A Tale of Two Antique Boats

Mason Smith poses by Northwind in the Schroon Lake boathouse before Everett Smith rescued the boat. Photograph courtesy of Richard Strong

Mason Smith poses by Northwind in the Schroon Lake boathouse before Everett Smith rescued the boat. Photograph courtesy of Richard Strong

Often when we write about interesting people and places for Adirondack Life the back stories get shelved—the details are too murky, the key contacts gone. But for “Rocking the Boathouse,” in our 2015 At Home in the Adirondacks issue, I found some intriguing tales of the former occupants of that wonderful stucco structure.

Naturally, the original denizens of the Schroon Lake boathouse were boats—great big wooden boats. From the 1920s to the 1960s they roared across the water, and in the winter they reposed in the boathouse slung in cradles suspended from beams. Getting them into the 60-foot-long building—which, unlike most Adirondack boathouses, is on land—meant hauling them up a long concrete ramp with rails. Once positioned on a cradle, a stout cable and capstan pulled them inside. This makes the transport sound easy; it was not. Imagine inching heavy, precious cargo up a steep 200-foot-long incline with mostly human effort.

In the late 1970s Canton-based restorer Everett Smith was hunting across the Adirondacks for antique boats. In a Schroon Lake bar he heard of a pair of classics tucked away in a forgotten boathouse. He followed the lead to talk with an elderly couple living in a home near the former Porter property, and after chatting with them, listening to their ancient parrot and contacting the estate’s attorney he was able to make a deal to buy both boats for a thousand bucks.

Just like the current owner, Gene Leogrande, did when he was 13, Smith peeked into the broken front door. He saw two behemoths. “One boat was a Gar Wood triple cockpit, white with blue planks. The mahogany had been all painted over. That was 28 feet long.”

Months later Smith returned. “The GarWood I got out in the winter time,” he said. “I drove across the ice in my pickup truck—believe me, the banjos were playing while I tore across the lake. We put that one on the back of a tractor trailer and drove up to my shop,” then in Parishville.

He came back in early spring. The other boat “looked like a Hacker design with a big beautiful Kermath six-cylinder engine. We rolled that boat to the lake and it seemed to float all right,” he said. But the water was frigid and a helper fell overboard. There were other mishaps as the 28-footer made by Albany Boat Works headed north.

Northwind after her 1980s restoration in New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Richard Strong

Northwind after her 1980s restoration in New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Richard Strong

“I sold the Gar Wood to Wayne Mocksfield from Lake Hopatcong, in New Jersey.”  The other boat was sold to Jay Stoll, in New Hampshire, but the story doesn’t end there.

Northwind, as the boat became known, went to a restorer in Meredith, New Hampshire, in 1980. After years of careful work, the boat was honored at the 1982 Antique and Classic Boat Show at Lake Winnipesaukee. In a further testament to her importance and beauty, Northwind was featured in Volume VI of The Real Runabouts by Robert Speltz, published in 1987.

When Massachusetts resident Dan Prigmore acquired Northwind in the 1980s he replaced the engine to better handle the waters of Boston Harbor. At a time when most wooden boats from the 1920s earn graceful retirement to putter sedately on inland lakes, Northwind entered into a new career, that of commuter craft. For many years Prigmore boated from his home in Hull to work, and Northwind was a head-turner at Rowes Wharf. Northwind‘s saltwater career ended, and in 1996 the boat returned to New Hampshire, where it was eventually purchased by Richard Strong. Northwind remains in Lake Sunapee today, a classic runabout with nearly a century of stories to tell.


A Tale of Two Antique Boats
Apple Crack and Other Fall Recipes
The Poky Way Up Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain
World’s Largest Cheesecake and Other Adirondack Records
GALLERY: A Writer’s Home in Essex, Inspired by Dickinson and Plath
Beam Yourself to Trekonderoga
Learn to Shoot Like an Adirondack Life Photographer
Top Chef: Michigans Edition
Q & A with Ashley Sofia, a Promising Musical Artist from Ticonderoga
Put ‘Em Up at Whallonsburg Grange Harvest Parties
Railbikes Are the Latest in Adirondack Outdoor Fun
Cedar River Flow Offers Wilderness Paddling with Easy Access
Adirondack Memories Lead to Windfall for Local Animal Shelter
Three Kid-friendly Hamilton County Hikes
Quiz: Do You Know Your Adirondack Bird Songs?
And the Adirondack Lake with the Most Islands Is…
Remembering an Adirondack Landmark
In Memoriam: Oakley, the Original Adirondog
WATCH: Helicopter Drop at Johns Brook Lodge
Accessible Birding Locations in the Adirondack Park
Celebrate Waterways with Paddle or Camera
Before Helicopters: Resupplying Backcountry Outposts
Build An Adirondack Cordwood Hideaway
Seven Signs of Adirondack Spring
What Your Taxes Pay For in the Adirondacks
Make the Most of Mud Season
Frogs Are Disappearing. How You Can Help
A Chili Weekend in the North Country
Maple Days Are Here Again: Where to Get Your Fix
A Record-Breaking Winter in the Adirondacks