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c. 1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat

1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat

1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat 1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat

1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat

The Boat and its’ Maker

E.G. Ricketson and 5 of his employees in Bloomingdale, NY about 1882
‘E.G. Ricketson (far right) and 5 of his employees in Bloomingdale, NY about 1882’
Photo courtesy of The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY.
Elbridge Gerry Ricketson was an Adirondack guide-boat maker of significance in the late 1800’s of whom very little is known. About 1872 Elbridge began working as a guide for Paul Smith at his new hotel on Lower St. Regis Lake, NY. By 1879 his boat building operation was in full swing and it is estimated that he produced between 8 and 12 guide-boats per year until about 1890. Ricketson enjoyed a reputation for very high quality work and sold mostly ‘sporting’ boats used by the many great-camps that were built in the northern Adirondacks during that period. Of his entire output just 3 documented examples of his work remain. Of these, the Spitfire is the only ‘church boat’ known to exist.

The Spitfire is a classic church boat in that it was primarily designed to ferry people rather than cargo. Its’ name probably derives from Spitfire camp on Spitfire Lake which is adjacent to Lower St. Regis although we can’t know for certain. Church boats were employed to gather worshipers from remote locations for transport to services and were also used for other social functions. Aside from its’ atypical length (17’) and larger than normal seating capacity, an important design element of this boat are ribs set on 3” centers, literally twice the frequency of most other guide-boats. This construction allowed for a rather lightweight craft that had a carrying capacity of nearly 1,000 lbs. – an engineering marvel for its’ time.

* 2007 Winner - 1st Place, Non-powered craft, 6th International ACBS Boat show *
* 2007 Winner - Best Guide-boat, 43rd Annual Antique Boat Show *

Spitire Statistics:
17 feet
Beam (maximum):
40 inches
13 inches
Stem Height
(maximum at bow and stern):
24 inches
Bow 19.5 inches x 23.5 inches; Stern 15.5 and 17 inches
82 lbs.
Seating Capacity:
5 Adults
1,000 lbs.
Striped solid brass, original
Boot Plates:
0.20 Copper Sheet
Scrolled solid brass, original
Oar Pins:
Bearing loaded brass, original
Bang Plates:
Solid brass, original
7 feet 10 inches, Sugar Maple, original (found lashed to seat cleats)
Hull Shoes:
Replaced with 0.50 stainless steel at 5/8 inch width, original brass screws
Interior hull-- flat dark green, Exterior hull-- flat black,
Decks, Gunwales, Cleats and Seats-- dulled clear varnish

Northern White Cedar
Black Cherry
N.W. Cedar with Black Cherry strips
Spruce Root
Spruce stump
Seat and Yoke Cleats:
Black Cherry and Mahogany
Sugar Maple

1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat 1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat
1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat 1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat
1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat 1888 Elbridge G. Ricketson Adirondack Guide-boat

Restoration Details:
  • 100% of the hull and cleats are original. Approximately 10” of the gunwales have been replaced at the bow. 130-year-old Black Cherry from a piano top was used as stock. The decks and seats have been reconstructed from original dimensions. 2 sets of rib feet and about 9 inches of the bow stem were replaced with spruce stump wood. The grains were aligned and these pieces were epoxied and screwed into place. The decks were replaced with milled Northern White cedar, although the original cherry strip splitting the bow deck was reused.

  • At least 80% of the hardware is original. The bow stemband has been recast in red brass using the stern band as the mold positive. We’ve reused screws and tacks where possible. The Boot Plates are new 24 gauge copper sheet made to the exact original size and fit. They are affixed with #18 escutcheon pins as per the original construction. All other escutcheon pins are new and correspond with the originals in placement. The copper ‘Spitfire’ letters are original as far as we can tell. The nameplate was stripped and replated with nickel.

  • All wooden elements of the boat were stripped, sanded and oiled with a 50/50 boiled linseed oil and raw turpentine mix. They were then cured for 7 weeks in a heat and humidity controlled environment. Following curing they were coated with a 50% thinned mix of Epifanes varnish. Then 6 coats of a dulled (3 parts satin to 1 part gloss) Epifanes clear varnish mix were applied to all, with and extra 2 coats on the seats and cleats.

  • The interior hull has 4 coats of Interlux epoxy-based marine primer and then 3 coats of Interlux 2-part Perfection in flattened dark green.

  • The exterior hull has 6 coats of Interlux epoxy primer and 4 coats of Interlux 2-part Perfection in flattened black.

  • A note about the colors: Our goal in this restoration was to recreate the appearance of the guide-boat on the day it left the workshop. Hence the use of flat paints and dulled varnish as late 1880’s finishes did not have the shiny gloss surfaces that we see today. Stripping the paint from the boat as we found it produced some forensic fun. Both interior and exterior hulls were first coated with a milky very light green layer that we assumed was lead-based primer. The decks, gunwales, oars and seat components did not have this primer so we further assumed that they were varnished from the start. The first coat on the interior was a dark green followed by another coat of a lighter green. The first coat on the exterior was black, then 2 coats of green (over everything) then a hideous cream color and a final coat of bright red. Thus the Spitfire is now dark green and black.

Defects Still Present:

  • There are no structural defects of which we are aware.

Price: Not for Sale

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