When the motor boat was king

Today the fleet of the Charlottetown Yacht Club is pretty generally split between sail craft and large motor cruisers. It not always so.  In the 1960s there was another class of boats which in numbers probably out weighed both sail and cruisers. It was the hey-day of the outboard run-about.  Outboard motors had been around since before the Great War when Ole Evinrude developed the concept in 1907.  However it was not until the 1950s that  the engines were popularly adopted in the Charlottetown area. During the period prior to and between the wars even small boats were powered by inboard engines, many produced by Bruce Stewart & Co. in Charlottetown.  During the 1950’s engines increased in size with boats having as much as 35 and 40 horsepower!


Photo courtesy Ron Atkinson.

Photo courtesy Ron Atkinson. Notice the cars lined up on the Hillsborough Bridge approaches to watch the race.

Several of the club owners built their own boats, usually incorporating plywood over a frame (and since this was the 1960 some designs sported tail fins)  but some of the boats were molded plywood, a new design technique that had originated with aircraft production during the war.   Although there was some racing, the variations in horsepower played a significant role and unlike in sailboat racing an effective handicapping system did not develop.  There was a considerable amount of competition as to who had the greatest number of horses pushing their craft. Art Love was a consistent leader in the horsepower stakes. The outboard motor was a great family craft and made for quick get-aways across the harbour for a swim or up the West river to Red Gap or as far as Bonshaw for a picnic, drawing on a boating tradition which went back scores of years.

Although outboards continue to be part of the club fleet the emergence of fibreglass hulls and larger displacement has meant that the character of the boats has changed.  Few, if any, are owner-built.  Most are now small cruisers, many with closed cockpits and navigation stations,  but they continue to be family boats and are certainly among the most used boats in the club.

These photos are from the collection of Ron Atkinson. Most are reproduced from 35mm slides. I hope they bring back happy memories. Click on any of the images below for a slide show of the photos.




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