By Sherryll Sobie
2002 The Muskoka Sun Limited (Reproduced with permission)
Photos by Paul Brackley
Several fortnights ago,
across the ocean approximately 3,556 air miles from Muskoka, an
English gentleman by the name of Ken Baynton was surfing the
Internet in hopes of finding just the right person to build his ship of
In his mind's eye, Baynton's ship of dreams was an electric boat,
21 feet by five feet, capable of seating five people and equipped
with an Italian
engine strong enough to go six nautical miles per hour.
Then one day Baynton
stumbled upon www.brackley-boats.on.ca, a web site promoting custom
boat building in Canada, specifically Muskoka - a
name with which the Englishman was most certainly not familiar. Despite this
and the incredible distance, there was something about the Canadian wooden
boat building company that caught his eye - under the company logo Baynton
read: "Bring us your dream."
That was in September 2001. Today, nine months
and approximately 1,000 man-hours later, Paul Brackley of Brackley
Boats has finished the last
minute touches on Baynton's brand new, custom built electric boat,
appropriately called - Muskoka. According to Brackley, electric boats are
very popular in Britain because of the stringent environmental [laws] on
the Thames River.
The modest shop, located in Gravenhurst's Industrial
Mall, is currently housing two boats in various stages of completion.
cat's paw dinghy
made of western red cedar will be shipped to its excited owner in Minnesota,
while an 18-foot pulling boat with mahogany trim, called Liz, is going
someone in Toronto. Two more customers, two more dreams in the making.
Surely, Baynton and the others could find a boat builder closer to home.
Brackley agrees, but explains that in addition to their over 10 years
of boat building experience, international customers with strong
save big bucks. Brackley estimates Baynton is saving approximately $25,000
CDN (or about 10,000 to 12,000 pounds), "even with the shipping."
this stage, Brackley says about 95 per cent of his business is generated
from the Internet. In fact, he even goes as far as speculating that
Baynton would never have found Brackley Boats were it not for
the World Wide
Web. Brackley, along with two other helpers, built Baynton's western
red cedar boat with solid mahogany trim on the stem and sheer strake,
using the cold
molded, strip diagonal hull method of construction. "Just imagine
multiple veneer layers set at opposing angles to the shape of the
explains in layman's terms.
Brackley and his crew first drew Muskoka
in full size using sheets of plywood as an artist would use canvas. "Then
we shrunk it down to regular-sized blueprints for Mr. Baynton to
see," he says. So
far, Baynton has flown to Canada twice; the first time was in September
construction began, and again in May 2002 when he and Brackley
took the unfinished boat out for a ride. "He loved it and said
quality than in Britain," Brackley says smiling.
At the end of August,
Muskoka will be carefully crated in a container for its week-long
sea-faring voyage to England.
a true artist, Brackley places high demands upon himself to build
each boat to perfection using
only the best quality wood
prefers not to do the same thing twice. "I like to build a new
boat every time. I really enjoy the 'one-off' part of custom boat
"Years ago I did mostly restorations and canoe building. Now I'm primarily
building new boats," he says, listing off a huge range of styles
including (but not limited to) row boats, sailboats and of course,
According to Brackley, the most common request has
been for Whitehall style rowboats. "They are really pretty," Brackley
says, explaining their popularity. Before setting sail in his own
born and raised in Muskoka, gained valuable experience working
at wooden boat
building companies in the area. His introduction into the world
of boat building began at Muskoka Fine Watercraft in 1986.
he went on to Butson Boat Builders and Sundance Canoes for a
few more years. By the early 1990s, Brackley was ready.
10 years and many boats later, business is booming to the point
where Brackley must turn away work. Although Muskoka
a fair number
of boat builders, he says finding experienced help is difficult.
in the meantime, if you have your own ship of dreams,
and start your engines.