Boat building strengthens father-son bond
MUSKOKA — The Brown family has Muskoka in their hearts and shipbuilding in their blood.
That’s why the father-son team of Wayne Brown and his 17-year-old son Dan, whose family originally hails from Newfoundland, has spent the last two years working on a homebuilt gentleman’s racer.
The presently unnamed, 14-and-a-half-foot vessel represents an estimated 400 hours of labour for the two-man team. If you ask Wayne and Dan whether it’s been worth all that time, they’ll tell you that time is the main point of the whole project. The boat itself is just a fortunate end result.
“My dad and I just wanted to do something we could spend some time together on. We wanted a cool experience that would result in a sweet product at the end,” said Dan.
Prior to building the boat, Dan had no shipbuilding experience, but he has spent a significant amount of time around boats and waterways.
Dan spends his summers on Mary Lake working at Camp Mini-Yo-We. He hopes to be able to dock the boat at Mary Lake this summer and spend some hot days traversing the lake and cruising up the Muskoka River.
“Right now it is seaworthy,” said Dan. “If you put it in the water it would float, but we’re just finishing up the decking now.”
The boat is a dual cockpit design called a zip. It’s equipped to handle a 40-horse outboard, and according to Wayne it has a very “Muskokan runabout look to it.” The Browns bought the plans from a California company, Glen L Marine.
Wayne came into this project with a bit of boat construction experience already under his belt. Several years earlier he worked with his older son Peter to restore a Peterborough cedarstrip open boat. The construction went so well that Dan became interested in doing a more complex build with his dad.
“It has been a really good time. We’ve spent a lot of quality time together,” said Dan. “I’ve learned a lot about carpentry and, obviously, boat building.”
Constructing a boat of this type at home is no simple process. Working from blueprints the builder needs to construct the frame, attach a plywood hull, and coat it in fibreglass. Because the boat is built upside down, once the hull is complete a group of burly family and friends are gathered to flip the boat over so the deck can be built.
Wayne believes that his passion and pride for boat construction lies in his roots.
“We come from a boat-building heritage. We’re originally from Newfoundland so I have a number of uncles on my dad’s side who built boats out of necessity,” said Wayne. “They couldn’t afford to buy them and they were fisherman so they needed them to do their jobs. So they built them on their own.”
According to Wayne, the best part of the build has been the time it has enabled him to spend with his son.
“First and foremost, it has been an absolutely rewarding experience,” said Wayne. “It has given us a common topic to talk about. It would be just two of us out in the workshop together. I got to hear about what’s going on in his day and what’s going on in his life.”
That’s a big part of the reason the project has taken as long as it has. The team saw this as a hobby project and not something that needed to be rushed.
Wayne says Dan has spearheaded the whole construction and he can see the pride and appreciation his son feels for the boat.
“(Dan) will often step back and look at the boat as if he’s looking at a beautiful car or piece of furniture and just muse about how neat the lines are and how it just looks so attractive,” Wayne said.
Before hitting Muskokan waters, the boat will first be launched in the duo’s hometown of Barrie at Lake Simcoe, if all goes to plan, in the next two months.
As construction of the boat nears completion, Dan now has to put his mind toward naming the boat, a fact that only very recently occurred to the builder.
“We’re getting near the end now and in the midst of us working away it kind of struck him that ‘Oh yeah, I have to get a name for this thing,’” said Wayne. “That is his honour and his responsibility. So he’ll be thinking of that over the next couple of weeks.”