Last time I promised to share with you the most exquisitely built guideboat I have yet seen. It is a so-called Raider, a guideboat class that is shorter than the common guideboat length of 15 to 16 feet long. Raiders where supposedly built to make “raids” on remote ponds and lakes where the fishing was worth the trip.
Willard Hanmer pointed out one of the major drawbacks of these smaller boats. Here is what he had to say about them in 1961:
“Sixteen (feet) was the standard length (for a guideboat) and that seemed to be the ideal boat for racing or carrying a load or anything else. Speed you never could gain over sixteen feet, and you would drop off sharply on anything under sixteen feet. For instance, the twelve, thirteen, and fourteen foot models I build today are nice, light boats to get back where the trout are supposed to be, but you can’t make speed in them. People aren’t looking for that. Nobody rows any distance anymore.”
Let’s look at some examples of Raiders. Here is one built by John Blanchard of Raquette Lake in 1935.
Blanchard’s boat, a beauty, hangs in the guideboat hall of the Adirondack Museum. It is 13′ 6″ long, has a beam of 38″, and weighs 53 lbs.
Here is another Raider, this one built by Ira and Ben Parsons of Old forge in 1905.
It is 14′ 3″ long, has a beam of 39 1/2″, and weighs 57 lbs. It is distinguished by partial ribs fore and aft that do not extend to the bottom board.
If you have been paying attention to the vital statistics of these boats you will have noticed an anomaly, or at least something odd. They both weigh about the same as a guideboat of the most common length of fifteen to sixteen feet. These boats generally weigh between 55 and 60 lbs.
So what is their advantage over their longer cousins since they are slower and weigh about the same? I have no answer to that question.
Finally the guideboat that wins my vote for the best I have ever encountered. I came across it during a visit to Blue Line Hardwoods in Long Lake this past summer. Keith Austin had just about finished restoring it.
So what is so riveting about this particular boat. Let’s look at the inside of the hull.
This, to me, is an extraordinary sight. Here the ribs are accommodating a severe reverse curve in the hull. They start out with a mild upward slope, then turn away abruptly, only to come back inward again. The planking, of course, has to follow suite. This means that one must back out (hollow out) a plank on one side and then the other depending on its position along the hull. That is quite a feat! Only a very few builders would attempt to do that and fewer still could pull it off. This sort of artistry in boat building is why some call the Adirondack guideboat the Stradivarius of wooden boats.
Here is the stern end of the Raider being restored. Note the plank seat which may have been the original or a copy of the original.
Keith told my that this boat was built around 1900 by the Grant shop. Its length is 12′ 6″ with a beam of 39 1/2″. The forward rake of the stem certainly is characteristic of a Grant boat.
Keith also had to remake a set of oars for the boat. One of the originals had snapped in two while in use.
The two oars on the left are those made by Keith while the one on the right is the original. These oars struck me as being particularly slender, almost dainty. They reminded me of a thoroughbred horse’s legs, built to provide maximum speed with the very least weight.
Next time: back to Seneca Ray Stoddard.