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The Restoration Process of TOLKA
TOLKA was found by chance in the woods in 2003 shortly before it would have been lost forever. Before the boat's identity was known, she was rescued by Peter Breen who is one of the best wooden boat restoration artists in North America. She turned out to be TOLKA and to have a wonderful and interesting history that has now been well documented. Lee Anderson, a very well known boat collector from Minnesota, agreed to undertake the project and today TOLKA is back in original form. In Peter's words (below) and photos (above) is the restoration process that took a total of 8 years.
"I first saw TOLKA laying in the bush, in February of 2003 after Bev McMullen had found it and called me. At that time it was barely visible in the deep winter snow, and I made a return trip with my son Jeffery when the snow was melting and starting to reveal more of the boat. The cover photo and other pictures in the 2004 Classicboat magazine really capture the scene in the woods (copy to be found on this web site). The next step we took was to track down the owners of the property, and ask for permission to remove the boat from it's resting place. The property was going to be developed that spring, and the boat was destined to be bull-dozed away. At this point I had no idea who had built the boat, just that it was not the "Minnett", that it was rumored to be. There were just too many little building techniques and hardware styles that showed that it was not likely a Muskoka built boat of any type. After getting permission to retrieve the rotting hull, we went back at the end of the summer after the Bug's and Tourists had left, with our portable hoists and cameras. We carefully gathered up all the pieces and brought them to our shop in Rockwood Ontario for documenting and safekeeping.
The Wallace family who owned a marina near where TOLKA was found thought the boat was built by Bert Minnett a famous Muskoka boat builder It took over a year to get in touch with some members of family that had owned the boat and start piecing together the TOLKA story. The Lash family had ordered the boat in 1928 from the Alexander Graham Bell Laboratories in Nova Scotia Canada and had lots of information and old movies showing TOLKA running on the Muskoka Lakes.
The boat sat for the next 3 years while we slowly gathered more information and history on TOLKA and waited for someone to come along who was interested in the provenance of the boat and was willing to undertake a major restoration. I mentioned this project to Lee Anderson at a boat show in the US in 2005, but it was not until another show in Clayton N.Y. in 2006, that he agreed to come and see the boat. I told Lee that this project, done properly according to my standards with adherence to all the restoration rules of the ACBS, would take a minimum of 3 years. During that time I was confident that we could source an original Sterling Petrel Motor and complete a rebuild with proper detailing. I provided a detailed restoration schedule in writing along with pricing and Lee called and said "Go Ahead"!! I spent the next 4 years "living and breathing", TOLKA, and delivered the boat two and a half months early, on budget! This is how I do business, as a happy customer is where my next job always comes from, not a fancy add. I think that TOLKA speaks for herself when you see what Casey Baldwin and the Alexander Graham Bell Laboratories produced in their Baddeck shop 85 years ago and we have restored to pristine condition."