This is a replica of the classic 19th century guide boat designed for lake exploration.
It seems fitting that the Guideboat Company
a cool new, just-launched purveyor of outdoor gear and
Adirondack-inspired guide boats, has just opened its first retail store
and showroom in an historic former lumber yard in Mill Valley,
California. The buildings are being sensitively turned into a retail
complex by new owners Matt and Jan Mathews. Good wood cleaves to good
The boats, like this replica of an 1892 J. H. Rushton Saranac Laker
Guideboat, which is a centerpiece, are exceptionally beautiful
utilitarian objects in solid cherry and fiberglass.
To my eyes the trapezoidal cherry-and-cane seat and back are elegant
designs in themselves, with the ingenious body-and-boat-contoured shape
and functional materials that let air and water flow through for swift drying.
Restoration Hardware founder Stephen Gordon, who was also CEO of
Sundance for many years, started Guideboat Co. in his “retirement,” and
was inspired by his youth spent rowing in the Adirondacks in upstate New
York. Now he rows on Lake Tahoe. Guide boats are similar to canoes but
are rowed, not paddled, and can carry great weight. The oars are made of Sitka spruce and can be
painted, as shown.
Two other boats are offered: the Maine Pea Pod,
revived from an 1860s design, and the Sabot, from the 1840s. ‘These
boats are not here as props,” says Stephen. They’re part of the
merchandise along with the London-made marine lighting, sailing
sweaters, foot ware, and other apparel to complete a very appealing
environmental lifestyle. Next door in another restored section of the lumber yard, part of
Stephen’s collection of vintage canoes and guide boats is on display.
They make me want to try one out — though if you know me you know that
camping isn’t really my thing. But I’d be happy to row one up to a classic Adirondack boathouse:
say Camp Topridge, expanded in 1923 by cereal heiress Marjorie
Merriweather Post, with its ornate branch work and viewing loggia (photo courtesy Wikipedia
). Or if I’m feeling a little more current, how about docking at this dramatic sailboat-inspired house by
the German architects Steeltec37
. Now these are proper guide boat destinations! And in its way, the sleek looping line of the
Rushton Laker Guide Boat is just as contemporary as that swoop of a