Grew Boats: From Jackson’s Point, to the Jackson Family

Earlier in 2016 I set out on a journey to learn as much as possible about the history of Grew Boat Manufacturing. Since I began this research, I have been amazed by the different eras of the brand, and although the original research was for my own interest, we have been getting many calls and emails from Grew enthusiasts who want to know more about their boat(s). Most information requested is regarding late models, built near Owen Sound, that owners need product specifications for but, some requests for historical information come in as well. Understanding the different eras of the brand, and manufacturing facilities will help people understand more about their vessel.

Although I won’t have all of the facts perfectly detailed, the following summarizes how the Grew brand has evolved, why it is such a strong Canadian name, and how it came to where it sits at rest today.

In the early 1900s Arthur Grew learned to build boats from the Ackroyd Brothers of Toronto. Due to health issues, he moved from Toronto to Jackson’s Point, where he used the skills he picked up building dinghies in Toronto, to built his first boat. That first boat was reportedly sold to David Gibson, of Simpson’s Department stores. He went on to rent and sell the boats he built, from a two-storey boathouse where the company first began. During this period, there were craftsman building beautiful wooden boats throughout Southern Ontario but, over the decades a few companies grew to prominence. In 1932, Grew purchased Gidley Boatworks and consolidated the two facilities in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where Grew continued business until the early 1990s.

During the Second World War, several Canadian Boat Manufacturers were commissioned to build high-speed submarine chasing war ships called Fairmiles. Grew was responsible for the manufacture of several Fairmiles that played an important role in the war effort, including defence against German U-Boats, and even the landing on D-Day. During this period of time, all resources were focussed on war-efforts, rather than pleasure craft.

Following the war, and prior to the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement, Grew enjoyed a few decades of successful license and manufacturing agreements with established U.S. boat brands. Through several transitions, Grew boats evolved in appearance, based upon the partners they were working with and, these changes can make some of the vessel identification and information rather confusing. In the early 1960s Grew manufactured and distributed lapstrake wooden boats for Cruisers Inc., and became nationally prominent under the marketing power of Algonquin Marine.

After the Cruisers Inc. contract expired in the late ’60s Grew entered the fibreglass boat market, building boats under license for Slickcraft. Leon Slickers left Chris Craft to start his own company, during a labour strike that was affecting manufacturing. During the time when Grew was building the Canadian version of the Slickcraft line of deep-V hull pleasure boats, the facility in Penetanguishene expanded exponentially, to accommodate high demands. There are still many of these boats on the water, reportedly dependable and sea-worthy to this day.

Throughout the 1970s, Grew changed ownership, and leadership and, in the early 1980s the Slickcraft era came to an end. During the early 1980s Grew entered an agreement similar to the Slickcraft arrangement, with the historical boat manufacturer Chris Craft, although the Chris Craft vessels were branded with the Chris Craft brand, unlike the Slickcraft Grews.

During the mid to late 1980s Grew was Canada’s largest boat manufacturer, under the legal name ACF Grew, developing and marketing original Grew models, manufactured in Penetang, and sought after internationally.

With the emergence of NAFTA, U.S. manufacturers no longer needed a manufacturing partner like Grew so, the company was forced into another transition.¬†Unfortunately, in 1991 the Penetanguishene facility was destroyed in a devastating fire. Many company records were destroyed and, the company was dismantled. It is unclear where all of the company assets that remained were distributed to, and why, but David Cameron purchased boat moulds, and opened his own manufacturing facility in Grey County, south of Owen Sound. The original company, ACF Grew, and the Trademark were all held by different parties, although David Cameron did his best to maintain the integrity of the great Canadian name throughout the 90s and into the new millennium. Grew continued to develop, manufacture and market sought after boat models until 2011. Unfortunately, following a devastating incident that resulted in the death of David Cameron, the company’s assets were dismantled and distributed across the province once again, this time the result of a public auction. Several company records, including boat specifications, and owner’s manuals were either lost as a result of the auction, or destroyed in another fire.

Currently, the most recent boat moulds, from the David Cameron era of Grew, are owned by one company, the manufacturing facility sits as a fire-damaged shell, and the intellectual brand is owned by Ron Jackson. The Jackson family has a dream of rebuilding the Grew brand, and manufacturing retro boat designs that are worthy of Arthur Grew’s name and craftsmanship.

14 comments

  1. Don Limoges says:

    Hi,

    Just found your site. I own a 1977 255 Grew which I purchased in 2002. It was in a sad state. This is the largest version of the Slickcraft that Grew built. It’s a twin engined runabout! Have spent a small fortune in maintenance and restoration.

    From what I can gather / surmise, Grew only built about 50 of these boats. Some had convertible tops, others with a hard top and a few with a fly bridge. I believe all were built with a head – which only a contortionist could use!

    From what I’ve seen,. most were equipped with Mercury I/O power plants. Merc 165′s for a total of 330 H.P. Mine easily cruises at 25KTS. and offers 2.2 NMPG.

    Although it’s primarily a pleasure craft, it is occasionally used as a SAR resource on Georgian Bay.

    I have an original GREW brochure from that era.

    BTW – GREW also made small sailboats – Sunfish??

    Regards,

    Don Limoges

    1. chadajackson says:

      Thank you for the post Don, and my apologies for the delay in response.
      Your model of boat is one of my favourites and, it is shocking that so few were built.
      Please email me photos of your boat. I have a few photos of collectible boats that I would like to post on the site, for the enjoyment, and education, of other Grew owners. I was not aware of any later model sailing craft, like the Sunfish class, but I know that Arthur Grew started the business with rowing and sailing craft so, it doesn’t surprise me if there was a legacy model.

      If you ever wish to part with your 255, please send me a note?
      Thank you!

  2. Jim schoen says:

    Got a 1984 grew cd 18.5.
    Boat runs great
    If any one needs parts please call
    Parts for many makes
    Muskoka on
    705 706 3758
    Jim

    1. chadajackson says:

      Hi Jim,
      Please send me more details regarding the boat-parts that you have available?
      Thank you!

  3. J. Singh Biln says:

    Thank you for the great historical information on Grew boats. I am looking at a 2011 Grew XLE 203 I/O cottages deck boat that may be one of the last boats built there. David Cameron sold it at Toronto Boat Show just few weeks before his death. Would you have any technical info on this boat or reviews, specs? Search in Google did not reveal much. Thanks.

    1. chadajackson says:

      Thank you for the note J. Singh Biln. I am sorry but I don’t have information about the boat you are interested in; in fact you know far more than I can tell you. I would seek more information from the seller, as he or she would have better documentation than what is available to me. In fact, your XLE 203 Deck Boat isn’t even in the marketing materials that I have available to me. I would guess that the 203I/O is the same as the 202 GR Fun Deck, but with the inboard motor. The Deck boats are loaded with Standard Equipment, that on most models were optional.
      I imagine that it is a real beauty. I only warn that you get the full service history, and any information about damage or issues, from the owner, as the Warranty was not picked-up by another company so all of the transferrable warranties are not supported. Learn what you can from the current owner, and form a relationship with a trusted marine service company that can keep your boat in perfect running condition.
      Good luck with it, and please send photos of you enjoying the new boat!

  4. I own a 245 Grew HT (Hard Top), live in Hamilton – do you know how much these boats weight without the trailer!

    1. chadajackson says:

      Hi Patrick,

      Sadly GREW.ca doesn’t have this type of detailed information.
      However, based upon some marketing information that I do have, your absolute classic 245 Hard-Top weighs in excess of 4,000 lbs. I am unable to provide specifics so, the only advice I have is to take your boat to some road-side scales, to have the boat weighed, then weigh the trailer alone.
      I hope this helps.

  5. Terry says:

    Note: The agreement with Chris Craft began in 1978.

    Terry

    1. chadajackson says:

      Thank you for correcting my information; I had only assumed that the Chris Craft agreement began in the ’80s, but I appreciate knowing that it was actually as early as 1978.

  6. Richard Tomlinson says:

    Cutter Bosts ?

    Late 60s cutter 18 foot

    Can anyone help me in regards to any info on these boats please

    My grandfather purchased one New back in the day ! Its still in the family but in Very bad shape Burlington

    1. chadajackson says:

      Hey Richard,
      GREW.ca does not have the information you seek but, please share photos of the boat, and the questions that you need answers for. Perhaps another Grew/Cutter owner can share the information that you are looking for.
      If you restore your boat, I would love to post photos of the project, and finished product.

      All the best with your boat!
      Chad.

  7. Calvin Haug says:

    I just recently purchased a 1999 Grew Bow Rider Hull # QCU168061899. The length of the boat is 16.8 feet in length. Unfortunately i have no idea what the model is. Would you be able to assist me with this ? Thanks; Calvin

    1. chadajackson says:

      Grew boats have typically had very simplified names; if it is 16’8″ long, it is likely a 168 GR Outboard.
      The only model close to it would be the 166 Avenger but, it is an inch shorter (16’7″). It too is an Outboard model.
      I hope this helps.

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