The Adirondack Guideboat-More on Raiders

Last time I promised to share with you the most exquisitely built guideboat I have yet seen.  It is a so-called Raider, a guideboat class that is shorter than the common guideboat length of 15 to 16 feet long.   Raiders where supposedly built to make “raids” on remote ponds and lakes where the fishing was worth the trip.

Willard Hanmer pointed out one of the major drawbacks of these smaller boats.   Here is what he had to say about them in 1961:

“Sixteen (feet) was the standard length (for a guideboat) and that seemed to be the ideal boat for racing or carrying a load or anything else.  Speed you never could gain over sixteen feet, and you would drop off sharply on anything under sixteen feet.  For instance, the twelve, thirteen, and fourteen foot models I build today are nice, light boats to get back where the trout are supposed to be, but you can’t make speed in them.  People aren’t looking for that.  Nobody rows any distance anymore.”

Let’s look at some examples of Raiders.  Here is one built by John Blanchard of Raquette Lake in 1935.

A Raider guideboat built by John Blanchard of Raquette lake in 1935

A Raider guideboat built by John Blanchard of Raquette lake in 1935

Blanchard’s boat, a beauty, hangs in the guideboat hall of the Adirondack Museum.  It is 13′ 6″ long, has a beam of 38″, and weighs 53 lbs.

Here is another Raider, this one built by Ira and Ben Parsons of Old forge in 1905.

A guideboat Raider built by Ira and Ben Parsons in 1905.

A guideboat Raider built by Ira and Ben Parsons in 1905.

It is 14′ 3″ long, has a beam of 39 1/2″, and weighs 57 lbs.  It is distinguished by partial ribs fore and aft that do not extend to the bottom board.

If you have been paying attention to the vital statistics of these boats you will have noticed an anomaly, or at least something odd.  They both weigh about the same as a guideboat of the most common length of fifteen to sixteen feet.  These boats generally weigh between 55 and 60 lbs.

So what is their advantage over their longer cousins since they are slower and weigh about the same?  I have no answer to that question.

Finally the guideboat that wins my vote for the best I have ever encountered.  I came across it during a visit to Blue Line Hardwoods in Long Lake this past summer.  Keith Austin had just about finished restoring it.

Keith Austin with Raider guideboat he is restoring.

Keith Austin with Raider guideboat he is restoring.

So what is so riveting about this particular boat.  Let’s look at the inside of the hull.

View towards bow of Raider being restored.

View towards bow of Raider being restored.

This, to me, is an extraordinary sight.  Here the ribs are accommodating a severe reverse curve in the hull. They start out with a mild upward slope, then turn away abruptly, only to come back inward again.  The planking, of course, has to follow suite.  This means that one must back out (hollow out) a plank on one side and then the other depending on its position along the hull.  That is quite a feat!  Only a very few builders would attempt to do that and fewer still could pull it off.  This sort of artistry in boat building is why some call the Adirondack guideboat the Stradivarius of wooden boats.

The stern end of the Raider being restored showing what may be the original seat.

The stern end of the Raider being restored showing what may be the original seat.

Here is the stern end of the Raider being restored.  Note the plank seat which may have been the original or a copy of the original.

Keith told my that this boat was built around 1900 by the Grant shop.  Its length is 12′ 6″ with a beam of 39 1/2″.  The forward rake of the stem certainly is characteristic of a Grant boat.

Bow of Grant-built Raider guideboat.

Bow of Grant-built Raider guideboat.

Keith also had to remake a set of oars for the boat.  One of the originals had snapped in two while in use.

Oars for Grant-built Raider guideboat.

Oars for Grant-built Raider guideboat.

The two oars on the left are those made by Keith while the one on the right is the original.  These oars struck me as being particularly slender, almost dainty.  They reminded me of a thoroughbred horse’s legs, built to provide maximum speed with the very least weight.

Next time: back to Seneca Ray Stoddard.

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6 Responses to The Adirondack Guideboat-More on Raiders

  1. John Homer says:

    Great ad. How long are the raider oars normally?

    • John:

      Good question. I am not sure how long Raider oars are but I would assume they are 7′ to 8′ long. That is the normal length of guideboat oars. Since Raiders have about the same beam as the longer guideboats there would be no reason to shorten them.
      The ones I saw Keith Austin reproducing for the Raider he restored looked to be 8′ long.

      • John Homer says:

        Thanks for the reply. I also had a question about the oar locks you have on your website. They are different than the grant pattern. Could tell me more about them and where they came from? My email is canoeguuy@gmail.com if you would like to send me an email message seperatly from your forum here. Thanks

      • John:

        Thanks for your question regarding the oar “straps” used on my last boat. It seems there is a tale behind many of my encounters when I build guideboats. I can not tell you where the straps came from since they were given to me by a friend, Diane. Diane’s husband, Dayton, was a surgeon who loved to restore the mahogany runabouts; the Chris Crafts and others we all so admire. His dream was to build a guideboat in the traditional manner. To that end he collected what was needed to build two boats; the spruce roots, fasteners, stem bands, straps, and horns. Unfortunately he was struck down by cancer before he could begin building either of these boats. Diane, knowing that I built guideboats, graciously gave me this treasure that had been a part of Dayton’s dream to build a guideboat. Dayton would be happy to know that his forethought was now a part of one guideboat and will, God willing, become part of another one.

      • John Homer says:

        That is a great story. Is there anyway I could possibly mold a pattern from one of them? I would like to try casting my own some day and really like that design.

      • John Homer says:

        Great information. Thanks

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