Prams & Shepherds
Living close to the Niagara River and Lake Ontario exposed me to many types of boats. I have many fond memories of two completely different types of boats on the river. Both of these boats were special in their own way.
Win Erzepsky was a friend who lived in Youngstown. He was born in Germany and his family migrated to the United States in the early 1950’s. He out weighed me by forty pounds. He had a very quiet, serene, and deliberate demeanor. He never got excited. If you asked him a question he would always pause and contemplate before answering. Win had a little ten foot plywood pram which was made into a sailboat. In the center of the boat was a one inch wide by fourteen inch long opening. The opening was hollow in the center and the outside of it was framed with plywood as high as the sides of the pram. There was a lead keel about three feet long that slid into the slot when the water was deep enough. This compensated for the eight foot spar and sail mounted just forward of center. The transom of the pram had brackets to mount the rudder.
Win was an excellent sailor and we spent many afternoons and evenings tacting back and forth across the river in the little pram sailboat. At times it was a toss up as to whether we could overcome the current in mild winds. We always stayed upriver from Youngstown because the little sailboat wasn’t designed to handle the conditions of the breakwater where the river entered the lake. It could get very rough. The little sailboat was quiet and peaceful. Any boat that came close always gave us a big wave of hands. Many people would come close and talk. The other type of boats on the Niagara River which left a lasting impression were the Shepherd boats.
The Shepherd Boat Company manufactured boats in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. These were sleek, fast, expensive, mahogany runabouts and family cruisers. The two most popular models were the eighteen foot 275 HP and the twenty seven foot 450 HP. You didn’t have to see a Shepherd coming. You could hear them two miles away when they entered the river from Lake Ontario. Shepherd boats had class!! From the polished mahogany to the throaty through the transom exhaust pipes there was no other boat like them. We would be playing a half mile from the river and hear a Shepherd coming. Off we’d go to where we could see the boat.
The hours spent sailing the river were like being in another world…………….. the Shepherd boats occupied the world of my dreams.