacht was disassembled and sent in bits and pieces to the West Coast where Rutherford and his team began their work. The hull was rebuilt, the Victorian interior was reinstalled complete with Cuban mahogany woodwork.

The vessel slipped into Richmond's Marine Bay Aug. 24th, 2007 and was finally afloat again. But the boat has required more work since then and is awaiting a certificate of inspection from the US Coast Guard before it embarks on its journey back to the Atlantic Ocean and - ultimately - the Thousand Islands.

The plan is for the Cangarda to be on display at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut during the winter and Maine during the summer.

Local historians are ready to welcome the steam yacht back to familiar shores. "We hope to host the Magedoma at some time in the future," said Pamela Brooks, coordinator of Eastern Ontario Museum Sites, at Fulford Place. "We'd be very excited if it did come."

But reminders of the antique yacht remain in Brockville.

A former bedroom in Fulford Place is now dedicated to the Magedoma complete with a model of the steam yacht. It's just one of many displays in the 35-room Edwardian mansion with 20,000 square feet which Fulford built in as a sprawling summer retreat for his family in 1901. Now a National Historic Site, Fulford Place first opened as a museum in 1993 when George Fulford II bequeathed it to the Ontario Heritage Trust.

A street in Brockville, Magedoma Drive, is even named after Fulford's steam yacht.

The steam yacht, Magedoma sailed the St. Lawrence River for nearly 40 years - a return would mark a legacy voyage for the vintage vessel which found a home port here in the Thousand Islands more than a century ago.

By Kim Lunman

When Kim Lunman returned to Brockville in 2008 researching Island life and meeting islanders soon became Kim’s passion.  Over the past two years, Kim has written almost fifty profiles. In the fall of 2008, Kim joined our TI Life team to help create our monthly online magazine.  At the beginning of May 2010, Kim's new company, Thousand Islands Ink, distributed 25,000 copies of  Island Life, as an insert in eastern Ontario with distribution through the EMC papers and in New York though the Thousand Islands Sun. We recommend getting Island Life to see other photographs of Magedoma as well many other island stories.

Kim recently wrote: “I can't help but think Paul Malo - who wrote so much about the Magedoma - would be thrilled with the news the new owner may come back to the Thousand Islands on it for a voyage as early as next summer. The Rutherford who took these photos is the 16-year-old son of the restoration expert”.

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Rex Ennis
Comment by: Rex Ennis ( )
Left at: 8:21 AM Monday, May 17, 2010
Loved this, I can' wait to go and see it. Emery's was similiar only it was 145 ft. Call me sometime I am working on a new project which might interest you.
Louis Richards
Comment by: Louis Richards ( )
Left at: 8:13 AM Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Delightful article! Cangarda was moored in Rochester for three decades; in fact, had it not been for the care & devotion of liveaboard owner/preservationist Frederick Burtis Smith S/Y Cangarda might not even exist today.

It is exciting to think that this Victorian treasure may soon return to the East Coast and, most especially, to the Thousand Islands!
Paul Grigsby
Comment by: Paul Grigsby ( )
Left at: 12:56 PM Friday, May 21, 2010
In the mid 1970s I had the pleasure of docking my 28' Morgan on Cangarda (rafted to it). Low water had forced us out Braddocks Bay late in the season. Frederick Smith allowed us to raft off of Cangarda until haulout. After several weeks of only seeing the deck of Cangarda as we walked across it to our Morgan. Mr Smith engaged my wife and I in conversation and after a few minutes of asking him about the history of Cangarda, he proceeded to take us on an extensive tour of his yacht. It was his dream to rebuild Cangarda himself. The lower deck was filled with lumber and parts. Mr Smith lived on the Cangarda in the owners cabin. The galley was functional and served as his kitchen and dining area. The boiler in the engine space, was operational and used to heat Cangarda in the winter. Mr Smith lived aboard year-around.
I am really looking forward to seeing Cangarda when it returns to the 1000 Islands.
Louis Richards
Comment by: Louis Richards ( )
Left at: 9:47 AM Thursday, June 3, 2010
Paul Grigsby, thank you for your kind remembrances of Frederick Smith. Too often when I read articles of Cangarda there is scant, if any, mention of Mr. Smith and his efforts to preserve this most singular yacht.

Indeed, if there is any question of “Who saved Cangarda?” the answer surely must be: Mary Wilder White Fulford, who maintained the yacht for over three decades following her husband’s death in 1905, and Frederick Burtis Smith who maintained and lived aboard Cangarda for almost 30 years; together, they comprise nearly 70 years of the yacht’s history.

Mr. Smith was born in April of 1901, the same month Cangrada was launched, and was an avid “steam” enthusiast. When he purchased the yacht, then named Magedoma, from D. Cameron Peck of Chicago (a notable automobile collector, restorer, and historian), Mr. Peck’s collection included over 1500 antique, classic, and modern automobiles as well as Cangarda/Magedoma.

Following its loan to the Canadian Navy during WWII, Cangarda was returned to the Fulford family; and, after changing hands several times, the yacht came into the possession of Mr. Peck. At that time, Cangarda was in dire need of repair and Mr. Peck laid out a plan to commence restoration.

Subsequent to Cangarda’s purchase by Frederick Smith many accoutrements introduced by Mr. Peck, such as a massive stone fireplace in the owner’s stateroom, were removed. Mr. Smith, an architect, avid steam enthusiast and member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, found the devices ill-proportioned and not original to the yacht.

Financial problems stalled Mr. Smith’s renovation of Cangarda, though he was able to live aboard and keep the yacht in one piece until his late 80s, at which time he sold Cangarda to Richard Reedy of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The rest, as they say, is History.

Nonetheless, when discussing this unique piece of Maritime History – Cangarda is the sole surviving example of steam yachts built during the Edwardian Era in America - I think it is essential to mention, and give full credit, to the remarkable stewards Mary Fulford and Frederick Smith.
Scott Baldwin
Comment by: Scott Baldwin ( )
Left at: 12:48 PM Friday, June 4, 2010
For those that might be in the area, the Cangarda is currently visiting the San Diego Maritime Museum, and is open to the public. It will be at the Museum until at least June 10th, and probably longer, as it is awaiting transport by ship to the east coast. It is tied up alongside the Museum's own restored Edwardian steam yacht, the Medea. These are two of the three remaining Edwardian steam yachts left in the world. On May 15th the two participated in a race on San Diego Bay, with the Medea beating the Cangarda by a nose. So if you are visiting San Diego stop by the Maritime museum and have a look.
Gail Carmichel
Comment by: Gail Carmichel ( )
Left at: 12:49 PM Tuesday, July 20, 2010
While vacationing in Maine last week we came across the Cangarda moored in a small cove off one of the Islands in Penopscot Bay. She is sharing the cove with the Joyant, another of McNeil's boats. It was an unexpected privledge to see it and an absolute beauty.
Steve Malette
Comment by: Steve Malette ( )
Left at: 4:28 PM Monday, March 14, 2011
Kim, As you already know my great grand father Captain Julian Malette and his son John (my grand father) sailed for the Fulford's steam yachts "Dortha" and then "Cangarda" (Magedoma) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I really appreciate the historical information in your two articles. I viewed Magedoma at the warehouse in Fair Haven on the East Coast and then attended the launch in Richmond on the West Coast. If Mr. McNeil brings Cangarda to Brockville I would find a way to visit and add to my vast collection of photos. The story of this yacht's restoration is nothing but amazing!!
Capt Andy Brosnan
Comment by: Capt Andy Brosnan ( )
Left at: 10:28 AM Monday, May 23, 2011
Had the pleasure of seeing the Congarda on the Hudson, sat 5/21/11 from the deck of the boat I work on, MV Commander, a 1917 wooden boat. the Congarda is beautiful and was amazed to see her history. Glad she is headed to her home waters. Safe passage and all the best to her and her crew.

Capt.s and crew of the MV Commander
steve ingram
Comment by: steve ingram ( )
Left at: 12:14 PM Tuesday, June 7, 2011
i saw the Congarda last night for the first time it is beautiful to bad it was dinged on the stbd stern i'm sure some body work will fix it she steams along beautifully as i saw the crew take her from blockhouse island over to the fulford boathouse
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 10:15 PM Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Eleanor Murray
Comment by: Eleanor Murray
Left at: 12:22 PM Sunday, June 5, 2016
My late brother found a similar yacht rusting in a boatyard in England in the early 1970s and attempted to restore it and make it seaworthy by himself. I can't remember what it was called then but I think it was something that sounded like Lally. It sank several times in the Thames when he was living on it there. I don't know what happened to it after he sold it around 1977. Was the Fulford yacht ever in England?