Tugboat unique on Sylvan Lake

Amid the motorboats and sailboats commonly seen on Sylvan Lake, John Cameron’s small tugboat gets more than a few second glances.

John Cameron took his tugboat out on Sylvan Lake last Thursday. He built the boat himself as a retirement project

John Cameron took his tugboat out on Sylvan Lake last Thursday. He built the boat himself as a retirement project

Amid the motorboats and sailboats commonly seen on Sylvan Lake, John Cameron’s small tugboat gets more than a few second glances.

“Some people just can’t believe there’s such a thing,” said Cameron. “People come up in big powerboats and want to take a picture.”

One person wanted to know if he would be building another, said Cameron, adding that all the comments have been positive.

“Oh that’s so awesome, I want to go on a boat like that,” remarked one passerby last Thursday.

Cameron began building the boat in December 2010, in his garage in Red Deer. He worked two to three hours per day most days, and took it on the lake for the first time July 13.

“When you’re retired you always think you’d like to do things,” said Cameron, who used to have a garden business in Sylvan Lake. He added that he already had the necessary tools and space for the project.

This is the first boat Cameron has built. Originally from Alliance, he “grew up keeping machines running on a farm”. He chose to keep his tugboat small as practice, eventually hoping to build a larger boat.

He liked the look and efficiency of the tugboat’s design, which he ordered from a website.

“I learned as I did it, the plans are very good,” said Cameron. He said the boat’s construction style was forgiving of small errors he made.

“There were a lot of little challenges,” he said, adding that while it was easy enough for him to draw a straight line, it was another matter to cut it.

The boat is constructed from fibreglass, epoxy, and plywood.

“It’s kind of a messy job,” said Cameron of the work required to build it. “You get practised at it and then it’s not so bad.”

The boat is powered by an electric golf cart motor, which he charges every night in his garage. Fully charged, Cameron said the battery lasts about eight hours.

In addition to the battery, the boat is also equipped with a radio and a GPS, which help him monitor the weather, his speed, and his distance.

Cameron has only taken the boat on Sylvan Lake so far, usually twice a week, which he likes for its proximity to Red Deer.

He named the boat “Canduet” after seeing a boat called “Candu” in his building plans.

“I put it in Google and got no hits, so I figure it’s a safe name,” he said.

Cameron was familiar with boats, especially sailboats and canoes, before building the tugboat.

“But I’m not born on the water or anything like that.”