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Storm King Waves Goodbye
December 29th, 2012 @ 10:19 AM EST by admin

by Oliver Bertin; photos by Frederick Peters

Storm King waved goodbye to the NYC this month as she headed to a well-deserved retirement on Lake Simcoe and ultimately the Caribbean.

It’s hard to believe, but she spent 58 years at the NYC, first as the race committee boat and Commodore’s launch before her retirement in the late 1980s when Grand National appeared on the scene. She spent the next 23 years as the Cinderella of all trades, towing dead sailboats at launch and haulout, and as general purpose workboat for the mooring committee.

Her first stop is Cannington, a small village north of Lake Scugog, where new owner Tony Johnson plans to give her a complete rebuild, a new motor and a transmission at a cost that could well climb over $10,000.

Johnson is the very able mechanic who managed to keep a host of Atomic 4s and diesels running at the NYC this spring. He is also a commercial diver, a welder and mechanic at Woodwind Yachts in Nestleton, Ont. and a restorer of vintage cars. When he’s not fixing up old cars, he’s probably working on a gorgeous wooden launch or diving into a lock in the Trent Canal.

Johnson perked up his ears when he heard that Storm King was terminally ill. The problem, of course, was 58 years of rust and a 1940s motor that has lasted well beyond its expected lifespan.

Her History

She was built for the NYC in 1954 in Wheatley, Ont. by a company that specialized in workboats and Lake Erie fishing tugs. That company, we believe, went on to build Maid of the Mist and a host of patrol vessels for the Canadian coast guard and RCMP. She was named after Tom Turrall, a long-gone dinghy sailor who represented NYC in an event in the US that gave him the name Storm King.

Ron Jenkins further reflects:

He was a single-handed sailor, literally, having lost an arm at some point in a gunshot accident. He was noted for his heavy-weather sailing ability, in International 14s (a very different boat these days), and gained the moniker “Storm King” as a result. If you want to see an International 14 of the sort I speak, one is modeled in silver on the Founder’s Trophy in the trophy case at the Club.
When I was a little boy at the Club (I’m talking early 1960s) my sister and I would not believe that Tom Turrell was in fact missing an arm, and he played along by pretending he was hiding it. I remember one day seeing with a shock that in fact he had a stump just at his shoulder.

The boat Storm King is a fine craft that has been re-plated and re-painted many times through the years to try and stem the constant encroachment of rust, but new holes kept appearing in the deck and along the seams, and the bottom was getting too thin for safety. The woodwork was even worse. It was crumbling and needed replacement.

The engine is a venerable Chrysler Marine side-valve six, a sweet motor that has lived a full life, but it was big and heavy and low on power, there were two cracks in the crankcase, a dodgy water pump and no neutral in the gearbox.

But the final blow came last summer when Storm King sprung a leak near the rudder post in a spot that was impossible to reach without tearing out the rear locker and much of the deck. She was a clearly an expensive project and well beyond the capabilities of NYC volunteers, however keen they may have been.

Her Future

Tony Johnson, Storm King’s new owner

That’s when Johnson stepped in. He’s been looking for a workboat for some time and thought that Storm King might just fit the bill. He tapped and banged the hull, stuck his fingers in the motor and checked his winter schedule. It was clearly a major project, but he succumbed to her many charms and decided to take her home.

He plans to go ahead with the rebuild this winter, but not without some healthy trepidation. The first step is to weld new plates on the bottom, sides and deck. Then he will thoroughly scour the sides and bottom, and paint her blue, possibly with a new name. He has tracked down a venerable 150-horsepower diesel motor and transmission that will fit the bill. Then comes a new bilge pump, new exhaust, batteries, electrics and electronics.

Johnson hasn’t decided on Storm King’s ultimate destination, but she will probably spend next summer as a diving support vessel on Lake Simcoe before moving to her new home in the Caribbean where she will live out her days as a tow boat in Antigua in the British Leeward Islands.

It’ll be a tough life (yeah, right), but she does deserve it!