Tag Archives: Malcolm Irwin

L & N Paquet – motor boat builders of Souris

In 1912 motor boating was the coming thing for Prince Edward Island. Unlike the province’s roads where the use of motor vehicles was highly regulated, being allowed only on certain times or days or not at all, the waterways were open for traffic. There was a dramatic increase in the number of motor boats in Charlottetown Harbour. Some were locally built  but many of them came from the East end of the province.

Guardian 18 March 1912

Guardian 18 March 1912

L. & N. Paquet (Leander and Nelson) were boat builders in Souris who supplied craft to fishermen and fish packers. They built a number of stock boats from 20 to 25 feet and offered a package of a 22 ft. boat with 2 1/2 horsepower engine for $125.00. They also built larger vessels and in the same year supplied a 50 foot launch with 24 hp motor to the St. Andrew’s sardine fleet. Initially building dories and row boats (including several for the Hillsboro Boating Club) they quickly moved into gasoline boats for the fishing industry. The Paquets built a number of launches for Bruce Stewart including the Imperial II launched in 1910. By 1913 they advertised that they could supply any type  of boat from a row-boat to an ocean-going cruiser. They had a successful sideline in pleasure craft as seen by the following excerpt from the motor boat column in the Guardian on 1 April 1912:

L. & N. Paquet, of Souris, who have built a number of boats for parties in Charlottetown, have just issued an illustrated catalogue in which are described the various types of boats which they can put out. They constructed the three Imperials, and the house-boat Doris, all well-known here. They are acknowledged leaders in the manufacturing of fishing and working boats, large number of which they put out each year from their factory at Souris.

They have lately added to their stock models a 22ft. V. bottom, which they construct either for heavy work or for pleasure. In ether case the boat gives comfort and speed, and when the construction is lightened and sufficient power installed the boat will prove to be very speedy. One of these boats is now being built for a Charlottetown customer and will be down here next month, when all interested will have an opportunity of seeing what she will do. There is no mistaking the place the V-bottom is going to occupy in the pleasure class and the Paquets, who really love their work, and turn out beautiful boats, will doubtless have many inquiries as soon as the boats are given a trying out.  

Houseboat Doris built by L & N Paquet

Houseboat Doris built by L & N Paquet

It is probable that the author of the glowing report was a young Malcolm Irwin. A month later it was he who was the “Charlottetown customer” who took delivery of the new 22 foot cruiser. Equipped with a five horsepower engine she was expected to reach a speed of ten miles per hour.  In June a twenty-foot boat arrived by train from the Paquets for a group of ten young Charlottetown men who had clubbed together for its purchase.  The group included Austin Trainor, Ivan Hughes, Frank Steele, Fred Skerry and others. This boat, christened The Orient, also had a five horsepower Bruce Stewart Imperial engine mounted under the forward deck. She was capable of carrying a party of twenty at eight miles per hour.

The boom in motorboats may have been a victim to the outbreak of the Great War and in spite of the Paquet’s skill the Souris business was not a success. In November 1914 the entire plant, equipment and land were offered for sale by the assignee. I have not been able to find a copy of the firm’s 1912 boat catalogue and none of their boats appear to have survived.

Mac Irwin and the origins of Northumberland Strait yacht racing

Sail1 (3)

Class 3 yacht “Mic” owned by Simon Paoli in a stiff breeze – Charlottetown Harbour about 1936

The 1930s saw a quickening of interest in yacht racing in towns all along Northumberland Strait. Yacht Clubs had been founded or had had re-organizations in Pictou, Charlottetown, Borden, Summerside, Amherst and Shediac.  Several clubs had regattas and regular club racing and visiting boats from other clubs were always welcomed at the local events.  However it was a loose arrangement. There were no standard classes and attempts to introduce handicaps were not always successful.

A movement to formalize racing began in Shediac  and in February of 1936 a meeting was held in Moncton which resulted in the creation of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait. Each of the Yacht Clubs on Northumberland Strait was represented on the new organization’s executive and Mac Irwin of the  Charlottetown Yacht Club was elected vice-president.  In an interview with the Charlottetown Guardian Irwin noted that standardizing the classes would end the “wearisome task of setting handicaps and the unpreventable dissatisfaction which usually follows handicap races.”  Irwin noted “… there was nothing friendly about the “friendly”  competitions rival clubs used to hold.”

Irwin, who had built a large number of sailing and motor craft in his workshop at the rear of the Irwin Print building on Richmond Street, was asked to submit a design for the organization’s “model yacht.”   His proposal for the “Mic-Mac” class was accepted as the association’s standard.  By the end of May 1936 the first boat built to the new design had been launched in Charlottetown. The Mic was owned by Simon Paoli and the boat had been built by Irwin himself.  At the time of her launch Irwin had a second boat, later to be called the Mac under construction for his own use. Other boats were being built in Summerside, Pictou and Shediac. All were expected to take part in the 1936 season’s racing.


Commodore Fred Morris’ motor cruiser “Elizabeth” prepares to tow Class 3 yacht “Mic” about 1936.

With the development of a standardized design the new boats became class 3 of the  Yacht Racing Association’s measurement system.  The “Mic-Mac” boats measured 22 feet overall with a 16 foot waterline, 6 foot beam and had a hollow spar rising 28 feet above the deck. The racing boats displaced 1600 pounds with 600 pounds of the weight being in the lead keel.   The craft carried a maximum 200 sq.ft. of canvas.  Spinnakers were not allowed in the class.  Crew was limited to three.  While there were older boats in Class 3 any new boats had to strictly abide to the measurement rules.

In the years between 1936 and the outbreak of the Second World War there was active racing competition on the Strait. Except for the largest classes boats were usually towed to the regatta ports. Almost all activity, except at the club level, was suspended for the duration of the hostilities although races under the banner of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait were continued beginning in 1947. By that time however the popularity of the Class Threes had been eclipsed by the popular Snipe boats which were smaller and easier to build.




The Houseboat “Doris”


Invariably referred to as the “Houseboat Doris” this craft was one of the most recognizable pleasure craft in Charlottetown harbour before the Great War. She had arrived in late June 1911 after a nine-hour trip from the builder’s yard in Souris where L and N. Paquet had a  thriving business which they later moved to Baddeck Nova Scotia.  The following year the Paquets used the Doris’ hull design for a smaller twenty-two foot launch for Malcolm Irwin who planned to mount a five horsepower motor.

The forty-foot houseboat was a practical design. Within the ten-foot beam was a dining saloon, a cooking room, the engine room, a toilet and lavatory, two staterooms and a forward saloon which could be converted into a stateroom if necessary.  A two and a half-foot passageway ran the length of the boat. The engine room housed one of the latest engines from the works of Messrs Bruce Stewart and Co. – a two-cycle, 12 horsepower Imperial – which gave a speed of nine miles per hour when tested in Souris Harbour.  The design of the boat was by  E.E. Griswold of Long Island, New York who had also designed several runabouts, all called the Imperial, for Bruce Stewart.

Unlike the runabouts the Houseboat Doris had bilge keels which would allow her to be run ground without straining the keel.  A more visible feature was the railing around the upper deck which allowed the cabin roof to be used as a viewing platform.

Houseboat Doris at Bonshaw Bridge

Houseboat Doris at Bonshaw Bridge

The Houseboat Doris was built for J.P. Hood, publisher and owner of the Charlottetown Guardian from 1896 to 1912. It is likely that connection that is responsible for our knowledge of the boat and its activities.  She was very much at home on the West River and was a fixture at the annual Guardian staff picnic carrying Guardian staff to the picnic grounds at T.A. Stewart’s property at Westville.  Hood made a number of improvement over the span of ownership. The engine was increased to 15 horsepower, electric lighting was added. The interior fit-out allowed for sleeping accommodation for twelve with springs and mattresses.

Although hardly a racer the Doris participated in the 1912 Georgetown regatta with Malcolm Irwin as captain. Entered in the cruising motorboat class she was reported as making good speed for the first five miles before an obstruction in the cooling tubes and an overheated engine forced her retirement from the race. In July 1914 the Houseboat Doris was taken on a major excursion. Again under the command of Malcolm Irwin and with Engineer Freddie Bourke aboard, the Doris took a number of young ladies and Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Hood on a tour of Northumberland Strait with stops at Tidnish (only seven hours from Charlottetown via Cape Tormentine), Pugwash and Tatamagouche.  And that was only the beginning. As the Guardian reported:

Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Hood have closed their residence on Bayfield Street, and with the other members of their family will spend the remainder of the summer in their comfortable and well-appointed houseboat, Doris, in cruising on the beautiful West River. With exception of the two Misses Hood , who drove up in their carriage, the family left Charlottetown yesterday on the Doris on the initial trip of the cruise. The Misses Hood who drove will join the Doris at an appointed rendezvous, and for several weeks the family will make the houseboat their home with the prospect of a time of considerable pleasure. 

Doris 2

Hood sold the Guardian to the Burnett family in 1912 and in 1916 he was planning to leave the Island. The Houseboat Doris was offered at tender but when that process did not yield the expected results she was sold at auction. In August of that year the Doris was making regular semi-weekly trips between Bonshaw and Charlottetown. However in 1917 the Bonshaw service was advertised using the motor launch Hazel R.

In 1917 the Doris was noted as being available for excursions to Bonshaw but her later history is not known.