Guideboat Building Today

One of our best sources of knowledge about guideboats in the Adirondacks today is from a phone interview with Hallie Bond and Mason Smith, a couple who reside in Long Lake, New York, the birthplace of the guideboat. Smith owns Adirondack Goodboat, a company that specializes in the building and restoration of many different hand crafted boats. Many guideboat builders in the Adirondacks today work for this type of company, with a lot of their work with guideboats focused on restoration. Even though Smith is not usually in the business of building guideboats from scratch, he is part of a vibrant albeit small community of boat craftsmen (and women) across the Adirondacks. Near the beginning of our conversation Smith recalled “You hardly ever saw guideboats when we first moved here in the 1980’s,” but that has changed in recent years as older collections have been restored and boats have been passed down to younger generations. 

Guideboat builders have changed throughout the history of the Adirondacks, today there are few companies that solely build guideboats, most also restore guideboats and build other types of handcrafted boats. There are three main companies based in and around the Adirondacks that are the biggest source for hand crafted boats and guideboat repair today. Adirondack Guide Boat, a business based in North Ferrisburgh, Vermont, is one of a kind because almost its entire focus and inventory is on the building of guideboats. The guideboats are all handcrafted and made to order, and the business is extremely accessible to the public with many showings of boats ever year, build your own guideboat kits, and newer materials, like Kevlar, that make their boats lighter. Adirondack Guide Boat has a wide variety of customers from marketing new boats to young families and restoration to older long time boat owners. Another classic guideboat company is Boathouse Woodworks based out of Lake Clear, New York. Boathouse Woodworks both builds and restores classic guideboats, while also having a strong focus on Adirondack tourists and how to help them have a good experience. They both rent boats and cabins on a couple different lakes making this once high status symbol extremely accessible to many different visitors.

A slightly more modernized business in the guideboat world is Adirondack Goodboat owned by Mason Smith, though guideboat restoration and occasionally building is a large part of their business, Smith created a new type of boat that combines the best features of a guideboat, sailboat, and canoe. This boat, called “The Goodboat,” was meant to replace the guideboat as an every day rowing boat, since the guideboat had become so rare by the 1980’s when Smith first started his business. Smith has built approximately 70 of his Goodboats, and continues to be extremely well known as an excellent craftsman and boat builder in the field of guideboats. As the uses of guideboats changed due to changing needs of rowers in the Adirondacks, the boat materials, features, and building techniques have evolved as well. The boat materials have been updated in some cases to fiberglass and Kevlar, which are lighter than wood for both rowing and carrying, and as these materials changed the building techniques had to adapt as well. The features of the guideboats have modified them to become boats more like Goodboats with options that make them more accessible for the everyday modern rower.

Throughout the years as the demand for guideboats and important features of a rowing boat have changed, the guideboat community in the Adirondacks has continued to be a strong albeit small group of passionate artisan craftspeople. According to Mason Smith there are approximately 6 or 7 traditional guideboat builders in the Adirondacks today, they mostly make made-to-order guideboats and for all of them restoration is the biggest part of their job. This small community shares a vast knowledge about guideboats and a passion for their work, continuing the tradition of hand crafting many small wooden boats of all different types.


Image References

Mason Smith with Boat (top right) courtesy of Long Lake Artisans Cooperative

Goodboat Diagram (top left) courtesy of Adirondack Good Boat

Woman Rowing Kevlar Boat (bottom right) courtesy of Adirondack Guide Boat

Mason Smith in workshop (bottom left) courtesy of Word Press Building Your Own Adirondack Guideboat