Boating History: Grew Boats

Grew 1956 Runabout

Feb 14, 2019

Arthur Grew (1885-1952) opened a boathouse on Lake Simcoe at Jackson’s Point in 1907. Here he built canoes, rowboats and sailboats, some of which he hired out and others he would sell. Though relatively small, the business prospered for two decades until the Great Depression hit. In 1932, Toronto businessman Clarence A. Kemp (1893-1977) bought the business, but kept Grew and his employees on to build the boats as before, while he looked after financial matters.

In 1939, Kemp took over The Gidley Boat Company, located in Penetanguishene. Established in the 1890s by Henry E. Gidley (1864-1933), it had been a large and successful manufacturer of motor boats on Georgian Bay, but was left struggling after the Depression. Kemp maintained both plants, merging the businesses under the name of “Grew Boats Ltd.” Before long the company was working on military contracts, producing a variety of vessels, including 38’ Crash Boats and eight of the 112’ Fairmile patrol boats. After the war, Grew Boats returned to the building smaller pleasure craft.

Grew BoatsKemp sold off the Penetang plant in 1950, along with the Grew name, to a group of investors from Toronto. The Jackson’s Point shop, which produced 14’-16’ wooden outboards, was split off as “The Bonnie Boat Company” and was soon sold to a different buyer. Under its new ownership, Grew Boats rode the post-war boom to great success, becoming one of Canada’s largest boat builders. A major re-fit of the factory was completed in 1957, with a variety of stock wooden boats being manufactured, including both inboards and outboards, as well as large cruisers. Grew’s did not design its own boats, however, but licensed models from American manufacturers.

Production shifted to fiberglass boats, and in the 1970s a new, larger factory was built near the original one. At this time, Grew’s employed over 100 people. From the late 1970s, sales began to decline and the business eventually closed in 1989. The Grew brand was later resurrected, with boats being manufactured at a plant near Owen Sound, but this closed in 2011.


• Gerry Hatherly

Gerry Hatherley is a researcher and writer for the Archives at Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre. His main focus has been on the vintage boat builders of Muskoka. Gerry lives in Gravenhurst, ON, and has deep family roots in the region.

This article is the CYOB’s second in a series of articles and photos. The series is nine at the moment but Gerry is working on another six or seven.  Other articles in the series include: 

Bastien Boats of Hamilton, ON


Neptunus 650F Review

Neptunus 650F 400

By Andy Adams

Over the years Canadian Yachting has had the pleasure of doing several boat review articles on new Neptunus models and we are familiar with the qualities that Neptunus is famous for. They have all been exceptional yachts, but this is the one I would most want to own myself. It’s a personal choice and a matter of taste as to whether you would prefer to have a sedan express model or a flybridge but in my opinion, the flybridge layout offers some wonderful attributes.

We met with Neptunus Managing Director Jan Willem De Jong this past fall to take the new Neptunus 650F out in Lake Ontario. 

Read More


The Other Virgin Islands

Sunset off St John

By Mark Stevens

I was first seduced by the United States Virgin Islands during a ferry ride from St. Thomas to Tortola to begin one of our earliest British Virgin Islands charters nearly twenty years ago.

A perfect sunset off St. John with St. Thomas views for backdrop.

Clearing Pillsbury Sound, surrounded by voluptuous emerald mountains as the ferry sliced through royal blue waters, I was struck by the unspoiled ambiance of St. John, the island gliding past our starboard beam and the irresistible charm of a village called Cruz Bay visible from our quarter stern.

Read More