Written by Susan W. Smith
posted on March 13, 2017 12:29
Charlie Cliffe died at his home in Lansdowne, ON, on Friday, February 10th, 2017 at the age of 86. Certainly, his family and friends will remember Charlie for the outstanding contributions he made to our marine communities throughout the Thousand Islands.
We at TI Life will remember Charlie Cliffe from Tom King's November 2011 article "No son, It is a Cliffe Craft." The article, filled with photographs of Charlie's boats, referenced his life and his passion for building pleasure craft enjoyed by so many families not only in the Thousand Islands but around North America. We take this opportunity on behalf of so many to say - Charlie, you made a difference in building pride in our Thousand Islands and we thank you.
We present two special tributes:
Suzanne Richter, Director, Thousand Islands Boat Museum, Gananoque, On
Charlie and Cliffe Craft boats have always been a significant part of the Thousand Islands Boat Museum. With his guidance as a boat builder, mentor and River historian, Charlie collaborated with the Museum on exhibits, was part of our events and most importantly shared his stories.
For over 67 years Charlie was a River boat builder who constructed more than 2500 boats known for their sturdiness and superior design. Many of these vessels are still on Ontario waterways. Charlie always said the boat he was most proud of was the Joseph E. Rogers, a 35-foot patrol boat, used by the OPP to patrol Georgian Bay. It was one of the largest Cliffe Craft boats, most of which were 16-foot Island or the 26-foot Cruiser models. In 1989, Charlie, his wife Mollie, and his daughter Sarah opened Wilstead Woodcraft, a small family business that hand-crafted beautiful cedar strip, St. Lawrence Skiffs, in 16 and 18 foot models. Their small shop is just around the corner from the family farm, where Charlie got his start in the business. Each boat is a true, unique work of art.
Tom King, TI Life Author
I was very saddened to learn of the recent passing of Charlie Cliffe. Charlie was a true craftsman, who left behind a very impressive legacy, yet he was also a humble man. The boats that he and his company built touched the lives of a great number of islanders over the years. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to sit down with both he and Mollie to gather information on the history of Cliffe Craft and to be able to write an article on the subject that met with their approval. I am also very pleased to see that the 1000 Island Boat Museum is ensuring that examples of Charlie’s work are still available for the public to see and appreciate, and that Cliffe Craft gets a place in the local history that it deserves. Rest in peace, old friend.
A Blue Cliffe Craft
”No son it is a Cliffe Craft” by Tom King for TI Life
Photo Ford Family Archives
Written by Tom King posted on November 13, 2011 22:35
The warm spring sun reflected brilliantly off the freshly varnished woodwork as Jack Preston guided his brand new blue and white “Commander” into the fuel dock at Cuttle Marine. As the gas attendant assisted with the lines he gave the boat a thorough once-over before remarking, “That’s a beautiful new Lyman you have there sir.” Jack, slightly surprised at the comment, responded, “It’s not a Lyman”. Caught off-guard by his error the pump jockey quickly recovered and announced, with some authority, that it must be one of the new Chris-Crafts that he had been reading about. Chuckling to himself Jack proudly informed the young lad that, “No son, it’s a Cliffe Craft, and it was built right here in Gananoque”. And so another case of mistaken marine identity was resolved and the name Cliffe Craft became known to yet another resident of the Thousand Islands. Read More
By Susan W. Smith, Editor, Thousand Islands Life Magazine