A Trip to the Giesler Cedar Strip Boat Workshop!

On Wabatongushi Lake there is a longstanding tradition of running cedar strip boats. Some of our guests have even purchased their own cedar strip boat to use on home waters after experiencing the stability, comfort, and unique style of a Giesler. If you’ve ever wondered where our boats come from and how they’re made by hand, we have it all here!

Originally Camp Lochalsh purchased Peterborough Canoe Company cedar strip boats until that company went out of business in the 1960s. We still have a Peterborough around, out of the water–– check out an older blog post to see it.

Boats then came from Barney Giesler & Sons, located in Powassan, Ontario.

Every year we order a few new boats and have to make a road trip to pick them up. Powassan is almost 500 miles from Camp Lochalsh, one way! (We also use this trip to go shopping for lots of hardware and other renovation items). Two weeks ago we made the annual pilgrimage.

The company was started by Barney Giesler in 1921–– read a short history here! Today Gerry Giesler is in charge of operations after learning the business from his father and grandfather. Giesler manufactured a number of cedar strip models throughout the years. Their largest was the Huron, topped with a wooden cabin. Smaller models include the Cartopper, plus the classic cedar strip canoe. The guest boats at Camp Lochalsh and Loch Island Lodge are the popular 18’ Nipissing model, which Giesler primarily sells today.

Click here to see some of the existing models!

Giesler historic poster
Historic poster showing some of the smaller cedar strip models –– we rent out the Nipissing model shown in the centre

Another model still manufactured today is the Georgian Bay, which is wider than the Nipissing and handles weather better with a windshield and canopy. A much larger outboard can be mounted for hauling cargo. We have two which we use for guest and supply pickups. Our original Georgian Bay model purchased in the 1990s went to Giesler last autumn to be restored. Problem areas with the wood were repaired and its hull was fibreglassed.

Giesler 2 boats in build
A Georgian Bay model in the forefront. The small boat in the back with a windshield is the Cartopper model.

When we arrived, we were invited to take a look around the workshop. 

The cedar wood used for the boats is transported from British Columbia, Canada. Cedars in Ontario do not grow tall and straight enough to produce what is needed. All of the assembly is done on site with local employees.

The cedar wood is cut to specification and put into a steamer box, which makes the wood pliable.

Giesler shop 3
Where wood is cut to size
Giesler steam box
The steamer box

The wood can then be bent around the jig (a wooden “template” or form). While the boats are based on the standard models, clients can request certain seat configurations based on what they use their boat for, or a custom hull depth.

Giesler boat forms
Forms for the various sizes of boats are stored all around the shop
Giesler Georgian Bay build
Now it all comes together (to make a Georgian Bay, in this example)!

The boat is varnished, painted, or fibreglassed— or all three— and outfitted with the rest of its accessories. Our camp boats are left natural so they match year after year and we can maintain them easily, but there are certainly some snazzy custom paint jobs out there!

Giesler Georgian Bay and canoe final
A Georgian Bay and canoe in their final form

Finally, we loaded the boats onto the trailer with the help of all of the employees and a forklift, and we were ready to hit the road! The cedar strips get lots of looks and inquiries along the way.

Our Giesler boats loaded
Ready to roll with our restored Georgian Bay on the bottom and a brand new Nipissing on top!

Last but not least…we can’t forget the cutest Giesler employee!

Giesler great dogCedar strip boats are maintenance-intensive in the spring, when they must be sanded down and varnished (unless indoor storage is possible), but provide a unique boating experience refined by decades of craftsmanship. It’s no wonder that they have remained popular on Wabatongushi Lake for so long!

By the way, even half a cedar strip boat will still get you where you need to go! (Andy’s idea in the ’90s…looks like it didn’t catch on…he made it to the Giesler website though).

*Please note this post is not an official ad for Giesler, but written for our guests’ general interest. We’ve had a longstanding relationship with the company and gladly promote their quality work! If you want to contact the company, visit http://www.gieslerboats.ca/addresses.htm.

— Feel free to leave any questions or comments below…

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