Although sixty-four years have passed since the last Ditchburn boat left the Gravenhurst factory, their products continue to set the standard for the glory years of wooden pleasure-craft construction in Muskoka. Survivors are treasured reminders of a time when craftsmen built boats by hand, using the finest materials, creating a custom product uniquely suited to its purpose and its owner.
The final collapse of the company in 1938 was a calamity for many people-the workers, the community, the boating public, and especially Herbert Ditchburn, the genius who had guided the company to its domination of Canada’s boating industry. Progressing from simple fisherman’s rowing skiffs to luxury cruisers of 100 feet in length, Ditchburn products had penetrated unexpected markets in New York, Montreal and Western Canada, far from their home waters.Today, as we try to make sense of a world that is changing dramatically, these wonderful reminders of the past have assumed a new importance–reminding us of the impact of beauty, function, design, integrity, and craftsmanship on our daily lives. Synthetic materials, mass production, and standardized design largely replaced traditional wooden-boat construction after the Second World War, but the desire to maintain the beloved products of the Ditchburn Boat Co. is increasing each year. Owning a vintage wooden boat has become a status symbol as well as a pleasure, and is now also a responsibility.—Harold Shield (Excerpted from Ditchburn Boats: A Muskoka Legacy (Boston Mills Press, $59.95))