Grapeview Point Boat Works

81 E Grapeview Point Rd + Allyn, WA 98524 + 360-277-9015 + boat_works@yahoo.com

Development of the Rangeley Lake Boat

In the mid to late 1800s, it became common to retreat to the wilderness to enjoy fresh air, spectacular views and pristine waters, a decided contrast to the dirty and crowded cities of the time. Camps and resorts developed in New York and New England that offered hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits to the “sport” (an 1800’s term for a sportsman or sportswoman) of the day.

The Rangeley Lake Boat was developed around 1870 for use on the lakes of the Rangeley chain in western Maine. The Rangeley Lake Region is unlike other parts of Maine - big lakes, wide expanses, mountains, sparkling clear air, deep woods. The area offered excellent hunting and fishing.

The boats were not limited to the Rangeley Lake Region. Fisherman on the Belgrade Lakes, Sebago Lake and other large lakes in western and southern Maine commonly used them also.

Although some were shorter, Rangeley boats were generally 17 long, intended to be rowed by a guide with a couple of sports, like the St Lawrence River Skiffs.

Some of the Rangeley Lakes were quite shallow in places, and open to prevailing winds. This could result in the lake surface becoming very rough on short notice. Thus the boats needed to be sturdy and able to move swiftly through a strong chop.

Early boats had a small high-tucked transom stern. Towards the end of 19th c., the double-ended lapstrake model became the standard. They usually featured half-round steam bent ribs, two-piece keels and two-piece stems. Planks were thin and narrow - nine to eleven per side.

The oarlocks remain on the oar permanently, retained by “buttons” on the oar leathers. The round oarlocks slip into a socket on the gunwale. Similar to Adirondack Guideboats and St. Lawrence Skiffs, this feature allows skipper to drop the oars to land a fish without worrying about oars floating away.

Rangeley Lake Boats are noted for their unusual thwarts. There is a raised round seat in the center, like the top of a stool. It is comfortable to sit on since it has been hollowed out somewhat. It can be fitted with a cushion if need be, in cases where the sport will be out in the boat for long hours. The round seat enables the fisherman to seat astride the thwart facing out, yet remain in the center of the boat for stability. A relatively low deadrise bottom gives stability for cross-boat fly-casting.

On either side of the thwart is a small shelf with sides on it to use to stow things that would otherwise fall to the bottom of the boat. This allows the fishing gear to be at hand for the angler.

The construction was fairly simple. Professional builders over the years simplified and standardized the construction in order to cut building costs. These boats were built for utility, not show and were usually painted, not varnished. Thus they didn’t require the same finicky, protracted attention to finish that varnished construction demands.

After WWI, the increasing use of outboard motors led to a return of the transom. Some boat converted by cutting off the end, and attaching a plank to support the motor. These improvised conversions had a tendency to settle too much in the stern, so various design changes and modifications were used to overcome this difficulty. The after section were widened and flattened to provide more support for the motor. After a certain point, though, these changes resulted in a boat that no longer rowed very well.


Gardner, J. (1997). Building Classic Small Craft. Camden, ME: International Marine.
Bond, H.E. (1998). Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
Fuller, B. (2002). 87 Boat Designs. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.


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