Local fellow built this boat..Does anyone have a steam powered GT or ever seen one?
‘Gentleman’ builds steamboat Create a hardcopy of this page Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Posted: Saturday, August 1, 2015 6:00 am
By Jodi Lundmark, CJ staff | 0 comments
Jamie Zaroski built his first boat in his father’s basement when he was 13 years old.
“It was an eight-foot dinghy,” said the 48-year-old Thunder Bay man. “We barely got it out of the house.”
While he loves to build things, boats are Zaroski’s main passion.
He has built more than 40 boats and canoes and usually sells them quickly. His boats have gone as far as California, Florida, New York and Calgary.
But his latest project is different.
After nine months of hard work, Zaroski launched Jenny Girl this summer — an 1890s-style fantail steamboat he built from scratch — on the Kaministiquia River.
The seats are made of three-quarter inch cedar-strip bead and cove, and he used local black ash for the inwales and outwales. The inner and outer keel are Douglas fir and the entire boat is coated in fibreglass.
It’s 21 feet long and weighs 2,000 pounds.
The boiler alone weighs 500 pounds and the single-cylinder engine pushes the boat about 11 kilometres per hour.
For Zaroski, Jenny Girl is a passion project — he was drawn to the unique design.
“You’ll never catch me in a 14-foot aluminum with a 99 on the back,” he said.
“It makes me feel alive,” he added. “The last eight, nine months, I wanted to go steady. I’m ordering parts from all over the U.S. and trying to find information on how to do this, how to do that. It keeps me busy.”
Zaroski works at Resolute Forest Products in the city on the mill’s paper machine. He works a schedule of four days on, four days off and he makes sure he has all his materials lined up for those days off.
He even ordered 25 pounds of coal from the U.S. using eBay, to get the boiler fire hotter and the steamboat moving a little faster on the water.
“It’s hard to find,” Zaroski said of his search for coal, noting one of his neighbours told him it was illegal to import into Ontario.
However, the Canada Border Services Agency officers found it on the list of items allowed into the country and Zaroski was able to bring the coal over the border.
Online websites for buying and selling are where Zaroski found most of his parts, including an 1890s-style costume and a Hudson’s Bay Company flag.
“There was a very short period of time when boats became pleasure crafts and only the wealtlhy could afford to be bombing around in a boat, so that’s kind of why I dress like a gentleman from that era,” said Zaroski.
The Hudson’s Bay flag is so he could cruise past Fort William Historical Park sporting their rival’s flag.
But it’s all in good fun as staff waved him over to the shore and had a good laugh — a familiar reaction for Zaroski when he’s out on the steamboat.
“Literally, people run to the riverbanks,” he said. “They’re waving me down to talk about the boat, to take pictures or videos.”
The first launch of a boat is the most exciting day for Zaroski. It’s when everything is working and afterwards, the excitement levels off.
He already has his next project sitting in his driveway — an ex-coast guard boat he bought from a government auction website.
But he might wait to get started on that one.
“I think I’m going to take a short break and just enjoy the steamboat for the rest of the summer,” he said.
As for the boat’s name, Zaroski said he’s a single man and every date he goes on asks him who Jenny is.
“It’s my golden retriever,” he said. “She’s three years old. She loves fishing on the dock. She’s in heaven at my place here.”