Touring the beauty of Muskoka lakes in a boat made with cedar, mahogany, teak and brass, my mind is easily transported to 1940s cocktail hour with the Rat Pack. Stan Hunter’s boats are elegant, masculine and seriously sexy.
One of the best pleasures is meeting someone who is seemingly completely contented with life. There is an enjoyable envy at their happiness and comfort, and an awe at the contentment. This was my experience recently when I spent an afternoon on Lake Muskoka with boat builder Stan Hunter.
His restored vintage boats are an elegant connection to the past; a celebration of Muskoka’s history and beauty.
After studying philosophy and living in Toronto, his thoughts turned to Muskoka. His love for Muskoka and appreciation for vintage boats comes from spending summers there at his family cottage. His summer job was spent on a neighboring island taking care of a large collection of vintage boats, and today his family still owns his grandfather’s 1933 wooden boat.
Stan moved to Muskoka in 1982 and then purchased land on the water of Lake Muskoka in 1993. His location, once a busy canoe route from the east side of Lake Rosseau to Bracebridge, is lush and serene – the typical landscape you fall in love with in Muskoka.
“Being a summer cottager, Muskoka has always been our focus in my family of holiday and good times. It remains to this day, where my extended family all gathers and it’s a hard place to leave.” – Stan Hunter, Boat Builder
When he first moved here, there was work to be found in the service industry and boat building was busy. He had the good fortune to work with several mentors, including an apprenticeship with well known boat builder Ron Butson. He is also a long standing member of the Antique and Classic Boat Society of Toronto. One of his early boats was a double-paddle canoe; he built several of them and named each one after unrecognized boat builders. His workshop walls have framed pages from the book, The Boat Builders of Muskoka, recounting the vast history of boat building in Muskoka. His workshop, boat launch, livery and surroundings give proper homage to the builders that came before and to the beautiful landscape of the area.
He’s now been in the boat business for over 25 years and his son Crossley began his boat building apprenticeship with him in 2014. In 2009 he opened the Muskoka Launch Livery, providing rental of restored vintage wood boats to make the experience accessible to everyone.
I was curious, why boat building and why this particular style of boat? For Stan, it was an honest living, an opportunity to work with his hands. “At the end of the day, you can look and see what you’ve done. And be proud of it. It’s a product with a passion that is unique. Not a lot of other people are doing this, it’s a bit of a craft, it’s an art and it’s hands-on.”
Stan and Crossley will usually make one boat per year, while restoring a few others. The making of his most recent boat, Margeurite a 23 ft classic boat, is captured in the short film BoatBuilder by Lloyd Walton.
Rent boats through the Muskoka Launch Livery, also at 2757 Highway 118 W.
“The slower you go, the longer it takes.”, the Muskoka Launch Livery
Images via Stan Hunter