Ok I had said I was done posting on this blog….but there are still over 260 views daily….so I am posting about the ‎Cheemaun/Chi Mahng: A Journey By Canoe – Aviva Community Fund (https://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf20871)

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OVERVIEW

Cheemaun/Chi Mahng: A Journey By Canoe. Cheemaun means ‘Canoe’. Chi Mahng means ‘Big Loon’. When one is paddling a canoe it can feel like you are riding on the back of a loon. The Ojibway or Anishinaabe people were canoe people. Taking a canoe trip certainly gets one back to basics….and in the case of Anishinaabe even  back to one’s traditions. This is very true with the young people.
One such example, undertaken over the last few years, is an outdoor adventure leadership experience (OALE) for youth (ages 12 to 18) from Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, involving ten-day canoe trips. The main goal of the OALE program is to promote resilience and well-being.
Aboriginal youth face a number of considerable social, economic, and educational challenges. According to statistics outlined by the United Nation’s Human Development Index, the living conditions and quality of life Canadian First Nations is similar to that of many developing countries. A lack of education means that approximately 70% of First Nations’ students living on reserve will never complete high school, while unemployment rates are two-times that of the non-Aboriginal population. Health challenges which include obesity, diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS mean that First Nations Peoples face a shorter life span than other Canadians, while suicide is now one of the leading causes of death among Aboriginal peoples between ages 10 and 24. The Aboriginal population represents the fastest growing youth population in the country. Aboriginal youth under the age of 25 represent more than half of the total Aboriginal population in the country.
The proposed project aims to limit the challenges and build on the strengths of Aboriginal youth and their communities, while supporting the value of culture and identity. A key component of this project will be the promotion of youth engagement through leadership activities, volunteer work and relationship building with other members of the community. The project will engage the youth and their communities in part of the design, development, and implementation of the program….from the canoe route selected and the equipment used….to how their community is properly represented along the canoe trip route (such as flags used….even artwork on canoes or paddles). This last part allows for increased community pride and ownership, both of which are key to a sustainable program.
The project deals directly with youth….many at risk….or in danger of becoming at risk. It could provide an alternative based on Anishinaabe culture and traditions. It involves a journey by canoe….a very traditional basis of transportation….but far more than just a canoe trip. It will develop leadership.
The Cheemaun/Chi Mahng: A Journey By Canoe would be a First Nations canoe project for Anishinaabe youth….using the canoe as a means to help these young people on their life’s journey. Such canoe trips could develop leadership skills as well as increase awareness of their Native culture and traditions. The youth participants return to their communities as future leaders. As example the youth could educate and motivate their family and friends about various environmental issues and possible solutions. Thus by engaging these Native youth on such trips awareness is brought to Mother Earth….the environment….wilderness….water….the Great Lakes….even First Nations rights.
A number of canoe trips would be undertaken from various Anishinaabe (Ojibway) communities from around Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, as well as from inland such as Temagami, North Bay, Lake Simcoe and the Kawarthas….all ending up together at Manitoulin Island. These communities would be invited by a yet to be determined host community.
Such trips are thus centered around one of the Great Lakes….the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe people…..using many of the traditional canoe routes taken by the Anishinaabe people.Such trips would involve wood canvas canoes….built by First Nations youth….for the trips. Hopefully 4 wood canvas canoes, specifically built for this project, could be painted by various Anishinaabe artists….and after the trip ends each of these canoes could be raffled off to further fund canoe projects in First Nation communities.
The journey taken by canoe will bring the Anishinaabe youth back to their roots through traditional canoe routes….but also help guide them on their own life’s journey.

I posted the final post on this blog a few days ago….but the news of Farley Mowat’s recent passing at the age of 92 got me thinking….maybe as Farley once said:

“My canoe is in the Canadian Canoe Museum, which is exactly where it should be.  Who knows, maybe someday I can be in it again—either preserved in vodka or properly prepared by a good taxidermist….

Farley believed he was conceived in that same canoe….possibly proving he was the offspring of two true Canadians….remember Pierre Berton is supposed to have said that A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping. (although Philip Chester stated: Anyone can make love in a canoe, it’s a Canadian who knows enough to take out the centre thwart!)

Any way, I thought I would repost this ‘old chestnut':

I’ve described myself as an old guy at times….I’ve made comments about feeling a few more aches and pains than I used to….forgetting some things like _ _ _ _???? (darn I can’t remember what I was thinking of….LOL LOL)….or being a little hard of hearing (usually more out of covenience than anything else LOL LOL)….I’ve commented about how I feel the extra weight of my wood canvas canoe some mornings (but then that’s a good reminder that I’m still alive LOL LOL).

I hear that a poll in the USA has baby boomers between 57 and 65 seeing themselves as only middle-aged….so I must be young….I’m only 59 after all LOL LOL. Imagine comments like:

Baby boomers say wrinkles aren’t so bad and they’re not that worried about dying. Just don’t call them “old.”

The generation that once powered a youth movement isn’t ready to symbolize the aging of America, even as its first members are becoming eligible for Medicare, the government-funded program which provides health care coverage to the elderly.

A new poll finds three-quarters of all baby boomers still consider themselves middle-aged or younger, and that includes most of the boomers who are ages 57-65.

Younger adults call 60 the start of old age, but baby boomers are pushing that number back, according to the Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll. The median age they cite is 70. And a quarter of boomers insist you’re not old until you’re 80….

So I can’t be old….50 plus is the new 40….or is that 35….I can’t quite remember LOL LOL….any way, I will have to amend that quote of E.B.White’s that I use now and then:

On age: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.”  

I wrote about E. B. White and canoes sometime ago in a blog post here, Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: E. B. White: The Elements Of The Canoe And The Outdoors In His Life And Writing:

I heard a segment on CBC’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright entitledThe Elements of E. B. White. E. B. (Elwyn Brooks) White (1898 – 1985) began his career as a professional writer with the newly founded The New Yorkermagazine in the 1920s. Over the years he produced nineteen books, including collections of essays, the famous children’s books Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and the long popular writing textbook The Elements of Style. What struck me in the discussion of E. B. White’s life was his connection to the canoe. Michael Engright spoke with Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter and editor of his letters and soon a list of his quotations (in collaboration with Cornell University).

His granddaughter told of his love of the outdoors and how the canoe was a part of this love. She told how he was still paddling a canoe late in life, still able to lift a canoe single-handed up onto his car (which had special rollers attached to make getting the canoe in place easier). I couldn’t help but think of my own father who loved to get out paddling in his kayak, well into his 80s, and how he had similar rollers on his Yakima racks….my Dad insisted on putting his kayak up on his car himself….

….In E.B. White’s Drafts of “Once More to the Lake” (page two) by Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide,http://grammar.about.com/od/writersonwriting/a/ebwlakedrafts_2.htm, comes this:

Postscript (1981)

According to Scott Elledge in E.B. White: A Biography, on July 11, 1981, to celebrate his eighty-first birthday, White lashed a canoe to the top of his car and drove to “the same Belgrade lake where, seventy years before, he had received a green old town canoe from his father, a gift for his eleventh birthday.”

….Unfortunately it appears that the canoe may have also led to E. B. White’s demise as stated in the recollections of Roger Angell of the personal history of his stepfather in Andy: For E. B. White’s readers and family, a sense of trust came easily, as published in The New Yorker, Febuary 14, 2005,http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact?currentPage=all:

….one evening in August, 1984, when he came for dinner he complained that he’d knocked his head the day before while unloading a canoe from the roof rack of his car, over at Walker Pond; now he was having trouble knowing exactly where he was or what was happening around him. Carol and I smiled at him. “Yes, that happens sometimes, doesn’t it?” we assured him.

But he knew better. A couple of months later, after we’d left, he took to his bed and never again knew exactly where he was. It looked like a rapid onset of Alzheimer’s, but more likely, the doctors thought, was a senile dementia brought on by the blow to his head that day. He was eighty-five now….

….Let me end with a quote by E. B. White that I love….from the review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06365/749712-148.stm, Sunday, December 31, 2006, ‘Letters OF E.B. White: Revised Edition’, Letters collection affirms wit, charm of E.B. White, by James A. Butler comes this priceless observation:

On age: “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.”

As somebody who sometimes feels his age (even if I don’t always act it LOL LOL), I like the idea that the canoe is ideal for even just an older man….and that all it requires is for him to sit and move his arms….even I can do that much LOL LOL. But then E. B. White was still picking up his canoe on his own late in life, so I guess I don’t have many excuses for not portaging LOL LOL…. 

Any way, based on this latest poll, instead of E.B. White’s quote, I guess I’ll have to say something like:

For a somewhat middle-aged man, a canoe is ideal; he can still kneel (some of the time any way) and move his paddle through most of the strokes….well the easy going ones like a J or an Indian….those cross bow draws or high braces might be a bit much on the shoulders. But I am not so sure about those long portages with a wood canvas canoe….and sometimes anything over 100 metres is long.

Of course that is entirely in jest….I am just hoping I’m as spry as Omer Stringer at 66….Joanne Kates wrote an article entitled I Can Still Fly! (Paddling For Those Who Are Old Enough To Appreciate It) in Kanawa (Fall 2002), p. 43:

When I first met Omer Stringer, the granddaddy of the Algonquin style of canoeing, he was 66 and I was about 17. Omer was an unrepentant pack-a-day smoker, and he paddled better than I did. He would run a portage with his red Chestnut on his back. I carried nothing and struggled to keep up. And at the end of the portage, watching me suck air, he’d say: “See why I smoke? If I didn’t you’d never catch up with me.”

She states Omer was still paddling at 70. Later Joanne adds:

The wind picks up and starts to blow me around with serious intent. When it relents for a bit, I sit up to give the old knees some relief. They creak something fierce, but I celebrate that I can canoe at 50, and I can still canoe trip. I can portage, I can paddle hard, I can cook outside, do my business in the treasure chest, and I can even sleep on the ground (with a little help from my Thermarest).

Hallelujah! Just give me a few more minutes to get in and out of the canoe than you did 20 years ago. And so what if we have to carry slightly lighter packs and double back over portages nowadays? Who’s in a hurry anyway?

Every decade or so, it may be necessary to trade in your canoe for a lighter model – more technologically advanced, more expensive, and easier to carry. Omer Stringer did it. I remember him showing me, with great pride, the latest model he had built in his garage workshop. Each fresh-built canoe was lighter than its predecessor. Now I know why. It was so that its owner, and those who followed him along the path of the paddle, could continue to know the good life, especially once we get old enough to appreciate it.

This issue of Kanawa, Fall 2002 had a great section on Canoeing Is For Life, with an article by the same name by John Alan Lee, in which he points out that he intends to keep on canoeing as long as he can keep on walking….and diving….and portaging…and treating folks to wonderful stories around the campfire! John Alan Lee  shared some tips and tricks from a master who knows how to pace himself, pamper the old bones, and live very well in the wild….here are his main points:

1. Taking time to smell the flowers….taking the time while canoe tripping….even if it means more rests on portages….taking double carries over the portage….noting trees with notches to rest a canoe on….using your experience and wisdom gained over the years in the woods….not attempting water that’s too fast….or high waves and wind.

2. You’ve got time!….still take multi-day trips….just plan less distance each day….and a surprising tip: carry more (even if it means more carries over portages)….have a few small convenient things to make yourself more comfortable….few more clothes pins and light line to  hang up wet clothing….a tent-warming candle….an extra fly to sit outside your tent when it’s raining.

3. A good night’s sleep….better sleep equipment….a thicker foam mattress….a real pillow….some luxury for a better sleep.

4. Man’s best friend….take a dog for added security….and a warm body to sleep next to….but don’t forget a warmer sleeping bag….long johns….gloves and a toque….even sedatives can help with a good night’s sleep.

5. Protecting my old butt….added padding….foam pads for kneeling….on the yoke….closed-cell foam mat to sit on in camp.

6. Saving labour – and trees….use a smaller fire….less wood used….less damage to forest.

7. Senior’s moments….rely on lists….especially if preparing food for trip….better to have too much than too little.

8. Keep both feet on the ground….think about where you’re going….where you step….be more careful how you walk.

9. Take someone’s arm….don’t be embarrassed to take the arm of someone….don’t attempt hops over rocks….or risky steps into the canoe….watch your balance.

10. Who’s coming with you?….senior canoeists can join groups to paddle with others….possibly naturalist clubs….or find other senior paddlers from online canoeing forums.

11. Tripping with memories….remember old trip partners….raise a glass of wine to their memory….travel with a dog if you are not used to being out solo….make sure you have a good first aid kit….and know how to use….know what to do if lost.

12. You’re a role model!….take along a younger companion who might never have canoed….experienced and patient old canoeists make great role models….go over basics….keep it simple….and enjoy.

Let me quote from this article:

And yes! At 69, I can still hoist a canoe! I can’t say for certain how many years are left before I must yield to old age, but I can let you in on a few secrets. Some of them may surprise you, and many of them – I can promise you – work for paddlers of any age! It’s all a matter of pampering yourself a little, and perhaps changing a few old habits.

Take portaging, for example. These days, i don’t try to lift my canoe at the middle from my hip to my shoulders. I lift it at the bow and work my way down to the yoke. It’s easier if someone else raises the bow and holds it while I slip under. - John Alan Lee, Canoeing Is For LifeKanawa (Fall 2002),  p. 40

This same issue of Kanawa (same section actually) had an article on the Grey Hares, a senior naturalist group in Manitoba….so if you don’t want to travel alone there are options….and ways to continue to have paddling fun.

Going back to Joanne Kate’s article I quoted from before, let me just add this quote of hers:

For me, a middle-aged woman, a canoe is also a place of power. Paddling along, you know your luck as a person who is no longer young. More aggressive sporting pursuits close their doors to us as we pass 50. And indeed I am creakier, more cautious, less agile than I used to be getting in and out of canoes. But once settled in my wood and canvas canoe, I can still fly. 

So I guess if E.B. White is still paddling his canoe well into his 80s….if Omer Stringer was still racing younger women across portages in his mid 60s….and my own Dad was still kayaking in his mid 80s….then I shouldn’t have any excuses not to be out paddling….not that I have any excuses other than those I use to go paddling….like: I should be out in the canoe today so I can see what the water level is.

Maybe I’ll find myself enshrined in some museum….maybe as Farley Mowat states in Canadian Canoe Museum: Famous Friends – Farley Mowat:

My canoe is in the Canadian Canoe Museum, which is exactly where it should be.  Who knows, maybe someday I can be in it again—either preserved in vodka or properly prepared by a good taxidermist….

Paddles up until later then….maybe the poll says I’m ‘middle-aged’….but I’ll still be in bed by 9 pm tonight I guess….gotta get up early to go out paddling!!!! To check the water level of the local lake. And at my age I do need my rest before heading out in the canoe….despite what E.B. White wrote:  “For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms”, I need to do more than just sit and move my arms….besides I don’t sit, I kneel (well as long as my knees allow me to any way LOL LOL). And I hope to paddle until I drop….Jack Hurley (a fine canoe builder) was once quoted:

….I’d really like to die somewhere out on a canoe trip. I’d like to set my canoe down on the water and stare at the beauty of the thing just one last time. And then let them find me there beside it. Can you think of a better way to go? - from The Builder, an article on Jack Hurley by Brian Shields in Canoeroots Spring 2009, p.14. 

I do think it’s a great way to go….to be doing something you love….so I do hope to go with a paddle in my hand….although really I don’t want to end up in the Canadian Canoe Museum….whether ‘pickled’ or ‘stuffed’ LOL LOL….maybe my favourite canoe….but not me.

AND THIS IS DEFINITELY THE LAST POST FOR THIS BLOG….SERIOUSLY THE FINAL ONE….PADDLES UP FOR GOOD.

MIIGWECH FOR TAKING PART IN  THE JOURNEY

MIKE

This will be the 1,095th post….and sadly the last one. This will be my last post of Reflections On The Outdoors Naturally.

For the past few months I have been merely recycling older posts. I guess I have nothing new to offer. It isn’t that canoeing….or anything to do with the outdoors….is in any way less important to me. But I don’t have the same amount of time as I once had to write new posts….certainly not as often as I once did (when sometimes I posted daily).

I’ve posted so much that I don’t have any more room in the Media Library for this blog any more….I’ve used up 3.0 GB of the 3.0 GB upload limit. That’s a fair bit.

This blog is still getting a fair bit of traffic….averaging about 260 views per day right now….even with just reposting of old posts.

So this is the end of a nearly 5 year run.

However I will not delete this blog….some may wish to visit to read old posts….or merely to check out the links found along the left side of the blog….or check out the many different quotes listed on separate pages.

I want to thank all of you who have followed this blog….and hope you come back to revisit any time you like. Maybe I’ll see you on the water….or outdoors somewhere.

But for now, paddles up….for the last and final time.

I have used a tumpline….as well as a yoke….the tumpline was good especially if no yoke present….many find carved yokes are not satisfactory for portaging….and prefer a tumpline on a centre thwart….

I have a yoke that is not so ‘carved’ on my favourite wood canvas canoe….and I manage quite well with just that….

   

Photos by yours truly showing detail of yoke in my favourite green canoe.

However my portages tend to be mostly short these days (old age I guess LOL LOL)….if I was doing longer and harder portages regularly I would be very tempted to use a tumpline….

Here are some opinions on using a tumpline to portage:

From How to Portage a Canoe !, is this (although not specific to wood canvas canoes):

First of all the author makes these comments:

Lashing paddles to make a yoke. More of a guillotine than a yoke, when you wipe out. You will wipe out someday…we all do. The lashing shifts around, wastes time setting up, and the canoe will pound your shoulders.

The carved yoke. The purpose of a carved wooden yoke is to sell canoes and its job is done once the canoe leaves the showroom. It is not carved for your shoulders, my shoulders, or the shoulders of anyone you know. Even if it were, it would only fit when the canoe is level. Like any yoke, it is designed to pound your shoulders and inflict pain within the first 100 meters. It is also intended to slice into your neck on your way downhill, and slide off going uphill. Your arm is meant to fall asleep as you grasp the gunwhale to keep the canoe in place. At least if you wipe out the canoe will roll off you.

Then he describes using a tumpline:

The Tump Strap

The weight of the canoe is ultimately supported by your spine, so why not direct the load there as directly as possible? This is why North American Indians first used a leather tump strap over their forehead, tied to either side of the centre thwart. The weight is off my shoulders. Most of the weight is directly down my spine and the thwart rides on my back, behind my shoulders. The tump acts as a leaf-spring to absorb shock as I trek down the trail, or run across during a canoe race. You can jog with this method! I use a felt hat to block mosquitos and protect my forehead from the tump’s force.

The author continues with details on his approach to portaging with a tump.

There is a great explanation on using a tump for portaging….specifically a wood canvas canoe….from Camp Nomiinigue in Quebec….at Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line. (NOTE: More on these two articles later in this post.)
Further discussion on using a tumpline is found at A Lecture On Tumplines:
The absolute best contemporary discussion of the tumpline I have ever read is in Garrett Conover’s 1991 work, “Beyond the Paddle.” This book is still in print, and while most of it concerns advanced canoe techniques, the section on tumplines is clear and concise. Conover is a huge advocate of the tumpline, and several photographs along with the text show his recommended techniques for use. Conover recommends a tumpline with some form of adjustment between each end of the headstrap and the longer load-lashing straps. “My guess is that those who are vehemently opposed to the tumpline are those who have never used one without taking the time to fine-tune and ensure a proper fit,” he says. “This is the fussiest point in the tumpline equation and requires some patience and experimentation to get right. If one never experiences getting it right, then the anguished howling and abject misery is easy to sympathize with and is entirely justifiable. A tumpline adjusted even a fraction of an inch too long or too short is indeed aggravating beyond belief.”
As Kevin Callan notes in The Pain of Portaging | How To Articles – GuideLines: Paddling.net:

A tump strap can help spread the stress of the load and stops the canoe from slipping down your back. Take note, however, that a tump may not be for everyone. By resting the weight directly on the spine, neck muscles are essential.

Murat V. wrote the best of all articles online in his excellent Paddle Making (And Other Canoe Stuff) on tumplines and using them to portage a canoe:

Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project – Part 1: The Design

Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project: Part 2 – Assembly

Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project – Part 3: Using the Rig

In Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project – Part 3: Using the Rig, Murat mentioned the two articles I had previously referred to….as Murat points out about the article, How to Portage a Canoe !:

This article by a canoe tump enthusiast suggests a contoured centre yoke is a horrible innovation. His method requires the replacement of the “stinky” centre yoke with 2″ diameter round aluminum tubing. Might work for him but not going to happen with my boat.

He continues with a great discussion on the other article previously mentioned,Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line from a presentation made at Canoecopia 2007-2008 by Camp Nomingue staff:

 This full colour, clearly written article outlines all the technical aspects although they tend to use canvas & cord based tumps. Interesting that their lashing method involves securing the tump cord 1.5 inches ahead of the actual centre thwart.

Camp Nominigue Setup

Murat continues:

Since my leather tump is akin to the Northwest Woodsman’s site, I’ve used his photos and accompanying YouTube video,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKmZYdKoYX8, to learn the correct method of lashing it in. The video shows the method for a wanigan first and then for a canoe around the 3:50 mark. His canoe also has a contoured portage yoke just like mine.

 

NW Woodsman Tump Pics

However, one thing I never quite liked about the paddles being lashed in the claustrophobic space created by sandwiching your head between the blades. While re-reading the classic birchbark canoe text, The Building of a Chippewa Indian Birch-Bark Canoe by Robert E. Ritzenthaler I came across a paragraph (p. 96) describing one native way of using the tumpline. It involved lashing the grip end of the paddles to the centre thwart with the blades pointed towards the bow. The position is such that the the shafts of the paddles are flared away at the yoke resulting in a much more open triangular space. The arms are wrapped around the shafts with the hands loosely griping the sides of the tumpline on the forehead. Here’s the accompanying photo on pg. 95

One Native Tump Method

This last method appealed to me the most. With all tumplines however, trial and error to get it adjusted just right to work properly. While up north for a brief fall getaway, I got a chance to test out the setup. The tump was secured to the yoke with simple hitches but it took me about about 45 minutes of fiddling to finally find the right length. In the end, I figured out that for my boat and yoke, the best measure was when the centre of the tump’s headpiece just touched the bottom of the hull when pressed down with my finger. This will make it much easier to attach/adjust in the future so as not to waste much time.

 

  

Laying out; Clove Hitch to Yoke; Re-adjusted length

The slack was used to tie in the grips of two paddles and a piece of 1/2″ wide leather strip was used to secure the blades to the seat. In the end the setup was quite secure.

  

Grips lashed in; Blades secure; the final setup

Canoe tump portage

The results: I’m totally impressed with the use of tumpline. While my boat isn’t a heavy beast to begin with, the tump and paddle setup really make for an seemingly lighter carry. I walked around the property with the canoe (including uphill) to a parking lot area drawing some funny looks from neighbours and while it wasn’t an authentic bush portage, the tump carry did make a difference on the shoulders. From a safety standpoint, if I slightly shrugged my shoulders up and tilted my head back, the tump would slip off and roll backwards because of the way it was lashed in. A simple hand motion would swing the tump back into place onto the top of the head so it is relatively easy to get in and out if needed.Especially significant was the ability to let go of the paddles and rest the arms while the tump & shoulders balanced the boat. Also, with the bulk of the weight borne by the tumpline, you only really need one hand to secure the boat while moving. To take the picture above, I set up a sawhorse in the driveway, placed the camera on it, set it on a 10 second delay and walked into position, all the while efforlessly balancing the canoe with the tumpline. It may have its critics, but for me, I can see the potential in this piece of gear.

Let me close with a few thoughts previously mentioned on portaging here:

It’s the portage that makes travelling by canoe unique. – Bill Mason

.portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop. – Bill Mason

Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy. – Bill Mason

Another prerequisite of good canoe country is short portages. Long portages, and by that I mean portages over half a mile in length, are rare and in the entire area there are on the regular routes perhaps not half a dozen of over a mile. On the average most of them are under a quarter-mile and many even shorter, thanks again to the damming of the river systems by the glacier. When you travel down any chain of lakes, your portages invariably follow the beds of the old creeks connecting them, now perhaps only seepages. If the water is high, it is often possible to paddle directly from one lake to another down the old preglacial channels or perhaps make a simple liftout over a separating ledge or gravel bar into the water above.

In the famous canoe country of Maine, portages are often several miles in length, a distance which makes possible means of transportation only by horse and wagon or even narrow-gauge railway. How much more adventurous and satisfying to throw on your canoe and walk quickly across a short woods trail to the next lake. Then you can enjoy to the full the sensation of being on your own and that in the wilds is half the joy of travelling. True, there are other lake regions to the north of us in Canada, where lakes and rivers are as plentiful, but nowhere will you find them with portages of the type found in the border country. The further north you go, the more muskeg you find and with more muskeg goes inevitably lower shores and swampy trails. Only here in the Quetico-Superior do you find them picturesque and beautiful, a welcome change to muscles weary with paddling, a pleasure rather than a chore. – Sigurd Olson, The Evolution of a Canoe Country, in Minnesota Conservationist, May 1935

May your portages be short and the breezes gentle on your back.- Anonymous

The worst portage ever is the next one! – Scott MacGregor

The thought of having to carry all your worldly possessions on your back has been cause to modify the quintessential Canadian adventure canoe trip in terms of how many portages will be encountered. Paddlers now have mutated their own aspirations of adventure by eliminating the “carry”-the fundamental and historical pith of the journey, and choose a route with the least amount of work involved. - from Grey Owl & Me by Hap Wilson

I have no desire for long portages. That’s like saying I desire traffic jams on the 401 when really all I really desire is to get home.

I have a desire for seclusion, for remoteness, stillness and silence, for portability, speed (when …it’s needed), and lightness. The mantra is “Go quietly, Carry little.” As you know, between Wellesley and Sudbury, often it is the long portages that take you to those places. I can go to Algonquin during peak season and not see another human for days, and I can do this simply by using portages that discourage most–and this is right off of Hwy 60.

And, although portages can be analogous to root-canal, they somehow bring depth and character to the trip, while you’re there, but also in memory. Like a pilgrimage, the physical strain wears down the body and opens it up to and is receptive to the solitude and even transcendence that the portage has brought you to.

Portages also represent something that runs counter to our culture of drive-thru convenience and auto-gratification. There is reward thinking about and completing a portage. At the end of the portage I gulp down the water and it may occur to me that I did not click a button to get this far. My body is almost broken, but the air is sweet. Even outside of the canoe world, there is a link between physical work and gratification and contentment. The link, however, is laid bare on some canoe trips.

In one of Olson’s books, he describes his favourite lake, the perfect lake in his mind, a lake that in the past he had spent days portaging and paddling to get to. One summer he decides to fly in, but quickly concludes that his experience of the lake and the area is not the same, is not as deep and meaningful. He is disconnected. To experience or to feel connected to his surroundings, he felt he needed the portages, the travel, the miles of paddling. The meaning of the place is not merely in the physical location, but in the journey.

Olson reminiscences fondly for both lakes and portages:

I can still see so many of the lakes (whose shores and hills are forever changed after the storm): Saganaga, Red Rock, Alpine, Knife, Kekekabic, Eddy, Ogishkemunicie, Agamok, Gabimichigami, Sea Gull. It seems like yesterday… the early-morning bear on BrantLake, that long portage fromHansonLake to the South Arm of the Knife, that perfect campsite onJasperLake…”

I don’t like portages, but they get me to where I want to go. And out there, it seems that while I don’t like them, they are the tough-lovers of canoe trip: they know better than me in preparing me for the place I am trying to get to both physically and emotionally. – Paul Hoy

It not just about the trail one travels, as much as how one gets there….just as life is not so much about the destination as the journey….even with the portages LOL LOL. And when one gets to travel by canoe through wilderness, then one reconnects with the land….with the water….with the rocks and trees….with the whole environment….and maybe also with one’s self.

Paddles up until later then….and remember that life is not about its destination, but its journey….the journey might be tough, long and winding….but it’s sure worth the walk….or the paddle at least LOL LOL. – Mike Ormsby

As you near the far shore’s portage, you feel fresh, ready to carry the canoe Over the short yet rocky trail into the next small but distant lake Perhaps even to a welcoming campsite under the pines Settling down for the night under sparkling stars Maybe even catching glimpse of a shooting star or the Northern Lights

The cedar and canvas canoe rolls up onto your shoulders Not too much weight, a bit more than you remember from last year Just enough to let you know you’re still alive You double the carry over so you don’t overdo it Or maybe it’s just to take more time to see where you’re at

As you rest by a waterfall beside the path, you reflect on the day….on what lies ahead Still a few hours left before the sun sets….should be a full moon tonight Maybe you’ll hear the howl of a wolf…. the echo of a loon from a nearby lake You feel good….at ease….at home….and far from being alone The canoe and you have journeyed far…and still have farther yet to go

For each trip takes you away from the daily grind With each paddle stroke, there is definitely a greater peace of mind So you pick up your pack, walking the last of the portage Upon arrival, you launch the canoe onto the shining waters You and the canoe dance on into the remaining daylight – Mike Ormsby

Paddles up until later….and remember as the cedar and canvas canoe rolls up onto your shoulders: hopefully there is not too much weight….maybe a bit more than you remember from last year….but just enough to let you know you’re still alive….

Next time you portage, think of using a tumpline to ease the portage of your wood canvas canoe….maybe even with any canoe….

And think of where portages can lead you….certainly not just away from the crowds….

 

The all-wood canoes had aesthetic appeal, they were light and much more durable than their bark predecessors, and they were used by latter-day explorers such as the Tyrrell brothers, but for use in wilderness locations, for lugging rock samples, hunting equipment or survey instruments, there was a much more practical and durable design – the wooden canoe with a canvas skin. The Peterborough boat builders knew this technology and were using it to some degree, but some would say that, relatively speaking, they were well behind their counterparts in the northeastern United States. Builders at the E.M. White and Old Town canoe companies had been refining canvas-canoe manufacturing techniques since the 1850s, experimenting with canvas sandwiched between wwoden layers in the hulls of canoes, and with painted cotton duck as a skin on the outside of cedar ribs and planking that made the boat waterproof and protected the vulnerable wooden ribs and planking from abrasion and impact damage. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

The Canadian connection to these, arguably superior, New England canoes was through the owners of the hardware store in Fredricton, New Brunswick. Stiff tariffs had made it advantgeous for merchants in Canada to buy Canadianwhich had protected the Peterborough canoe-building industry and its all-wooden boats, but the Fredricton “Daily Gleaner” reported in 1897 that Mr. W.T. Chestnut had imported a canvas canoe from a “leading and renowned boat building house in the United States, it being especially for use at Pine Bluff Camp.” The article maintained that this fine canoe would be exhibited at R. Chestnut and Sons’ hardware store for a few days. Shortly thereafter, the J.C. Risteen sash and door company in Fredricton (owned by a group including W.T. Chestnut and his brother Harry) started making a canoe identical to the imported American model and, in 1905, the venerable R. Chestnut and Sons canoe company was incorporated.

A curious aspect of this importation of an American canoe was that W.T. Chestnut secured a Canadian patent for the canvas-covered canoe design, despite the fact that the technology had been in use elsewhere in the country in one form or another for decades. Armed with this new patent, Chestnut launched a lawsuit against the Peterborough Canoe Company, alleging violation of its canvas-covered canoe patent. According to canoe historian Roger MacGregor, “Peterborough’s reply….was lengthy, detailed, and devastating. Chestnut did not even file a counter-reply.” And, MacGregor notes, as if to add insult to injury, another company, the Canadian Canoe Company of Peterborough, seeking entry to the canvas canoe market in 1907, simply acquired a Chestnut canoe in Fredricton and copied it exactly as Chestnut had done earlier with the American canoe. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

Although in later life Bill vehemently defended the virtues of his beloved Chestnut – his personal fleet included three, a 16′ Pal, a 16′ Prospector and a 17′ Cruiser – he could have been paddling any number of canvas-covered canoes built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In fact, there were on the market, for all intents and purposes, dozens of nearly identical models, made by various manufacturers in the United States and Canada, many of which had the model name “Prospector.” But, even as a class or type of canvas-covered canoe, the Prospector that became his favourite was entirely consistent with Bill and his view of the world. It was mostly made of natural materials – steamed white cedar ribs and planking; brass tacks and screws; cotton-canvas skin; and white ash or oak seats, thwarts and gunwales. It was solid; it was durable; it could be repaired in the field; and it moved quietly and responsively in all types of water. – James Raffan, Fire In The Bones

Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist

Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.

The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.- From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer

From Dragonfly Canoe: Wooden Canoe Identification – Chestnut Canoe Company:

Capsule History: The Chestnut family started marketing canvas canoes in the late 1890′s in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The early Chestnut canoes were modelled after a canoe built by B.N. Morris, and indeed, the early Chestnuts show the influence the Morris canoes. Chestnut incorporated in 1907 as the Chestnut Canoe Company, Limited. The Chestnut factory burned down in December of 1921, and was quickly rebuilt. Chestnut Canoe Company and Peterborough Canoe Company merged under the holding company Canadian Watercraft Limited. Canadian Canoe Company joined them in 1927. All three companies continued to maintain there own identity. Chestnut shipped its last canoes in early 1979, then closed. Most of the Chestnut molds survive, and are being used in several wooden canoe shops in Canada. For more details about the history of the Chestnut Canoe Company, see Roger MacGregor’s book When the Chestnut was in Flower.

Serial Number Format – Highly variable. Most Chestnut canoes are not marked with serial numbers. Those that are may have five-digit numbers or a number starting with the letter “C”. Without accompanying paperwork that provides information about shipping, it is not possible to date Chestnut canoes using the serial number. Unlike Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, Chestnut never marked a model number on their canoes.

Kissing Cousins: Following the mergers in the 1920′s with the Chestnut Canoe Company, Peterborough Canoe Company and Canadian Canoe Company, all three firms marketed nearly identical lines of canvas canoes. It is often said that Chestnut was responsible for the canvas canoe production for all three companies. While canoes built in one factory were often given a decal for one of the others, for the most part, evidence indicates that each company was responsible for the production of most of its own canoes. Models that are otherwise the same in the catalogs show subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in hull shape, rib patterns, sheer lines, tumblehome, and the shaping of trim parts.

Chestnut Canoe Models

A brief description of the more common model classes offered by Chestnut:

  • Pleasure Models: These are the general purpose recreational canoes offered by Chestnut. These are excellent paddling canoes, and are the most commonly found models of Chestnut canoes. The 16′ Pal is perhaps the most famous of the lot, but the 15′ Twozer/Gooseberry/Chum is my personal favorite canoe yet.
  • Lightweight Pleasure Canoes: Built lighter than standard models. Includes the 11′ Featherweight and 15′ 50-pound Special (popular known as Bobs Special).
  • Prospector Models: These are deeper and beamier than pleasure models of equivelant length. Meant to carry lots of gear for extended trips, there is a lot of canoe packed into a Prospector. Bill Mason’s hype about the Prospector aside, it is a fantastic canoe, and is perhaps the model most widely copied by modern day composite canoe builders. Prospector models were available in double-ended or transom-sterned models.
  • Trappers Canoes: This is a loose grouping of smaller canoes that changed over the years. This class also includes lower grade pleasure canoes and the Bantam, which is a 2nd grade version of Bobs Special
  • Cruisers Canoes: Designed to go fast, these models are narrower, more rounded across the bottom and have finer lines than other models. The Guides Special models are cruisers than have close-ribbing.
  • Freight Canoes: If the Propsector can be considered the pick-up truck of the North, the Freighters are the semi-trucks. Bigger abd beamier, they have great carrying capacity. Available in double-ended and transom-sterned configurations.
  • Ogilvy Specials: Named after famous guides of New Brunswick, these models are designed for shallow, fast water canoeing, like that found on the famous salmon rivers of New Brunswick.

I love wood canvas canoes….especially those built by the Chestnut Canoe Company….my favourite canoe is based on the 16 ft. Cruiser, the Kruger….other models built my good buddy, Bruce Smith are similar to other Chestnut designs, the Chum and the Prospector. Several builders continue to build canoes either directly from the original Chestnut forms (such as Hugh Stewart of Headwater Canoes) or taken from Chestnut designs.

Of course, there are examples of Chestnut canoes in the Canadian Canoe Museum. One of which is Bill Mason’s favourite red canoe (I’ve written about Bill Mason’s love of Chestnuts here before….Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: Bill Mason….And Canoes….Especially Chesnut Prospectors).

From the Mason family website, Red Canoes: Red Canoe Donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum :

The Mason family donated Bill Mason’s treasured red Chestnut Prospector to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough Ontario, on June 17th, 1999….

Bill Mason loved his old canvas-covered wood canoes and used many of them throughout his career as a filmmaker, author and painter. But he always said his Chestnut Prospector was “the most versatile canoe ever made”, and that if he “could only have one canoe it would be the original Chestnut wood-canvas 16′ Prospector”. He journeyed quietly through the wilderness in this canoe, treating it not just as a vehicle, but also as a subject, a symbol and a friend. Bill’s Prospector has a lifetime of memories in it and if it could talk, all the little tears in the canvas, each broken rib and every cracked plank would have quite a story to tell.

Photo of Becky Mason paddling her father’s favourite red Prospector before it was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum, taken by Rolf Kraiker from Blazing Paddles: The Last Outing For Bill Mason’s Canoe.

Photo of the Bill Mason Exhibit at the Canadian Canoe Museum, from the Canadian Canoe Museum: 2011 Jack Matthews Fellow & Award-Winning Canadian Author Nicolas Dickner To Speak At CCM Jan 26th.

For more on Bill Mason and his Chestnuts….especially in his films….see Mike Elliott’s articles from his Kettle River Facebook page:

Path of the Paddle (Part 1 of 4): Bill Mason Shows Off His Chestnut Pal

Path of the Paddle (Part 2 of 4): Spotlight on Wood-Canvas Canoes

Path of the Paddle (3 of 4): Whitewater Ballet in a Wood-Canvas Canoe

Path of the Paddle (4 of 4): Defining What It Is To Be Canadian

Song of the Paddle: A Wood-Canvas Canoe Trip on Film

The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes: A Film Starring a Wood-Canvas Canoe

It is apparent that Bill did call all red canvas canoes in his films “Prospectors” when in fact they were sometimes Pals; in fact in Ken Soloway’s book The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (on pages 159-160 in the chapter on Bill Mason), Ken writes that he visited with Becky Mason at the Mason home on Meech Lake to examine Bill’s Chestnut canoes….even though Bill expounded that the 16 foot Prospector was the “world’s best all-round canoe”, Bill had acknowledged in his final writings that many of the canoe photos used were not of the Prospector, but of the 16 foot Pleasure model (the first “real” canoe he owned)….as Ken further states Mason enthusiasts who want to see for themselves, should examine either the books or the films. The Pal has cane seats and narrow ribs. The Prospector has slat wood seats and wide ribs. Ken continues and says he examined the two red Chestnuts….both showed signs of wear and much use….Soloway then states that the Pleasure model, Bill’s first canoe was officially not a Pal but a Deer because of its narrow, rounded ribs; also the Pleasure model Bill owned was the later widened version from the 1950s (Appropriate since Bill entered in his diary that he had purchased the canoe on April 12, 1958, about the time Chestnut widened the 16 foot Pleasure forms….the other red Chestnut was a Prospector but Ken Soloway found it to be quite used and rather distorted so the measurements he took off it weren’t quite true to those of the original form (which Ken owned) but that was probably from years of use….Bill also owned an 11 foot Chestnut Featherweight….Ken concludes that the Prospector was a very large canoe and would have suited Bill on some of his trips where his canoe was heavily loaded and Ken was personally convinced he (Bill) would have found a narrow Pal more fitting to the esteemed title of “best all-round canoe” if he travelled as light as most trippers do today.

Much has been written about the Chestnut Canoe Company….besides the previous noted articles, Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes has written several articles on his blog (Canoeguy’s Blog) pertaining to Chestnut canoes, including the following:

Five Aces: Unbeatable Wood-Canvas Canoes from the Chestnut Canoe Company

My 17’ Chestnut Prospector Wood-Canvas Canoe

Dimensions for a Chestnut Pal Wood-Canvas Canoe

Lawrence Meyer wrote a great article on his Chestnut Prospector, which is on the WCHA forum:

Honeymoon with a Prospector

Two books on the Chestnut canoe have  been written. One is by Kenneth Solway entitled The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (mentioned above), described  on Amazon.ca as:

The Chestnut Canoe Company began in Fredericton, NB in 1897 and its impact was unequaled on the development of recreational canoeing and the canoe itself. Photos and images from the famed catalogues illustrate this intriguing Maritime story.

Photo from Amazon.ca: The Story Of The Chestnut Canoe.

Another book on the Chestnut canoe is When the Chestnut was in Flower by Roger MacGregor. When the Chestnut Was In Flower: Inside the Chestnut Canoe is the definitive history on the Chestnut canoe. On his website, Ivy Lea Shirt Co. Ltd.: When The Chestnut Was In Flower – Inside The Chestnut Canoe, Roger describes his book as:

A canoe fancier’s reminiscent look at the Chestnut Canoe Company, the result of nearly two decades of searching for traces of the canvas canoe from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Tells where the Chestnut came from and where it went. A book about canoes, travel, memories, and canoe-building. Includes professional lines-drawings of favourite Chestnut canoes: Kruger, Chum, Ogilvy, Prospector, Bobs Special. In hard cover, with over 400 pages, nearly 100 photographs and a few surprises. Sure to appeal, whether you know the Chestnut canoe in person or in passing – or would like to. 

Photo from Nautical Mind: When The Chestnut Was In Flower – Inside The Chestnut Canoe.

I love Roger’s book….it is the most complete book on the Chestnut canoe….I love the professional lines-drawings of favourite Chestnut canoes: Kruger, Chum, Ogilvy, Prospector, Bobs SpecialI thought I’d include three of my most favourite canoe drawings:

Chestnut Prospector canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roy MacGregor November 1997, drawn by S.F. Manning August 1999.

Chestnut Chum canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roger MacGregor October 1997, drawing by S.F. Manning January 1999.

Chestnut Kruger canoe drawing, lines taken off by Roger MacGregor June 1998, drawn by S.F. Manning May 1999.

Photos from my copy of When The Chestnut Was In Flower, by yours truly.

These three Chestnut canoes typify three major types of models….the Prospector, the Pleasure and the Cruiser (also same as Guides Special except for closer ribbing).

As previously noted above, Dan Miller wrote in Dragonfly Canoe: Wooden Canoe Identification – Chestnut Canoe Company:

Prospector Models: These are deeper and beamier than pleasure models of equivelant length. Meant to carry lots of gear for extended trips, there is a lot of canoe packed into a Prospector. Bill Mason’s hype about the Prospector aside, it is a fantastic canoe, and is perhaps the model most widely copied by modern day composite canoe builders. Prospector models were available in double-ended or transom-sterned models.

Pleasure Models: These are the general purpose recreational canoes offered by Chestnut. These are excellent paddling canoes, and are the most commonly found models of Chestnut canoes. The 16′ Pal is perhaps the most famous of the lot, but the 15′ Twozer/Gooseberry/Chum is my personal favorite canoe yet.

Cruisers Canoes: Designed to go fast, these models are narrower, more rounded across the bottom and have finer lines than other models. The Guides Special models are cruisers than have close-ribbing.

The Prospector of course was made famous by Bill Mason (even though he owned and used a Pal in many of his films. The Chum was Omer Stringer’s favourite canoe (it is said that the one he paddled was especially made for him by Chestnut….that he even went to supervise it’s construction in Fredricton…..not sure if that’s true….but Omer did likely alter his Chum a bit any way….actually technically Omer’s Chum was a Doe since it had narrow ribs)….the Chum is the 15 ft. version of the Pleasure class of Chestnuts (the Pal was the 16 ft. model). The Kruger was a classic design….my beautiful green canoe is based on this model….and it is a dream to paddle….but I’ve written a lot on that subject already LOL LOL.

My beautiful dream, photo by yours truly.

Check out Roger MacGregor’s fine book….there is so much great information….just about ‘everything you ever wanted to know about Chestnut canoes, but were afraid to ask’.

You might want to check out the Chestnut Canoe Company Catalogs from various eras. (NOTE: There are other photos related to Chestnut canoes, as well as other catalogs and photos for canoe companies such as Kennebec and Old Town.)

Paddles up until later then.

Monday is St. Patrick’s Day….and many folks will be wearing the green….even some drinking green beer (or even turning green from drinking too much beer lol lol).

Green is certainly found in the outdoors….with the warmer weather soon coming (hopefully) with spring, can the leaves budding on the trees be far behind….or even getting out on the water in my favourite green canoe?

As Wikipedia states about greenhttp://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Green:

….the largest contributor to green in nature is chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize. Many creatures have adapted to their green environments by taking on a green hue themselves as camouflage.

Culturally, green has broad and sometimes contradictory meanings. In some cultures, green symbolizes hope and growth, while in others, it is associated with death, sickness, envy, or the devil. The most common associations, however, are found in its ties to nature. For example, Islam venerates the color, as it expects paradise to be full of lush greenery. Green is also associated with regeneration, fertility and rebirth for its connections to nature. Recent political groups have taken on the color as symbol of environmental protection and social justice, and consider themselves part of the Green movement, some naming themselves Green parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising, as companies have sold green, or environmentally friendly, products.

While today is marked by many people wearing green, that wasn’t always the case….the song “The Wearing of the Green” tells of a different time….here are the Wolfe Tones on YouTube:

From http://www.martindardis.com/id360.html are the full lyrics (along with the above YouTube video clip)…..I’ve just included the first few verses:

Oh! Paddy, dear, and did you hear

The news that’s going round,

The shamrock is forbid by law

To grow on Irish ground.

Saint Patrick’s Day no more we’ll keep

His color can’t be seen

For they’re hanging men and women

The wearing of the green.

I met with Napper Tandy

And he took me by the hand

And he said “How’s poor old Ireland?

And how does she stand?”

She’s the most distressful country

That ever you have seen,

They’re hanging men and women

For wearing of the green.

Then since the color we must wear

Is England’s cruel red

Sure Ireland’s sons will n’er forget

The blood that they have shed.

You may take the shamrock from your hat

And cast it on the sod,

But ’twill take root and flourish still

Tho’ underfoot ’tis trod.

From Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wearing_of_the_Green:

The Wearing of the Green” is an anonymously-penned Irish street ballad dating to 1798. The context of the song is the repression around the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Wearing a shamrock in the “caubeen” (hat) was a sign of rebellion and green was the colour of the Society off the United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary organisation. During the period, displaying revolutionary insignia was made punishable by hanging.

So there was a time when wearing green….or even being green was not the most popular thing….

I’ve talked about St. Patrick’s Day before….even posting a bit on the day we’re all Irish in previous posts St. Patrick’s Day….Have A Great And Very ‘Green’ Day last week, http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/st-patricks-day-have-a-great-and-very-green-day/, and last year’s Happy St. Patrick’s Day,  http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/happy-st-patricks-day/ (which for some reason has almost gone ‘viral’, causing the largest views of any other blog post….and pushing the daily view of the blog yesterday to over 1,000 hits for the very first time, and over 800 today alone by 10 am.)….here is an overview based on those previous posts:

From Real Shamrock: History of St. Patrick’s Day.

So today is St. Patrick’s Day….when everything is green (although I tend to stay away from green beer LOL LOL)….when everybody is Irish. A great time to listen to an Irish tune. Maybe have some Irish stew….cabbage and corned beef….or more traditional Irish fare like colcannon or soda bread….even a pint of Guiness. So here’s to you and yours….have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Or as the Irish would say:

May your blessings outnumber The shamrocks that grow, And may trouble  avoid you Wherever you go. ~Irish Blessing

May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May  the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold  you. ~Irish Blessing

When Irish eyes are smiling, ‘Tis like a morn in spring. With a lilt of  Irish laughter You can hear the angels sing. ~Author Unknown

May luck be our companion May friends stand by our side May history remind  us all Of Ireland’s faith and pride. May God bless us with  happiness May love and faith abide. ~Irish Blessing

May your  pockets be heavy and your heart be light, May good luck pursue you each  morning and night. ~Irish Blessing

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter Lullabies, dreams, and love ever  after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums A thousand welcomes when  anyone comes. ~Author Unknown

So Éirinn go Brách – Ireland Forever – and good cheer & sláinte (health) to you.

By the way, there is canoeing in Ireland….see the following for more info:

Canoeing Ireland (Official Site of the Irish Canoe Union)

Canoeing Holidays in Ireland

Finally let me add one last St. Patrick’s Day wish:

When it comes to ‘green canoes’ personally I don’t think that there are any ‘greener’ canoes than wood canvas canoes….as noted here many times, others have agreed with that:

Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist

Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.

The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.- From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer

Going down a river or crossing a lake in anything but wood-canvas is like floating on a linoleum rug. That’s just how it looks when you glance inside one of those types of canoes and watch the bottom flex and shimmer with the water. Whereas, in any wood-canvas canoe you have all these beautiful rich colors of the cedar planking and ribs, hardwood gunwales and decks, and caned seats. Even the smells are nice and directly relate to the environment you are traveling through. - Jack Hurley, canoebuilder

I suppose there would always be an argument for the different types of materials and canoe designs, but the wood-canvas canoe is one generation away from the birchbark canoe and was made for working and transporting people through the wilderness. It was designed and made out of materials that would stand up to miles and miles of flatwater and whitewater and portaging through very rugged and unexplored terrain. As a trip leader with kids and adults, I have safely traveled across many lakes in a wood-canvas canoe in conditions where other experienced paddlers in the new-design boats were either windbound or took on water during the crossings. - Jim Spencer, canoebuilder.

A Recipe For Success:

STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS

An elegant accompaniment to fish.

Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.

51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar

10 board feet of combined ash, black cherry, and maple

2600 brass tacks

18 feet of 10 weight canvas

¾ gallon of oil base filler

3 quarts of varnish

2 quarts of paint

Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)

Using a large shop, prepare all ingredients the night before. Early the next day preheat element to high heat. Bring an adequate quantity of water in a large pot to a tumbling boil. Steam ribs until al dente (flexible) and bend immediately while still tender. Let stand at room temperature to blend flavors until cool. Chop cleaned white parts of planking into long thin slices, (smaller pieces will fall to ground). Add bulk of brass tacks and planks at random until ribs disappear (careful not to tenderize planking with pounding of tacks). When ingredients become solid remove from mold and set aside. Prepare gunwales and decks by chopping fresh hardwoods. Snip to length and desired shape, introducing slowly for best results. Wrap with canvas skin; skewer with tacks along edges, leave middle open. Add both caned seats and center thwart until balanced. Inlay decks for garnish.

Use the same basic recipe for fifteen and seventeen footers. Quantities will vary including concentration of beer.

Well before serving time, press filler firmly onto bottom side of prepared carcass to seal in natural juices and let marinate. Heat entire hull at medium to high sun for about three weeks, covering occasionally, until fully baked.  From a separate pot, baste inside with all-purpose varnish to glaze ribs, careful not to drip, and let harden. Repeat occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk and and gently combine, until mixed but not runny, an assortment of fresh paint to color, stirring occasionally as you serve, and dressing the outside lightly from end to end. The condiments blend even better if allowed to stand for several hours until sticky topping hardens. (Careful not to undercook, but do not let baking temperature bubble surface.) Repeat spreading of additional layers on outer crust and again set aside and let stand until hard. Cover and store in a safe spot until needed. Present whole at room temperature, arranged attractively on an adequate bed of water. If desired, garnish with cherry paddles as a starter. Bon voyage. Serves 2 to 3. (Note: Depending on degree of festivities, presentation may be turned into a dip.)  – Don Standfield, fromStories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom & Waggery of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell.

My two old canoes are works of art, embodying the feeling of all canoemen for rivers and lakes and the wild country they were meant to traverse. They were made in the old tradition when there was time and the love of the work itself. I have two canvas-covered canoes, both old and beautifully made. They came from the Penobscot River in Maine long ago, and I treasure them for the tradition of craftsmanship in their construction, a pride not only of form and line but of everything that went into their building. When l look at modern canoes, of metal or fiberglass stamped out like so many identical coins. l cherish mine even more …Sixteen feet in length, it has graceful lines with a tumble home or curve from the gunwales inward …No other canoe I’ve ever used paddles as easily … The gunwales and decks are of mahogany, the ribs and planking of carefully selected spruce and cedar… - Sigurd Olson, Tradition

The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. - Sigurd Olson

Wood and canvas canoes are strong, seaworthy, exceptionally responsive to the paddle and soothing to the human spirit – Hugh Stewart, master canoe builder, Headwater Canoes

I think that in this day and age the wood canvas canoe, new or old (and restored) is more than just a viable alternative….on the website for Timberline Canoes, the home page has the following:

Wood Canvas Canoes: Eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources

Benefits of Ownership

  • Gentle on the environment
  • No fossil fuels required
  • No water pollution
  • Quiet – no noise pollution
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Easy to transport
  • Renewable construction
  • Good for your body
  • Great for your soul

I have spoken about the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild in past posts….when it came to discussing the wood canoe, I really liked the FAQ section of the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild’s website, FAQ:

Q:What are the advantages of a wooden canoe?

A: The primary advantages of a wooden canoe are its appearance and its handling characteristics. Quite simply, no other material can match wood in these two respects. From an appearance perspective, the beauty of wood can’t be matched by any other material. As for handling, a wooden canoe is quieter, warmer and more responsive to the water than any other material. The flexing of a wooden canoe, which is made of many pieces, allows it to respond to the water it floats in as well as the paddler it carries as no moulded material can.

An additional feature of cedar canvas canoes, which is not shared by canoes of other materials, is that, if required, any part of the canoe can be repaired or replaced – no matter how old the canoe – thus restoring the canoe to as-new condition.

Q: Does a wooden canoe require a lot of maintenance?

A: Being made of natural materials it is true that, on average, a wooden canoe will require more care than some other materials such as fibreglass, aluminum and plastic. To put it another way, wood will suffer more from neglect than these materials. However, the actual upkeep required by a wooden canoe depends on how it is used and stored and can be surprisingly low if a bit of common sense care is taken. For example, the paint and varnish on a wooden canoe, which represent the first line of defence for the wood, can provide many years of service before requiring attention if care is taken in the use and storage of the canoe.

Q: Can I use a wooden canoe for whitewater?

A: The short answer is yes. Until the advent of synthetic canoe materials, wooden canoes (specifically cedar canvas canoes) were used for all purposes including whitewater. However, today some other materials are more appropriate for this use in the sense that they are more impact resistant and suffer fewer consequences from striking a rock.

Q: How long does it take to build a cedar canvas canoe?

A: The length of time a builder spends to build a cedar canvas canoe will vary primarily with the emphasis placed on fit and finish details and can be anywhere between approximately 80 and 200 hours.

Q: What do you do if you get a tear in the canvas?

A: A small tear in the canvas can be patched and, when repainted, rendered almost invisible. A tear which is too large to patch will require replacement of the canvas. However, the canvas on a canoe is really quite rugged and would require impact with a fairly sharp object to cause even a small tear.

Q: Why not use fibreglass instead of canvas on a canoe?

A: As previously mentioned, one of the advantages of a cedar canvas canoe is the ability to repair or replace any component. Because fibreglass is not readily removable, this advantage would be lost if it was used in place of canvas.

These drawings from the old Wooden Canoe Builders Guild site illustrate some of the construction involved in wood canvas canoes:

*Drawings by Sam Manning for the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., U.S.A.

Also this from McCurdy and Reed Canoes: Construction:

Wood canvas canoes, to reiterate the Timberline Canoe home page, are eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources….despite the fact that certain chemicals might be used in their construction….such as in the filler, paint, or even varnish….but personally I believe that the “carbon footprint” involved in the construction of wood canvas canoes is much less than that involved in building fiberglas or Kevlar canoes. So I think it’s safe to say that are more “eco-friendly” than other types of canoes on the market….not only are they constructed from renewable and natural resources….but they instill a closeness to the natural environment….especially in a spiritual sense….just check out the quotes from various folks at the outset of this post, especially from the canoe builders.

On her website for Bourquin Boats (Bourquin Boats), Jeanne Bourquin answers Why Wood? :

Jeanne Bourquin

Almost everyone interested in a wood canoe at some point asks me “Why wood?” “Why paddle something so beautiful?” “It should be on a wall somewhere.” “They’re so heavy… they require so much upkeep and work…”

The camp where I learned to travel by canoe uses wood canoes because they believe that by learning to respect and care for one’s equipment, we learn to take care of the environment, and we learn to take care of and respect each other. The material, the care required, the natural beauty of a wood canoe all fit into the experience of wilderness travel. A wood canoe is more of a friend (or a pet) than a piece of recreational equipment (most people name their canoes), and the purchase of a wood canoe should be approached the same way. “Am I willing to take the extra care loading and unloading?” “Will I want to get my feet wet?” “Where am I going to store my canoe?” “Will I enjoy the cleaning and sanding and touchups required each fall?”

Wooden canoes

Asked why we use wood/canvas canoes, those of us who have paddled them for years can mostly only shrug and smile. Maybe its love… cupid’s arrow… pure foolishness. Maybe its all appearance… maybe its how quiet they are on the water… maybe its how you can forget the mosquitoes as you admire for the 10,000 time the graceful curve of rib and plank disappear into the bow. Or, maybe its the history and memories we see reflected in each dent and scratch – while imagining our children and grandchildren off on some adventure of their own in the same canoe. For most people the love for wooden canoes starts the first time they actually get in one and paddle. They are beautiful to look at – but they are much more beautiful on the water – clear skies and Fall leaves, or grey skies and pouring rain, another friend to share it all with.

As John Hupfield states on his Lost In The Woods Boatworks website:

Why wood? Besides being beautiful, wood is a renewable resource that we think is more in keeping with our enjoyment of the environment, and is a non-toxic alternative to the increasing use of toxic chemicals in recreational watercraft. It’s warmer and stiffer than synthetics, smells nice, is pleasant to work with, and is quieter on the water too. And by using modern building methods, hulls are extremely light, durable and easy to care for. It’s a myth that wooden boats are high maintenance!

Or as Paul Roddick states on his website for Roddick Canoes:

Canadian adventure canoes and rowboats, built the traditional way with wood and canvas, and a whole lot of Canadian know how. Our great country of lakes, rivers and ancient waterways is the birthplace of the canoe. Long before the white man ever set foot on this land the great native people built the canoe to travel and explore the wilderness. Today we build these great canoes in the same way,ready to take you on a wilderness adventure, or an eary morning paddle on your favourite lake, with the mist rising off the water as your quiet wooden canoe glides effortlessly with hardly a ripple, as they have done for thousands of years and will continue to, as long as individual craftsmen, dedicated to preseving this great Canadian tradition, culture and life style, persevere.

I am not defending the wood canvas canoe, because they need no defense, they speak for themselves, they whisper “Canada, wilderness,water, adventure, lakes , streams, rivers, sun on the rocks, wind on the water, trout in the clear crystal pools, an early morning moose feeding at the the waters edge, or you and your companion, pushing off your loaded canoe, into another day of being one with with nature.

Our models never change from year to year, they are the same today as they were a hundred years ago. It’s hard to improve on perfection, we don’t worry about the newest tecnology, or the competition. Why?, because we don’t have any, all we have is our timeless wooden canoes and boats, each one hand built, one at a time, slowly, carefully, soulfully, each one a bit of Canada, each one cherished for what they are, a thing of timeless beauty, function and grace, the wood canvas canoe. forever.

Maine Canoe Journeys adds:

Wood/Canvas canoes have enjoyed a remarkable revival since the early 1980s for more than nostalgic reasons. A fine wood/canvas canoe offers not just aesthetic beauty, but also superior handling in the water, craftsmanlike construction of largely organic materials, and infinite repairability.

Finally as Pam Wedd  says on the Bearwood Canoes website:

The experience of paddling a traditional wood and canvas canoe is like no other in this high-tech world of ours. Being a part of our surroundings in a watercraft built from natural materials returns us to our roots. It is a link to our past and our soul.

I don’t think I can add much more to any of that….certainly nothing I haven’t added before here….so next time you’re thinking of buying a new canoe (or even an “old” new canoe), think of a wood canvas canoe….and if you are worried about the weight then remember it’s really not too heavy….and even if it is more than that featherweight Kevlar, it will let you know you’re still alive….as for maintenance that’s part of the charm too. And nothing like taking a wood canvas canoe on a northern lake, especially in traditional canoe country like Algonquin, Killarney or Temagami.

That says it all to me….whether gas prices are rising or not….whether we can canoe trip by using less petroleum based products in the process….to me it doesn’t really matter since I do prefer the more classic traditional methods of wilderness travel….sometimes by wooden canvas canoes….others on wooden snowshoes and toboggans…..through  the woods….living under canvas (especially in the winter in heated walled tents)….it reverberates with the voices of past generations, speaks in the voice of its own time, and will speak to generations to come. Wilderness travel rooted in tradition….‘roots’ in the routes we can still travel….and the way we can still travel through them.

These are some of the reasons I travel as I do….especially in a wood canvas canoe….a very special ‘green’ canoe.

  

Photos of my favourite ‘green’ canoe, built by Bruce Smith. Photos taken by yours truly.

Paddles up until later then….and once again Happy St. Patrick’s Day….a day when all things are green….not just my canoe.

From Scouter Network is this link, http://www.rogerknapp.com/knap/peanuts.htm, to these two “Peanuts” comics featuring the World Famous Eagle Scout himself….Snoopy is obviously a leader of “men” LOL LOL:

peanuts3-1.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts3a.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts3b.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts3d.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

peanuts-1.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts-Copy.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts1.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo peanuts4.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Also from Scouter Network, also comes this cartoon,  http://www.scouter.com/clipart/image.asp?image=8812, that I’ve suggested some choices for a caption to:

bear_m.gif picture by ducksoup_photo

My Top Ten Possible Captions:

1. “Go ahead you wake it up!!!!…..”

 2. “What do you mean the bear spray is in the tent?????”

 3. “I don’t care if Rick Mercer climbed into a bear den….”

 4. “This is a “pup” tent….not a bear tent.”

 5. “You “bear” up with it….I want to go to sleep.”

 6. “You snore loud. It’s like I was sleeping with a bear.”

 7. ”And the third little human said, “Who’s been sleeping in my tent?”

 8. “The “bear” truth is that I’m sleeping in the car….”

 9. “I love getting back to Nature too….but this is ridiculous…..”

10. “You were the one who wanted to rough it…..”

Obviously it’s a slow Monday LOL LOL….but hopefully something here brought a smile to your face. Paddles up until later.

Two weeks to go until St. Patrick’s Day….

From Hello Kids: St. Patick\’s Day- Leprachauns.


From St. Patrick\’s Day Wallpaper.

From Irish Views: St. Patrick\’s Day Wallpaper.

From Real Shamrock: History of St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is here in two weeks….when everything is green (although I tend to stay away from green beer LOL LOL)….when everybody is Irish. A great time to listen to an Irish tune. Maybe have some Irish stew….cabbage and corned beef….or more traditional Irish fare like colcannon or soda bread….even a pint of Guiness. So here’s to you and yours….have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Or as the Irish would say:

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
~Irish Blessing

When Irish eyes are smiling,
‘Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
~Author Unknown

May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind us all
Of Ireland’s faith and pride.
May God bless us with happiness
May love and faith abide.
~Irish Blessing

May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
~Irish Blessing

Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter
Lullabies, dreams, and love ever after.
Poems and songs with pipes and drums
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes.
~Author Unknown

An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth. ~Irish Saying

So Éirinn go Brách – Ireland Forever – and good cheer & sláinte (health) to you.

By the way, there is canoeing in Ireland….see the following for more info:

Canoeing Ireland (Official Site of the Irish Canoe Union)

Canoeing Holidays in Ireland

Paddles up until later then….and Happy St. Patrick’s Day….a day when all things are green….not just my canoe.

So cool….modern transportation (bus) depicting an older version of transportation (canoe)….telling a story of our journey….by my good friend Jimson Bowler. This is on a Peterborough Transit bus….

bus

bus1

Mock up of bus

bus2 bus3bus5

Canoes don’t tip, people just fall out of them. – Omer Stringer

From a previous blog post here is Omer’s story:

Omer Stringer was defintely a legendary figure in canoeing.  Here’s some info on him from Carrying Place Canoe Works: Omer Stringer:

OMER STRINGER

1912 – 1988

By Elaine Ziemba
 
Omer Stringer was Canada’s premier solo paddler. He was also known for being a canoe guide and canoe builder. Although his working career followed many diverse paths, paddling a wooden canoe remained at the core of his being.
 
Omer1.jpg Omer4.jpg Omer2.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo Omer3.jpg

Omer loved to show that canoeing is not only a method of transportation and a beautiful art form but is fun to do and watch. Some of Omer’s more famous canoeing skills were showstoppers. Without fanfare, Omer would run at full speed down a dock, leap into his canoe and without skipping a beat start paddling away. In the middle of demonstrating paddling methods, with great ease and without stopping, he would deftly move to the front of the canoe where he would do a headstand on the seat without losing balance or tipping over. This required an incredible sense of balance.

The name ‘Omer Stringer’ recalls scenes of a man who was at perfect ease in a canoe. When he paddled it seemed as if he was part of the canoe, paddling gracefully with minimum effort. Although he had fun with his canoe and teaching canoeing, he was ever mindful to respect the water and elements in nature. He always taught safety first and reminded his students that if in danger to stay with your canoe and to use it to keep you afloat.

Omer was born on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, in 1912 to an Algonquin Ranger. He was raised in the Park and very quickly learned canoeing and wilderness skills. He was self-taught. The only formal education available in the Park came by train. A teacher was dispatched to teach all the youngsters. The classroom was in a caboose and the supplies were limited. The school year lasted for a short period of time with the train or schoolroom returning for short spells. His real education was learning from the Park guides and his father. At a very young age he learned how to set up a wilderness campsite and cook meals for the visiting campers. By the age of 14, he had learnt how to build canoes and was guiding canoe trips in the Park.

In the 1930′s Omer was teaching canoeing at Camp Tanamakoon, Taylor Statten Camps and Camp Arowhon, all in Algonquin Park. In 1936, he opened his own camp in the Park, Camp Tamakwa. He spent his summers teaching canoeing and developing his own style of canoeing. The era of camping in the ’30′s was very different than today. The conveniences of city life were very far removed and definitely not readily available. The simple needs of the campers became challenges. The ever-inquisitive mind of Omer invented tools to meet the needs. He even invented a very complicated dentist drill with winches, discs and all sorts of rudimentary forms. It is hard to imagine a waiting lineup of campers for this device. According to Omer it worked.

During World War II, Omer served in the RCAF in India, Burma and New Guinea. It was soon discovered that he had incredible knowledge that could be used in intelligence work and he was soon seconded to the U.S. Air Force for the remainder of the war.

After the war, Omer reopened his camp. Soon there was someone to occupy Omer’s heart. He married Edie and started a family. Over the years he had many varied successful careers. At the age of 52, he returned to school and earned a Bachelor of Science degree at University of Toronto. With his love of teaching, it was a natural fit to teach high school science.

He somehow found time to write books and manuals on paddling, water safety and canoe techniques. He was featured in two films. Taught safety courses for the Red Cross and developed an Outdoor Education Program for teachers. To this day, his manuals and courses are used in many recreational and camping programs.

Omer was often the guest on his son’s David’s T.V. program teaching long forgotten skills in a no nonsense way. He could teach and fix anything. Some of the things taught were skills he learned in Algonquin Park such as how to properly sharpen an ax.

Soon his student campers had grown up and were going into business. They asked Omer to join them in a business venture to be called Beaver Canoe Company. Omer joined the business and soon canoes were being built and sold. The company had a retail aspect and clothing and other outdoor items were sold. The most popular item soon became the t-shirts and sweatshirts with the Beaver Canoe logo with Omer’s name. Soon it was the hot fashion item and everyone had to have one even those who did not canoe and had never been north.

  Omer5.jpg

Omer’s love of canoes and anyone building them soon caught his eye. He had heard of Joe at Carrying Place Canoe Works and came to visit. Thus developed a strong friendship based on a common love of canoeing. Omer Stringer firmly believed that the traditional wood canvas canoe would always remain the choice of the discriminating paddler. He was always willing to impart his knowledge and to be helpful. With Omer’s assistance, the 15′ Omer Stringer Classic canoe was born. It remains a tribute to a friend, mentor, and fine person. As well, Omer taught Joe how to hand carve a special type of paddle. To this day, Joe will only use the paddle that Omer specially carved for him as a gift. This paddle is still made at Carrying Place Canoe Works to be enjoyed by all.

Omer had many stories filled with history and adventure but the best tales had the added flavour of Omer’s wit and humour. He gleefully recounted this story many times. While browsing through a well-known sports show, he came upon a sales person wielding a large sledgehammer. Omer stopped to watch as the sledgehammer was raised and aimed at a plastic canoe. The plastic canoe was repeatedly hit. Shrugging his shoulders Omer left the scene but several hours later he came upon the same booth with the same salesperson hitting the same plastic canoe. Having seen enough, Omer strolled over to the salesperson and with that look that only Omer could have, said: “You know, in all of my over 60 years of canoeing, I have never had to take a sledge hammer to my canoe.”

Omer Stringer left a lasting legacy. His style of unique paddling and canoeing are loyally followed by thousands and still taught at camps. His former students and friends have kept his love of the north and especially Algonquin Park alive. Omer’s beloved canoe named ‘Omer’ is on display in the canoe museum in Algonquin Park. Omer Stringer’s life, adventures and stories have become Canadian canoeing legends and an integral part of our heritage.

Omer6.jpg Omer7.jpg

OmerPaddles.jpg OmerStringerandJoeZiembaofCarryingPlaceCanoeWorks.jpg

L: Omer Stringer Style Paddles, from Carrying Place Canoes; R: Omer and Joe Ziemba (of Carrying Place Canoes).

lg_CAN02omerstringer.jpg

Omer Stringer Classic canoe, from Carrying Place Canoes.

(NOTE: All photos are from the Carrying Place website, mostly from the article on Omer Stringer.)

For the record, the canoe that Omer used in most of his demos, solo work (specifically the canoe ballet he became famous for)….and loved paddling was a Chestnut Chum (or actually a narrow ribbed version and therefore technically a Doe)….it had Omer painted on the side of it….he also used a Chestnut Pal for tripping with camps….Omer was also known to “fine tune” his canoes a bit….so these canoes were very much his own.

In 1973, Michael Budman and Don Green created what is today Roots Canada.  They also were responsible for the Beaver Canoe Co. (mentioned in the above article on Omer Stringer) that really was more popular for its clothing line than the few canoes produced. In Roots Canada, Michael and Don were inspired by their passion for Ontario’s Algonquin Park and everything it represented for them. It is interesting that the Roots logo also includes a beaver, as it was also used in the time-honoured logo of Camp Tamakwa, a place which strongly influenced the Roots co-founders in their youth. As a final aside, Omer’s son, David (well known as a TV producer) is a director of Tamakwa.

For more on Omer Stringer see Paddle Making (And Other Canoe Stuff) Blog: Omer Stringer Birch, where Murat V. describes making a paddle out of yellow birch based on Omer’s preferred design….he starts off his post with a brief description of Omer:

…..fantastic booklet, The Canoeist’s Manual, written by the one and only Omer Stringer. Any serious solo paddler knows about Omer, born and raised in Algonquin Park, master of the solo paddling technique now known as “omering” in his honour. Bill Mason, another canoeing icon, apparently refered to Omer as the King of Flatwater….

….I first read about Omer’s bio and intriguing technique online – a reprint of the 1999 Canoe Journal article written by Jeff Solway entitled “Omer Stringer – The Father of Modern Canoeing”. …..I also just picked up the 2008 CanoeRoots Magazine Buyer’s Guide edition which has a one page article on Omer written by the prolific paddling author, James Raffan.

Omer’s technique is essentially what modern classic solo is about…heeling the boat so that the gunnel nearly reaches the waterline allowing the solo paddler to control the boat with subtle underwater recoveries and leverage strokes.

The articles by Jeff Solway are no longer available as his website is now closed….however I did download an article on Omer’s paddling technique by Jeff, Solo Paddling In Wind (Omering) from Canoe Journal, which also has an excellent overview of Omer’s favourite solo stroke.

The article on Omer by James Raffan is on pages 26 to 27 of Canoeroots Spring 2008. Well actually page 26 is a photo of Omer in typical canoe position….but instead of his beloved wood canvas canoe, Omer is pictured in an aluminum canoe?!?!?….still James writes a great article on Omer…..or as he’s described a ‘paddling guru’.

Paddles up until later then….

OK it’s still snowing….but maybe the answer is to consider paddling….warmer times….so instead of making snowshoes, maybe I should be looking at making pack baskets.

There is something about pack baskets and canoes. Great to carry loads over a portage. True, out west in Minnesota, there is the Duluth canoe pack….in Ontario the Woods canoe pack. The pack basket is very much an Eastern influence though….from Maine….also known to some as Adirondack pack baskets….traditionally made from ash. Truly beautiful in a canoe….especially a wood canvas canoe:

Black Ash Pack Basket in Canoe

Black Ash Pack Basket in Canoe

Handmade black ash pack basket made from pounded black ash logs. Handwoven in Maine. From Ash Baskets By Fran.

Here is more about Frannie A. Doonan, basket maker (also from Ash Baskets By Fran):

I am a self-taught black ash basket maker. It has taken much patience and many years to become a master of this craft. My love of basket making started in early childhood. Even from that young age I knew that someday I would make a pack basket. I have been making black ash baskets since 1991 with great love and passion. It’s in my soul.

Along with my husband Dave Mussey I guided canoe trips in northern Maine for 12 years, where my black ash pack baskets were essential to carrying all our trip food. I enjoy passing on the tradition of making pounded black ash baskets by holding classes in my workshop. Dave makes and teaches others to make wood/canvas canoes in our workshop. He also makes and teaches others to make winter travel toboggans. For more information about Dave’s canoes, toboggans and workshops, go to http://mainejourneys.com.

If you get a chance check out Fran’s work….Dave’s canoes are pretty special too.

Some videos from YouTube:

Adirondack Pack Basket (AKA Trappers Basket)

Black Ash Basket Making.

Black Ash Basket Making: Pounding Ash


For more info see http://www.abenakibaskets.com/.

Another really good basket maker from Maine is Mark Young.

The Art Of Ash Basket Making – Mark Young

For more on Mark see:  Black Ash Pack Basket – Maine Basket Maker (Made in Maine by Mark Young).

Those are just a few videos on pack baskets and ash basket making….check out these and more available online. There are also a variety of websites dedicated to the art of ash basket making, as well as pack baskets.

The Canadian Canoe Museum does offer pack basket making courses (although not using ash); see Canadian Canoe Museum: Weave a Woodland Pack Basket for more.

Paddles up until later then….and maybe you will pack your own basket on your canoe.

In the 1930s two articles were published in American how-to-do magazines on building a canoe. One was from Home Craft (March 1936) and the other from Popular Mechanics (March 1938). Both were on how to build wood canvas canoes….both models were 16 ft. After writing about canoe building programs for youth….and so much about wood canvas canoes….I thought I would highlight these two great how-to articles.

Kathy Klos posted on the WCHA forum,  WCHA Forum: 1936 Homecraft Canoe Plans, about the Home Craft article, Canoe Building At Home. She included copies of the pages from the three issues involved….and I have reproduced them here:

             

Then there was the Popular Mechanics article, Build Your Own CanoePopular Mechanics: Build Your Own Canoe. Check out this article for another perspective on building your own wood canvas canoe.

Paddles up until later then….and maybe you’ll be inspired to build your own canoe….so you can really “paddle your own canoe”.

Sunday morning….not exactly thundering….certainly no thunderstorms….but I thought I would post about Thunderbirds….

To Native Americans, the Thunderbird was usually a friend to humans, a benevolent spirit being seen as the source of wisdom. The Anishinaabe stated that the eyes of the Thunderbird flashed with fire, his glance engendered lightning, and the flapping of his wings produced thunder. The Algonkian tribes (the Ojibwa among them) believed the Thunderbird to be a benign nature spirit. The Kwakiutl said the Thunderbird taught them how to build houses. The Assiniboine claimed the wise old Thunderbird never harmed or killed anyone. The Thunderbird features prominently in Native American art. In the 1970s Canada issued several postage stamps depicting traditional Native American images of the Thunderbird.

From  http://www.pibburns.com/cryptost/thunderb.htm.

From http://chanchanchepon.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html.

From  http://www.printfection.com/isadorewadow.

Various Thunderbird themed paintings by Norval Morrisseau (appropriate as his name was Copper Thunderbird) , fromhttp://norvalmorrisseaublog.blogspot.ca/2010_04_24_archive.html.

From http://ppaintinga.com/norval-morrisseau-paintings/.

Thunderbird by David Morrisseau, fromhttp://www.geocities.ws/claimtoframe/dmorrisseau.html.

Thunderbird by Christrain Morrisseau,http://www.artworldofsherway.com/Featured%20Artists/ChristianM/Collection/23021ChristianM.htm.

From Nanabozhoo And The Thunderbirds written by Mark Sakry:

Once when the earth was very young, the spirit-child Nanabozhoo was born. His father was the wind. His mother walked the earth among human beings, alone. She had powers she did not know. All the earth spirits were afraid, for they knew the powers of Nanabozhoo. His mother disappeared into the air the instant he was born, so Nanabozhoo lived with the old woman he called Grandmother. They lived alone on the shore of Lake Superior. As he grew older, Nanabozhoo helped his grandmother. He brought her fish and mushrooms and wild roots. One day, when he was a young man, Nanabozhoo asked his grandmother; “What is the greatest fish in the lake?” “Do not ask me that question,” she replied, “for he is a very large fish who could do you much harm!” Nanabozhoo asked, “Can he not be killed and eaten like other fish?” “No,” his grandmother replied, “for he lives deep in the water off the edge of that cliff. No one has ever had the wisdom to reach him. He is very powerful!” Nanabozhoo thought a long time about the great fish. He climbed to the top of the cliff and sat for many days. He stared down into Lake Superior. Then, suddenly, one day the Wind spoke, and he climbed back down from the cliff. Nanabozhoo fashioned a great bow of ash and an arrow of cedar to kill the fish. Then Nanabozhoo went to his grandmother and asked, “Grandmother; do you know of any bird whose feathers will make this arrow fly forcefully?” “You are impertinent,” she scolded. “The only bird is one who lives in the sky beyond that cloud. You would have to go there to get the feathers you want.” Nanabozhoo had to have those feathers. He went again to the top of the cliff to find a way to get them. After a time, the shadow of a great eagle-like bird passed over him. It was Thunderbird. Nanabozhoo, being very artful, changed into a small rabbit. The bird swooped to kill him. “Thunderbird, stop!” cried Nanabozhoo. “Am I not truly an artful little creature? Would I not make a good playmate for your fledglings?” Thunderbird landed next to Nanabozhoo. Truly, he was a clever rabbit. He said, “I will not kill you. Instead I will bring you to my children to be their playmate.” Then Thunderbird swept Nanabozhoo away to his nest in the sky. When he got to the nest, Thunderbird said to his fledglings, “I have brought you a very clever rabbit to play with.” And he gave them the rabbit. His wife said, “Do you not know Nanabozhoo the man-spirit is on the earth? Are you so foolish that you bring him here? Why did you bring this rabbit?” Then Nanabozhoo pretended to sleep and he let the fledglings do what they wanted to him. Thunderbird said, “Is he not truly an artful creature, after all? You mustn’t worry about this rabbit.” Thunderbird and his wife were seldom at their nest, as they were hunting food for their children. Nanabozhoo suddenly said to himself one day, “These brats treat me as though I am just a plaything. Don’t they know I have come to take their feathers?” Nanabozhoo changed back to a human being. The little thunderbirds shrieked. Quickly Nanabozhoo stripped their feathers from them. Nanabozhoo actually took more feathers than he needed to make his arrow fly with force. Now the fledglings would never fly. He tied the feathers in a bundle and jumped away from the nest. Because he was a man-spirit, Nanabozhoo was not hurt when he came to the ground. Then he heard the sky open. It was his father the Wind. Suddenly, there was horrible lightning. It was the flashing eyes of the thunderbirds. Thunder boomed over the earth. It was the thunderbirds’ voices. The thunderbirds sped at Nanabozhoo with their talons. Nanabozhoo clutched the bundle of feathers he had stolen. He would never give it up. He ran this way and that to get away from the thunderbirds. Even though he was a man-spirit, Nanabozhoo feared he would die. The booming and flashing, the blowing and crashing, finally caused Nanabozhoo to tire. He grew perplexed. Then, quickly, Nanabozhoo crawled inside a hollow birch tree that had fallen. The talons of the thunderbirds almost got him. The hollow birch tree saved his life. The thunderbirds boomed, “Our king-child, the birch tree, has offered you its protection! Now we cannot touch you!” And, indeed, Nanabozhoo had fled to the protection of one of their very own children. Now he was safe from the thunderbirds. Their eyes flickered off toward the heavens. Their voices faded. The Wind rolled away the clouds and left Nanabozhoo in a wake of tears that was rain dripping from the leaves. Then Nanabozhoo stepped out of the log. He was changed. Nanabozhoo said, “From now on, human beings will find the protection of this tree useful in many ways. Anyone standing under it will find shelter from lightning and storms. “Its bark will make their lodges. “Their food will not spoil in it. “And it will have many more uses. “But,” Nanabozhoo said, “anyone using the bark of the birch tree will make generous offerings to it.” Thus the birch tree was blessed by Nanabozhoo, and he left all the feathers of his bundle inside the hollow log except for those which he needed to fix to his arrow and kill the great fish. Then the man-spirit went to the shore of Lake Superior and killed the great fish. To this day, human beings will find the marks of Nanabozhoo in the tree’s bark. They are little dashes. They will also find patterns of the little thunderbirds.

Many tales centered on Nanabozhoo, a half-human, half-spirit trickster, who was often entangled in humorous scrapes and brought innovations, such as medicine, to humankind from the spirits (Nanabush went by many other names: Nanabush, Naanabozho, Nanibush, Nenabozho, Manabozho, Minabozho, Waynaboozhoo, Wenabozho, Wenabozhoo, Wenebojo, Winabojo, or Winneboshoo).

The Ojibwa word for a thunderbird that is closely associated with thunder isanimikii, while large thunderous birds are binesi.

From the Canadian Canoe Museum comes the following great article on Freighter Canoes (http://canoemuseum.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/a-northern-icon-the-wood-and-canvas-freighter-canoe/) :

A Northern Icon: The Wood And Canvas Freighter Canoe

Like the rest of this community also involved with The Canadian Canoe Museum, I share a peculiar affection for the little human-powered boats that are so celebrated in our country’s heritage. It is certainly my privilege as the Museum’s Curator to spend quite a bit of time with its collection of over 600 of these little boats.

Canadian Canoe Museum onsite Collections Storage Facility (CCM photo) 

Canadian Canoe Museum onsite Collections Storage Facility (CCM photo)

If pressed, I do not have a favourite canoe– at least today’s choice would not be the same as yesterday’s favourite. I will however make a small confession: I’ve long had a soft spot for one unusual branch in the canoe’s family tree and it usually has an outboard motor hanging off the end.  Now I’m not really a motorboat person, not at all, but there’s something about the shape and workboat finish of the great freighter canoes found across the Canadian north that gives me a thrill.

Rupert House Canoe Factory

For a history of these large, square-backed wood and canvas canoes, a meandering link can perhaps be made to the large birchbark canoes paddled by voyageurs of the fur trade. This link is further strengthened by the fact that, in the mid-20th century, a Cree outfit called Rupert House Canoes was making these big freighters in the same community on James Bay (now called Waskaganish) where the Hudson’s Bay Company first set up shop 300 years earlier.

Chestnut Canoe Company 1957 freighter canoes (CCM Collection)

Chestnut Canoe Company 1957 freighter canoes (CCM Collection)

Of the larger Canadian manufacturers, sister companies Peterborough, Chestnut and Canadian Canoe Companies all produced identical versions of the larger volume canoes, which first appeared as double-ended hulls. Later offerings included a Y-stern hybrid format suitable for river use by paddle and motor and the square-back option for open water travel by outboard motor. It is also worth mentioning that these canoes would often carry Johnson or Evinrude motors manufactured by OMC right in the buildings currently occupied by The Canadian Canoe Museum. These canoe offerings ranged up to 22-foot in length and measured 60” wide. Our collection has 26 historic canoe builder’s forms including the 22’ freighter (model name: “Daddy”) from the Chestnut factory. Given its size, it is not surprising that the forward half of this huge form was designed to receive either the Y-stern or the square-back tail section for ease of storage.

Chestnut 22-foot building form (CCM Collection)

Chestnut 22-foot building form (CCM Collection)

There is a much more significant story to be found however in the community of Prévost, Quebec. Almost all of the freighter canoes in use in the north show the familiar circular decal with moose head of the company “Canots Nor-West/ Nor-West Canoes”. With family roots that connect him to the Hudson’s Bay Company in western Canada, Augustin Gariepy began in producing canoes around 1945. What would become an astonishingly durable family business is still manufacturing canvas-covered canoes today and Nor-West continues to produce an impressive range of boats measuring from 12 to 26 feet in length. This is even more impressive when one considers that they are carrying on, now in the hands of Gariepy’s grandsons, many decades after all of the larger wooden canoe manufacturers have disappeared. I wish them all success in the future.

Surprisingly, our collection does not yet have a “Nor-West” canoe in our collection but I have no doubt that we’ll amend that at some point. Given that there are still so many to be found, it would also be our choice to acquire an example of this northern workhorse still associated with its particular history and use.

Nor-West Canoes/Canots Nor-West

Nor-West Canoes/Canots Nor-West

These are the type of canoes we were working on in Fort Severn….so this type of canoe has a spot in my heart too.

Paddles up until later.

For 24 years I was a light canoeman. I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground ’til I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw… I pushed on – over rapids, over cascades, over chutes; all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song… There is no life so happy as a voyageur’s life; none so independent; no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza, huzza pour le pays sauvage! — anonymous coureur-de-bois quoted by a Hudson’s Bay Co. historian

The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. – Sigurd Olson

Such vivid awareness is swiftly lost today, but if it can be held into adulthood it enriches and colors all we do. How often in the wild country of the north I have been aware of the spirits of the voyageurs, the shadowy forms that once roamed the rivers and lakes. Often at night it seemed I could hear ghostly songs coming across the water, the rhythmic dip of paddles and the swish of great canoes as they went by. - Sigurd Olson

Tu es mon compagnon de voyage! Je veux mourir dans mon canot Sur le tombeau, près du rivage, Vous renverserez mon canot

When I must leave the great river O bury me close to its wave And let my canoe and my paddle Be the only mark over my grave – from ‘Mon Canoe d’écorce’ (‘My Bark Canoe’) translated by Frank Oliver Call

From The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008396, comes the following definition of the voyageur:

A voyageur was an adventurer who journeyed by canoe from Montréal to the interior to trade with Indians for furs. At the close of the 17th century, the term was applied to selected coureurs de bois, hired by Montréal merchants to arrange and sustain trading alliances with Indian bands. The term later included all fur trade participants: the merchant (bourgeois), his clerk (commis) and contracted servants (engagés). Today, the term “voyageur” suggests the romantic image of men paddling the canoes in the fur brigades which traversed much of the continent, living lives full of perilous adventure, gruelling labour and boisterous cameraderie.

File:Shooting the Rapids 1879.jpg

Shooting The Rapids

Shooting the rapids, in a master canoe. Painting by Francis Ann Hopkins (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C2774f).

Frances Anne Hopkins Voyageurs

Voyageurs at Dawn

Painting by Frances Ann Hopkins. The overturned canoes make temporary shelters for the men (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-2773).

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

Oil on canvas by Frances Anne Hopkins, 1869 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada 1989-401-1X; C-2771).

From the now deleted website, Festival du Voyageur,  http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/francais/frcore/elem/progetud/PKK1-3.html:

THE VOYAGEUR

The term Voyageur, a French word meaning “traveler”, was applied originally in Canadian history to all explorers and fur-traders. It came in time to be restricted to the men who operated the canoes and bateaux or fur-traders.

The French régime was responsible for the rise of this unique group of men. From the days of earliest exploration until 1763, a large part of what is now Canada and much of the rest of the continent west of the Appalachian Mountains was FrenchTerritory. In this vast region lived the several tribes of Indians with whom the French settlers around Québec and Montréal were not slow to barter furs. Castor (beaver), marten, renard (fox), lynx, ours (bear), loutre (otter),loup (wolf), muskrat, and many other furs were in great demand in Europe and Asia.

At first the Indians took their skins and furs down the St. Lawrence River to Québec and Montréal, whither annual fairs attracted them; but in time ambitious traders intercepted the natives and purchased their furs in the interior. TheVoyageurs may said to have been born. Farther and farther up the St. Lawrence, into Lakes Huron and Michigan they ventured. Erie and Ontario were explored, and finally Lake Superior. Trading posts were sprinkled from Montréal to the Rocky Mountains, from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind them place names such as Detroit, Traverse City, Eau Claire, Duluth, St. Louis, Grand Portage, Presque Isle, Fort Macleod, Fort Kamloops, and Fort Quesnel.

As time went on, the French government found it necessary to establish rules and regulations for this lucrative business. Congres(licenses) to enter the Indian country were required; certain articles were prohibited in the trade, and only a specified number of traders would be licensed in one year.

Voyageurs formed a class as distinct in dress, customs, and traditions as sailors or lumberjacks. Short chemise (shirt), a red woolen tuque, a pair of deerskin moccasins, and jambières (leggings), held up by a ceinture fléchée (sash), and the azion (breech cloth) of the Indians, complemented by the inevitable pipe and sac-à-feu (beaded pouch) hanging from the sash.

One would expect Voyageurs to be men of heroic proportions, but usually they were not. The average Voyageur was five feet six inches in height. Had they been taller, they would have occupied too much precious space in the canot(canoe) already overloaded with provisions (cargo). But though the Voyageur was short, he was strong. He could paddle fifteen – yes, if necessary – eighteen hours per day for weeks on end and joke beside the campfire at the close of the day. He could carry from 250 to 400 pounds of merchandise on his back over rocky portages at a pace which made unburdened travelers pant for breath in their endeavour not to be left behind.

To aid paddling under conditions of difficulty or monotony, the Voyageurs sang. Songs were chosen whose rhythm was such that the paddles could keep time to the music. Ordinarily the steersman chose the song and gave the pitch. Sometimes he sang the stanza and the others joined in the chorus. In the parlance of his fellows he was a solo. Voyageurs were chosen partly with respect to their vocal abilities, and the effect of six to fourteen of them in full song was quite impressive. Of course, they sang in French – of the canoes, of their country, of their life, of their loves, of their church – sentimental romances, old ballads, humourous jingles, and lofty poems. These songs, many of which were inheritances from French Troubadours of the Medieval Ages, gave to their strokes rhythm and drive, performing in a way the function of the sea shanties for sailors.

To understand the Voyageur completely one must accompany him on one of his trips from Montréal into the pays d’en haut(upstairs country), as he termed the Northwest.

Any year between 1770 and 1840, Montréal Island was the scene of much commotion on the May morning set for the departure of a brigade of canots for the Northwest. As soon as the bourgeouis (agent) and come to terms with hisengage (employees), and engagements (contract) was signed. He agreed not to desert his master, not to give aid or encouragement to his master’s rivals during the period of his engagement. They were printed in French, with spaces left for the Voyageurs name, his home, the wages he was to receive, and any special provisions.

The Voyageur’s equipment consisted of a blanket, shirt, a pair of trousers, two hankerchiefs, several pounds of carrot tobacco (a carrot-shaped twist of tobacco). their goods were packed into pièces each weighing up to ninety pounds. Two of these pièces make an ordinary load for portaging, but stories were told of those who carried up to eight at once.

The route lay along the St. Lawrence to its confluence with the Ottawa and up that stream to the point where the Mattawa River joins it from the West. In this distance on la grand rivière there were eighteen portages. There were also approximately as many décharges: to these numerous falls and rapids were given names such as les chats (the cats), la chaudière (the kettle), les allumettes (the matches) and la calumet (the peace pipe).

On the second evening after the departure from Montréal, when the campement had been made in a pine-sheltered nook on the bank of the river, when souper had been eaten around the blazing fire, and whilst smoke from many pipes lay like a cloud against the dark forest trees, the call for une chanson was issued.

Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.

There have been many different renditions of the voyageur songs over the years….some sung by camp groups around a campfire or on a canoe trip. The Canadian folk group, Tanglefoot, recorded two such songs which appeared on Canoesongs Volume I and II, http://www.tanglefootmusic.com/music/index.php:

La V’la M’amie

Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I

Arrangement: Joe Grant, Steve Ritchie, Al Parrish and Bob Wagar

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontre trois jolies demoiselles

Chorus La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime La V’la M’amie que j’aime, j’aime, j’aime, La V’la M’amie que j’aime

J’ai point choisi, mais j’ai pris la plus belle

Chorus

J’l’y fis monter derriere moi sur ma selle

Chorus

J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle

Chorus

Paddle Like Hell!

Traditional; arranged by Steve Ritchie, Sandra Swannell and Terry Young

Originally released as C’est l’aviron/V’là l’bon vent on Canoesongs Volume II,Portage Productions, April 2006

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’ai point choisi mais j’ai pris la plus belle J’l’y fis monter derrière moi sur ma selle C’est l’aviron qui nous mène qui nous mène C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’appelle V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent V’là l’bon vent m’amie m’attend

Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Derrière chez nous y’a-t-un étang Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant

Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Trois beaux canards s’en vont baignant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant

Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Le fils du roi s’en va chassant Avec son grand fusil d’argent

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron V’là l’bon vent v’là l’joli vent C’est l’aviron que nous mène en haut

Then there is The Sons of the Voyageur,http://www.heartistrymusic.com/artists/sov.html, are described as such: 

Journey back in time with the Sons of the Voyageur. These engaging “edu-tainers” bring the fur trade era to life through songs of the voyageurs in a multimedia rear-projection slide presentation featuring close to 100 images. In their interactive musical theatre performance you will hear authentic fur trade era songs sung a capella in three and four part harmony, and be led from Montreal to GrandPortage as the lifestlye of the Voyageur is portrayed in authentic period costume. An extensive collection of paddling, working and playing songs form the basis of this exciting historical overview of the life and times of a voyageur.

 

 

sov.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

The group consists of (left to right in the photo) Grant Herman, Tom Yost, Gary Hecimovich, Tom Draughton, and Ron Hobart.

The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler

Sixteen chansons of the voyageurs, plus the Canadian National Anthem. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.

Table of Contents

The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce

Twenty chansons including some of the most famous voyageur songs. Sung a capella by Les fils du voyageur, The Sons of the Voyageur.

Table of Contents

Canot d'Ècorce Album Cover

James Raffan wrote in Bark, Skin and Cedar, of another musical group steeped in voyageur songs, describing them performing at a dance with a voyageur theme:

The band for the costumed occasion was called “Rubaboo”, after pemmican soup, and included a line-up of musicians who, in their real lives, were about as close to modern-day voyageurs as one can get. There was Peter Labor, who runs an outfitting and tour firm on Lake Superior; Jeremy Ward, a birchbark-canoe builder; and a third troubadour who, by association with the other two and in his ceinture flechee, was voyageur enough for me.

Rubaboo was a basic stew or porridge consumed by ‘coureurs des bois’ and  ‘voyageurs’ (fur traders) and Metis people of North America, traditionally made of peas or corn (or both) with grease (bear or pork) and a thickening agent (bread or flour). Pemmican and maple sugar were also commonly added to the mixture. The musical group Rubaboo has performed at the Canadian Canoe Museum and other such venues. Their music is very much inspired by the voyageurs. As noted one member of this group was Jeremy Ward.

Jeremy Ward is the curator of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Jeremy has been involved with the museum for over a decade as a volunteer and staff member. He developed and carried out a number of significant projects and programs, perhaps the most notable of which was the research and construction of a 36’ birchbark canoe. Working before the public at the museum and leading a team of dedicated volunteers, Jeremy built an authentic, working example of the canot du maitre, the workhorse vehicle of the 18th and early 19th century fur trade in Canada. (This canoe along with Jeremy was featured in Ray Mears’ fine series The Northern Wilderness.) He has also designed and built the Preserving Skills Gallery and the Voyageur Encampment diorama.

The Canadian Canoe Museum (http://www.canoemuseum.ca/) includes exhibits depicting various aspects of the voyageur’s life and times, including much on the fur trade. Two educational programs offered for Grades 4/5/6/7/8 at the Canoe Museum are:

TRAPPERS AND TRADERS

Summary

Trappers and Traders takes students of the middle-school age into the heart of the fur trade through the exploration of various peoples and characters who participated in this sweeping element of Canadian history.  Then through a series of costumed experiential role playing vignettes at our trading dock and voyageur encampment.  Stories, terms, French language, navigation, post locations, trade items, portaging practice, period food and manipulation of various types of furs make this an engaging experience for all.

FUR TRADE GAME

Summary

Students take on the role of a trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company and explore the fur trade industry while trading information for furs and then furs for European goods.    They experience the emotional and physical challenges of the fur trade while gaining accurate knowledge of what life really was like in that industry. It’s a real game!

Here are some photos of exhibits related to the fur trade and voyageurs from the Canadian Canoe Museum:

phoca_thumb_l_47.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trading Post

phoca_thumb_l_36.jpg phoca_thumb_l_35.jpg

North Canoe, laden with trade goods.

Photos from Canadian Canoe Museum, http://www.canoemuseum.ca/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&view=category&id=1&Itemid=107.

Paddles up until later then….and remember each time we dip our paddles into the water that we echo the songs of past paddlers….including the voyageurs.

Some thoughts for a winter day….we have had our share of the ‘polar vortex’….finally a bit warmer….though we had snow yesterday….maybe not that much….but enough to make driving fun in Toronto (but then isn’t it always).

Then it is Groundhog Day today….so did he see his shadow or not???? (if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end….of course, if on the other hand, it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly “see its shadow” and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks):

From http://www.dolighan.com/images/jpgs/feb207c.jpg.

Global warming obviously affects much these days!!!!

But then why would he see his shadow in a snowstorm???? Or would he really want to????:

From http://www.claybennett.com/images/archivetoons/groundhog.jpg.

Could it be that he’s better off just hibernating????

From http://www.columbusmessenger.com/images/contentimages/1284.jpg.

But then times are tough too:

From http://www.blogcdn.com/www.urlesque.com/media/2010/01/poor.jpg.

So for the record, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie emerged from his cozy den this morning and also spotted his shadow, which according to groundhog folklore means Canadians can expect six more weeks of what has already been a long, cold, snowy winter. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow too….

So we have to wait 6 more weeks to get the canoe out….or do we:

From the Canadian Canoe Museum website.

So paddles up until later then….even if you have to shovel through it all. Well for at least six more weeks.

Went to White Lodge Artist Series 2014 Gallery show opening (upper level of Lavish & Squalor in the CITY BAR Café) on Wednesday January 29th to see some great art work….Duke Redbird with one of his great photos….one of Duke’s paintings that I love since it blends tradition and culture so well (and of course I love the canoe lol lol)….several examples of the great collaborative work of Duke Redbird and Jay Bell Redbird

001  003 004 005 006 007

Some of the canoes from Peterborough area builders in the Canadian Canoe Museum (in Peterborough of course).

Aerial view showing the industries of downtown Peterborough, circa 1918

One of the earliest aerial photos of Peterborough, taken before this Hunter Street bridge was demolished in 1920 to make way for the current structure. Downtown Peterborough before World War I was filled with industry. Of all the industries noted here, only Quaker Oats remains: 1) Quaker Oats Company of Canada, 2) Flour mill of the Peterborough Cereal Company, 3) Peterborough Gas Works, 4) Denne Warehouse (Dewart Mills), 5) First Peterborough Canoe Company factory, 6) Freight terminal, 7) J.J. Turner and Sons, 8) Peter Hamilton Company, 9) Former Peterborough Boating Club boathouse, 10) Ackerman Harness Company, 11) Campbell Flour Mills Company and Maple Leaf Mills, 12) Second Canadian Canoe Company Factory, 13) Central Bridge and Engineering Company, 14) CPR station, 15) Calcutt Brewing and Malting Company, 16) Otonabee grain mill, and 17) Site of the Ontario Canoe Company factory. (Courtesy of the Trent Valley Archives – Stan McBride Collection)

Cover of book by Ken Brown that is very useful.

Some info from various online sources about the history of canoe building in Peterborough….which I thought might be of some interest so I’ve reproduced it here:

The following was originally on the Peterborough Museum and Archives, http://www.peterboroughmuseumandarchives.ca/canoe.htm (but now appears to have been taken offline):

Introduction

The local canoe building industry began in the late 1850s and early 1860s, when small canoe building operations opened in Peterborough, Lakefield and Gore’s Landing. There was sustained growth during the 1870s, and then the industry expanded considerably in the late 1800s. Canoes continued to be a major industry in the Peterborough area right up into the 1960s.The “Peterborough” canoe building industry was actually made up of several different businesses over time. In Peterborough, the principle canoe establishments were the Ontario Canoe Company, the Canadian Canoe Company, the Peterborough Canoe Company, and the English Canoe Company.In Lakefield, the Gordon Canoe Co. joined with the Strickland operations to form the Lakefield Canoe Company. Meanwhile, at Gore’s Landing, the Herald Canoe Co. eventually developed into the Rice Lake Canoe Company.

Origins of the Industry

John Stephenson began to build and sell canoes in the late 1850s as a sideline to his main business with the Stephenson and Craigie planing mill (located at the present site of the Quaker Oats tennis courts). Gradually, he began to spend more time constructing canoes in order to meet the growing demand, first with a small factory at the foot of Lake St. on Little Lake, and later another, located on Elizabeth Street (now Hunter St.) in Ashburnham.

OntarioCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

In 1880, Col. J. Z. Rogers acquired the rights to build the basswood board canoes that had been designed and built by John Stephenson. On August 10, 1883, theOntario Canoe Company was incorporated. The new company offered six sizes of canoe in three types of construction (the basswood board, cedar strip, and the longitudinal cedar strip) for a total of 18 models in all. Besides these smaller hunting canoes, the company was also producing 30-foot long war (or club) canoes, which required 16 paddlers and a steers-person.The photograph (above) is the only known photograph of the first Ontario Canoe Company factory (white frame, three story building) in Ashburnham. It dates to the late 1880s or very early 1890s. The photo was discovered in the recently acquired Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images (Roy Studio fonds).

Birth of the Peterborough Canoe Company

A fire on May 9,1892 completely destroyed the factory and all the lumber and models of the Ontario Canoe Co. The loss was estimated at $25,000 and there was no insurance. Mr. John Burnham and J. S. Rogers decided to rebuild, and on October 5, 1892 work began on a new factory at the corner of Water and King Streets in Peterborough, on the site of the original Adam Scott mill. It opened on February 15, 1893 under the name of the Peterborough Canoe Company, and employed 50 skilled workers.

Across the street (south side of King Street on the bank of the Otonabee River) was a large boathouse built by the Peterborough Boating Club. In the 1870s and 1880s this club produced several champion rowers. The club became dormant after 1891 when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built a spur line along the shore of the Otonabee, effectively cutting off the boathouse from the river.

By 1892, the company offered 120 different canoe models. Besides the popular basswood and cedar rib canoes, the company also built cedar rib longitudinal strip canoes, duck boats, smooth-skin and lap-streak skiffs, sailing canoes and 20 to 50 foot steam launches . Peterborough Canoe Company also manufactured camping goods, furniture and office fittings and gradually diversified its product line to include rocking verandah chairs, hand painted decoys, and sun stop shades. (The sun shades became so successful that it eventually developed into the Ventilating Shade Company). In later years, the company also produced water skis and surfboards.

Birth of the Canadian Canoe Company

The first Canadian Canoe Company factory, 439 Water Street (south-west corner of Brock and Water now the parking lot behind Knock On Wood), 1892-1904. Secretary-Treasurer Felix Brownscombe has his arms crossed and wears a shirt and tie. (Ken Brown Collection)
Canadian Canoe Company factory workshop and Morley Lyle, circa 1890
Workers in Peterborough’s canoe factories were skilled but not highly paid. In 1919, well after this photo was taken, workers were receiving $3.00–$4.00 per nine-hour day, about the average for this kind of work at the time. Keeping wages low was critical in running a profitable canoe business, as it was so labour intensive. Canoe workers were not unionized in Peterborough until the 1950s. Morley Lyle, the general manager of the Canadian Canoe Company, has both hands on the canoe’s bow deck in this photo.

On April 25, 1893, the Canadian Canoe Company began to manufacture canoes and skiffs at its factory at the corner of Brock and Water Streets. It later moved to George and Dalhousie Streets, and then, in 1911, it moved to a new three story building on Rink Street where the company employed about 30 workers.

By 1902, the three canoe factories in Peterborough employed a total of 60 workers. The growth of the industry during the first decade of the century was reflected by the expansion of the operations so that by 1908, there were 90 people employed in the canoe factories of Peterborough. The workers sought to organize themselves and there was a brief strike at the Canadian Canoe Co. in May 1919, but the union failed to secure higher wages or recognition of the union from management.

 

Growing Pains…

The 1920s marked a turning point in the history of canoe building in Peterborough. Declining supplies of suitable wood in the local area, combined with the growing popularity of outboard motors, led to leaner times and considerable restructuring.

The William English Canoe Company  

 

A smaller competitor of both the Canadian and Peterborough Canoe companies, the William English Canoe Company, was one of the earliest canoe factories. This picture was taken in front of the factory at 182 Charlotte Street where the company operated from 1861 to 1915. This manufacturer seldom employed more than 10 people, and most were family members. (Courtesy of Jim English)

The English Canoe Co. began operations in 1861 using a design by John Stephenson. Originally established by William English, it was later carried on by his brothers Samuel and James. The factory was located at 182 Charlotte Street, in Peterborough, and it employed six people.

The company was noted for its basswood, cedar and butternut wide board and cedar strip designs, as well as cedar rib canoes. White cedar was later combined and used alternately with butternut and walnut to produce beautiful watercraft.

The English Canoe Co. ceased operations in the early 1920s; their moulds and patterns were bought by the Peterborough Canoe Co.

The Peterborough Canoe Co. bought out the William English Canoe Company. In 1923, both the Peterborough Canoe Co. and the Canadian Canoe Co. joined the Chestnut Canoe Company of New Brunswick to form the Canadian Watercraft Company, a holding company with shares split evenly between Peterborough and Fredericton shareholders. Will and Harry Chestnut had set up the Chestnut Co. in 1897, after they had developed the first canvas-covered canoes in Canada. These canoes were rugged and economical and had become stiff competition for the cheapest and most popular models of the Peterborough Canoe Co.

Under the new arrangement, the Chestnut Co. would concentrate on the canvas canoe market while the Canadian Canoe Co. would build both canvas and wood canoes and specialize in those designed for use with an outboard motor. The Peterborough Canoe Co. continued to offer its wide range of spin-off products.

A fire in 1927 destroyed the Rink St. factory of the Canadian Canoe Co. Rather than rebuild the factory, and continue operations as a separate enterprise, it was decided in 1928 to sell out to the Peterborough Canoe Company.

Meanwhile, to adjust to the new market conditions, the Peterborough Canoe Co. secured the dealership rights to the Johnson Motor Company for all of Canada (excepting British Columbia). They had difficulty getting the spare parts required to service the motors that they sold, however, so they approached the Johnson Motor Co. with the suggestion that a manufacturing facility be opened in Peterborough to provide parts. In 1928, the Johnson Motor Co. opened a 30,000 square foot factory on Monaghan Road that employed 17 people. By 1936, the merger of the Johnson Co. with Outboard Motors led to the creation of the Outboard Marine and Manufacturing Company; they produced Johnson, Evinrude and Elto outboard motors, along with a wide range of other products over the years.

PeterboroughCanada’s Boat Building Capital

By 1930, 25% of all employees in the boat building industry of Canada worked in the Peterborough area. These companies included the Brown Boat Company and the Lakefield Canoe and Boat Company, along with the Peterborough Canoe Co., the Canadian Canoe Co., J.B. O’Dette and Son, the Otonabee Boat Works, and the Canadian Johnson Motor Co. (Boat Division). It was estimated that approximately 12% of the products were exported to markets in the United States and Europe. Although the canoe companies continued to be profitable ventures throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the employees were forced to accept significant wage cuts. According to one former employee, just prior to the World War II, the company had cut single mens’ wages in half and married mens’ wages by a third. Factory workers were now getting paid 12 cents an hour with no time and a half for overtime.

During World War Two, the Peterborough Canoe Co. produced a number of products for the war effort, including pontoons for building bridges, assault boats, RCAF crash boats, naval tenders, bomb loading dinghies and shell boxes. In early 1940, the entire production of new snow skis was shipped via Northern Quebec toFinland to help resist an invasion by the Soviet Union.

Decline of the Industry

As Canada entered the 1950s, the local canoe industry continued to play a prominent role in the local economy. As of 1949, the Peterborough Canoe Co. was employing 150 people and exports accounted for 10% of production. By the mid-1950s, 75 % of all canoes made in Canada were manufactured by four companies, and three of the four were located in and around Peterborough – the Peterborough Canoe Co., the Canadian Canoe Co., and the Lakefield Canoe Co. The Chestnut Canoe Co. was the other main manufacturer of canoes.

The diversification of the product line of the original canoe companies helped them to profit from the economic boom in the early 1950s. In 1953, the Manager of the Peterborough Canoe Co., Jack Richardson, stated that sales were “a way above the total for any recent year” and “the demand for paddles is so great…(we) can’t keep up with production.” As a result, the company began to invest in new facilities. By 1956, the Peterborough Canoe Co. was the largest single boat manufacturer inCanada, selling over 8,000 boats annually with sales of over $1.5 million.

Buoyed by this prosperity, the Peterborough Canoe Co. undertook plans for expansion. In 1947, fourteen acres of land had been purchased on Monaghan Road for the construction of a new finishing mill. The larger facilities were expected to increase production by 25%. The Peterborough Canoe Co. moved into its new facilities in the mid-1950s. Meanwhile, in 1958 the Canadian Canoe Co. moved into the old Peterborough Canoe Co. factory on Water St.

By the late 1950s however, the canoe companies were experiencing serious financial difficulties. The $1 million cost of moving into the new facilities was twice the anticipated cost.

In 1957, it was estimated that approximately 4,000 canoes were sold in Canada. However, compared with the increase in population, there were fewer canoes being sold per capita despite the greater number of people spending their holidays involving some sort of water recreation. There was much greater interest in motorboats and sales began to reflect this change in the market. The 1950s also witnessed the introduction of new aluminum and fiberglass canoe models that began to undermine the market for the wooden canoes. The latter were more expensive, as they required more skill and time to produce, and were made of more costly materials.

The canoe companies of Peterborough tried to accommodate the introduction of other boat building technologies, but met with limited success. The Peterborough Canoe Co. began to produce aluminum canoes in 1957 and fibreglass boats around 1956, but they did not go into full production until 1961. Though the craftsmen were skilled with wood, they had difficulty mastering the new skills necessary for working with resins and producing fiberglass canoes. As a result, they had to learn through trial and error as they went along, and the company began producing a large number of “seconds”, reflecting poorly on the reputation of the company.

The unionization of the employees in 1955 brought increased labour costs along with the elimination of piecework overtime. Overall, the combination of an expensive relocation, higher labour costs, questionable management practices, and the difficulties encountered in trying to adapt to the new canoe technologies, along with a more competitive market place, forced the canoe factories to close in the early 1960s.

In 1960, the Canadian Canoe Co. ceased manufacturing and filed for bankruptcy with debts of over $ 2 million. With the collapse of the Canadian Canoe Co. operations, it was decided to split up the Canadian Watercraft Co. that had acted as a holding company since 1924. As a result, the Peterborough Canoe Co. and the Chestnut Canoe Co. carried on independently of each other.

The Peterborough Canoe Co. lasted another couple of years, but it too, ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1962. The Chestnut Canoe Co. obtained the moulds, patterns and patents of the Peterborough Canoe Co. and continued to build canoes at its factory in OromoctoNew Brunswick until 1978; yet it too had to fold following a major expansion in 1974.

Additional Canoe Companies in the Peterborough Region

The Herald Canoe Company

heraldcanoeco.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Based in the Rice Lake area, the Herald Canoe Co. was started by Daniel Herald of Gore’s Landing in 1862. He later went into business with his brother-in-law, John Hutchison to form the Herald and Hutchison Boat Co. In 1870, Herald went into partnership with William McBride to form the Herald and McBride Canoe Co.In 1871, Herald obtained a patent for his double-layered cedar board canoe. It consisted of a two layered hull, the external planking running lengthwise and the internal planking crosswise. A sheet of cotton with white lead was placed between the layers and secured with copper tacks. Since there were no ribs or battens in this model of canoe, it made the inside of the canoe smooth, but also slippery when wet. The double hull made the canoe heavier, but it gave it extra strength. Some of the freight canoes were 20 feet long, 5 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet deep and could carry 2 1/2 to 3 tons of cargo. The Herald canoes won a number of international awards for the strength and beauty of their design.Following the death of Daniel Herald in 1890, the business was continued by his brothers under the name Herald Brothers – Builders of Rice Lake Boats.In 1919, H.R. Langslow ofRochesterNew York bought out the Herald Brothers operations and moved the Rice Lake Canoe Co. to Cobourg, Ontario. The following year, a long time employee of the Herald Co., Fred Pratt, sold the Herald moulds to Langslow. Back in the late 1890s, Pratt had bought the Herald Brothers moulds.In 1925, Langslow was facing financial difficulties and moved the operations of the Rice Lake Canoe Co. toMontreal, where it continued to operate until 1929.

RiceLakeCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Meanwhile, Fred Pratt received the former Rice Lake Herald Co. property in lieu of payment of the mortgage and in 1926 he moved back to Gore’s Landing and set up his own business under the name of the Rice Lake Boat Works. By the 1930s, he was producing about 80 skiffs and cedar strip canoes a year, most of which were bought up by the Robert Simpson Co. Following the death of Fred Pratt in 1936, the business was continued by his son, Wally, who eventually sold the business and moulds in 1972 to Peter Harvey of Gore’s Landing.In 1969, Glen Fallis formed the Voyageur Canoe Co. in Millbrook along with a partner, Greg Cowan. Fallis acquired the moulds from Harvey and also bought the designs, machines and inventory of the Rice Lake Canoe Co.. The Voyageur Canoe Co. produces a woven fibreglass reinforced plastic canoe with a premoulded epoxy-rib structure. In 1978, Fallis bought out the Pinetree Canoe Co. of Orillia and acquired the specialized Kevlar Epoxy process that produces canoes that are 25% lighter than comparable fibreglass models.

Thomas Gordon Canoe Company – Strickland Canoe Company – Lakefield Canoe Company

Thomas Gordon was building canoes for sale in Lakefield since the late 1850s under the name of the Thomas Gordon Canoe Co., while in 1860 the Strickland Canoe Co. was established.

In 1892, Robert Strickland founded Strickland and Co. to produce board canoes. The name of the firm was changed to the Lakefield Canoe Works in 1900.

In 1904, Gordon and Strickland combined and reorganized the business as the Lakefield Canoe Co. This firm was eventually absorbed into the Lakefield Canoe and Manufacturing Co., which was established in 1918 by E.R. Tate.

In 1937, it was reorganized again and became the Lakefield Canoe and Boat Co. under the direction of George Cook. It changed to Lakefield Boats Ltd. in 1942, and was then bought out by Rilco Industries in 1962, which continued to operate until 1970.

In 1909, Gilbert Gordon, son of Thomas Gordon, began to build canoes in Bobcaygeon. Some canoes had been built there for a number of years in a boathouse operated by Dr. Thorne. In 1926, Charles Gordon began operating the business under the name of the Gordon Boatworks Co.

James G. Brown started up the Brown Boat Co. of Lakefield in 1887. He had worked with Thomas Gordon for a while before starting up his own business. Brown manufactured canvas freight canoes and cedar strip canoes. The business continued until 1938.

From the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Curator’s Choice, Canoes: The Shapes Of Success,  http://www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca/english/collection/canoes.cfm:

Introduction

There is perhaps no technology more intimately connected to the Canadian identity than the canoe. This association stems from a variety of factors: historic, geographic and, indeed, aesthetic. Yet, for this connection truly to flourish, for the history, geography and simple beauty of the canoe to excite the collective imagination, direct contact and experience with the technology itself were essential. Commercial canoe production, beginning in the 1860s, was the catalyst for this relationship, for, with commercial production, the canoe become available to a broad and appreciative public. Canoes: The Shape of Success, the exhibit on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM), explores both the early history of commercial canoe building in Canada and the subsequent evolution of the canoe as a national icon.

Heraldemployees.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Employees of the Herald Bros. Canoe Co. factory, Gore’s Landing (Rice Lake), Ontario, ca 1890. (CSTM 940346)

The “Canadian”

In the history of recreational boating in Canada, the canoe enjoys a place of special prominence. This is true both within Canada-where the canoe has become a fixture of summer camps, resorts and wilderness expeditions-and beyond our borders, where the distinctive style of watercraft we recognize simply as a “canoe” is in other countries known as a “Canadian.”

The basic form of the commercially built Canadian canoe was derived directly from bark and dugout traditions of First Peoples. Inspired by the innate qualities of the shape and performance of these traditional watercraft, a variety of techniques was developed to construct this superb aboriginal watercraft, first from wood and later from other materials. As production expanded to meet a growing middle-class interest in outdoor recreation, 19th-century sportsmen saw the Canadian canoe as something distinct requiring definition. Thus, one observer writing for Forest and Stream (Dec. 29, 1887, p. 456) under the pen name “Retaw,” offered this account of the salient characteristics of the Canadian canoe form: “sharp lines…broad flat floor…[and] slight tumble home of the topsides.”

Pioneers in the Field

The commercial history of the Canadian canoe began in the second halfthe19th century, notably concentrated in the region around the city of of Peterborough, Ontario. The principal players in the formative years were John Stephenson of Ashburnham, Thomas Gordon of Lakefield, William English of Peterborough and Daniel Herald of Gore’s Landing on Rice Lake. Examples of the canoes built by these men or their companies are still in evidence around the world. Yet, of these pioneers, only the legacy of Daniel Herald’s commercial operations, begun in 1862, has been preserved in any depth.

canoe_02_dherald.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Daniel Herald, canoe builder, designer, innovator and founder of the Rice Lake Canoe Co., ca 1870. (CSTM 940349)

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Canoe mould for construction of the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe. (CSTM 940387)

This rare material, consisting of photographs, order books, plans, certificates, trade literature, tools, and patterns and moulds, constitutes the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. While this collection is a unique record of an important company in the commercial history of the Canadian canoe, it is also one of the finest and fullest material records of 19th-century boat building as a business enterprise in North America. As such, it also provides an important view of the social and economic history of outdoor recreation in Canada.

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Explanatory drawing from Herald’s Boat and Canoe Mould patent of 1871

The Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe

Although the canoe company founded by Daniel Herald produced a variety of canoe models, the most celebrated of his product line was the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe. The patent in the name, dating to 1871, refers specifically to the design of the mould used in the building of this model. Herald developed a technique of double-skin construction, in which the patent mould was key. The resulting canoe was greatly valued for its exceptional strength and smooth, ribless interior. Hunters and fishers found the latter feature was kinder to the knees and made cleaning the canoe much easier. Here it is worth noting that Rice Lake, where Herald developed this canoe, was a place much favoured for both hunting waterfowl and fishing.

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Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880.

Among the three moulds in the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection is a Herald’s Patent mould (940387*). The actual Herald’s Patent Canoe in the small-craft collection of CSTM is a painted model that dates to 1880 and is marked on the foredeck with Daniel Herald’s builder’s stamp (980007). Acquired from an individual in the United States, the canoe’s provenance suggests a lineage of four previous owners going back to the original buyer who lived in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine.

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Detail of the Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880, showing Daniel Herald’s stamp on the foredeck.

Building A Business

While the mould and the canoe itself most obviously embody the physical fact of production, commercial canoe manufacturing required skills and investment in a variety of areas: design (ideas and plans), construction (tools and techniques), promotion (catalogues and exhibitions), and business operations (infrastructure, record keeping). This exhibit offers material insight from the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection in all of these areas.

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Certificate awarded to Herald Bros. at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. (CSTM 940332)

For example, the collection includes a fine lines drawing of a canoe (940328). Such drawings were used in developing designs. They served as two-dimensional, scaled-down plans of the intended shape. Notable among the tools in the collection are various patterns, including a set of four very fine basswood plank patterns used to trace out the boards that formed the hull of the canoe (940393). Patterns were also used for a variety of other pieces, including paddles, and a selection of these is on display.

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Herald Bros. canoe catalogue, ca 1892. This and other canoe catalogues were illustrated by John David Kelly, a well-known artist and graphic designer who grew up at Gore’s Landing. He was a good friend of the Heralds as well as an avid canoeist. (CSTM L31537)

The all-important promotional component of the canoe-building business is well represented by a series of Rice Lake catalogues, and by two large diplomas from trade fairs, including one from the celebrated Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 (940332). (Because of the fragile nature of these documents, high-quality photographic facsimiles are used in the exhibit.)

The participation and success of Canadian canoe companies at these events underline their proprietors’ desire to develop a national and international clientele. Evidence of just such a market for this quintessentially Canadian product can be found in a small sample of order books preserved in the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake Collection.

Different Strokes

Although the Daniel Herald-Rice Lake collection offers special insight into the operations of early commercial canoe builders, the business founded by Daniel Herald was just one of several pioneer canoe companies. Another noteworthy firm was the Wm. English Canoe Co’y. According to company advertising, William English claimed the honour of having opened the very first canoe “factory” in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1861. English was not remembered for a signature model, such as the “Herald’s Patent” or the fabled “Peterborough Cedar Rib,” but he was a builder whose canoes were greatly admired for their high-quality workmanship. A very good example on display is a William English Cedar Strip canoe dating from about 1896 (960360). Today, cedarstrip construction is among the best known of the early wooden canoe types. Originally developed by J.S. Stephenson in 1883, the hull is made up of long strips of cedar running stem to stern, ship-lap joined one above the other. Near the gunwales, there is an aesthetically delightful accent strip in darker wood. The hull is strengthened internally by elegant half-round ribs fashioned from rock elm and arranged on two-inch (5-cm) centres. On the beautifully fashioned butternut foredeck, the maple-leaf logo of the Wm. English Canoe Co’y is still visible.

canoe_09_cedar.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Cedarstrip canoe built by Wm. English Canoe Co’y, ca 1896. (CSTM 960360)

There is also interesting information on the Dragonfly Canoes website.http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/id/index.html, regarding wood canoe builders, including those from the Peterborough area.

Better yet visit the Canadian Canoe Museum, right in Peterborough.

Paddles up until later then….and paddle a ‘Peterborough’ canoe if you ever get the chance.

A photo found on Facebook.

The Eagle (Migizi in Ojibway) holds a very special place for Native peoples.  The Eagle soared so high in the heavens that Native peoples held it in high esteem since it was so much closer to the Creator. The Eagle became a power of vision, strength and courage. There are many special meanings and special uses for the Eagle.

Many Native teachings explain that Eagle is the Principle Messenger of Creator. Eagle flies the closest to Creator and, therefore, can see the past, present and future at a glance. Eagle sees the flow of change. Eagle alerts us to the changes so that we can respond appropriately. Eagle is the great illuminator and soars above us all, sometimes out of sight to us, but never out of its own sight. Eagle sees and hears all and sits in the east on the Medicine Wheel with the direction of leadership and courage.

In other words, Eagle is connected both to the spirit of Great Mystery and to the Earth and does both with ease. Eagle, therefore, is a powerful symbol of courage; that is why its feathers are such powerful tools for healing, and why there are special ceremonies for Eagle feathers. Eagle teaches us that it is okay to combine wisdom and courage — it is okay to be wise enough to know that a change needs to be made in one’s life and then finding the courage to execute the change.

A gift of an Eagle Feather is a great honor. It is a mark of distinction, one that could indicate that a rite of passage has been earned. The Eagle Feather represents the norms, responsibilities and behaviors that are all a part of the conditioning, learning and commitment to a spirit. It is in this way that life is honored and becomes whole.

The quill of an Eagle Feather represents stability, strength and foundation. In the Cycle of Life or wheel of life, it represents the spirituality of the people. This is where the beginning and ending meet. The quill represents the beginning and ending in the spiritual journey of life. Birth and death are represented here as rites of passage from and to the spiritual world. Conception, the nine month journey and childbirth are sacred and begin here. Traditionally, there were ceremonies or celebrations for the beginning of life.

The plume of an Eagle Feather or fluff is white, billowy and soft. It represents the purity, lightness and gentleness of a child full of the spirit and so new to the cycle of life. The plume is distinctive and usually a token of honor.

The plume in the Cycle of Life is the beginning of the formative years, childhood. It is the age of innocence, pride and dreams – a time for bonding and attachment to relationships, values, attitudes, behaviors, personalities, character and to the environment. It is a time for security and integration.

The vane of an Eagle Feather represents flexibility and adaptability with gentleness and firmness. The vane has a unique design as each feather is unique. Each individual is also unique. This is the expanded part of the feather just as youth are now expanding into the world and each is responsible for themselves.

In the Cycle of Life, the vane is the continuation of the formative years. The children have achieved their rights of passage, a boy becomes a hunter or warrior and a girl has reached womanhood. During this phase, there is learning and guidance. The mind, the mouth, heart and hand (avenues for the spirit) are being nurtured. Example and reinforcement are given in the proper direction to strengthen their spiritual well being and identity. It is a time of enrichment, logic and proof.

The entire feather is straight, strong, firm and gentle. The top portion represents the peak of life. The conduct of adulthood is to bring out the best in beauty and goodness. Men have achieved bravery, skill or character and have been renamed accordingly. Women have achieved a level of knowledge basic to the survival of the people. Self-discipline, survival skills, loyalty, solidarity, and respect within family are above all individual interests. The foundation laid for them is intact. Interdependence, empathy, insight and foresight enables them to be keepers and protectors of the culture. It is at this phase that marriage and child-bearing are foremost.

The opposite vane continues to represent flexibility and adaptability with gentleness and firmness. In the Cycle of Life, a level of seniority is established. Conduct of parenthood has been proven and movement into grand parenthood is inevitable. Relationships, community and nationhood are important. Responsibility for the welfare of others, young and old is the purpose of guidance. To encourage and support others is to give back what was given and to give more of one’s self.

As in the opposite, the plume of the Eagle Feather represents purity, lightness and gentleness. Purity in mind, body and spirit is achieved in old age. Elders become frail and weak like children. It is a very honorable age that speaks no arrogance or greed but the fulfillment of life to the best of one’s ability. They become the keepers of the wisdom with peaceful energy, authority and purpose. Elders are as highly esteemed as the Eagle.

Once again the quill represents the beginning and ending in the spiritual journey of life. Death is at the end of the Cycle of Life and is also a rite of passage into the spiritual world. The spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of loved ones into eternity. One has known his natural space, only once does he pass this way, he has made his journey. To honor death is to honor life as both are important in the spirit world.

One First Nations story is also about the eagle feather:

In the beginning, the Great Spirit above gave to the animals and birds wisdom and knowledge and the power to talk to men. He sent these creatures to tell man that he showed himself through them. They would teach a chosen man sacred songs and dance, as well as much ritual and lore.

The creature most loved by the Great Spirit was the eagle, for he tells the story of life. The Eagle, as you know, has only two eggs, and all living things in the world are divided into two. Here is man and woman, male and female and this is true with animals, birds, trees, flowers and so on. All things have children of two kinds so that life may continue. Man has two eyes, two hands, two feet and he has a body and soul, substance and shadow.

Through his eyes, he sees pleasant and unpleasant scenes, through his nostrils he smells good and bad odors, with his ears he hears joyful news and words that make him sad. His mind is divided between good and evil. His right hand he may often use for evil, such as war or striking a person in anger. But his left hand, which is near his heart, is always full of kindness. His right foot may lead him in the wrong path, but his left foot always leads him the right way, and so it goes; he has daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death.

In order to remember this lesson of life, look to the great eagle, the favorite bird of the Great Spirit. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, part light, and part dark. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death. So that you may remember what I have told you, look well on the eagle, for his feathers, too, tell the story of life.

Look at the feathers I wear upon my hand, the one on the right is large and perfect and is decorated; this represents man. The one on my left is small and plain; this represents woman. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, dark and white. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter. For the white tells of summer, when all is bright and the dark represents the dark days of winter.

My children, remember what I tell you. For it is YOU who will choose the path in life you will follow — the good way, or the wrong way.

Another First Nations teaching:

When the world was new, the Creator made all the birds. He colored their feathers like a bouquet of flowers. The Creator then gave each a distinct song to sing. The Creator instructed the birds to greet each new day with a chorus of their songs. Of all the birds, our Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader. The Eagle flies the highest and sees the furthest of all creatures. The Eagle is a messenger to the Creator. To wear or to hold the Eagle Feather causes our Creator to take immediate notice. With the Eagle Feather the Creator is honored in the highest.

When one receives an Eagle Feather that person is being acknowledged with gratitude, with love, and with ultimate respect. That feather must have sacred tobacco burnt for it. In this way the Eagle and the Creator are notified of the name of the new Eagle Feather Holder. The holder of the Eagle Feather must ensure that anything that changes the natural state of ones mind (such as alcohol and drugs) must never come in contact with the sacred Eagle Feather. The keeper of the feather will make a little home where the feather will be kept. The Eagle feather must be fed. You feed the Eagle Feather by holding or wearing the feather at sacred ceremonies. By doing this the Eagle Feather is recharged with sacred energy. Never abuse, never disrespect, and never contaminate your Eagle Feather.

Eagle feather beaded 3 Eagle feather beaded 4 Eagle feather beaded 5 Eagle feather beaded1 Eagle feather beaded2

Photos by yours truly.

Just some thoughts on the eagle….and eagle feathers….

Nothing feels like a cedar-strip canvas canoe – Omer Stringer, a confirmed traditionalist

Beautiful things made by hand carry within them the seeds of their survival. They generate a spark of affection. For some it’s sentimental, for some it’s the art of the craftsmanship, for some the beauty of the finished boat. People love these things and try hard to ensure they endure.

The survival of the wood-canvas canoe (to paraphrase John McPhee) is certainly a matter of the heart; a romantic affair. The economics are unfavorable. In fact, the wood-canvas canoe’s most conspicuous asset and advantage is that it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s the Shaker rocking chair of outdoor sport – handcrafted, simple, clean, and functional. There’s nothing in it that doesn’t have to be there, but all of the pieces add up to more than the parts. It works well and looks wonderful doing it.- From Honeymoon With A Prospector by Lawrence Meyer

Going down a river or crossing a lake in anything but wood-canvas is like floating on a linoleum rug. That’s just how it looks when you glance inside one of those types of canoes and watch the bottom flex and shimmer with the water. Whereas, in any wood-canvas canoe you have all these beautiful rich colors of the cedar planking and ribs, hardwood gunwales and decks, and caned seats. Even the smells are nice and directly relate to the environment you are traveling through. - Jack Hurley, canoebuilder

I suppose there would always be an argument for the different types of materials and canoe designs, but the wood-canvas canoe is one generation away from the birchbark canoe and was made for working and transporting people through the wilderness. It was designed and made out of materials that would stand up to miles and miles of flatwater and whitewater and portaging through very rugged and unexplored terrain. As a trip leader with kids and adults, I have safely traveled across many lakes in a wood-canvas canoe in conditions where other experienced paddlers in the new-design boats were either windbound or took on water during the crossings. - Jim Spencer, canoebuilder.

A Recipe For Success:

STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS

An elegant accompaniment to fish.

Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.

51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar

10 board feet of combined ash, black cherry, and maple

2600 brass tacks

18 feet of 10 weight canvas

¾ gallon of oil base filler

3 quarts of varnish

2 quarts of paint

Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)

Using a large shop, prepare all ingredients the night before. Early the next day preheat element to high heat. Bring an adequate quantity of water in a large pot to a tumbling boil. Steam ribs until al dente (flexible) and bend immediately while still tender. Let stand at room temperature to blend flavors until cool. Chop cleaned white parts of planking into long thin slices, (smaller pieces will fall to ground). Add bulk of brass tacks and planks at random until ribs disappear (careful not to tenderize planking with pounding of tacks). When ingredients become solid remove from mold and set aside. Prepare gunwales and decks by chopping fresh hardwoods. Snip to length and desired shape, introducing slowly for best results. Wrap with canvas skin; skewer with tacks along edges, leave middle open. Add both caned seats and center thwart until balanced. Inlay decks for garnish.

Use the same basic recipe for fifteen and seventeen footers. Quantities will vary including concentration of beer.

Well before serving time, press filler firmly onto bottom side of prepared carcass to seal in natural juices and let marinate. Heat entire hull at medium to high sun for about three weeks, covering occasionally, until fully baked.  From a separate pot, baste inside with all-purpose varnish to glaze ribs, careful not to drip, and let harden. Repeat occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk and and gently combine, until mixed but not runny, an assortment of fresh paint to color, stirring occasionally as you serve, and dressing the outside lightly from end to end. The condiments blend even better if allowed to stand for several hours until sticky topping hardens. (Careful not to undercook, but do not let baking temperature bubble surface.) Repeat spreading of additional layers on outer crust and again set aside and let stand until hard. Cover and store in a safe spot until needed. Present whole at room temperature, arranged attractively on an adequate bed of water. If desired, garnish with cherry paddles as a starter. Bon voyage. Serves 2 to 3. (Note: Depending on degree of festivities, presentation may be turned into a dip.)  – Don Standfield, fromStories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom & Waggery of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell.

My two old canoes are works of art, embodying the feeling of all canoemen for rivers and lakes and the wild country they were meant to traverse. They were made in the old tradition when there was time and the love of the work itself. I have two canvas-covered canoes, both old and beautifully made. They came from the Penobscot River in Maine long ago, and I treasure them for the tradition of craftsmanship in their construction, a pride not only of form and line but of everything that went into their building. When l look at modern canoes, of metal or fiberglass stamped out like so many identical coins. l cherish mine even more …Sixteen feet in length, it has graceful lines with a tumble home or curve from the gunwales inward …No other canoe I’ve ever used paddles as easily … The gunwales and decks are of mahogany, the ribs and planking of carefully selected spruce and cedar… - Sigurd Olson, Tradition

The canoes rode well, not too high in the bows, but just enough. Peterborough Prospectors were made for the bush and for roaring rapids and waves. They embodies the best features of all canoes in the north. They were wide of beam with sufficient depth to take rough water, and their lines gave them maneuverability and grace. In them was the lore of centuries, of Indian craftsman who had dreamed and perfected the beauty of the birchbark, and of French voyageurs who also loved the feel of the paddle and the smooth glide of the canoe through the water. All this was taken by modern craftsman who – with glues , waterproof fillers and canvas, together with the accuracy of machine tooled ribs and thwarts , planking and gunwales – made a canoe of which Northmen might be well proud. - Sigurd Olson

Wood and canvas canoes are strong, seaworthy, exceptionally responsive to the paddle and soothing to the human spirit – Hugh Stewart, master canoe builder, Headwater Canoes

I have no interest in building a plastic canoe – Bill Miller, master canoe builder, Miller Canoes, Nova Scotia

I’ve got 36 more years before I retire. I will gladly build my last canoe on my 100th birthday – Bill Miller, master canoe builder, Miller Canoes, Nova Scotia

My hands are on every stage of production. If you spend two or three months making something, it becomes a chunk of you, like for a painter.- Will Ruch, Ruch Canoes, Bancroft, Ont.

As someone said, canoeing is a fringe activity and wood canoes are the fringest of the fringe - Doug Ingram, Red River Canoes, Lorette, Man.

No one gets rich making canoes - Larry Bowers, West Country Canoes, Eckville, Alta.

I wrote a blog post sometime ago entitled Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: A Thoreau Tuesday: A Few Quotes….And A Green Wood Canvas Canoe Business. In that article, I wrote about Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes:

Mike Elliott of Kettle River Canoes, in his Canoeguy’s Blog, wrote a great postCanoe Guy’s Blog: Wood-Canvas Canoes In A Green Economy, which describes the basis behind Mike’s canoe restoration business. I love Mike’s opening statement:

An environmentally friendly approach to the world is based on the “Three R’s”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  However, there are more: Repair, Restore and Reclaim.

Mike developed a Green business model from the start….and his success comes by reducing, reusing, recycling, repairing, restoring and reclaiming. He provides an example of this in his use of planking from an old salvaged telephone pole or use of hardwood paneling recycled from a  house demolition. Mike’s canoe business focuses exclusively on restoration instead of building. Mike realized that he couldn’t make enough from building new canoes, but he could from restoring older still usable canoes. I also like his “adoption” approach where an old canoe is “adopted” by a new owner who pays for the restoration.

I like Mike’s idea of restoring older still usable canoes….however I might disagree with him about new canoes….I think that in this day and age the wood canvas canoe, new or old (and restored) is more than just a viable alternative….on the website for Timberline Canoes, the home page has the following:

Wood Canvas Canoes: Eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources

Benefits of Ownership

  • Gentle on the environment
  • No fossil fuels required
  • No water pollution
  • Quiet – no noise pollution
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Easy to transport
  • Renewable construction
  • Good for your body
  • Great for your soul

Now I have expounded on this blog at great length on wood canvas canoes….on why wood canvas canoes should be used….why folks trip with them….why wood canvas canoes are not just “museum pieces”….even about youth canoe building programs involving wood canvas canoes….obviously I love wood canvas canoes….but not just their history or tradition….I even think there’s a future for wood canvas canoes….and maybe even a real need.

I have mentioned the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild (WCBG), Home Page, here before as well….but what exactly is the Guild???….here is how the WCBG describes themselves from their Who We Are page, Who We Are:

The Wooden Canoe Builders’ Guild was formed in 1997 to serve the collective needs and interests of builders and restorers of cedar canvas and woodstrip epoxy watercraft and to foster public interest in and knowledge of such watercraft. The Guild provides a forum for co-operation and communication among wooden canoe and kayak builders and facilitates the co-operative bulk purchasing of the specialised products and materials used in the construction of these vessels.

Guild members are producing, today, those canoes and kayaks which will become the heritage watercraft of future decades. It is the goal of the Guild to preserve and pass on the skills required to build and reconstruct these watercraft, which are so connected with the history and traditions of North America.

Every member of the Guild is indebted to people whom we have never met, but who led the way in developing the techniques which most of us follow today. The names of the old companies such as Henry Rushton, Chestnut, Old Town and Peterborough, to name a few, represent the heritage which we strive to preserve and continue through our work.

Today’s wooden canoe builders operate, predominantly, in small scale enterprises in widely scattered areas of North America. Few workshops have more than two or three employees which is why these builders are truly individual entrepreneurs with a strong sense of responsibility to produce quality watercraft for truly discriminating owners.

The Wooden Canoe Builders’ Guild seeks to have its members maintain high standards as they produce watercraft for those customers who will appreciate the time and care invested in the canoes and kayaks coming from their shops. They also strive to return to active use those craft that have suffered the ravages of time so that they may, once again, connect mankind with the natural elements. For those members who build wood & canvas canoes, one of the conditions of membership in the Guild is agreement to a set of construction standards set down by the Guild. The onus is on each builder to meet or exceed these standards without any formal policing by the Guild.


Further according to WCBG website, the Missions Of The Wooden Canoe Builders Guild are:

  • to preserve the art and craft of wooden canoe building
  • to promote high quality workmanship by its members
  • to pass on the skills of wooden canoe building through workshops, courses and apprenticeship programs
  • to preserve the heritage and history of wooden canoes through education and restoration
  • to support and serve its members by providing forums for mutual assistance and collective action

So what is exactly involved in the construction of a wood canvas canoe????….again from the WCBG website, Canoe Constructionl:

Canoe Construction

The cedar canvas canoe represents the European adaptation of the bark canoe built and used by the native people. As suitable bark became more difficult to obtain and to facilitate industrial production, canvas was substituted for the bark and rendered waterproof by the application of oil, tar or paint.

Cedar canvas canoes have a long and romantic history in Canada and the north-eastern United States where they have been built in small shops and large factories for about 125 years. Many people think of them as ‘old fashioned’ canoes and are surprised to learn that they are still being built today. In fact the methods of manufacture have changed little in the past 125 years, ensuring the same high aesthetic qualities and superior handling characteristics of the classic canvas covered canoes.

Before a cedar canvas canoe can be built, a form has to be constructed. The canoes are built directly onto this form so that it determines the shape of the canoe hull. Building the form is an exacting and lengthy process that can take 200 – 300 hours. However, once the form is complete, a large number of canoes can be built on it, one at a time.

 

The first step in the construction of a new canoe is to clamp the inwales and the stem pieces to the form. Next the cedar ribs are steamed and bent, one at a time, over the form and nailed to the inwales. This forms the skeletal shape of the canoe. The red or white cedar planking is then applied over the ribs and secured to each rib with 3 or 4 brass tacks. Metal bands on the form clinch each tack into the inside surface of the ribs to create a secure connection between the planks and the ribs. Approximately 2000 tacks are used in a typical 16 foot canoe.

When the planking is substantially complete, the canoe is removed from the form. The shear planking is then completed and the ends of the canoe are closed up.The canoe is then sanded and cleaned inside and given at least 4 coats of marine spar varnish. Decks, seats and thwarts are added and the canoe is ready for canvassing.

  

The canvas is folded lengthwise to form a trough and then stretched until taut. The canoe is placed into the trough and the canvas is attached at the top of each rib with brass tacks or stainless steel staples. At the ends of the canoe the canvas is carefully slit and pulled, one side at a time, around the stem and fastened. The canvas is then ‘filled’ with a product that fills the weave and makes a smooth, solid base for the finishing paint.

 

After the filler has cured, the outwales are added and the canoe is then given at least three coats of marine enamel. Finally, the ends of the canoe are finished off with the installation of brass stem bands. The time required to build a canoe varies with the size and the degree of finish and can range from about 80 to 200 hours.

Also these drawings from the old WCBG site:

*Drawings by Sam Manning for the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., U.S.A.

Also this from McCurdy and Reed Canoes: Construction:

I really liked the FAQ section of the WCBG, FAQ:

Q:What are the advantages of a wooden canoe?

A: The primary advantages of a wooden canoe are its appearance and its handling characteristics. Quite simply, no other material can match wood in these two respects. From an appearance perspective, the beauty of wood can’t be matched by any other material. As for handling, a wooden canoe is quieter, warmer and more responsive to the water than any other material. The flexing of a wooden canoe, which is made of many pieces, allows it to respond to the water it floats in as well as the paddler it carries as no moulded material can.

An additional feature of cedar canvas canoes, which is not shared by canoes of other materials, is that, if required, any part of the canoe can be repaired or replaced – no matter how old the canoe – thus restoring the canoe to as-new condition.

Q: Does a wooden canoe require a lot of maintenance?

A: Being made of natural materials it is true that, on average, a wooden canoe will require more care than some other materials such as fibreglass, aluminum and plastic. To put it another way, wood will suffer more from neglect than these materials. However, the actual upkeep required by a wooden canoe depends on how it is used and stored and can be surprisingly low if a bit of common sense care is taken. For example, the paint and varnish on a wooden canoe, which represent the first line of defence for the wood, can provide many years of service before requiring attention if care is taken in the use and storage of the canoe.

Q: Can I use a wooden canoe for whitewater?

A: The short answer is yes. Until the advent of synthetic canoe materials, wooden canoes (specifically cedar canvas canoes) were used for all purposes including whitewater. However, today some other materials are more appropriate for this use in the sense that they are more impact resistant and suffer fewer consequences from striking a rock.

Q: How long does it take to build a cedar canvas canoe?

A: The length of time a builder spends to build a cedar canvas canoe will vary primarily with the emphasis placed on fit and finish details and can be anywhere between approximately 80 and 200 hours.

Q: What do you do if you get a tear in the canvas?

A: A small tear in the canvas can be patched and, when repainted, rendered almost invisible. A tear which is too large to patch will require replacement of the canvas. However, the canvas on a canoe is really quite rugged and would require impact with a fairly sharp object to cause even a small tear.

Q: Why not use fibreglass instead of canvas on a canoe?

A: As previously mentioned, one of the advantages of a cedar canvas canoe is the ability to repair or replace any component. Because fibreglass is not readily removable, this advantage would be lost if it was used in place of canvas.

The  Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to preserving, studying, building, restoring, and using wooden and bark canoes, and to disseminating information about canoeing heritage throughout the world. This is a great group of wood canoe fanatics….the WCHA has a great online forum,  on all things dealing with wooden canoes.

Filler was mentioned in the section on wood canvas canoe construction above from the WCBG. Fillers are used in to treat the canvas….as the WCBG section describes the canvas is ‘filled’ with a product that fills the weave and makes a smooth, solid base for the finishing paint. Many canoe builders have their own “secret” fomulas for this filler. The WCHA has a great deal of info on past and present filler formulas, Canvas Filler Formulas:

Canvas filler formulas have been guarded for decades by wood canvas canoe builders all over the world. The formulas below have been published or made available in a legal manner and not “stolen” or otherwise “borrowed” without permission….

One note about filler formulas. The materials that were used in the early 1900′s may not be the same as materials with the same names today. In addition, canvas is certainly different today than it was in 1900, so some of these formulas may not provide the best coverage for your money.

Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #16 (no lead)

  • 43 ounces boiled linseed oil
  • 21 ounces mineral spirits
  • 34 ounces enamel paint
  • 2 ounces Japan drier
  • 6 1/4 pounds 300 grit silica
  • 2 ounces spar varnish

“Rushton’s Filler” – Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #20

  • 5 pounds silica
  • 1 1/2 quarts turpentine
  • 1 quart boiled linseed oil
  • 1 pint Japan drier
  • 2 pounds white lead

Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #31

  • 1 quart boiled linseed oil
  • 4 pounds silica
  • 7 ounces Japan drier
  • 3 quarts turpentine
  • 4 pounds white lead

From Scott E. Marks, picked off the USENET group rec.boats.building by Phil Gingrow.

I can suggest a recipe, the best I remember it from 20 years ago. It was based on glaziers putty and floor varnish – we used Hippo Oil brand at the time. Glaziers putty is basically clay and linseed oil. We warmed the varnish and mixed (kneaded) the putty into it by hand. I honestly don’t remember the proportions, but we ended up with something like a thick pancake batter. To this we would add some japan drier to accelerate drying. This mixture was worked into the nap of the canvas by hand, in thin coats. If allowed to dry between coats, it wouldn’t build up into a single soft thick layer. It would remain flexible, and as many layers were applied as were required to fill the canvas. Two coats of orange shellac with light sanding between were applied over it prior to painting with enamel paint. This recipe originated from someone in the Dwight, Ontario area, who was generous enough to teach a few of us to repair and re-canvas the fleet of Chestnut canoes we battered on the rocks of Algonquin park.

More from Dom Williams: I used your site to prepare a filler based on the floor varnish/glaziers putty/indian dryers mixture listed in the site; the author could not remember proportions. 0thers using this formulation may be surprised to find how much putty is required versus varnish. I wound up with a mix of 1cup varnish/ 2 1/2 lb putty and 1 tablespoon of dryers and probably would have been better to increase the putty to 3lb. To refinish a 16 ft canoe with the existing filler largely worn away by use and/or paintstripping I used 4 batches ie 1 quart of varnish and 10lb of putty; the final batch was not all used. I found it applied best using a cheap 8 inch plastic drywall knife (the more flexible the better) and applied it from the gunwales up and then from the centerline to meet the “upstroke”. I “spot-primed ” the areas where the old filler had largely washed out of the canvas by hand rubbing glops into the weave before doing the overall trowelling.

Notes

  1. Silica can be purchased at pottery supplies under the brand name Silex. Silex dust can cause breathing problems, so please always use a respirator when sanding filler.
  2. Lead is known to cause brain damage when absorbed through the skin or inhaled as dust. Be very cautious using and disposing of white lead in your filler.

Wood canvas canoes, to reiterate the Timberline Canoe home page, are eco-friendly watercraft constructed of renewable, natural resources….despite the fact that certain chemicals might be used in their construction….such as in the filler, paint, or even varnish….but personally I believe that the “carbon footprint” involved in the construction of wood canvas canoes is much less than that involved in building fiberglas or Kevlar canoes. So I think it’s safe to say that are more “eco-friendly” than other types of canoes on the market….not only are they constructed from renewable and natural resources….but they instill a closeness to the natural environment….especially in a spiritual sense….just check out the quotes from various folks at the outset of this post, especially from the canoe builders.

On her website for Bourquin Boats (Bourquin Boats), Jeanne Bourquin answers Why Wood? :

Jeanne Bourquin

Almost everyone interested in a wood canoe at some point asks me “Why wood?” “Why paddle something so beautiful?” “It should be on a wall somewhere.” “They’re so heavy… they require so much upkeep and work…”

The camp where I learned to travel by canoe uses wood canoes because they believe that by learning to respect and care for one’s equipment, we learn to take care of the environment, and we learn to take care of and respect each other. The material, the care required, the natural beauty of a wood canoe all fit into the experience of wilderness travel. A wood canoe is more of a friend (or a pet) than a piece of recreational equipment (most people name their canoes), and the purchase of a wood canoe should be approached the same way. “Am I willing to take the extra care loading and unloading?” “Will I want to get my feet wet?” “Where am I going to store my canoe?” “Will I enjoy the cleaning and sanding and touchups required each fall?”

Wooden canoes

Asked why we use wood/canvas canoes, those of us who have paddled them for years can mostly only shrug and smile. Maybe its love… cupid’s arrow… pure foolishness. Maybe its all appearance… maybe its how quiet they are on the water… maybe its how you can forget the mosquitoes as you admire for the 10,000 time the graceful curve of rib and plank disappear into the bow. Or, maybe its the history and memories we see reflected in each dent and scratch – while imagining our children and grandchildren off on some adventure of their own in the same canoe. For most people the love for wooden canoes starts the first time they actually get in one and paddle. They are beautiful to look at – but they are much more beautiful on the water – clear skies and Fall leaves, or grey skies and pouring rain, another friend to share it all with.

As John Hupfield states on his Lost In The Woods Boatworks website:

Why wood? Besides being beautiful, wood is a renewable resource that we think is more in keeping with our enjoyment of the environment, and is a non-toxic alternative to the increasing use of toxic chemicals in recreational watercraft. It’s warmer and stiffer than synthetics, smells nice, is pleasant to work with, and is quieter on the water too. And by using modern building methods, hulls are extremely light, durable and easy to care for. It’s a myth that wooden boats are high maintenance!

Or as Paul Roddick states on his website for Roddick Canoes:

Canadian adventure canoes and rowboats, built the traditional way with wood and canvas, and a whole lot of Canadian know how. Our great country of lakes, rivers and ancient waterways is the birthplace of the canoe. Long before the white man ever set foot on this land the great native people built the canoe to travel and explore the wilderness. Today we build these great canoes in the same way,ready to take you on a wilderness adventure, or an eary morning paddle on your favourite lake, with the mist rising off the water as your quiet wooden canoe glides effortlessly with hardly a ripple, as they have done for thousands of years and will continue to, as long as individual craftsmen, dedicated to preseving this great Canadian tradition, culture and life style, persevere.

I am not defending the wood canvas canoe, because they need no defense, they speak for themselves, they whisper “Canada, wilderness,water, adventure, lakes , streams, rivers, sun on the rocks, wind on the water, trout in the clear crystal pools, an early morning moose feeding at the the waters edge, or you and your companion, pushing off your loaded canoe, into another day of being one with with nature.

Our models never change from year to year, they are the same today as they were a hundred years ago. It’s hard to improve on perfection, we don’t worry about the newest tecnology, or the competition. Why?, because we don’t have any, all we have is our timeless wooden canoes and boats, each one hand built, one at a time, slowly, carefully, soulfully, each one a bit of Canada, each one cherished for what they are, a thing of timeless beauty, function and grace, the wood canvas canoe. forever.

Maine Canoe Journeys adds:

Wood/Canvas canoes have enjoyed a remarkable revival since the early 1980s for more than nostalgic reasons. A fine wood/canvas canoe offers not just aesthetic beauty, but also superior handling in the water, craftsmanlike construction of largely organic materials, and infinite repairability.

Finally as Pam Wedd  says on the Bearwood Canoes website:

The experience of paddling a traditional wood and canvas canoe is like no other in this high-tech world of ours. Being a part of our surroundings in a watercraft built from natural materials returns us to our roots. It is a link to our past and our soul.

I don’t think I can add much more to any of that….certainly nothing I haven’t added before here….so next time you’re thinking of buying a new canoe (or even an “old” new canoe), think of a wood canvas canoe….and if you are worried about the weight then remember it’s really not too heavy….and even if it is more than that featherweight Kevlar, it will let you know you’re still alive….as for maintenance that’s part of the charm too. And nothing like taking a wood canvas canoe on a northern lake, especially in traditional canoe country like Algonquin, Killarney or Temagami.

Paddles up until later then….and may you have a green canoe (if you don’t already have one)….a green wood canvas canoe….truly “green”.

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