Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Wooden boats show off a timeless tradition

Marcus White
Posted 9/6/18

BEATTY TWP - Chris O’Connor sat barefoot cleaning his boat on Sunday morning at The Landing north of Cook. The late morning ritual shined up his old 1956 Shepherd boat for visitors to the annual …

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Wooden boats show off a timeless tradition

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BEATTY TWP - Chris O’Connor sat barefoot cleaning his boat on Sunday morning at The Landing north of Cook. The late morning ritual shined up his old 1956 Shepherd boat for visitors to the annual Lake Vermilion Antique and Vintage Boat Show.

The show is most known for several wooden boats which are displayed each year.

More than a hundred people made their way onto the rickety, narrow wooden docks to see nearly two dozen boats restored to their former glory.

“I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years,” O’Connor said. “I just love the look of the wood.”

O’Connor was one of the founders of the boat show 29 years ago when he volunteered to help a group of boaters debut the show at the docks of the old Bayview Resort near Fortune Bay in the 1980s.

Since then, he said, his boats have appeared in nearly every show, whether at the old Bayview Resort or the show’s present home at The Landing.

O’Connor’s Shepherd boat is his fifth boat he’s restored since finding the hobby decades ago. It was acquired in 1999 from a dealer in Montreal, Canada.

From original mahogany air scoops to the original steering wheel, no detail was left unfinished in the old boat’s restoration in its nearly two decades on Minnesota lakes.

The boat, O’Connor said, which was also originally manufactured in Canada, has unique features, including the wooden scoops. He said since similar modeled boats made in the United States almost always used chrome trimming instead of remaining consistent with the craft’s wooden framework.

The captain, who spends most of the year in his home town of Minneapolis, said his passion for the water crafts came from another hobby – model airplanes – and while the method of travel for each is different, O’Connor said the basic principles of working with the old wood is the same.

Across the docks, Paul Ludlow showed off his 1987 Skiff Craft.

Ludlow said wooden boats ran in his family’s blood, with his grandfather purchasing the family’s first in 1947.

Where O’Connor has made restoration a major part of the hobby, Ludlow said his boat was more for leisure, and he had purchased it with that intent.

He added there were other boats in the family, including his grandfather’s original and many were restored and maintained by various family members. Boats were not the only sights and sounds on Sunday.

The Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade was an honorary sponsor of the event, and not only had their own watercraft docked to show off, but also an information and souvenir booth for people to view when their legs got a little shaky from walking the docks.

Representatives from the Bob Stouts Land o’ Lakes chapter of the Boat Restoration Society also had information handy for future captains who may want to get into the hobby of wooden boat restoration.

Live music was provided by the local band, Bittersweet.

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