Programs: The Wah-Tut-Ca Whaleboat Project -
Building the Craig Ryder

1937 Wah-Tut-Ca Whaleboat On Northwood Lake
1937 Wah-Tut-Ca Whaleboat On Northwood Lake
It has been almost 50 years since a whaleboat has been moored to a Wah-Tut-Ca dock. Yet the memory of those days when Wah-Tut-Ca’s pirates ruled Northwood Lake has not been forgotten. At least not forgotten by the Key Foundation.

Anticipating the completion of the Andrew Curry Green Boathouse, the Board of Directors of the Key Foundation began to think about another long-term project. Building the Boathouse was a tremendous undertaking that took almost four years to complete. Through that struggle the Foundation grew. The excitement and commitment to a common goal lead to an exceptional outcome that was good for Wah-Tut-Ca and TKF.

The question for the board was, “What’s next?” The selection of this project serves multiple interests of the foundation. First and foremost is the desire of the Foundation to provide a unique program opportunity for Scout Troops who attend WTCSR. The growth of the camp program in recent years has been based on the development of programs focused on individual Scouts. This project creates an opportunity for an exciting program for a Troop to do together.

1920s Whaleboat, Camp Chadwick Dunstable, MA  Pirates of Wah-Tut-Ca
Right: 1920s Whaleboat, Camp Chadwick Dunstable, MA
Left: Pirates of Wah-Tut-Ca

Historical Research

The project also serves the Foundation’s interest in Wah-Tut-Ca history. Beginning at Wah-Tut-Ca’s predecessor Camp Chadwick and continuing until the late1950s, the “whaleboats” were a signature craft of the Wah-Tut-Ca waterfront. In 1937 three boats were brought from Chadwick to Wah-Tut-Ca. The three boats varied in size. The 1939 camp brochure listed the craft of the Wah-Tut-Ca Navy which included the notation of two 25 foot boats an one was 30 feet. 

The completion of this project is going to take some research. The foundation has several photographs of the whaleboats both at Wah-Tut-Ca and Camp Chadwick dating back to the 1920s. There are many references to them in the Key Foundation Archives. One is from Alexander Vervaert who in 1987 wrote, “Our three whaleboats. Surplused by the US Coast Guard these big canoes required much maintenance but were great fun. Sometime rigged with sails they were safe and steady. On Sunday Catholic boys would get to Mass in one of these arks towed by the waterfronts motor launch. The boats eventually rotted away beached in the cove yielding an incredible pile of brass hardware. World War II cut off our supply and phased these craft out. When surplus was again made available we plied the waters on balsam rafts."

It is from this reference that one of the project leaders, Joshua Ratty, is beginning to expand the research. The United States Coast Guard has a museum and records of all the craft it has used. Josh has contacted to the Coast Guard to see what we can learn about the boats.

Once identified the project team will look at the options to return a craft to Wah-Tut-Ca. One is to find and restore an old boat of similar design. The other is to get a schematic of the boat and build a new one. The cost of the project is undetermined at this time but may cost as much as $30,000.


Craig Ryder

A final yet important part of the whaleboat project is the naming of the boat. The boat will be named, “The Craig Ryder”, after the legendary former camp director and TKF Board member. Craig passed away in 2005, and his friends and brothers are dedicating this project to his memory. It is a project that Craig would have been committed to as it does much to help Wah-Tut-Ca’s program today while building upon Wah-Tut-Ca’s sense of tradition and mystic. If you are interested in participating in the whaleboat project contact any member of the Key Foundation Board or info [at]