Down she went. The building that housed the century-old Johnson Boat Works was flattened with hydraulic shovels in 2013 to make room for senior living on the shores of White Bear Lake Minnesota. This might seem obscure to the casual reader, but here on the Potomac, it hits home.
The fleet of the Potomac includes six scows from Johnson Boat Works, in White Bear Lake Minnesota.
Five Johnson M20s are all converted to I20s, ranging from 1983- through 1987. There is also a 1974 from a different mold: the 16-foot “M scow.” The “M” (for Melges) was the stepping stone for hundreds of sailors on their way up to the “E” and “A” rocket ships.
All of these hulls are close to the weight of manufacture, and show no sign of softening. It’s a testament to the craftsmanship of this place, which I first encountered as a 12-year-old recently moved to Minnesota.
My dad, Boyd Lee Harris, was a product the Nebraska depression. He could never buy a new boat from Johnson Boat Works. But that did not stop him from looking.
Johnson allowed the public to walk through its shop. I recall the first time my pop and I walked into that space. The smell of varnish and cedar nearly knocked me on my ass.
That was 1972. They were still building Cs and Es out of cedar back then. Most of the fiberglass boats were just over the horizon. The artisans were right there, shaping each strip of cedar.