arezoo309Barbara Kerr

 

The steamboat Arezoo was the vision of the late IMAX co-founder Robert Kerr. My father had a lifelong love of wooden boats and was intrigued by steam power. His family history tied him to Lake of Bays, where his grandparents had been early settlers in Dorset, and Arezoo was destined for a berth in the boathouse on Zephyr Island. His previous wooden boat projects were the restorations of Nancy Ellen, a 1927 Duke launch, and the Great Lakes trawler Chippewa.arezoo launch jw oct 2011 33

Arezoo represents a link to the past. She is a replica of an elegant Edwardian estuary steam launch or yacht tender. Alex Ritchie, a Scottish engineer, took her lines from the boat Asphodel, a 1905 model from LIFU, the Liquid Fuel Engineering Company of East Cowes, Isle of Wight. Drawings were then made by Selway Fisher Design, in Wiltshire, UK.

 

Construction on Arezoo was begun about 17 years ago, after Robert retired from business. She was intended to be a prototype, with other steamboats following once the design elements had been worked out. However, the building of Arezoo had several major interruptions, not the least of which was Robert’s strict adherence to the Kerr family motto: “Late, but in earnest”.

 

Since he actively participated in the building of the boat, all decisions were subject to scrupulous attention. The relentless pursuit of perfection in every detail, no matter how small, was Robert’s guiding principle. John Werlich, who worked on various projects with him over several decades, relates a telling story:

 

“Robert loved to make drawings. He loved to make drawings in ink. Mixed with his perfectionism, the sessions usually led to pretty colourful language.

His work was always very precise. I have never seen anyone put wood grain on drawings like Robert. When most draftsmen want to indicate wood on their drawings, they show a general grain pattern.

With Robert’s drawings he didn’t show just any wood grain, you could with complete confidence proclaim: Yes, that’s figured cherry from a small mill east of Staynor, cut from the MacDougal farm, late November, air-dried seven years.”

 arezoo310 wheel

This perfectionism also led him to search out, and work with, people who excelled at their craft.

 

Arezoo’s hull was laid up and faired by master boat-builder Brion Jorgenson. The hull is cold-moulded with an inner layer of 1/2 inch Alaska yellow cedar, and three outer layers of 1/8 inch mahogany veneer. Numerous people have described it as “perfection”, and “flawless”. Painting it gloss black put it to the final test, and ultimately proved, without a doubt, Brion’s consummate skill.

 

Meanwhile, the components were assembled.

 

The engine was made at Hurley, Berkshire, UK, by Peter Freebody, a builder and restorer of timber river craft, whose family has been trading on the River Thames for over 300 years.

 

The boiler, a three-drum Yarrow type, was primarily built by Alex Ritchie in Wrabness, Essex, UK. This brings us to one of the sad interruptions in Arezoo’s progress. In 1998, when the boiler was near completion, Alex died as the result of a sky-diving accident while training for a round-the-world balloon bid with Sir Richard Branson. After a hiatus, his son carried on and completed the boiler.

 

Robert picked the parts of the boat that he wished to work on: the bird’s eye maple compass binnacle, king planks fore and aft, the samson post, and wheel.

 

The interior joinery, steam fitting, and metal work were all done by John Werlich. John’s superb craftsmanship was honed while building his own boat, Canta Libre. Arezoo’s decks, transom and joinery are black cherry. Fittings are custom cast in bronze. All details on Arezoo received much focused attention in a continuous effort to achieve the “perfect solution”. Wooden valve handles were hand-turned in cherry, and then varnished to piano finish; hubs were turned in bronze with tapered square holes to fit the valve stems; bronze washers were turned, and finally all were assembled with polished acorn nuts. Absolutely no shortcuts were allowed on Arezoo. In an attempt to speed things along, John would often admonish Robert “Perfect is good enough!”; although John himself was on occasion at least as guilty in this department.arezoo329arezoo598 bow

 

Sadly, in April 2010, Robert died, just as the boat was nearing completion. My sister Nancy and I did not really hesitate in deciding that the only possible path was to complete Arezoo, and John agreed to stay on and see the project through.

 

A year later, we were ready to test the boiler. Initially we were assisted by John Coulter (who had been involved in the restoration of the Segwun); when other commitments intervened, he put us in touch with engineer Bryan Dawes. Bryan’s invaluable knowledge of steam engines allowed us to first “bring Arezoo to life” during boiler tests in the shop this past August. The Yarrow type water tube boiler is fast steaming, and comes up to a working pressure of 150 psi in about fifteen minutes. All worked well. But the final test was yet to come. On October 4, 2011 Arezoo was launched at Mimico Cruising Club with builders, family, and friends in attendance. To the delight of everyone, she floated squarely on her lines.

 

In-water testing of the engine and boiler followed, and of course her steam whistle was blown to let everyone know that Arezoo had arrived. Sea trials were next. Gingerly she eased away from the dock for the first time under her own power with John Werlich, helmsman, and Bryan Dawes, engineer, aboard. She slipped down the fairway and channel, and out into Lake Ontario. After so many years of being firmly held in her building cradle, it was exhilarating to feel Arezoo respond to her new environment. Most of us had never been on a steamboat before, and the charm of the warm engine with itsrhythmic, clacking pistons moving up and down was a revelation. All the various engine parts, which initially appeared to be moving discordantly in different directions, were in fact working perfectly together to drive her massive bronze propeller. It seemed that Arezoo was in her element and thoroughly enjoying herself. One hundred and six years after her original was launched, Arezoo was now proving the excellence of her pedigree.

 

We were extraordinarily lucky that the next ten days of October provided glorious weather. Day after day we cruised on Arezoo under cloudless skies, offering rides to our many visitors. People were mesmerized by the magic of a working steam engine. Arezoo is an ambassador from an earlier age of elegance – she gleams with many coats of varnish, the sun’s rays are thrown back from her highly polished bronze fittings – but she also embodies the balanced combination of form and function, and she will get you home safely and reliably when a storm threatens.

 

Throughout all of this, Robert’s presence was almost palpable. It was so difficult to witness the grace and beauty of his dream made reality without him beside us to marvel at her effortless passage through the brilliant blue of the water. But of course he had been able to see her, and that was why we all were there.

 

One final note, about the name Arezoo. Originally the boat was to have been called Halcyone, but in 2009, Robert indicated that he wanted to change that. After his death, we settled on the Persian name Arezoo, which translates to: wish, desire, or dream.

 

 

Arezoo’s dimensionsand specs are as follows:

 

LOA                     25 ft6in

 

LWL                     24 ft9 in

 

Draft                     2 ft7 in

 

Beam                   6ft2in

 

Displacement             4500 lbs

 

Hull                     Alaska yellow cedar, mahogany

 

Engine and boiler beds       White oak

 

Keel, shaft log             White oak

 

Bilge stringers             Douglas fir

 

Keelson, clamp           Douglas fir

 

Boiler                   LIFUreplica by Alex Ritchie, 3 drum Yarrow type

 

Engine                   Bellis replica by Peter Freebody: 15 hp3.375 + 5.75        

                         compound condensing

 

Working pressure           160 psi

 

Tankage:                 Water: 25 gallons

                        

                         Fuel, diesel oil: 25 gallons