Ontario man takes 26 years to build boat

Jeff Horley of Courtright launched his 38-foot custom designed wooden sailboat on Sunday at Sarnia Yacht Club.



When Jeff Horley began building his own wooden sailboat, complete with Jacuzzi and stained glass, he had no idea it would take 26 years to launch.

But he's a patient man.

"I spent hours turning the teak board into a deck, four months to make the riser - which had to be the toughest board on the hull - and weeks on the wooden steering wheel," Horley said.

"If I was looking for easy, I would have just gone out and bought a Fiberglas boat."

In 1987, he was a 31-year-old process operator at Imperial Oil when he began his project in a rented warehouse on Vidal Street. His daughter was four years old. He thought it would take about three years to complete.

But the design was original and the process was painstaking.

His daughter is now a 30-year-old architect and Horley retired a year ago. It's been a labour of love, to say the least, and one he hopes to repeat.

Horley had sailed a wooden sailboat for years named the Craklin when he decided to build his own. The Craklin was getting old and new wooden boats were obsolete by the 1980s.

Horley and his buddy, Bruce Greer, decided to use the Craklin's 36-foot hull as a mold to create two new 38-foot hulls.

"No one else has ever done this," said Horley. "I researched it for 10 years and had to learn everything about it."

He even called on the expertise of the Craklin's Toronto-area manufacturer, which had stopped building wooden boats years before.

Greer and Horley worked on their boats simultaneously in the warehouse, welcoming friends and neighbours who could lend a hand or just wanted to talk about boat building.

When Greer decided to launch his boat before the interior was complete, Horley decided to move his out of the warehouse and keep working on it.

"It was less expensive to build myself a shed on my property," he said. Another year went by.

"We were way too optimistic about the timing but that doesn't matter," Horley said. "The hulls went together quickly. Everything else took forever."

His wife, Janice, helped throughout the project and did most of the varnishing.

On Sunday, the Horleys transported the newly christened "Would..Aye" from their Courtright property to the Sarnia Yacht Club and watched as it was carefully lifted into the water for the first time.

A small crowd was there to watch the boat made from Western Red Cedar, teak and African Mahogany settle into her berth alongside Greer's boat. Apart from their names, the two look identical on the outside but have different interiors.

The Horleys plan to sail the 10,000-pound Would...Aye to Georgian Bay's North Channel in a few weeks.

"Not many people would spend this many years on a project," said Horley. "Apart from Bruce's, there's no other wood boat launched in Ontario for the past 50 years."

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