The Restless and the Roamer

Small015From the Charlottetown Guardian 6 September 1932:

Last evening the writer had the privilege of being shown through two of the finest launches in our harbour, namely the “Restless” and the “Roamer”. The former is owned by Mr. Hal Bourke and the latter by Mr. Malcolm Irwin.

Both these launches have Kermath engines in them and are equipped with radios, electric lights, refrigerators and toilets, all the conveniences of a modern home. The former boat “the “Restless” is 33 feet long and ten feet beam and travels at a speed of nine knots.  She has cruising accommodation for seven persons.  

The latter boat, the “Roamer” is practically the same as the “Restless.” She has a speed of eight knots and is 31 feet 9 inches long 8 1/2 feet bream. She can also accommodate seven people.  

Both Hal Bourke and Mac Irwin were active in boating before 1920 and were two of the first members of the Charlottetown Yacht Club. The Bourke residence overlooked Charlottetown Harbour near Pownal Wharf just east of what is now the home of the Yacht Club.   Mac Irwin lived on West Street and had an extensive boat building shop at the rear of the family business – The Irwin Printing Company.


The Roamer at Red Gap ,probably in the 1920s. Note the other, smaller flush deck cruiser and the Flirt, a runabout owned by Hal Bourke

The Roamer and the Restless were fixtures in Charlottetown harbour – the Restless was still actively cruising into the 1960s. I have been unable to discover to date where and when the two vessels were built.  At the time the design with its flush deck and sloping deckline to the stern were the epitome of modern motor boat marine architecture as popularized by the American magazine, The Rudder (copies of which were to be found in corners of the old sail loft in the original Charlottetown Yacht Club when I was a junior member).  The boats probably date from the early 1920s. The Restless is reported to have toured to the Bras d’Or Lakes in the simmer of 1924, calling in at Pictou, New Glasgow, and Wallace on her return trip.  Given the similarity of design it is probable that the Roamer dates from the same period

Mac Irwin had a seemingly endless series of boats. One of his earliest motor boats was the family launch Hermes built in 1912 by L & N Paquet of Souris. This 22 foot open launch was powered by a 5 hp Imperial motor from Bruce Stewart.  In 1920 an account of a picnic at the Stewart property on the West River mentions a large boat used to transport attendees but it is not clear if this was the Hermes, the Roamer or some other boat.


Roamer at Murray Harbour ca. 1930

Under the care of its owner and his friends the Roamer, like the Restless, was also used for many extended voyages.  Snapshots from the Fred Small Collection show the motorboat in Murray Harbour and there are references in newspaper accounts to Mac Irwin being in attendance at regattas elsewhere in the eastern part of the Island.

Roamer ashore behind the Bourke property. Note starboard location of companionway.


One of the difficulties with these two boats is telling them apart. As the newspaper report above notes the boats are almost identical varying only in length by a few inches and in beam by a foot and a half.  Moreover there were modifications made throughout their lives with changes especially evident in the deckhouse. From a completely clear flush deck a canvas top was added to both boats with a spray shield to protect the companionway and finally (at least on the Restless) a wooden cabin. I have been able to find no photos showing both boats in the same picture.  The only clear difference seems to be in the site of the companionway with the location on the Roamer at the starboard while in the wider Restless it was centred.


Restless at Pinette ca. 1930 with external rudder and midships companionway

Another indicator may be the external rudder which is clearly evident in some photos but is frustratingly hidden in most of the-photos available.  On the other hand it is not inconceivable that modifications made to either boat could have included changing the rudder configuration.  I have assumed that pictures showing the rudder are of the Restless. A similar canvas canopy seems to have been used on boat boats to shelter the otherwise open cockpit.

Small011-2The two boats were frequently used as committee boats for regattas and races in Charlottetown Harbour and often served to tow snipes and other craft to regattas held elsewhere, especially after the formation of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait in the late 1930s.

And when did the two boats disappear? We know that Mac Irwin launched a new plywood Roamer in 1956 so something must have happened to the old boat. The Restless survived for much longer but I do not know its fate. Perhaps a reader can assist in closing the chapter?

A few other Restless and Roamer photos. Click any image for a slide show.


11 thoughts on “The Restless and the Roamer

  1. Pingback: The Houseboat “Doris” | Sailstrait

  2. Pingback: Updates and Additions | Sailstrait

  3. Eric Bentley

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and have a few pictures that you would find interesting but can’t find any contact information on your site.

    My Dad was born in 1909 and grew up on the Charlottetown waterfront at 17 Water Street and my parents were both active members of the Yacht Club in the late 1930’s and the 1940’s. In fact, since they likely had a family membership at the time I entered this world in the mid 40’s, I suspect that I was born a member of the club!

    Dad and Mom were very close friends with Mac Irwin and spent a lot of time on “Roamer”. I don’t know if the painting of Mac still hangs at the CYC but it was painted by my mother, H. Eileen Bentley. I remember often playing in Mac’s boat shop in the back of the Irwin Print Company when I was a toddler and later would drop in there after school to watch Mac work on the second Roamer in the early 1950’s.

    My earliest memory of “Roamer” was as a young child of four or five and being on board the boat during a sailboat race. Someone got the bright idea that I should experience the delights of sailing and after short sail in rough waters on a cold, gray day, I still remember being terrified that the boat would tip over. After I was transferred back on to “Roamer” the adults were all in the process of assuring me that sailboats were safe and that they don’t tip over when they suddenly all became quiet as they rushed to help a crew that had been dumped into the cold Fall water when their sailboat flipped. Perhaps this is why I have had a series of power boats over the years.

    As I surmised, I was probably born a member of the Yacht Club but my parents sold their boat about the time I was born and later I remember spending many summer evenings and weekends with my ‘boatless’ parents on the front deck of the club. Dad returned to boating again in the late 50’s with a 14′ Mahone Bay runabout. (I have a rather blurry of dad rowing “Roamer II’s” dingy with Mac in front of the CYC taken about 1960.) I remember Hal Burke’s “Restless” as a pristine white boat with black trim and I think it was still around in the early 1960’s – but can’t say for sure.

    My own boating with my parents boat ended in the late 60’s when other interests prevailed. However, in 1984 I decided to get into boating myself and jumped in with both feet buying “Moonraker” from Stuart Ives and Johnny McInnis. I soon found out that for a first boat, maintaining and feeding a 34 foot, twin 8 cyl, 34 year old, wooden boat was not a hobby but a full time occupation. The following year I was one of the first 13 Yacht Club members to have their boats moored at the new extension of the Yacht Club located where the Peake’s Quay Marina is now located.

    So if you want to forward or publish your email address I will see if I can send you a few of my parents old photos. By the way, you have two pictures of “Roamer” up the West River that also show my parents old runabout “Mae West”. One of the pictures shows dad ‘flying by’ as Mac and Mom look on from “Roamer” taken in the late 30’s- early 40’s. The other picture is a front on shot of “Roamer” with “Mae West” tied up alongside. What is remarkable about this picture is that I also have a print of the identical shot. It is surprising to find that two copies of the same photo still exist after nearly 75 years!

  4. Pingback: Fred Small’s Yacht Club photos | Sailstrait

  5. Pingback: Charlottetown Yacht Club – A History in Five Photos | Sailstrait

  6. Pingback: When the motor boat was king | Sailstrait

  7. Pingback: Northumberland Strait Yacht Racing Continued into Wartime | Sailstrait

  8. Pingback: Launch and Retrive | Sailstrait

  9. Don McCabe

    I know what happened to the yacht Restless. My name is Don McCabe.I moved from Moncton to Cornwall PEI in 1976. While visiting the Ch’town yacht I noticed the restless in an old heavy cradle.It had been there a long time with an old weathered for sale sign on it’s side.The boat was about half way down the lot stern facing what is now Polly’s Wharf. I bought the boat from Don Martin,a real estate broker who owned her for many years and was well apprised of her history.During his ownership the boat achieved her 50th year in the water, receiving her painted gold stripe down both sides of the hull. I had had the boat moved to my home on John St.,Cornwall where I undertook to reconsruct..I can build/repair anything, but the Restless was too far gone.It took many months of work and dollars before I signed off.

  10. Don McCabe

    Have more details about the Yacht Restless as she was known. Pls respond to email below to verify that site is still active.

    1. sailstrait Post author

      Sorry Don for not responding sooner. The site is very much still active and I would be pleased to have any other details about the Restless.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.