Monday, January 20, 2014

Messing About in Boats

Photo by Frank Micklethwaite
One of the pleasures of summering in lake-land is being out on the water, perhaps gliding silently through the morning mist in a canoe, sitting patiently in a rowboat as you hope to catch a fish for your supper, or wafting across the lake with a breeze filling your sails. But when the affluent wanted to take their friends for a scenic tour or picnic, a steam launch was surely the way to go.

Wanda III
One of the grandest on the Muskoka lakes was Mrs. Timothy Eaton’s 94 ft. long Wanda III, built in 1915 at a cost of $34,000. Licensed to carry 44  people, she was the fastest steamer on the lakes, reaching speeds of 24 miles per hour. On board were special “Wanda III” dishes for elegant teas and picnics. The Wanda III is now owned by Muskoka Steamships, and can be rented for private functions.

Photo copyright Gabriele Wills
Because the steam yachts required licensed pilots, people began buying the new motorboats, which they could drive themselves. Boat building became important in Muskoka, with legendary builders like Ditchurn, Minett-Shields, Greavette, Duke, and others, whose beautiful, sleek craft still provide a sense of elegance on the lakes today. Many of them can be seen at the annual Antique and Classic Boat Show in Gravenhurst in July, where the above photo was taken. The Muskoka Boat and Heritage Museum there is also well worth a visit!

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