Boat spotters take note: Miss Buzz still an elegant lady after 87 years

– Color photo: Miss Buzz, 2019 moored on Puget Sound in Washington state.
– B/W photo: Miss Buzz, 1939 with my father Sandy Phillips, age 5, and family friend Tom Salt.

Submitted by Chris Phillips

When we spend sufficient time in Sans Souci, many of us track the comings and goings of our friends and family simply by the boats we spot traversing the main channel. Boat-spotting is more difficult these days, but some boats will never be confused with others. 

Miss Buzz is one of those easy marks. Her low-slung silhouette, cartoonishly long bow deck, and silky smooth, wake-cutting profile is immediately unmistakable. She is a native to Parry Sound where she was built in 1934 by the Croswell Brothers Boat Works for lifetime cottager Elmer I. Phillips of Totten Island, my grandfather. He named Miss Buzz after his eldest daughter, Deborah Phillips.

For many in the Sans Souci area, Miss Buzz has been a familiar and comforting sight. The authors of Island Odyssey wrote, “What she lacks in speed, she more than makes up in elegance and style, reminiscent of a day when getting there was at least half the fun.”

The Buzz, as she has been known for four generations, was not always unique. She was one in a quartet of similarly sleek launches handcrafted by the Croswell Brothers during the 1920s and 1930s. The others – The Flirt, Jack of Diamonds, and Little Jane II – are gone. You can read about them on pages 143-145 of Island Odyssey

Miss Buzz, apparently the lone floating survivor among her sisters, has had many lives, including some near-death experiences. Her 22-foot hull has been grounded on shoals at least twice, despite Elmer Phillips’s uncanny ability to know “where the rocks aren’t.” She has suffered dry rot and regular rot. She has been overloaded with canoes and  camping gear. She has humbly hauled debris to the dump. Siblings and cousins have fallen asleep on her floorboards upon returning (slowly) from a long day of picnicking. She is our mistress in a long-term, high-maintenance, multi-generational love affair.

Recently, Miss Buzz disappeared from the main channel. She had fallen into another period of disrepair. In 2007, I was both fortunate and irrational enough to purchase her from my extended family. With help from Stan Hunter in Port Carling, we rebuilt her hull that winter. But trying to restore and maintain an antique wooden boat from my home 2,400 miles away was like trying to paddle in low water through the Garden Channel behind Sans Souci Island – not happening.

In August 2016, and with mixed emotions, we arranged to have Miss Buzz loaded on a flatbed truck for transport to the west coast. After a nerve-wracking week, she arrived unscathed at a marina in Gig Harbor, Washington, where she experienced her maiden voyage on the waters of Puget Sound.

For the past five years, Miss Buzz has been like an elegant lady visiting her favorite spa during the winter. Her mahogany and oak decks are refurbished; her cedar hull is repainted; her aging Chris Craft B-60 engine is swapped for a small-block Mercruiser inboard. This spring she will luxuriate with fresh coats of varnish. Summer is coming, and Miss Buzz will be ready to dance again.

So, our apologies to the boat spotters of Sans Souci for not being able to round the point at Wild Goose Island this summer, but we do take some solace that she might one day return to entertain those of us who still keep close watch on the main channel.