It came with the cottage. Five words to send shivers down the spine of even the most seasoned cottage-country veteran. When Warren Walker bought a cottage on Big Gull Lake, near Bon Echo Provincial Park, some 20 years ago, he faced the realities of that phrase, personified in the runabout that, yes, came with the cottage.
“It always leaked,” says -Walker. “It was fine for years for fishing with the kids. But then the leaks got worse until you couldn’t leave the thing
in the water for a day without it filling up.” After two soggy decades, the little leaker sadly had to be put to rest.
Enter the unexpected genius of brother-in-law Eric Gay, who gave new life to the Walkers’ decommissioned vessel. Instead of ditching the dinghy, Gay suggested standing it up like a decorative canoe shelf. “It was the perfect solution,” says Walker, “since I was going to build a shed by the water anyway.”
Walker used an angle grinder to cut off close to a metre’s worth of the boat’s back end, shortening the vessel to make its future shelves easy to reach. He reinforced the now-flimsy stern with 2 x 4s mimicking the missing back end, and made cardboard templates for each shelf, which were traced onto tacked-together pine roofing boards that he cut to fit the hull. Two shelves sit sturdily atop existing boat seats, while other shelves rest on the riveted hull ribs. He fashioned two doors out of rough-sawn tongue-and-groove siding and reused the boat’s old oars as handles.
For security, Walker runs a chain through the oar locks.
The stern sits in about 50 cm of stone and concrete, giving the boat plenty of support in its battle to remain upstanding. And, since he had masonry experience, he finished the base with stones culled from near the cottage.
“It’s quite the landmark,” laughs Walker, a man whose craftiness may have single-handedly defused those fearsome five words: It came with the cottage.