A long-running Cook family tradition is our ability for meticulous attention to detail. In my canoe work, this trait really comes alive. My name is Brian Cook, founder of Cook Craft, and I would love to tell you more about how I came to work my trade in the canoe shop owned by legendary craftsman Clarence Bouges. Some force brought me here to the place on earth where I most belong.
Having grown up in the area, I spent much of my childhood on the water, from canoe trips to boating at the family cottage to camping on Georgian Bay. I later moved to San Francisco to work with several biotech start-up companies focused on stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Through that time, I always missed the beauty of Ontario’s freshwater lakes, and that longing inevitably brought me home. My love for Algonquin Park and all things nautical led me to the decision to become a canoe builder.
I started out learning to build cedar canoes with Jack Hurley of Hurley Canoe Works. Through him, I learned much about the detailed quality that can be put into these canoes. During my time with Jack, I accumulated the tools I would need to eventually go off on my own. I was also able to acquire a few canoe molds originally built on Lake of Bays by Vic Asbury and used for decades by the famous Clarence Bouges.
When the time came for me to move into my own shop, I did some searching and found the Clarence Bouges’ old canoe shop was still standing, and so I repaired it and took it over. It was really quite serendipitous.
I have been carrying on Clarence’s work through his shop ever since. I have even chosen to continue to build fiddles and lyres, snowshoes, custom paddles and other smaller pieces just like Clarence used to.
Many years have now passed, and my experience and work ethic have helped me build a reputation for quality and integrity. I canoe regularly and take a 10-day trip every summer in Algonquin with the intent of eventually seeing the entire park. There is so much to love about living here in Muskoka and building canoes, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.