This is the earliest picture I have of me on the water. I’m the towhead sitting in my mother’s lap. The guy reaching for a match is my father’s best friend. Can’t ID the rest, although I can say there are a lot of them because we used to cram ourselves into these slab-sided pine skiffs from the Cutler Lake Lodge in North Ontario to get to the far end of the lake to spend the summer at my Grandpa Dirk’s fish camp.
These boats were amazing. Sixteen feet long and five feet wide, they were cross-planked on the bottom with the sides coming up at right angles. (They could easily have been Phil Bolger’s inspiration.) Billy McKnight, an old-time woodsman, logged the trees, milled them into thick boards and nailed them together with 10-penny nails. Painted grey and red, they were pushed by six-horse Johnsons. Despite constant use and abuse, they held up well. The last one found a permanent mud berth about 10 years after this picture was taken. Thirty years later I still find the bones of Billy’s old boats on the bottoms of quiet bays.
In those lodge skiffs I learned that pounding through the waves to a far shore in a sturdy wooden boat is just about the best way for a boy to discover adventure.