Rule #1 of island life: you need a boat. The search for a functional island boat is proving to be a difficult one. Priorities include safety, reliability, longevity, fuel efficiency, and affordability. We’ve researched several models from respected boat builders (Boston Whaler, Grady White, etc.), government surplus sites selling National Park Service and Coast Guard vessels, welded aluminum fabricators in Alaska and British Columbia, and ideas from abroad (boats used in the Swedish Archipelago, for example). Our primary purpose will be moving gear and people across a large lake that can become rough at times; and we need to do this safely using the least amount of fuel for the most amount of years. Ideally the boat we’re looking for would be under 20 feet, self bailing, able to withstand scraping against rocks occasionally during loading without causing functional damage, and have a reliable, fuel-efficient engine under 115hp.

One of our favorites so far is the Stanley Islander 19 Dual Console model (above). Built in Canada near Parry Sound it is designed for Lake Huron around the rocky islands of Georgian Bay. It is self bailing (i.e. all water drains out of the boat via gravity through scuppers in the hull above the water line), fully welded aluminum (as opposed to riveted), low maintenance, tough, no-frills, and efficient… but also expensive, unfortunately. Does anyone know where we could find a used one for a reasonable price? Apparently they are very hard to come across because people hold on to them for multiple generations and there are few that have been imported from Canada. Other considerations include tested designs such as the Boston Whaler Outrage 17 or a vintage whaler model with a later model engine, Grady White Sportsman 180, or Lund Alaskan 18 or Tyee 18. These are somewhat easier to find but do not have that rare magic combination of aluminum construction and self-bailing hull (they are either one or the other). Aluminum would be easier than fiberglass to maintain and more practical while landing adjacent to a rocky shoreline should it scrape the bottom or get pulled up on shore. Pricing is also an issue. If the prices of the above models were compared the Stanley Islander is the most expensive while the Lund Alaskan is generally the cheapest. Yet the Stanley is the boat that would last the longest without diminishing function, have the broadest application, the least built-in obsolescence (and is recyclable should that time come), and would require the least maintenance–all ideals that match priorities on the island. Perhaps that makes it the wisest in the end, all things considered. If you have any other ideas post them on Facebook or send them via email to

ps. Down the road a sailboat will likely become our vessel of choice but for the moment a motorboat is needed.  

January 30, 2012