Rowe’s Wood rumbles to life
Sydney River man’s hand-built vintage powerboat finally hits the water
It was supposed to be a lowkey voyage but when Don Rowe took the vintage powerboat he built by hand in his garage for its initial test run, it made quite a splash.
Rowe, who spent more than two years working on Rowe’s Wood, wanted to take the 19foot, 1940s-inspired mahoganyhulled runabout on a short trip in Sydney harbour with his mechanic before it was officially christened in front of family and friends. However, it didn’t quite work out that way.
“It was supposed to be secret; there was about 20 people there,” Rowe said of the midJune jaunt. “It was all friends of mine and then they let their friends know and relatives know. My wife was there, my daughter was there. The mechanic’s wife was there. I don’t know how they found out about it.”
Luckily, the Rowe’s Wood didn’t disappoint.
Rowe, a retired harbour master and former Sydney Ports Corp. general manager, said the guttural rumble of the engine firing up on the first attempt is what he’ll remember the most.
“Man, what a feeling,” he said. “For it to start like that and then to hear that sound — because it has a unique sound, unique like a Harley has a unique sound — it’s distinctive. Everybody had a grin on their face.”
A week later, the boat was officially christened during a ceremony led by his granddaughter Kaileigh. It’s currently at the Ben Eoin Marina, across the water from his cottage in Northside East Bay.
While Rowe’s Wood has been out for few trips on Bras d’Or Lake, Rowe said he still has
a long list of people who are waiting to go for a ride.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s all this month taking people out who want to go for a ride in it,” he said. “Everybody wants to go in it — and it’s because it’s unique, it’s different.”
Rowe said seeing his creation come to life on the water also came as something of a relief after spending countless hours in his Sydney River garage working on it.
“Not knowing that you could do it, that was the important part — to find out I could put an engine in and line it up properly and have it work. To line up the hole for the shaft and have it work. The clearances are so severe that it’s scary. Sometimes they say ignorance is bliss. I probably didn’t realize what I was getting into until I got into. But once we put it in the water and had her running and put her in gear and took her out, she worked. That was the good feeling.”
Kaileigh Rowe, granddaughter of Don Rowe, christens his boat Rowe’s Wood at the Ben Eoin Marina in June. Rowe, a retired harbour master, spent more than two years building the vintage mahogany-hulled runabout in his backyard garage before finally launching it this summer.