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Fulford Yacht's Historical Homecoming


Cangarda, the century-old luxury yacht that once sailed the St. Lawrence River  as Senator George T. Fulford's Magedoma1, effortlessly glided into its original Brockville dock after an epic restoration and voyage that brought it back for a long-awaited historical homecoming.

The elegant 110-year-old steam yacht that cruised the Thousand Islands during the Gilded Age made its stop in its home waters after being restored in California to cheers and applause at a private reception June 3 in Brockville. The public enjoyed tours of the vintage vessel for several days for a nominal fee at the city's Blockhouse Island to raise money for Fulford Place Museum. 

The yacht's owner Dr. Robert McNeil told the crowd of about 80 people at the reception held at the dock of the site of the former Fulford boathouse that the $12 million restoration was no easy task after several years of delays.

Quoting Winston Churchill, McNeil said: "Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up." He summed it up on the afterdeck overlooking Brockville's waterfront later, stating: "It's been a long voyage."

McNeil, a venture capitalist who lives in Mann, Cal., told community leaders, Fulford Place employees and Ontario Heritage Trust officials that it was always his plan to have the 126-foot vessel return to the Thousand Islands.

He paid tribute to a team of restoration experts led by Jeff Rutherford, one of a large crew of family and friends who accompanied the Cangarda on the voyage. McNeil, a member of the Antique Boat Museum's International Advisory Council, embarked on the journey last April to bring Cangarda back to its native waters.

The vessel also stopped in Clayton, N.Y. and Gananoque for public tours before docking alongside the former Fulford boathouse, now a private residence.

The property's owners, Isabel Young and husband Michael Bottigoni, opened up their home and historical dock to the Cangarda and crew for several days during the vessel's visit, hosting the reception.

The Toronto couple bought the residence five years ago and have had an interest in its unique history and former colourful owner Senator Fulford, the millionaire who made his fortune selling "pink pills for pale people." He lived in the mansion known as Fulford Place, now a national historic site and museum.

"It was really thrilling," said Young, who spent her teenaged years in Brockville, of the vessel's visit. She contacted McNeil by email to invite the Cangarda to return to its Brockville boathouse several years ago and was thrilled to see it arrive in her "backyard."

"It's the culmination of all this history," she said. "It really felt like she was coming home. It really felt like she belonged."

"It was too much fun," said Young. Her son Charles, Mark, of Brockville and Prescott, grandchildren Zachary, Zaida, Camryn and Lincoln, and mother Bernice Young of Brockville got to enjoy the yacht and know the crew during its stay. Charles even joined the Cangarda crew on its voyage to Montreal.

Cangarda is the last surviving U.S.-built steam yacht in America and one of only three of its kind left in the world.

The vessel's return and restoration is nothing short of amazing given its history of navigating choppy waters. The Cangarda has survived a sex scandal, war service, sinking in the Boston Harbor, and a near capsizing on its first voyage after its elaborate restoration before righting itself in the waters off San Francisco. She has also hosted lavish parties, weddings and dignitaries including royalty and Canadian and British prime ministers.

The yacht has had several guardians. Frederick Burtis Smith2 lived aboard the famous steam yacht for three decades in Rochester N.Y. Smith, the son of a wealthy attorney in Minneapolis Minnesota, was an architect in New York City. The life-long bachelor and yachtsman made the Cangarda home, mooring the vessel in Rochester between 1953 and 1983 until he was in his 80's.

"If it wasn't for him, she wouldn't exist," said the yacht's engineer Stephen Cobb, Camden, Maine.

The vessel was first launched in 1901 in the Delaware River, christened the Cangarda by her first owner, Michigan lumberman Charles Canfield and his wife Belle. The yacht was named "Cangarda" as a combination of Canfield and Gardner — the last names of Charles and Belle.

It had a rocky first voyage - not due to the steam yacht - but to Charles Canfield. He engaged in an 'indiscretion' with a young female guest onboard in his first and last cruise, resulting in a divorce and the sale of the Cangarda to Fulford in 1904. 

The vessel operated in the Thousand Islands for nearly 50 years after it was sold to Senator Fulford and renamed Magedoma, a combination of the names of Fulford's wife and children — Mary, George, Dorothy and Martha.

The Fulfords owned it for two generations. The Canadian government later took ownership of it during World War II and used it as a navy training vessel.

Richard Reedy of Gloucester, Mass. acquired the vessel in 1983, towing her to Boston and disassembling the boat, spending $850,000 restoring the yacht in the 1980s. Reedy was unable to complete the project and the gutted hull sank in the Boston Harbor in 1999. It was about to be scrapped when Elizabeth Meyers, "the saviour of classic yachts" came to the rescue buying the vessel and later selling it to McNeil.

The yacht was given a new life by McNeil and and Rutherford, of Richmond, Calif., and many others who restored her over six years — from 2004 to 2009. Only one percent of the old hull was reused to build the new one. Most of Cangarda's original Cuban mahogany woodwork was reinstalled at the Rutherford Boat Shop.

While the vessel still uses its original 1901 Sullivan steam engine, it is equipped with a modern navigation system, radio and autopilot system to make it compliant with federal maritime laws.

Among the crowd to see the boat arrive in Brockville was Judy Fulford, daughter-in-law of the senator, who married his son George Jr., who died in 1987. "It means a lot to me, for my husband," she told the Recorder and Times. "If Mr. McNeil hadn't come along, (the vessel) would not have been saved. What makes a man do such a fabulous thing?"

Helen MacLeod, a director with the Ontario Heritage Trust which supports Fulford Place, expressed the same sentiment to welcome McNeil to Brockville moments after the steam yacht docked in familiar waters. "Thank you for bringing the Magedoma home,” she said. “It's great to see this wonderful vessel here."

By Kim Lunman, kimlunman@thousandislandslife.com

Kim Lunman is the owner and publisher of Island Life Magazine (http://www.islandlifemag.ca) based in Brockville, Ontario., She is also a team member of this TI Life e-zine. Kim's Island Life magazine, was distributed in May in local newspapers in eastern Ontario and northern New York. As always, we continue to look forward to her monthly contributions. To see all of Kim’s past articles see the TI Life search: Kim Lunman.

And to see the past two articles Kim wrote about Cangarda see: See Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again in TI Life’s May 2010 issue by Kim Lunman for the history of the historic steam yacht; and, See Sequel: The Cangarda's 'Faithful Guardian' in TI Life’s June 2010 issue by Kim Lunman for the history of story of Frederick Burris Smith’s ownership.

1

See Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again in TI Life’s May 2010 issue by Kim Lunman for the history of the historic steam yacht.

2

See Sequel: The Cangarda's 'Faithful Guardian' in TI Life’s June 2010 issue by Kim Lunman for the history of story of Frederick Burris Smith’s ownership.

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Comments

Ian Coristine
Comment by: Ian Coristine ( )
Left at: 9:55 AM Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Congratulations on your fabulous dawn shot of Cangarda/Magedoma Isabel. It's a keeper!
K. Benson
Comment by: K. Benson ( )
Left at: 1:30 PM Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I was so disappointed to miss the Magedoma when it was available for viewing in Brockville and Gananoque. But today, June 15th, I saw it on the river. Beautiful even at a distance. If anyone knows where the yacht is overnighting in our area please let me know. Thanks K.B.
Wayne Furman
Comment by: Wayne Furman ( )
Left at: 11:20 PM Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Thank you for your wonderful article on the Cangarda. I recall the years that she was docked on the Genesee River in Rochester. My father Richard Furman was a member of the Chief Petty Officers' Club, whose clubhouse was located right across the street from the Victorian train station where Cangarda was docked. When my family went to Club functions, I was always facinated by this unusual vessel which remained in the river after all the other boats were safely in dry dock for the winter. To the eyes of a young boy, this was surely a ghost ship! I remember the cabin being surrounded by an enclosure every winter. The Cangarda was a fixture on the Genesee, and to my recollection always docked in the same spot for those many years. I wondered what happpened to this facinating yacht when it disappeared 30 years ago. Thank you for filling in all the blanks! The Cangarda has had a facinating life!
Liz Huff
Comment by: Liz Huff ( )
Left at: 4:55 PM Thursday, June 16, 2011
This is a great story and a spectacular ship. I am not clear though on the long terms plans for the Cangarda. Will she stay in this area indefinitely or is she returning to some other new home port?
tim walsh
Comment by: tim walsh ( )
Left at: 10:24 PM Sunday, May 12, 2013
My father George Walsh crewed on the Magedoma. He was a star on the Magedoma hockey team that Mr. Fulford owned. Taking care of his boys during the depression.
Kevin Darroch
Comment by: Kevin Darroch
Left at: 7:19 PM Monday, August 15, 2016
It is a super story and good to know that such a historical boat has been saved. As a young local man, a high school student, I once had the opportunity to be on the boat with Mr. Fulford. It was an opportunity I have never forgotten.
Susie Smith
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 8:54 PM Monday, August 15, 2016
Thanks for posting Kevin. Love the story of your being on the ship! S smith, editor.

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