Max Zwicker: Boat Building
Clarence R. Heisler & Son Ltd., Gifford Island
The Original Yard
The original yard was started around 1920 by William Heisler. It failed during the 1930s depression and the family moved to Lockeport. By the end of the decade, William’s son Clarence moved back to the Island and re-opened the shop. In 1985 his son Cecil took over until it was sold to Mike Kelly in 2007.
Max tells about picking up a dory William Heisler built for his father
“Clarence’s father moved in here from Tancook after they bought in from the Youngs. The bankin’ dory, the big bankin’ dories they used on the vessels. Then there’s the hand line dory, quite small. Then there’s another dory between that’s called the basket dory. Clarence’s father [William Heisler] built one for my father [Enos Zwicker] years ago back in the 30s for $20, for the dory completed. It was in the spring of year, ice boating time. We were working in the wood yard. And I don’t know how the word got over that his dory was done. Pa said to Winton and I, “Go over with the ice boat and bring my dory home.” And we went around the western side of the island, ’cause right in by the wharf it was open water there. There was a pond there on the Western side. We slide right over the snow right down and geared her up to the ice boat. I tended the sheet and Winton done all the helm work. It was an old smokey southwester. And we come across the bay. I mean we were goin’.”
Max with a smaller dory in later years. Note log rollers to help with the haul up.
“When Winton went to round up off of my territory, the way I go in the dory. And we went up over the ice cakes and it never hurt nothin’. And pa said “Holy cripe, there’s my investment goin'”. It never hurt the dory at all. It slide right up and on the shoreline. But, it was a fine dory. It rowed nice.”
Many Indian Point residents remember Max’s ice boat, and how generous he was in allowing the neighbours to use it. This was a traditional local design that could be made by anyone with basic woodworking skills. The sail could be anything handy, a shower curtain, bed sheet, or on Max’s boat, a dory sail. The skates were often forged at the local Blacksmith’s. With a bit of wind they could give quite an exciting sail.
Max tells about launching boats from Heisler’s Boatyard
“But seventy years ago when Clarence’s father [William Heisler] … built the small vessel up there on the hill. And in the spring when it get time to launch (there was lots of ice in the harbour) about sixty men went over – two teams of oxen. The two teams of oxen had all the block and tackle pulled down. But then we had two big back lashes around the whole in case they got started. Took them right down to the shoreline. Seventy feet long. Quite a large sized schooner. Done it all up on the hill – built the whole thing, just the same as a little shipyard.”
from: Zwicker M. Indian Point Remembered (2004) (DVD #1)