In the late 1900s,
members of the Thousand Islands Antique Boat Museum
Trust, a registered Canadian charitable organization,
drew attention to the needs of Phoebe and offered
to sponsor its restoration at the Antique Boat Museum
in Clayton NY. That idea evolved into a project for
the boat's restoration at the Kingston Pump House
Steam Museum as part of the Marine Museum's plans
for the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Centre. The
restoration project was entered in the Millenium Commemorative
Registry at Kingston City Hall in 2000.
behind the Pump House Steam Museum was on Lake Ontario.
There, the boat had been supported above the water
by three transverse 10-in. steel I-beams -- one aft
where the skeg and stern tube meet the hull, one amidships,
and one forward about three feet behind the stem.
However, Lake Ontario's water levels annually vary
approximately three feet - high in the spring and
low in the fall. And the placement of the boat was
such that spring waters could rise high enough to
put the lower portion of the hull in about a foot
of water for a few months each year until receding
by fall. As a result, the boat would have a foot of
water in the bilge each spring and early summer, and
would then slowly dry out in the fall and winter.
That annual cycle caused the keel and keelson to rot
severely, and with the very heavy boiler and engine
still onboard, the hull sagged between supports and
the hull above the high-water line was in remarkably
good condition, and the super-structure was complete
and recoverable. Members of the Frontenac Society
of Model Engineers who operated the Pump House Steam
Museum had also been in charge of the upkeep of Phoebe,
and they had done a very good job maintaining her
for her task as an ambassadress for the Museum. But
without major restoration, the boat was at the end
of its life.
effort got underway in 1998, with Henk Wevers, a retired
university engineering professor, leading the effort.
"A few friends pitched in with cash donations for
a start-up fund, and publicity in the local newspaper
encouraged a few volunteers to come forward," he reports.
With approval of their restoration plan from the Marine
Museum of the Great Lakes and the Kingston City council,
restoration got underway.
The engine and
boiler were lifted out of the launch through openings
cut in the cabin and boathouse roofs. The existing
steel support structure was then extended so that
the keel was supported along its entire length, and
so that telescoping bilge supports could be added
to both sides of the hull, the stern and stem. With
the lightened boat supported in an extensive steel
cradle, cabin bulkheads, cabin floors, and the rotted-out
sections of the bilge that had been flooded and dried
out each year for the past 14 years, were removed,
leaving two halves of the hull supported by the new
of removed parts and photographic recording of the
dismantling process, proved invaluable when it came
time to rebuild the lower hull. It also allowed the
restorers to remain faithful to the construction methods
and techniques used by the original builders nearly
a century earlier.
A new 37-ft.
long keel was made in two sections out of white oak,
and all the structural framework of the hull was replaced
with new members. What began as a crew of three, grew
to 13 regular volunteers over the next six years.
In August 2003, the work was completed.
Many ideas were
floated for the future of the Phoebe. The one that
appears to have won out is the building of a land-based
timber-framed shelter/boathouse at the Pump House
Steam Museum in Kingston. Detailed plans continue
to evolve and a major fund raising effort is underway.
If all goes well, the Phoebe may be in its new home
thanks to Steve Wikstrom for his critique of this
article and for contributing photos from his and Ellen's
collection. Also to Don Quant (speaker at the upcoming
Joint Chapter Meeting) and Henk Wevers (leader of
the Phoebe Restoration Project in Kingston) for their
reviews, corrections and comments. In 2002, the Finger
Lakes Chapter contributed to the Phoebe's restoration
because of its past association with Skaneateles Lake.