Friday, July 30, 2021

Without Equal” … featuring Randy Potts … “The River Rat” (Part Five)

 A little more about the Peerless II history you might be interested in. The Peerless II spent approximately 49 years delivering gas and fuel to people's docks and out of the way marinas. These deliveries lasted until the 1960’s. Randy told us a story about the owner of the local BA station who was forced to purchase gas from another company when the BA Oil Company decided to sell the Peerless II. According to Randy, “it frosted him something fierce to have to buy gas from Imperial, the only source at that time!” Over the years BA's Peerless II became a real workboat and serviced thousands of cottagers, businesses and residents.

More about the Peerless II and its new voyages … It will hold up to 55 guests. Don’t worry … the life raft holds 75 people. The raft is compressed and if it even went 35 feet underwater it has a “self-release” mechanism and will pop right back up! There are lifejackets for everyone too. Randy will even have Radar (although it is not required by law). A snack bar upstairs will offer beverages such as wine, beer, water and BA Oil souvenirs, such as hats, t-shirts, mugs and glasses. There will be an awning covering part of the top deck with chairs and tables for those who like shade or there will be lots of places to sun yourself, along the way. Peerless II has a liquor license and will offer beverages to passenger. There's a full lunch and dinner menu in the cabin below. Passengers will be able to enjoy their meal while overlooking the Muskoka waters through the cabin’s panoramic windows. The dinning area seats 24 people. Randy says it is wise for sightseers to book in advance to ensure availability. Peerless II will offer cruises for special occasions, such as weddings, birthday parties, final requests, reunions (*especially for generations of Muskoka families), anniversaries, school bookings and more. Captain Potts is hoping to offer “Stargazing Tours” as well. They will book the Peerless II out of Lake Roseau for 1 hour to 4 hours cruises, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. They will also operate from the Port Carling locks on the downstream side at the Delta Sherwood Inn (The Peerless II will be located on the least used side of the dock, leaving them with plenty of room to maneuver). Finally, they will operate from Lake Joseph on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. It is best to check out their web site for current and accurate information.

Regardless of the time you decide to spend with the Captain, his crew and the Peerless II, Randy assures us that you will be pleased by the “good value and great experience!” Randy is an extremely experienced and capable Captain with fantastic knowledge of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes' history. He always provides unique and interesting commentary on each and every voyage. As a result of our experience on the M.V. Idyllwood with Randy’s commentary, we are very excited and anticipating the imminent “launch” of the Peerless II. Congratulation Randy for your extreme dedication and hard work! See you on the water!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Without Equal” … featuring Randy Potts … “The River Rat” (Part Four)

 The windows are being restored from photos from the past. There will be 4 windows per side. When talking about BA and their boats, Randy can actually tell the BA boat's history from the logos on the boat. Speaking of photos, Randy would be very excited to get his hands on any old photos or stories of the Peerless II, especially from 1946 era. If you have or know of any, please let me or Randy know. These photos and history help Randy stay true to the Peerless II reproduction. Randy is also keeping true to the boat's original colours and nature, with plain white paint and some red and green trim. Randy will Captain the boat with an authentic Peerless II captains hat and jacket, complete with company logo! All this obtained at a recent auction. Talk about perfection! Again, if you have any photos, or could provide any history to Randy please let me know.

(To be continued in Part 5)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Without Equal” … featuring Randy Potts … “The River Rat” (Part Three)

 Randy is particularly proud of the outer set of curved stairs leading up to the top deck. He built these stairs by hand (which is the first set of metal “curved” stairs he has created). Without the handrail installed at the time, Judi was apprehensive and wobbly ascended the stairs. She was very glad to reach the top and even happier descending the interior stairs which had walls on either side! Apparently the inspector stops by frequently, as there are strict regulations for the heights, widths, curves, etc. that Randy must be adhered to. For example, the handrails are 42” tall, although, as a partial deck they only need to be 36”, this being what the regulations require, according to the Ministry of Transportation. There are other regulations, such as 2000 degree fire insulation. Randy has made sure that everything meets or exceeds what is required. He is a perfectionist this way! He is a perfectionist in other ways. The original wheel is being refinished and repaired. This makes for authentic travels while Randy captains. Randy created a shear, long sweeping curved handrail that tappers along the way. The wheelhouse, when I first saw it last year, was on Randy’s dock. He fabricated it all himself. It is now has installed on the top deck! He has only had to use a crane once for the entire project. This was to put the heavy tanks below decks. Again, Randy is quite proud by the “manpower” or "lack of manpower" that the project has taken. He had all the steel for the boat brought in to his property. This was a mammoth undertaking! The initial load was 12 tons of steel at $1,000 per ton. There have been 5 to 6 more tons brought in since! Floating docks were maneuvered in the water, around the sides of the boat, to do much of the work and welding. Randy referred to these projects as “old school in a modern way”.

(To be continued in Part Four)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Without Equal” … featuring Randy Potts … “The River Rat” (Part Two)

Some interesting facts about the restoration of the Peerless II.
• Randy has made alterations to the width of the boat, from its original 12 ½ foot width to its, now,16 foot width!
• The boat has a 5 foot draft on the bottom at the rear and 4 foot draft at the front.
• There were height restrictions while Randy built the upper deck.
• The Peerless II has an original MACK diesel 1945 engine. Peerless II has a single engine, single screw. (At one point in time I had my own 30 foot vessel with a high fly bridge. It a single inboard engine and screw. Needless to say it was a challenge, in the strong winds, to maneuver! The boat sometime had a mind of its own, especially in the wind! (even though in calmer weather I could park it in reverse on a dime!)

Being a very heavy boat, Randy's comment about the maneuverability of the Peerless II was understated! “It’s a bit of a challenge … but I like a challenge!” The restoration of both the Idyllwood and the Peerless II attests to that. Randy was Captain of the famous “Segwun” that also cruises the Muskoka Lakes. He said “the Segwun is like a sailboat with a mind of its own”. We asked Randy if he will be allowing anyone else to Captain his vessel and he said, “it takes a certain amount of finesse to drive it, so maybe just himself and perhaps a specific 'co-captain'”. (In other words, "no, Festival Nomad…you can not drive it! Oh well, it was just a thought!")

(To be continued in Part Three) 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Without Equal” … featuring Randy Potts … “The River Rat” (Part 1)

 When I say mammoth undertaking, I mean MAMMOTH undertaking! Last year I wrote about the restoration and captain of the M.V. Idyllwood, Randy Potts. He had faithfully restored a 1920's era private yacht that is now offering cruises on the Muskoka Lakes. Well, he’s at it again! This time it’s a converted oil and gas tanker that was formerly owned by the BA company.

Recently Judi and I had the honour and privilege of meeting with Randy Potts (aka “The River Rat”) at his home along the banks of the Muskoka River. We were there to see the progression of Randy’s handiwork on the historical vessel “Peerless II”. It is difficult to tell you all the interesting and exciting information Randy shared with us, but the following are a few facts and interesting stories from Randy himself.

The Peerless II is a 60 foot long ship that was built in 1946 at the Northern Shipbuilding yard in Bronte, Ontario for the BA Oil Company. This is the only “Tanker” they built. Randy is restoring the Peerless IInot in essence of true exact restoration, but to help people remember the past.” Randy is 100% custom building the Peerless II, mostly by his own hand. However, he is proud that he has been able to employee some others, such as professional welders, who seem to have the “young eyes” required for the finer details.

To Be Continued in Part 2)