Michael and Tanya Grace, Sunnyland Chapter

We were very excited to meet ACBS Sunnyland members Michael and Tanya Grace at the Sunnyland Boat Festival last week where they displayed three fantastic canoes from their collection. Two of the three were not just antiques, but historic canoes at well over 100 years old. The canoes’ builders, J. Henry Rushton, W.P. Stephens, and the Peterborough Canoe Co. put so many details into each boat to make them not just utilitarian, but truly graceful on the water (and on display!) The canoes were a pleasure to see in person, we thank the Graces for bringing them to the show and taking the time to talk with so many visitors about their history.


Boat Year:  1883-1884

Manufacturer:  J. Henry Rushton, Canton, NY

Model:  Bucktail double-blade paddling canoe

Boat Name: NESSMUK

Length: 10.5’

Beam:  28”

The famed writer George Washington Sears (pen name Nesmuk) brought his beloved Bucktail canoe, built by the already-famous J. Henry Rushton of Canton, NY, down to Florida for an epic outdoor adventure in the winter of 1885. In real time he produced a series of articles entitled “The Bucktail in Florida” which made both him and Rushton even more celebrated than ever.  Found in outstanding, original condition a few years ago near the site of Sears’ travels, Nessmuk has since been restored, and has been on the covers of magazines, in a wall calendar, online, and in magazine articles including a 9-page feature story in WoodenBoat magazine.


Boat Year:  ca. 1878-1890

Manufacturer:  W.P. Stephens, Staten Island, NY

Model:  double-masted sailing canoe

Boat Name:  SNAKE

Length: 14.5’

Beam:  30”

SNAKE is believed to have been constructed in the shop of W.P. Stephens, who designed and built many award-winning small boats, was canoeing editor of Forest and Stream magazine, was co-founder of the American Canoe Association in 1880, and authored the seminal work Canoe and Boat Building: A Compete Manual for Amateurs, published in 1885. Snake is a double-masted sailing canoe, decked over except for a small cockpit. Her lapstrake hull is made of Spanish cedar, and the decks are of book-matched Spanish cedar. SNAKE is an almost completely original example from the time of the “poor-man’s yacht” when competitive canoe sailing was the pinnacle of an extremely popular canoeing culture.


Boat Year: ca. 1935

Manufacturer:  Peterborough Canoe Co., Peterborough, Ontario

Model:  Ace/Comet courting canoe

Boat Name: SWEET-P

Length: 16’

Beam:  31”

From 1892 to 1961, Canada’s iconic Peterborough Canoe Co. built hundreds of models of wooden canoes for everyone from local trappers to the future queen of England. Many Peterborough canoes were utilitarian, but they also produced elegant and innovative designs, particularly in their high-end courting canoe line. SWEET-P is one of these, and only a few examples are known to exist. Her unusual features include gracefully arched decks of alternating cedar and mahogany strips, seats that convert to backrests, and removable center thwart for the comfort of a reclining passenger. A lockable storage compartment kept gear safe from theft, and importantly kept potential contraband (in more puritan times) hidden from prying eyes. Sweet-P is also a sailing canoe, sporting a rare original Peterborough folding leeboard apparatus.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the story about Michael & Tanya Grace. They are great folks and the work that they and their son have done on the canoes is absolutely amazing. I got to know the family well as they were so gracious to bring a display of their canoes all the way to St Pete for our annual antique car and boat show at the St Pete YC. I served on the committee to find boats and fortunately connected with Michael. So happy to see they’re still out there sharing their treasures!

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