| Aug 09, 2007

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Feature Article - August 9, 2007

If Noah moved his boat to the Crow Lake Road, how long before the rains start?

by Jule KochBrison

For the last three weeks, people driving the Crow Lake Road have been wondering at a huge boat just sitting on the side of the road, literally in the middle of nowhere - miles from water. Part of the mystery is that the boat is obviously too big to be used on any of the local lakes.


Well, Noah apparently did build his boat in the middle of a desert, so apart from the apocalyptic message, there is some similarity with Johnny Bron, a metalworker who lives on Road 38, and who has spent the last 11 years building the Reina, a boat 4.88 metres wide x 4.88 metres high x 18.3 metres long, in his back yard. For those among us who have never quite gone metric - that’s 16’ x 16’ x 60’.

Metal is Johnny’s passion. He’s built everything from baby carriages to airplane wings, but of all the things he’s built, he says the Reina has been the most fun, “It’s not square, it’s not straight, it’s not round, and I had to make it work.” The boat has been a summertime project and is built of steel, mostly obtained from the Hamilton steel yards.

The Reina has been finished for a while, and Bron carefully planned its move. He rented a large 4-wheel drive tractor and tried moving the boat around his farm. Although it moved the boat easily, no tractors of that calibre are available to rent at this time of the year. Johnny eventually found an older tractor to do the job and with a group of seven friends started to move the Reina to its destination, the Narrows Lock on the Rideau Canal.

The plan was to travel via Newboro to Kingston and into the St. Lawrence River. The Reina would have been the deepest vessel ever to navigate the canal and Bron had to obtain a special permit for the trip. There was only a narrow window of opportunity when the water levels in the canal would be high enough for the Reina to safely make its journey.

Bron and his friends started out around 1 a.m. on July 22, when the traffic on Road 38 would be minimal. An hour and a half, and 10 km later, they stopped to rest on the Crow Lake Road, where the boat is now, intending to resume on Wednesday. But the adventure came to a crashing halt when OPP officers told Bron he could not move the boat another inch.

They told him that he needed a permit from the Ministry of Transportation (Ontario) to move the boat. He had already submitted photo of the boat to Transport Canada and they told him that no permit was needed for municipal roads. He told the News that the boat is now cleared to go, but with the delay, the window of opportunity to reach the St. Lawrence has vanished.

Bron now has to somehow turn the boat around, take it home, and wait until next spring to try the launch again.

In addition to the crushing disappointment, other problems have surfaced. The tractor’s engine will need to be overhauled before it can undertake the return journey, so Bron has been searching for a place nearby to put the boat in order to at least get it off the road. Also, he says that people have been climbing onto the boat and he is worried about their safety (see notice below).

He has investigated the other option of obtaining a trailer to take the boat directly to the St. Lawrence, but the cost would be in the 6-figure range prohibitively expensive.

Bron is a very private person and has kept his project to himself until three weeks ago, when the boat suddenly became very public, but not in the way that Johnny Bron intended, proudly navigating the Rideau Canal in a record-setting journey.

Although the turn of events has been humiliating and frustrating beyond words for Bron, his boat is a magnificent creation, an accomplishment that has amazed everyone who has seen it.

And when the Reina finally makes her journey next year and reaches the St. Lawrence River, many people will undoubtedly be there to cheer her on.

NOTICE: The captain of the good ship Reina, hard aground on Crow Lake Road, thanks everyone for looking after Reina while she awaits travel clearance (now obtained). To avoid personal injury the captain requests that you please refrain from climbing on deck. All railings will be removed shortly, increasing the chances of injury dramatically. Tours and photo sessions will be available soon (date, time to be announced).

Thanks, Captain John

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