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Adirondack Explorer

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Guideboats truly inspiring

Adirondack guideboats display their gorgeous lines.
PHOTO BY NANCIE BATTAGLIA

Mike Lynch’s article [“Building on tradition,” September/October 2016] was a fine report on an inspired (and inspiring) group of guideboat builders, but I’d like to add some thoughts.

Guideboats typically have three caned seats, not one or two, and the boat is rowed from the bow; the middle seat is for solo rowing, or for another passenger (like the stern seat, it was often equipped with a backrest).

To call guideboats “heavy and a bit bulky” is rather a slap in the tumble-home. Their beam may be wider than most canoes, but their gorgeous, sculpted lines make canoes and kayaks look like skinny bathtubs.

In 1960 my brother and I spotted a guideboat-for-sale sign on a yard in Saranac Lake. It was a sixteen-footer buried under a lot of junk in the back of a barn. We took it to Willard Hanmer to have him check it out, and he said it was “a Willie Martin eggshell,” built around 1905 by the only son of the man who started Saranac’s first hotel. Willie was known to shave his boats into a featherweight class; this one weighed fifty-five pounds. We bought it for $100, and we have been taking it out on Adirondack waters just about every year since, always a thrill. Once it blew off the top of my Volkswagen in Keene Valley, flipped over, and glided to a stop in roadside weeds, undamaged.

We were told the letter P scratched into one of the decks was the mark of a guide named Scott Patterson. If anyone out there knows anything about him I’d love to hear it.

Richard Figiel, Ticonderoga

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