The systems involving small craft include not only fishing gear and boat-building tools, but also elaborate means of trade . The dugout evolved from the ancient design of Indians inhabiting the southeastern United States. When the "big" cypress were abundant, the boat builder would enter the swamp, search out his tree, and mark it to be cut later. The log was cut to the desired length and then halved, so that there were two basically equal pieces. Dugouts on Catahoula Lake were used in the marsh and swamp for, among other things, the trapping and transporting of wild hogs.
The design of the dugout was an asset for working in marsh and swamp environments, although the craft could also be used on open water. When not in use, dugouts were generally stored underneath the house, sometimes packed with moist Spanish moss, to prevent drying and cracking.
The boat that has assumed the function of the dugout on Catahoula Lake is the plank pirogue.
Marine plywood, a strong, water-resistant pine plywood used to build most small working boats today, is used to make plank pirogues. The gunwales are first beveled; that is, the center of the board is marked two inches from the bottom, tapering to zero on either end (Plate 2). The flatboat was used to transport goods, animals, and people to areas of high ground during periods of inundation. The flatboat was usually constructed of cypress lumber and was built to the desired specifications of its maker. Many of the older residents of Catahoula Lake were born and reared11 on houseboats, also called "camp boats or shanty-boats." They were usually tied to the bank of one of the lake's many tributaries.
Houseboats of this type and function are probably non-extant today having been replaced by metal houseboats for recreational use only. The skiff is a sharp-bowed wooden boat very popular before the advent of the outboard motor.
A commercial fisherman himself, Vernie Gibson states, "We used to think a sharp-bowed boat would take the rough water better like it would cut the water." There are many disadvantages of fishing in a skiff. The bottom of the skiff is made of marine plywood, and the gunwales are made ideally of heart cypress, although they can be constructed from plywood instead. The skiff was supplanted in popularity among commercial fishermen by the bateau, the most widely-used wooden boat in use on the lake today. Plate 6: Catahoula Lake-style bateau built by Vernie Gibson, housed in the Louisiana Folklife Center. The bateau, also called the johnboat, is the most popular wooden boat built today (Plate 6). The Catahoula Lake-style bateau is approximately fourteen feet long and fifty inches wide at the bending timber, again one-third the boat length from the bow. There is some variation in boats constructed by different builders (Plates 5 & 6), but the basic construction techniques are the same. Plate 7b: Vernie Gibson (left) and Joe Barron with a bateau they built for the Red River Revel. The fishermen who use wooden boats claim that wood absorbs the shock of the waves in Catahoula Lake better than a metal boat. Although metal boats are equipped with flotation chambers, they will often float with only the bow exposed should they overturn. The number of people building wooden boats for their own use or for sale to others has diminished noticeably in the past fifty years. Practitioners of this craft generally keep their plans in their heads, preferring to forego the use of complicated and cumbersome patterns; therefore, their talents die with them.
These boatbuilders are not afraid to experiment or modify a given design, and will adapt aspects of designs they have seen to fit their needs. Carrying on the Catahoula Lake boatbuilding tradition, Joe and Mickey Barron and Boone Kitchens are replicating boat styles of the lake in the form of miniature boats. The advent of metal boats and the changing ecology of the lake spell the end of production of wooden boats on Catahoula Lake. 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”.
A first class educational line up will be the key feature of the symposium and will include a stream of Canadian and St.
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. 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 “.
Tony Mollica, the noted wood boat historian and author of many books on classic boats, will present a discussion on Hutchinson Brothers boats. Bev McMullen is an award winning journalist and principal photographer for Metroland North Media in Muskoka, Ontario.
John has been involved in the construction of boats since he was a child, working with his father. In May of 1893, Nelson Gilbert boarded a train with two paddling canoes headed to the Chicago World’s Fair. Timothy Duvernet’s family has cottaged in the Muskoka region since the turn of the Century.
As a youngster at the family cottage on the Indian River near Muskoka, Ian fell in love with wooden boats. 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.
Most antique and classic boat enthusiasts are aware that Kingston was once Canada’s Capital. John Peach and his wife, Pat, live on Huckleberry Island near Ivy Lea from May through October.
Anyone have an image or manufacturer of what appears to be an Aqua Flyer small wooden vintage boat? The extensive waterways of the state have provided access to most major locales by means of small craft. It is an ephemeral water body, at flood times filled with waters of up to forty feet, and in other seasons so dry that cattle can be grazed on the lake bed and hay harvested from it, as well. The remaining Catahoula Lake boat types adhere to Knipmeyer's characteristics, and are identified by type, use, and construction. As documented by Le Page de Pratz in 1774, the Indians constructed craft of some thirty to thirty-five feet long made from a single log, generally cypress, poplar, or tupelo gum. Mickey Barron, whose father made dugout canoes in the 1940s, cannot recall one having been crafted in the area for more than thirty years. Mickey remembers her father boring holes into the log with a brace and bit, a tool used for boring, inserting wedges into the augered holes, and splitting the log in two.
Mickey Barron and her brother Boone Kitchens, remember their father taking several months, from the procurement of the log to the finished dugout, however Emerick Sanson could construct one in about fifteen days.7 Cyrus Kitchens was primarily a trapper and farmer, and worked on boats when he could, which may explain the disparity. Cyrus Kitchens lined the bottom of his dugout with hogs trussed for transporting from low to high ground in flood times.8 They were also used as a means of transportation within limited areas. A dugout could be paddled from either side and, if the need arose, could be reversed as well. If kept in a damp, closed environment, the cypress wood of the dugout could be preserved for many years.


Solid cypress was used in the past; but, again, the scarcity of large cypress trees precludes its use today. The process on either end is the same on the pirogue, since the bow and stern are virtually identical. It was employed in cypress lumbering activities in south Louisiana9, as well as on Catahoula Lake. When cattle were open-grazed on Catahoula Lake, flatboats enclosed by pens (pen boats) were used to transport them from one area to another. A self-professed "river rat," a term applied to houseboat dwellers, Vernie Gibson recalls the houseboat built by his father. In bayou environments, it has a tendency to bog down in the water, and a trot line pulled in on one side of the boat will cause it to veer in the opposite direction. The skiff in Plate 5 (still functional, but not in its intended use) now houses a worm bed. Its popularity comes from its stability and ease of handling in most of the lake's environs.
The flair is three inches wider than the bow, and the gunwales are ideally twenty inches high. Blocks and gunwales are preferably constructed of heart cypress, and the bottom from marine plywood. A wooden boat, they say, will outlast several metal boats, since metal ones begin to leak after about a year.
If a fisherman capsizes in cold water, it is difficult for him to maintain a hold on a metal boat. There is an obvious respect for the tools and the wood needed to make a good boat, and there is little excess or waste. These miniatures are not toys, but careful examples of the working boats that have characterized the boating tradition on Catahoula Lake in the past (Plates 8 and 9). When the few remaining boatbuilders are gone, there will be no one to take up the tradition. Henry Glassie, in Introduction to "Folk Boats of Eastern French Louisiana," by William Knipmeyer, American Folklife, ed. Lawrence River themed presentations focused on the history of the region’s legendary watercraft. 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. The Muskoka region of Ontario has long been famous for its magnificent collections of antique boats housed in architecturally significant boathouses. 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.
A cabinetmaker by trade, John’s father had built 3 boats by the time John was in his teens.
From 1960-1966, he had a summer job driving commercially owned Ditchburn boats for resorts on the three Muskoka Lakes.
She is a proud owner of two Greavette boats and has spent countless hours researching Muskoka boatbuilding heritage. The rest of the year they reside in Princeton, NJ, although John continues to make frequent return visits to the Islands throughout the winter. Not only do these waterways continue to provide transportation and lines of communication, but they are also important economic resources. The lake waters can change so suddenly that, according to Vernie Gibson, "Water that was five foot one day will be twelve foot the next day you fish it." The Catahoula Lake complex involves a variety of environments--lacustrine, riverine, bayou, backswamp, and marsh--each providing a separate ecosystem, and each impacted by the activities of man. Before European introduction of the steel axe a ring of fire was kindled around the base of the tree to be used for the dugout. Tools used in the manufacture of a dugout included a long-handled foot adze, hatchet, plane, draw-knife and short-handled, deeply curved hand adze also called a boat howl. If a hole occurred in the hull of the dugout, the hole was squared, and a piece of wood was cut to fit it.
The headblock and tailblock, solid pieces in the bow and stern of the boat, are still made of cypress.
When the gunwales are bent and attached to the blocks, the beveling allows each end of the pirogue to rise slightly out of the water. Vernie Gibson remembers being paid $2.12 per ten-hour day in 1919 for "wildcatting cypress" on Big Bayou. Flatboats were an invaluable asset to the inhabitants of the lake, providing a safe exit from low-lying areas.
It has been beached since then, but the solid design of the boat would allow it to be used again after minor repair.
The house superstructure was built on a hull constructed of four-inch gunwales, tapering slightly up at either end and a bottom of two-inch heart cypress. The flat bottom and almost square ends provide stability, allowing one to fish from either side of the boat. Ideally, the gunwales are cut from the same timber, something a good boat builder can usually detect.
While the design is basically the same, bateaus often differ in the bow, gunwales, or waling reflecting the needs or preferences of the boatmaker.
When offering a reason for his preference for wooden boats, Vernie Gibson said, "There's not a metal boat built safe enough for me yet. The cost of materials required to build a wooden boat is almost equal to the price of a comparable aluminum boat; however, time and labor almost double the cost. Although lacking formal education in many cases, the boatmaker holds complex formulas for adding and taking off pounds, achieving the desired rake and flair, and for building a boat that is even and "runs true"--no simple task. With the loss of this craft, an aspect of material culture that reflects the nature of Catahoula Lake and its people will be gone. 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. 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. Lawrence from Kingston to Brockville, and an essential key part of the collection of the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. She wrote the book Ditchburn-a Muskoka Legacy with Harold Shield and continues producing books with Andrew Wagner-Chazalon.
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. Gilbert Marine went on to build a variety of boats ranging from skiffs to runabouts, and some exquisite long deck launches. Tim has a long standing association with the Antique & Classic Boat Society and is the photographic editor of Classic Boat Magazine.
Ian lives in Port Carling and has a long association with wooden boat shows and the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Center.
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.
The boating tradition is associated primarily with southern Louisiana, but it is also strong in the Mississippi floodplain, especially in the area of Catahoula Lake. Wooden boats have been developed that utilize these environments to their maximum efficiency, some adapting to changes in these ecosystems, some remaining basically the same through time. It takes a real good, straight cypress log with no knots to make one." The scarcity of cypress logs large enough to construct a dugout, and the technical ability involved, almost precludes their production today.


The patch was caulked and glued into the hole and then sanded to conform to the shape of the boat. The bottom piece is cut from a single piece of plywood, as are the gunwales, commonly called "gunnels." As with all wooden working boats except the dugout, the frame of the pirogue is constructed first, then attached to the bottom. The gunwales are aligned lengthwise, the way they will be placed on the finished boat, and spreaders are placed eight inches from each block.
The boat is constructed, as are all small working boats, using carpenter's glue and galvanized nails. The harvesting of cypress logs in this manner was extremely dangerous and required two men in pirogues, one on either side of the tree, sawing together.
The boat has been set upon large cypress logs to insure that the bottom boards-do not decay. They were sixteen to twenty-four feet long then, with two sets of oarlocks and would easily hold sixteen to seventeen hundred pounds of fish.
The gunwales are beveled one and one-half inch to zero on either end, beginning one-third of the way from the bow end at the bending timber. Diminishing supplies of heart cypress and marine lumber have also contributed to the decline. Published for the Louisiana American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, Baton Rouge: LSU Press, pp. Gregory, "The Black River Commerical Fisheries: A Study in Cultural Geography," Louisiana Studies 5, 1 (Spring 1966), 18.
The world’s largest runabout, Pardon Me, was built by Hutchinson’s and is currently being restored by the ABM. 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 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. His photographs have been featured in numerous books, national publications, and boat show posters. He loves exploring the story behind certain boats built by the Muskoka builders and their place in time. 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.
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. Both Museums have graciously offered to open their doors to their facilities and exhibits to attendees of the Wooden Boat Expo and Seminar. Wet clay was used to form a barrier that prevented the fire from spreading beyond the desired perimeter. Dugouts were generally twenty to thirty feet long, but those produced most recently were seldom more than fifteen feet long, attributable to decreasing availability of large trees. Spreaders are the supports on either end from which the gunwales are bent and attached to the blocks, achieving the pointed ends. It may or may not be painted with a copper-based sealant, then it is painted with an oil-based paint.
When the tree began to fall, the boats were shoved away in directions opposite the falling tree. The tailboard is one and a half to two inches thick because of the tremendous strain on the timbers. The paucity of heart cypress has forced the boatmaker to use the less desirable sap cypress, the yellow outside layer of the cypress tree that surrounds the heart of the tree. John is a past president of Save The River, and is still active on the Save The River board. When the outside was roughed out, auger holes were placed in the gunwales, the sides of the boat, to determine how thick they were to be. Timbers, or bottom supports, are placed approximately fifteen inches apart down the entire length of the boat, and are attached to the gunwales one by one. Boats are removed from the water and painted on the average of twice a year with the paint filling any cracks and insuring a better seal. The hull was sixteen feet long and twenty-six to twenty-eight inches deep, creating a flotation chamber between the hull and the deck. The bending timber is attached to the gunwales first, then the timbers are place approximately fourteen inches apart to the bow. The gunwales are straight from the stern to the bending timber, then are pulled in to the headblock to give the bow its rake. The few boatbuilders left can only hope to pass their craft down to family members as the decreasing demand for wooden boats makes unfeasible a dependence on boatbuilding as the primary source of income.
Mollica has published award winning books on many of the historic wooden boats built and running on the shores of the St. The bottom of the canoe was not entirely rounded, but flattened slightly near the widest part of the center. The timbers graduate in size from small to larger from each block to the center, the widest timber achieving the desired flair of the pirogue. The boards of the hull were overlapped for protection against leaks and possible punctures.
Remaining timbers are placed in the same manner to the stern, and the tailboard is attached.
The knees, the side support pieces, are one and a quarter inches wide and are regularly spaced inside the gunwales and attached to the bottom timbers.
Vernie Gibson, a master boatbuilder, has five grandsons, but none seem interested in carrying on his tradition. 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.
The boat-form was inverted and the inside was hollowed using the foot adze, hatchet, and the hand adze.
The houseboat measured sixteen by sixty-two feet inside, with a sixteen by twelve foot screened porch. The gunwales are then pulled in from the bending timber and the headblock is attached, raising the bow slightly. As with boats mentioned above, the frame is constructed first in the same process as with the skiff and is attached to the bottom piece. Tony is a long standing Trustee of the Antique Boat Museum, and was just recently inducted into the Hagerty Marine Classic Hall of Fame.
There were three large rooms, one serving as the kitchen and the other two as sleeping rooms. The waling piece is flat at the top and bevels down to the gunwales at the bottom, preventing nets and traps pulled over the edge of the boat from snagging. Because the kitchen contained a large wood stove, the possibility of fire was always a danger.



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