Classic boat owners seas the day

Jeff Horley aboard the ‘Would … Aye,’ a wooden sailboat it took him 26 years to build.

Like its creator, the ‘Would … Aye’ is a one of a kind.

Crafted and assembled piece by painstaking piece over 26 years in Jeff Horley’s shed, the 38-foot sailboat was a showstopper at the Antique and Classic Boat Show at Sarnia Bay Marina last weekend.

Built of African mahogany and red cedar, she features handcrafted brass fittings, crystal deck lights and a hot tub for those cool fall mornings.

“Many people like to look at a wooden boat but not many people want to own one,” said Horley, who has sunk about $200,000 into his baby.

The Imperial Oil retiree started building the sailboat at his home between Courtright and Brigden in 1987, and finally launched her last year.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “And because there were no plans I couldn’t really make a mistake.”

Many of the 25 beautifully finished and restored craft on display at the show were antique “rum-runner” style boats that were once all the rage on the St. Clair River.

The 4th annual event is a bit like a car show on water, said chairperson Gerrit Dykhouse.

“But you can go to a car show every weekend. These boats are much rarer.”

The rarest might have been a 1939 Peterborough Seafarer found rotting under a tarp in the Muskokas and lovingly restored by Alex Pawluchyk.

‘It was so bad that if you stood up in it you’d fall through the bottom,” said the Windsor man, who began the restoration by steam-bending new white oak ribs.

Today, the Canadian-made boat is one of only two in existence and the only one still on the water.

Also on display were a 1928 Runabout and a roomy 1961 Chris Craft Sea Skiff that was resurrected from the scrap heap by Corunna’s Roy Kennedy.

“I’ve been around the water a long time and I like to keep the old stuff going,” he said.

 – George Mathewson