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I guess it’s a slow day….the last Sunday in August….but I have been thinking of ways to celebrate the canoe….First Nations….Mother Earth and the environment….this is maybe too grandiose of an idea….but then I think one should think BIG or stay home….any way I thought I would share one of my ideas:

Four Directions Canoe Project

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First, the canoe connects us to Ma-ka-ina, Mother Earth, from which we came and to which we must all return. Councils of those who were here before us revered the earth and also the wind, the rain, and the sun – all essential to life. It was from that remarkable blending of forces that mankind was allowed to create the canoe and its several kindred forms.

From the birch tree, came the bark; from the spruce, pliant roots; from the cedar, the ribs, planking and gunwales; and from a variety of natural sources, the sealing pitch.

In other habitats, great trees became dugout canoes while, in treeless areas, skin, bone and sinew were ingeniously fused into kayaks. Form followed function, and manufacture was linked to available materials. Even the modern canoe, although several steps away from the first, is still a product of the earth. We have a great debt to those who experienced the land before us. No wonder that, in many parts of the world, the people thank the land for allowing its spirit to be transferred to the canoe.

Hand-propelled watercraft still allow us to pursue the elemental quest for tranquility, beauty, peace, freedom and cleaness. It is good to be conveyed quietly, gracefully, to natural rhythms….

The canoe especially connects us to rivers – timeless pathways of the wilderness. Wave after wave of users have passed by. Gentle rains falling onto a paddler evaporate skyward to form clouds and then to descend on a fellow traveller, perhaps in another era. Like wise, our waterways contain something of the substance of our ancestors. The canoe connects us to the spirit of these people who walk beside us as we glide silently along riverine trails. – Kirk Wipper, in foreword to Canexus (also published as“Connections” in Stories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom And Waggery Of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell, p. 15)

An interest in the wilderness means getting there, and getting there means canoes. - Kirk Wipper (from 2010 interview)

Wilderness: a beautiful word to describe a beautiful land. Wilderness though is a white man’s concept. To the Native people, the land was not wild. It was home. It provided shelter, clothed and fed them. And echoing through their souls was a song of the land. The singing isn’t as loud as it used to be. But you can still hear it in the wind….in the silence of the misty morning….in the drip of the water from the tip of a paddle. The song is still here if you know how to listen. – Bill Mason, Song Of the Paddle

Canoeing gets you back close to nature, using a method of travel that does not even call for roads or paths. You are following nature’s roads; you are choosing the road less travelled, as Robert Frost once wrote in another context, and that makes all the difference. You discover a sort of simplifying of your values, a distinction between those artificially created and those that are necessary to your spiritual and human development. – Pierre Elliott Trudeau

I think a lot of people want to go back to basics sometimes, to get their bearings. For me a good way to do that is to get into nature by canoe – to take myself as far away as possible from everday life, from its complications and from the artificial wants created by civilization. Canoeing forces you to make a distinction between your needs and your wants. – Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Memoirs

The movement of a canoe is like a reed in the wind. Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, the shores….There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness, and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past, and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known. – Sigurd Olson from The Singing Wilderness

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

Even long ago there were some men who could not make all the things that were needed. In each camp there were only a few who could make everything. The hardest thing to build was the canoe. The man who could make a canoe was very happy because the people depended on it so much. – John Kawapit, Eastern Cree Great Whale River, Quebec

The canoe of the Aboriginal Peoples is perhaps the ultimate expression of elegance and function in the world of watercraft. All its parts come from nature, and when it is retired, it returns to nature. Except for the tribes of the Plains, the canoe was vital to all Aboriginal cultures of Canada, each tribe being defined by the distinct shape of its canoe or kayak. It was not only the principal means of transportation, but was also critical to almost every facet of life; canoe and kayak builders were revered in their societies.

I propose a First Nations canoe project….canoe trips from the Four Directions of North, East South and West….ending at Manitoulin Island….centered around the Great Lakes….the traditional territory of the Anishnaabe people.

I propose a series of canoe trips that brings awareness of First Nations rights….Native culture and traditions….as well as engaging Native youth….

As well as bringing awareness to Mother Earth….the environment….water….the Great Lakes….wilderness….

I propose using bark canoes….OR wood canvas canoes….built by First Nations youth….for the trips….

This past summer bark canoes were built in Ottawa by Native youth….on Bear Island in Temagami ….and in Oshawa….

Following the experience of the Fort Severn canoe project I was part of….working with the community’s youth restoring wood canvas Freighter canoes….and the possibilities of other such projects in other First Nation communities….I know the ‘power of the canoe’….(for more see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/04/27/f-fort-severn-canoe-restoration.html).

I know that the canoe can do some ‘magical’ things:

A canoe is a very good way to get close to nature. While it is possible to make a canoe go pretty fast, it is the thrill of slowing down that appeals to most canoeists. Even when canoes do go fast, when they rocket rapidly through whitewater, they are still canoes. Still close to nature and its environs. It is not the canoe that provides the power, it is the water. The canoe rides the water and its occupants humbly steer.

In a canoe you can’t help but feel the body of the country, notice the shape of islands or hills, hear the cries of birds and the sound of the wind, yet still respond fervently to the hundreds of small things that make up the world about you. Take a canoe onto a lake at night and enjoy what it can do, acting as a launching pad to distant worlds, opening up a vista of stars in the sky. The canoe seems to float up to these very stars and far away planets, as the night sky becomes one with the dark silent waters, twinking stars reflected in murky depths until water and sky all seem to blend together in one great expanse.

Canoes can sneak up on loons or beavers or herons, even a mighty moose, silently getting you closer than you can imagine. The canoe becomes part of its surroundings, becoming part of the natural world, and so completely that even once discovered it doesn’t scare such creatures. The canoe is just part of their world, accepted as always being there. It might be that the canoe has been such a familiar sight for so long, for so many years in the north country. In no particular hurry, the loon or the beaver slip quietly under the water if at all bothered by any such intrusion. Usually the moose will just stand there, holding its ground, patiently out waiting the canoe and its paddlers, unless it tires and lumbers off to the safety of the nearby bush. The heron takes flight with its dignity intact, probably thinking: “It’s only a canoe, but I’ll just move away a bit anyway.” – Mike Ormsby

In the early morning light, just as the world seems to wake up and come alive, the canoe glides over the glass like lake. The beautiful wood canvas hull easily slices through the lake’s surface, water slipping aside almost as if willed, forming undulating wavelets in its wake. Above the ripples, the paddle hovers momentarily like a dragonfly, before dipping down to break the intricate pattern formed. The canoeist seems lost in the moment.

On the wing over the watery expanse an eagle soars, in synchronicity with the man’s journey; as the paddler shifts to miss a rock, the raptor slows to test the wind. The large bird lazily wheels across the horizon, almost touching the rays of the rising sun. Yet his flight seems to keep pace with the canoe below. The eagle rides the air currents while the canoe dances over those of the lake’s surface. As the paddle flashes in the early morning sunlight, dipping once again into the water, the eagle dives to capture his breakfast, a silvery trout. Then, only briefly, do both break the mirror reflecting their seemingly choreographed display. While they never quite meet except for that, it doesn’t stop the dance. One on water, the other in the air, they are partners, each moving rhythmically over a northern vista of rocks and trees and water.

Occasionally, such magical moments happen out on the water. For the canoeist, the lakes and rivers become more than mere passageways. Waterways become vantage points to observe all that is around, carrying a message of life while still being the very lifeblood of Mother Earth herself. All at once, the paddler is both vessel and prophet, both audience and actor, just by merely venturing out on the water. Paddling these liquid highways takes the canoeist and canoe on a wonderful magical mystery tour, blending into the surrounding natural world.

The paddler is blessed to be able to join in the dance around him for awhile. While he watched, the large bird of prey flew off, likely to share his meal of fresh fish with his young brood nesting in a nearby lofty pine. Eventually the canoe glides on. A new dance may soon begin anew. – Mike Ormsby

As life starts by going through the Eastern Doorway….so I propose a canoe trip beginning in Ottawa….going through Peterborough (maybe a possible tie in with the National Canoe Day celebration there in late June….certainly involving the Canadian Canoe Museum)….using the bark canoe built in Ottawa through Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health (see attached poster below)….maybe wood canvas canoes….maybe even with the involvement of Ottawa area paddlers such as Jay Morrison and Becky Mason as ‘guests’….

Then another group from the South in the Greater Toronto Area….involving the Metis bark canoe from Oshawa, see http://www.oshawadurhammetis.com/Canoe-Project.html. Plus restored wood canvas canoes.

A third segment would originate out West from Thunder Bay….with wood canvas canoes built or restored….maybe with bark canoes built at Fort William….

Finally from the North in the Temagami area….with bark canoes built at Bear Island by Temagami First Nation youth during the workshop conducted by Voyages of Rediscovery (see http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/birch-bark-heroes/)….as well as wood canvas canoes built/restored……

I envision a canoe equivalent of the Water Walk conducted by the Anishnaabe women….see http://www.motherearthwaterwalk.com/.

I would like to involve the Canadian Canoe Museum, the Canadian Canoe Foundation, the Anishnabek Nation, Union Of Ontario Indians, Federation of Ontario Friendship Centres, as well as several First Nations….and the Ontario Arts Council….

I would like to see one of each the wood canvas canoes painted by Native artists….possibly the likes of Jay Bell Redbird, Randy Knott, Robert Solomon, Joseph Sagutch, Goyce Kakegamic, and others….after the trip ends each of these canoes could be raffled off to further fund canoe projects in First Nation communities….

My idea for this comes from a canoe built and painted by Jerry Stelmok of Island Falls Canoes (see above)….but with a Native twist….

Well that’s one of my ideas….I guess I really need to get out paddling more lol lol….but seriously it could be a most interesting project….maybe even have a video made or TV coverage of….

Let me know what you think….

Paddles up until later then….

A follow up of the last post on the bark canoe – one of the oldest in the world – going to the Canadian Canoe Museum comes from this story from The Winnipeg Free Press, http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/relic-canoe-from-18th-century-a-stunning-find-166628816.html:

Relic canoe from 18th century a ‘stunning find’

Donated to Canadian museum

By: Mike Fuhrmann

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — The latest arrival at the Canadian Canoe Museum, a six-metre-long birchbark craft, is in poor shape. Ribs poke out from the sides and much of the frame has disintegrated.

But the vessel’s remarkable history — and the fact it has survived at all, becoming one of oldest birchbark canoes in the world — make it a “stunning find,” says museum curator Jeremy Ward.

Transported in a sailing ship more than 200 years ago from North America to England, where it wound up neglected in a barn in Cornwall, the canoe made its return trip this summer — with a bit of royal help — on a Canadian military aircraft, joining the Peterborough, Ont., museum’s permanent collection.

Ward describes the artifact as “canoe remains.”

“It’s two ends, somewhat intact, minus a lot of important parts, and the midsection is just a collection of pieces.”

Unlike dugout canoes, he said, birchbark canoes do not age well.

“At one point, birchbark canoes were very common up and down the St. Lawrence River and elsewhere in the country. And yet they just disappear, they’re almost ephemeral. And so to hear about a 230-year-old birchbark canoe is very, very rare.”

Ward was first contacted about the canoe in February 2010 by the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, England, which was seeking expert advice after its discovery in a barn at the nearby Enys estate, belonging to one of Cornwall’s most prominent families.

That museum, which also worked with the British Museum on the find, concluded it was “a unique survival from the 18th century” and put it on display in 2011 under a sign reading: “Is this the oldest birchbark canoe in the world?”

According to Enys family lore, the canoe was brought back from Canada by Lt. John Enys, who went to Quebec in 1776 to fight in the American War of Independence. Enys made two trips to North America, returning to England after the second one in 1788.

A journal Enys kept of his North American adventures, published by a U.S. historian, describes fishing expeditions and encounters with natives but does not mention acquiring a canoe. Ward suspects it may in fact have been brought to England by the officer’s regiment and presented to Enys, the regimental historian, as a gift.

Its precise origin remains a mystery. The curator believes it was built in the 1770s or 1780s near Quebec City in a style that points to the Maliseet and Abenaki nations. But the canoe builders of many aboriginal groups, including the Mohawk and Huron, influenced each other at the time, which makes it impossible, for now, to determine which nation can take the credit. Further research will be done, said Ward.

There are no plans to “fix it up,” he added. “What we want to do is stick to traditional conservation, which will be a good, thorough cleaning, documentation and then stabilization — so holding the parts together as best can be.” The goal is to put it on display sometime in 2013.

The Enys family has donated their heirloom to the Peterborough museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of canoes and kayaks — some 620 in total.

Kenneth Lister, assistant curator of anthropology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, thinks there could be other ancient Canadian canoes waiting to be discovered in Europe, even ones much older than the Enys craft.

“If there’s one like this there, why wouldn’t there be others?” Lister said, noting that Europeans had a habit of bringing back souvenirs from the New World.

The dilapidated state can even be considered a plus, he said. With all its inner workings exposed, the canoe may offer new insight into the construction of such old watercraft.

In June, the various bits and pieces were put on a flight to CFB Trenton, Ont., arranged with the help of the Canadian High Commission in London. On the same Globemaster transport plane was another canoe — a voyageur-style reproduction also belonging to the Peterborough museum — which represented Canada in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pageant on the River Thames.

Prince Andrew, patron of the museum and a canoeing enthusiast since his days as a student at Lakefield — north of Peterborough — helped sponsor the repatriation.

The new arrival is slated to be unveiled Aug. 29 at the museum in “a welcoming-back-to-Canada event,” Ward said.

Doug Williams, a Mississauga Anishinabe who teaches indigenous knowledge at Peterborough’s Trent University, said the canoe’s return has a spiritual dimension.

“I’m going to speak to it in the (Algonquin) language — it hasn’t heard the language for hundreds of years. I’m going to bless it, I’m going to smudge it, I’m going to pray with it.”

– The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012

Curator Jeremy Ward examines the canoe, thought to be built in the 1770s or 1780s, at the Canadian Canoe Museum Thursday, photo by Mike Fuhrmann, Canadian Press.

The Canadian Canoe Museum sent out the following announcement:

A birch bark canoe returns to Canada after more than two centuries.

Please Join Us

In celebrating its arrival at The Canadian Canoe Museum

The Enys canoe, which dates back to the late 1700s, is one of the oldest documented birch bark canoes in the world and is a significant piece of Canadian history.

Lt. John Enys first came to Canada in 1776 with his regiment to defend a besieged Quebec City during the American Revolution. For the past 230 years the canoe has been kept at the Enys estate In Cornwall, UK.

The birch bark canoe’s fragile hull has been significantly damaged over the past two centuries and was carefully prepared for display at the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall in the summer of 2011. Enys’ descendents have chosen to donate this important artifact to The Canadian Canoe Museum.

In the summer of 2012 this canoe returned to Canada, thanks to the combined efforts of the Canadian High Commission in London, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Air Force and the generous support of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation. Work will begin this fall at the Canadian Canoe Museum to study and prepare this important artifact for exhibit and to connect it with its roots here in Canada.

Please join us at The Canadian Canoe Museum to celebrate its return to Canada.

Date: Wednesday August 29th, 2012

Time: 4 p.m.

Enquiries can be directed to Curator Jeremy Ward, The Canadian Canoe Museum 705.748.9153 ext. 207

Don’t miss this very special event….of a very special canoe coming home….

From the Canadian Canoe Museum, comes the following news, http://canoemuseum.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/ever-since-our/:

Ever Since Our….

Ever since our notable participation in the Thames Jubilee Pageant for Queen Elizabeth II, our followers have been expressing desire for the paddles and outfits worn by The Canadian Canoe Museum Voyageurs.

The attire included an authentic looking canvas shirt, colourful sash, knitted toque, and of course a hand painted paddle adorned with both the iconic museum logo and a maple leaf.Image

Get your own part of the Jubilee and let your inner voyageur free. These items are a Limited Addition so order soon! All parts of the ensemble are available for purchase on the Museum’s Online Store, in person at the Museum Store, and at the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival.

That’s right a large selection of the Museum’s Merchandise, and the actual Canada One/Un Canoe will be displayed at the Annual Art Festival in Buckhorn from August 17-19. Tickets to the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival are also available for purchase at the Museum. HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

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On Sunday July 29th, there will be a very special auction in the Peterborough area….of canoes, paddles, collectibiles, art and books from the collection of the late Kirk Wipper….here is more info from the Badger Paddle blog, http://badger-canoe-paddles.blogspot.ca/2012/07/celebration-of-kirks-life-through-his.html:

“A Celebration of Kirk’s life through his Collection”
Of art, artifacts, canoes, paddles, furniture, books, baskets, collectables and much, much more.
 
See the items here: www.ruslands.com Direct link to gallery of items.
 
 
Auction Date:
Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 10am
 
Location:
2691 County Rd 2, RR8 Peterborough, Ontario K9J6X9
 
Viewing:
Saturday (July 28) from 2:00-4:00pm and on Sunday from 8:00am
 
Go to www.ruslands.com to view some of the articles.
 
Personal note:
Please be sure to share this auction information as far and wide as is possible. Kirk Wipper, recipient of the Order of Canada and a founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum, had an extensive collection of the most interesting of objects. Many of them museum quality. This auction should definitely prove to be beyond interesting. Hopefully we will see you at the farm on Sunday July 29th!!!
 
This will be a most interesting auction….to say the least….since it is of many of the personal items of a most interesting man….my friend and mentor, Kirk Wipper.

Just got notice from the Canadian Canoe Museum of the plans for National Canoe Day….here is their announcement:

We are excited to invite you to National Canoe Day Peterborough at Millenium Park. We hope to see you there!

Peterborough is celebrating National Canoe Day on Saturday June 23rd!

Date: Saturday June 23rd, 2012

Time: 9:00am to 3:00pm

Where: Millenium Park Peterborough Ontario (near Silver Bean Cafe)

Cost: FREE!

What: A day to celebrate all things canoeing! Bring your own canoe or kayak down to the Park and go for a paddle with us or take some of our canoes and kayaks out. Never been in a big Voyageur North Canoe? Let us take you out for a ride. We will also have a number of heritage canoes from our collection that can be tried out too! Demonstrations in marathon canoe racing, paddle carving and other artisan crafts will be featured as well. And there will a kids’ craft area. All paddlers that join us for a canoe or kayak ride will get lunch and cake while supplies last! No experience required and all are welcome.

Want to stick to land? The Trent Severn Antique and Classic Boat Assocation is hosting their Paddle to Power event at the same time in the same Park! This event will celebrate the history of the Canoe and Boat Building Industries of Peterborough and Surrounding Area, and will feature Peterborough, Lakefield, Richardson, Brown, Rilco, and Minto, the best cedar strip vessels in the world built by your fathers and grandfathers.

Parking: Free parking is available at the King Street Parkade (Parking Garage) between George Street and Louis Street. The closest drop off spot for canoes/kayaks is on King Street, east of Water Street where the street ends at the park.

Kayak

For more information contact Carolyn at carolyn.hyslop@canoemuseum.ca

Open House at The Canadian Canoe Museum

Tuesday June 26th, 2012

FREE ADMISSION

To celebrate the true date of National Canoe Day, the Canoe Museum will be open and free all day long! We are open from 10am to 5pm.

Plan to attend if you can….it’s always a great time….sorry I’ll have to miss being up in Fort Severn then….

Paddles up until later then….

People are on the water paddling…..canoe trips have started for some…..special events are planned….National Canoe Day later this month, including in Peterborough with the Canadian Canoe Museum, and a special night paddle with Becky Mason in Ottawa area….MEC Paddlefest is on, in Toronto on June 9 -10…..

Canoe Heads for Kids is one of the most unique fundraiser to hit the Toronto waterfront.  Inspired by their summer camp experiences, 10 teams of 8 participants embark on a day-long canoe trip on Saturday, June 2.  Their goal is to raise $50,000, which will help 50 children to enjoy a two-week camp experience.

Some sad news for the paddling community too….George Drought passed away recently….the memorial service is in Huntsville this coming Sunday, June 3, at 2 pm at Sutherland Hall, 30 High St. Huntsville. George was one of Canada’s best known canoe guides and outdoor photographers….his river guide on the Petawawa is a great resource….I met George when he served on the Canoe Ontario board in the mid ’80′s (another person I met through Kirk Wipper)….

And finally there is the involvement in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee of the Canada One canoe paddled by folks from the Canadian Canoe Museum and Paddle Canada, as I posted yesterday…..

Paddles up until later then….and there is much good news….and some sad….in the paddling community….

As part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, more than 1,000 vessels from many nations in a wide variety of shapes and sizes are slated to take part in a massive flotilla on the Thames River, including the Canada One canoe. Canada One, a 26′ canoe from The Canadian Canoe Museum will be the only Canadian vessel participating in the Pageant. The Museum’s crew of paddlers is being led by Executive Director James Raffan, who will be reporting on the event from preparation to the actual pageant on the CCM blog. Preparations for the trip were also reported on by The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville, Ontario’s The Recorder and Times.

Watch for Canada One on the CBC coverage on Sunday June 3rd. Watch live on CBC this Sunday, June 3rd (9 a.m. ET: CBC News Network and 9:30 a.m. on the main network)

Check out the Canadaian Canoe Museum’s website for more info: http://canoemuseum.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/ccm-to-paddle-for-queens-jubilee/.

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Photos from the CCM blog, http://canoemuseum.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/ccm-to-paddle-for-queens-jubilee/.

NOTE: The Union Jack is flying upside down on the Canada One….which I’m sure will be rectified during the actual pageant….

Paddles up until later then….especially this Sunday on the Thames for the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II….

The hardest thing to build was the canoe. The man who could make a canoe was very happy because the people depended on it so much — John Kawapit

Building a canoe….or putting together a canoe project….is not without its challenges.

So the group I’m part of is finally (yes FINALLY LOL LOL) heading north to Fort Severn to undertake the restoration project of several wood canvas Freighter canoes….we are leaving early Wednesday morning from Toronto….flying to Thunder Bay….then to Sioux Lookout….and then onto Fort Severn….should take the whole day to get there (including layovers….and connecting flights)….but Thursday we will be starting work on building the shop….assembling the various wood working stationary power tools (bandsaw, table saw, etc.)….plus sorting out the various supplies (canvas, wood, etc.) and storing these….then bringing the canoes into the shop….and beginning the actual workshop/instruction course next week.

We’ll be up for a month….working on several of the Freighter canoes:

One of the canoes we’ll be working on….

A Fort Severn band member with his canoe to be restored.

Photos by Ian Devenney.

Initially Fort Severn contacted the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild with the following request:

We have twenty, 20ft square stern canoes in Fort Severn ON on the beautiful coast of the Hudson Bay, that need minor wood work and  re-canvasing. This project would involve learning sessions, teaching members of the community the proper way to re-finish canvas canoes.

An important part of this project is for some of the Fort Severn band members to be taught how to do this work themselves. There will be at least 6 or 7 band members involved….but this could quickly grow to as many as 10 or 12 as we get underway.

This should certainly be a rewarding project for everyone involved….and there has been a lot of time and effort invested in it. Maybe more than we reckoned on at the start. We began planning for this project back in October. We had to source out not only materials (such as wood and canvas) but also all of the tools – power and hand – needed for this work. We literally had to get everything needed for a complete canoe/wood working shop. Then we had to arrange to get everything up to Fort Severn….most of the tools and supplies went into Fort Severn via ice road….the last few items are being flown in. The ice road wasn’t open until late this year….and only open for a few weeks….so this added to the task. And added to our delay getting up there. We had originally hoped to be up there by mid-January….then February….but at long last we’re about to depart.

Our team is John Hupfield of Lost In The Woods Boatworks.  As John’s website, http://lostinthewoods.ca/, states :

We’re a small shop out in the woods of Northern Ontario, Canada, and since 1991 have taken pride in building, repairing, and restoring all types of wooden craft. Our interest in wooden boats inspired research into early canoe designs, and in adapting those designs to the needs of contemporary paddlers. Along the way we rediscovered the advantages and fun of double-paddles and sailing rigs, and you might find them just as intriguing as we do!

Our product line includes lapstrake double-paddle canoes, which offer ultra-light weight (from only 30 lbs!), strength, durability, beauty, and outstanding performance for touring and recreational use. They are fast and easy to paddle. We also offer all kinds of sailing rigs for these canoes, and conversion kits so you can also sail your existing canoe. We ship everywhere. We also do custom building, and much of our work is still repairs and restorations of wood and wood-canvas canoes and other wooden boats.

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!

John has years of experience in wood boat construction and restoration….and takes on the role of master builder. (NOTE: John is also one of the organizers of the Killbear Paddlers’ Rendezvous….a not to miss paddling event in September.)

Ian Devenney, the co-founder of B.I.L.D. (Boatbuilding for Interpersonal and Life Development) youth canoe building/restoration program, is also heading north. Ian is a certified Ontario teacher and outdoor educator with a background in working with troubled teens. He recently completed his Master’s of Environmental Studies (York University), where he explored the impact of changing technologies on craftsmanship, art making and learning. He feels that embodied manual skill is a way of knowing and working in an increasingly neglected in an electronic world. Ian also has begun a business called Tangled Tree Industries, http://www.tangledtreeindustries.com/TangledTree_Industries/Welcome.html, which he describes as:

We are a small wood shop that specializes in skin-on-frame canoe and kayak building, wooden paddles and rustic furniture.

The last member of the group is yours truly….and I won’t bother (or bore) you with my ‘illustrous background’ (or lack thereof LOL LOL)….suffice to say I’m no expert (besides an EXPERT is better defined as an ‘EX-SPURT’ or ‘a former drip under pressure’ LOL LOL)….kind of a jack of all trades (or at least several LOL LOL), master of none….maybe I can best define my role as ‘chief cook and bottle washer’….I’ll be writing posts for here and elsewhere online….taking photos and video of the project’s progress….pitching in wherever I can with the actual work….and, for better or worse, I helped organize this project.

One member of our group that was very involved in getting this project together was Pam Wedd of Bearwood Canoes….Pam will not be going up this time (we’re planning for a follow-up later in the year at which time Pam can hopefully go)….but Pam was key to this project….we worked out some of the restoration techniques at her shop….her knowledge and experience was essential in developing the logistics….what we needed and where to get it….going up in November to initially access the canoes and work needed (she went up with Ian)….so even though Pam is not going to be there in person, she is very much a part of the project….certainly Pam will be there in spirit.

I want to thank Lynne Case and Doug Long of the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild for letting me know of this potential project….and for their support and advice….as well as other members of the Guild such as Bruce Smith….and also from other canoe builders such as Bill Miller, Doug Ingram, and Dick Persson.

So why are we doing this project?

These canoes have been in use in the north for long enough that they can probably be considered to have heritage value. Certainly helping the Fort Severn band members to continue to use them, instead of turning to a more modern alternative, would fit in with the mission of many of us:

1) to preserve the art and craft of wooden canoe bulding;

2) to pass on the skills of wooden canoe building through workshops, courses and apprenticeship programs;

3) to preserve the heritage and history of wooden canoes through education and restoration.

Since these are effectively the pick up trucks for the local people, they are work vehicles and don’t require a lot of fine finishing. It should be possible to turn the rest of the restoration work over to the Fort Severn band members after they have been instructed on the first two or three canoes. Working together as a team, our role is to facilitate this project.

The local youth will also be documenting the project through video….which will be shared via link to the Canadian Canoe Museum website.

So we will have more to share over the next month….the next time I post here it will be from Fort Severn.   Paddles up until later then….

A little over a year ago, a good friend and mentor of mine passed away - or rather ‘travelled on’ – and I have often written about him here. On March 18, 2011 Kirk Wipper died. But his memory….his teachings….his legacy….his passion for Canada’s wilderness….and of course for canoes….are never very far removed from the minds of many….especially those of us fortunate enough to have known him. His collection of 600 plus canoes, kayaks, and associated watercraft formed the basis for the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

I think of Kirk a lot these days as I prepare to head up to Fort Severn to help conduct a workshop to restore Freighter canoes. This is exactly the type of project that Kirk would have approved of….working with First Nations people….in a remote community….as well as working with canoes. Better yet wood canoes.

I’ll be posting on the Fort Severn project over the next few weeks….posting photos and even video on this blog (I got a new camera just so I’d have the technology to do so….now if I can just figure all that ‘technology’ out LOL LOL)….and elsewhere online….including links on the Canadian Canoe Museum website. The local youth will be taking video of the progress of the canoe project….so there should be a good record of the project. And from the weather forecast from up there I will still need to pack winter wear (this weekend calls for a wind chill of -30).

I thought I’d share some words of Kirk’s again:

The canoe carried aboriginal people for thousands of years, followed then by the explorers and the missionaries and the engineers and the surveyors….until in modern times it gives us the gift of freedom. The canoe is a vehicle that carries you into pretty exciting places, not only into whitewater but into the byways and off-beaten places….You are removed entirely from the mundane aspects of ordinary life. You’re witnessing first hand beauty and peace and freedom – especially freedom….Flirtation with the wilderness is contact with truth, because the truth is in nature….I like to identify myself with something that is stable and enduring. Although [nature] is in a state of flux, it is enduring. It is where reality is. I appreciate the canoe for its gifts in that direction. - Kirk Wipper, from CBC Radio’s  Ideas program The Perfect Machine: The Canoe.

Watercraft was humankind’s most important conveyance outside of walking. - Kirk Wipper

In its contemporary use, the canoe and kayak become a medium to experience peace, beauty, freedom and adventure. These values are of utmost significance in a world which has lost much of its contact with the profound lessons learned in nature. To travel the paths in natural places makes all the differences and in this the canoe and kayak are essential partners. – Kirk Wipper

First, the canoe connects us to Ma-ka-ina, Mother Earth, from which we came and to which we must all return. Councils of those who were here before us revered the earth and also the wind, the rain, and the sun – all essential to life. It was from that remarkable blending of forces that mankind was allowed to create the canoe and its several kindred forms.

From the birch tree, came the bark; from the spruce, pliant roots; from the cedar, the ribs, planking and gunwales; and from a variety of natural sources, the sealing pitch.

In other habitats, great trees became dugout canoes while, in treeless areas, skin, bone and sinew were ingeniously fused into kayaks. Form followed function, and manufacture was linked to available materials. Even the modern canoe, although several steps away from the first, is still a product of the earth. We have a great debt to those who experienced the land before us. No wonder that, in many parts of the world, the people thank the land for allowing its spirit to be transferred to the canoe.

Hand-propelled watercraft still allow us to pursue the elemental quest for tranquility, beauty, peace, freedom and cleaness. It is good to be conveyed quietly, gracefully, to natural rhythms….

The canoe especially connects us to rivers – timeless pathways of the wilderness. Wave after wave of users have passed by. Gentle rains falling onto a paddler evaporate skyward to form clouds and then to descend on a fellow traveller, perhaps in another era. Like wise, our waterways contain something of the substance of our ancestors. The canoe connects us to the spirit of these people who walk beside us as we glide silently along riverine trails. – Kirk Wipper, in foreword to Canexus (also published as Connections” in Stories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom And Waggery Of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell, p. 15)

An interest in the wilderness means getting there, and getting there means canoes.- Kirk Wipper (from 2010 interview)

A better understanding of one’s past can only lead to better understanding of one’s present and one’s future. (Quote from slide at Kirk Wipper’s presentation in Gravenhurst in October 2010….shown on video of this talk by Brian Hayden, from his Docanoementary.)

You have to do what you can, do your best with what you are. And you have to believe in wilderness. If you do that you can’t go wrong. –  Kirk Albert Walter Wipper b Grahamdale, Manitoba, December 6th, 1923 d Peterborough, Ontario, March 18, 2011

This time next week I’ll be up North….in Fort Severn….finally….with John Hupfield of Lost In The Woods Boatworks as the master builder…..and Ian Devenney, the co-founder of B.I.L.D., the youth canoe building/restoration program….but the spirit of Kirk will be with us too.

Paddles up until later then….and keep an eye out for reports from Fort Severn….as we do what we can to keep the spirit alive.

Just to update on Fort Severn canoe project….we’re finally heading up North next week….tools and supplies are on their way to Manitoba and from there heading to Fort Severn via ice road….will be up there for full month….first setting up shop….then working with band members to restore Freighter canoes….hoping to get 3 or 4 done while up there….then will be back for another month to follow up later in summer….going up with John Hupfield….we will be posting reports periodically on WCHA forum….and of course here on this blog….as well as through link on Canadian Canoe Museum website; plan is to get local youth to videotape work in progress….also hope to have an article in Wooden Canoe journal as well as other publications hopefully when project is finished….

Paddles up until later then….

Talking about the weather there has been a lot of discussion on the lack of snow this winter….

Water levels will likely be lower this year, especially here in southern Ontario, due to low snow levels….

Maple syrup production early this year too….ahead at least 2 weeks than normal….

And some of us have been waiting on ice road into Fort Severn, since that is the best way to get equipment, supplies and tools up there for Freighter canoe restoration project….ice road was held up due to lack of snow, but finally is in and operational….

Is there anyone still out there who doubts climate change?!?!?

However, I do remember a large snowstorm in March back in mid 1970s….cars buried in snow drifts….more snow in few days than we’d had all that winter….of course then I still remember winters when I was a kid that the snow was so high that it drifted up high enough that you could climb up on the roof of the carport; that we had to walk over 3 miles to school through 6 foot drifts LOL LOL….ahhhh the good old days LOL LOL….

Editorial cartoon from http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120212/OPINION04/302120003/Editorial-Cartoon-No-snow.

Paddles up until later then….and don’t confuse the snow shovel for a paddle….unless you actually have snow LOL LOL:

To shovel or paddle….or both!!!!

Photo from the Canadian Canoe Museum blog, http://www.canoemuseum.ca/index.php/component/option,com_lyftenbloggie/Itemid,126/category,0/view,lyftenbloggie/.

Paddles up until later then….and since the weather has been so mild, maybe you can try to get out for a paddle….even if you have to shovel snow first LOL LOL.

The Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show was on this past weekend….one of the highlights for the outdoor set over the winter….a great gathering of paddlesports too. It was great to see a lot of folks I feel honoured to know: Scott MacGregor and the Rapid Media gang….Andy Owens, Gord Haggerty and others from ORCKA….Graham Ketcheson and the Paddle Canada folks….the Canadian Canoe Museum volunteers and staff….the guys from Swift Canoes: Bill Swift, Jon Watson, Bob Stinson, Skip Taylor and of course Mr. Badger Paddles himself, Mike Ramsay (more on them later)….Kevin Callan the Happy Camper….Bill Ostrom of Ostrom Packs….Wendy Grater of Black Feather….the gang from The Complete Paddler….and Muskoka Paddle Shack. Others who were visiting at the show included some of the Friends Of Temagami: Mike McIntosh, Kim Cowan, Ed MacPhersonand ‘Big Mike’ MacHugh; Mike Monaghan, paddling photographer/guitarist supreme (and a pretty fair postal carrier too); Andy Tonkin and his better half from Treks In The Wild; James of Handcrafted Canoes; Preston Ciere of Portageur blog fame; Murat Vadar of Paddlemaking blog renown; Alex Guthro of the WCHA….and many many others.

I was down at the show with my buddy Bruce Smith, paddle maker and canoe builder extraordinaire….Bruce had a booth filled with his beautiful paddles (as one other paddlemaker in attendance pointed out: ‘a thing of perfection’) as well as one of his great wood canvas canoes. And I got to do a demo of Solo Canoe Basics each day….a wonderful demo pool, about 4 feet deep….50 feet by 30 feet….filled with relatively warm water too (but more on that later). I was using two great cherry Bruce Smith paddles….a modified Ottertail style blade….and a Passamoquody paddle….and my favourite green wood canvas canoe (a 16 ft. Bruce Smith built canoe, based on the Chestnut Guide Special). As well Ian Devenney brought his newly built skin on frame canoe (just finished in time for the show) that was officially christened in her first time on the water.

Here are some photos from Friday….taken for me by Mike Ramsay:

Showing ‘good balance’….this time any way LOL LOL…..but I think I look good any way LOL LOL….

Adjusting my balance….something I should have done better a couple of days afterward (more on that later) LOL LOL….

    

The look of intensity….or a zombie LOL LOL….but as previous Muskoka Shack demo on solo paddling suggested regarding the draw: “Think of sitting on a chair with rollers….there is a cookie jar across the room….you can’t get to that cookie jar by using your feet….you only have a broomstick….you’ll get to the cookie jar (and the delicious cookies) if you ‘pull’ yourself across the floor with the broomstick….straight out from the hips ‘drawing’ the broomstick towards you and thus pulling the chair towards the cookies….same idea in the canoe”….great advice on the draw stroke used for side slipping…..

Adjusting my balance again….definitely something I would have trouble with in the days to come LOL LOL (more on that later)…..

  

Showing off my new ‘paddling look’: the blue shirt hanging down to keep my butt warm LOL LOL….

 

A poor attempt at my ‘signature move’: “Paddles up until later then”….guess I’m getting too old to lift the paddle over my head LOL LOL…..but no matter what else, I’m still having fun….and isn’t that what it’s all about….

Still adjusting that ‘perfect balance’ LOL LOL….OK my knees are just getting too creaky with old age to kneel for very long LOL LOL….

  

Turning things over to a real pro: Skip Taylor from Swift Canoes….

Skip really makes paddling look so easy….he also loved both the canoe and the paddle….

On Saturday Preston Ciere of Portageur blog fame dropped by the booth and took a few photos (which he posted on Facebook):

Bruce Smith busy talking about paddles….with one of his beautiful canoes behind….Preston took one of Bruce’s paddlemaking courses….

Preston took this photo of myself in my ‘drip dry’ Paddle Canada hat (more on that later)….obviously deep in thought….or hiding….with Ian Devenney (my partner in B.I.L.D.) in the background…..

Preston wrote on Facebook of this photo:  Mike had his canoe out for a solo canoeing demo, but I missed it. I responded: You didn’t miss much….I made up for it with a real ‘splash’ the next day LOL LOL….

Yes, on Sunday I really made a ‘splash’ in the demo pool….as Preston described in an email (he was there along with many others):

I was standing with a couple of kayak instructors, and there were a bunch of other paddling types around at the time. I was getting ready to take pictures when we saw the canoe start to tip, and once it did, there was about five of us that must have thought the same thing – we were preparing to kick off our shoes and store our cellphones and cameras. At 3 mississippis you would have had a half dozen guys jumping in the pool after you. When you came up, all was clear, and I started snapping pictures (those I sent you), which elicited huge laughs from a couple of the guys. I heard James from LearnToKayak say “Good work, portageur” in a fancy British accent.

But in all seriousness, we all felt for you. Many of us said something to the effect of “happens to the best of us”, and we could all feel for you. And we all thought you recovered from it all very professionally. Lesser men wouldn’t have gotten back into the pool. 
 
Good job, Mike,
Preston 
 

Well not really sure it was that good a job….I did take a ‘bath’ as someone else posted on Facebook (and thankfully no YouTube videos yet LOL LOL)….I can assure you that the water was warm enough….and that polar fleece ‘soaks’ up a lot of water LOL LOL….I am sorry though that I ‘fried’ the wireless mike I was hooked up to…..

Here are some photos sent to me by Preston….note the ‘professionalism’ involved….especially that I didn’t lose my paddle LOL LOL….and thank God for my new ‘drip-dry’ hat:

   
 

Of course I could tell you that I was trying to do a demo on how to ‘shake out’ a canoe….or the proper way to bail a canoe….but honestly I just needed to do something to grab everybody’s attention LOL LOL…or take my monthly bath LOL LOL….

However I did continue as best I could….very wet….even trying to do a pivot turn without a paddle, as described by Preston Ciere on Portageur.ca, http://blog.portageur.ca/paddlingtheweb/toronto-outdoor-adventure-show-2012:

 

 Mike’s showing how to paddle without, well… a paddle (description and photo by Preston Ciere)

According to Kenneth Solway’s The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (p.154), Omer Stringer’s tour de force was to paddle his canoe within the confines of an Olympic size swimming pool while a sound system poured out ballet music to which he ”danced” his canoe from edge to edge, using strokes most paddlers only dreamed of. Well I’m certainly no Omer Stringer….nor was there any music being played….and the demo pool wasn’t close to Olympic size.

In that same section of The Story of the Chestnut Canoe (p.154), Kenneth Solway also told the story of Bill Mason’s demo attempt:

 Once, when Omer was giving a paddling demonstration at a canoe exposition in Ottawa Omer met Bill Mason. Bill watched with apparent awe, hardly able to restrain his enthusiasm. As soon as Omer finished, Bill jumped in his canoe to copy Omer’s moves, and quickly dumped. No problem for Bill; he didn’t mind getting wet and he didn’t have an ego that was easily bruised.

Now I’m no Bill Mason either….but I don’t mind getting wet either….although time I do a demo I’ll be wearing a swim suit or wetsuit….

Seriously though, I want to thank a lot of people for their concern….and immediate offer of dry clothes….Bob Stinson for a sweatshirt and the guys from Muskoka Paddle Shack for a dry T-shirt (both of which I didn’t use but am very thankful for)….and Mike Ramsay for a pair of jeans and long sleeved shirt (I must remember to get those jeans and shirt back to Mike)….and Murat Vadar for the belt to keep the jeans up (I’d already created enough of a ‘splash’ LOL LOL)….

So all in all it was a very fun weekend at this year’s Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show….as well as wet filled….and this old fart got to prove that E.B. White is right: that a canoe is perfect for an old man since all he has to do is sit and move his arms….as long as he sits still LOL LOL….of course there is also a Native teaching about having one foot in one canoe and the other in another….and finding balance….obviously I have enough trouble with just one canoe and balance LOL LOL….but then I really would have been fine except for the cramp in my leg LOL LOL….

Remember this famous quote though:

 Never trust a person who’s feet are dry and he is paddling a canoe. – Anonymous

Paddles up until later then….and I hope those seakayakers doing rolls in the pool found all of the money I dropped out of my pockets….

Today is Family Day in Ontario….many special events for kids and families….even the Art Gallery of Ontario is renaming itself for the day from the ‘AGO’ to ‘KGO’ or Kids Gallery of Ontario….provincial government offices are closed….banks are closed….public transit is on holiday schedules. There are children’s plays….family skating and skiing….special things that families can do today to spend time together.

A great way to spend time together as a family is to get outdoors together….go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing….or just out for a walk in the woods….

So whatever you do, enjoy Family Day!!!!

What many don’t realize that this is also National Heritage Day in Canada….as Kidzworld.com, http://www.kidzworld.com/article/1789-canadas-heritage-day#, states:

Heritage Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every February and, like the name suggests, is all about Canada’s national heritage. Since 1973, several attempts have been made to try and make Heritage Day a statutory holiday so Canadians across the country can celebrate. So far, the attempts have failed, but that doesn’t stop Canadians from recognizing and celebrating this day.

Wednesday morning….wacky as ever. First of all I was asked to provide a ‘bio’ for the Kitchener Waterloo Canoe Symposium, for my role as a speaker on Tom Thomson and his canoe. I really didn’t know where to begin with that….I mean I’m not someone who likes to really talk about myself….well almost any way….I guess I do ‘talk’ about myself on here often enough LOL LOL….but I like to consider myself humble….so I wanted to write something poking fun at myself.  And they only wanted 200 words….which for someone as wordy as I can be is a challenge LOL LOL. So I’m not quite sure this is what they were looking for….but it is under 200 words, coming in at an incredible 196 words LOL LOL:

Mike Ormsby wasn’t conceived in a canoe as Farley Mowat supposedly was (Mike claims to be a ‘true Canadian’, knowing how to remove the centre thwart….and in his first canoe at age 6)….he can’t make a canoe dance as gracefully as Omer Stringer or Becky Mason (Mike has demonstrated paddling in a wading pool)….he isn’t an accomplished writer like Kevin Callan, Hap Wilson, or James Raffan (Mike is a ‘prolific’ blogger, reflecting often on canoeing) ….he hasn’t collected as many canoes as Kirk Wipper did (Mike’s personal collection is at 15 wood canoes….of various make and vintage….as well as states of repair….and Kirk certainly influenced Mike’s passion for canoes)….he isn’t a great canoe builder such as Walter Walker or Pam Wedd (Mike was recently up North to help restore several Freighter canoes [NOTE: This will have happened by the time of the presentation at the KW Canoe Symposium on April 14th]….and has co-founded a youth wood canoe building/restoration program)….he certainly has never created a series of films like Bill Mason (in fact no cameras are allowed anytime Mike’s paddling so nobody can record how pathetic he really is)….but Mike proves canoeing should be fun and as E.B. White suggests: For an old man, a canoe is ideal; he need only sit and move his arms.

I also attached a few photos….but as my ‘bio’ states there aren’t many of me in a canoe:

 
 
Paddles up….the demo in the ‘wading pool’ at the last Spring Cottage Life Show, photos by Badger Paddles’ Mike Ramsay) 
 
 
Kirk Wipper and I….photo by Barry Wallace.
 
 
Yet another shot of my ugly mug….not sure who took the photo, but from a dinner a few years ago.
 
As if that wasn’t enough, I’m on Skype discussing details of the upcoming Fort Severn project with Pam Wedd (canoe builder extraordinaire) when my computer decided to malfunction….I guess I had too many files open….the computer just stopped working….I tried rebooting it….Windows wouldn’t come up….rebooted again….finally got back up and running….but I had lost the connection….God I love Vista LOL LOL?!?!?:
 
 
Wanting to pull your hair out when your computer stops working….photo from http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/07/14/nina-in-new-york-the-dawn-of-a-new-error/.
 
Any way, just another usual day….weird and wacky….sometimes a bit wordy….grateful to just still be breathing….but always trying to have fun….
 
Paddles up until later then….

Years ago the Canadian Canoe Museum released a two CD series entitled Canoesongs….one such song was Canoe Song by Connie Kaldor….complete with lyrics….here is the YouTube video of this fine song….one more video treat for a canoeist on a wintery day:

 

Paddles up until later then….

I am part of a group that is preparing to head up to Fort Severn next month. We will be conducting a workshop on restoring several 20 ft. Freighter  canoes. These canoes are the workhorses of the North….meant to be used. But to get the tools and materials needed to do this work means getting everything in by ice road….by truck out of Winnipeg….

There is an ice road – also known as winter road – to Fort Severn from Manitoba….open mid-February….and the only way they can get most supplies into Fort Severn….this map better ilustrates the route, from http://arcticmini.com/fortsevern.htm


 

The plan is to work with the band members to show them how to restore these ‘workhorses’….we’ll be up there for a month this winter….and another month later on….it will be an adventure….pretty cold in the winter….Fort Severn is the most northern community in Ontario….on Hudson’s Bay….and as I’ve already pointed we have to have supplies and materials brought in by truck over the ice road from Winnipeg (like they show on Ice Road Truckers)….but I’m really looking forward to going….

One of the canoes we’ll be working on in Fort Severn; photo by Ian Devenney

But Fort Severn has no wood working shop at the moment….little or no tools….certainly not the proper materials….including the wood needed to restore these canoes….so we have spent the past few months figuring out exactly what we need….what Fort Severn needs. So we have been compiling lists and getting quotes on power & hand tools….figuring out how much canvas….which and how much epoxy filler (we’ll be using that instead of the traditional oil based filler used in typical recreational wood canvas canoes)….and how much wood we need (such as how many board feet of white cedar or ash etc.)….plus other materials such as paint, varnish, nails, tacks, etc….and finding the best prices we can. It has been a long process….started several months ago. As reported here previously, two members of the group, Pam Wedd (of Bearwood Canoes) and Ian Devenney (my partner in the B.I.L.D. youth program) went up to Fort Severn in November to check out the canoes there….as well as the facilities we will be working out of. 

We will setting up a shop….all of the equipment….and then teaching band members to restore these canoes….providing the skills to continue on their own. Fort Severn has 20 to 25 canoes in their own community….and neighbouring communities have more….so the hope is that a canoe shop in Fort Severn will be kept busy with not only repairs and restoration to their own canoes but also those of the nearby communities.

The shop will also be used for other wood working projects that the band may need done….including making furniture or even paddles.  

From Nor-West Canoe website, http://www.nor-west.ca/html/canoe/canot_norwest_en.htm, comes this description of the canoes we’ll be working on:

Norwest 20′

  • Length: 20 feet
  • Beam: 52 inches
  • Depth: 20 inches
  • Weight: 325 pounds
  • Capacity: 2540 pounds
  • Recommended motor: 15 to 30HP
  • Persons: 5

So on this Friday, nearing the end of January, we are working on facts and figures….mostly figuring out the final logistics for what promises to be an incredible project. I will post frequent updates of the progress of this here….as well as the Canadian Canoe Museum has kindly offered to post reports as well. The local youth will be videoing the restoration of the Freighters and that will be included.

We hope to complete 2 to 3 canoes while up in Fort Severn for the first month….and have up to 10 canoes completed by the end of the year.  This will prove to be a very worth while experience for all involved….one I am certainly looking forward to….and look forward to sharing. I have really enoyed the whole process of  seeing the Fort Severn project moving forward….and really am looking forward to getting up there to do the actual work.

Being as involved in canoeing as I’ve become (it seems I literally eat, drink, and sleep ‘canoes’  these days LOL LOL), I have chosen to pursue a ‘career’ of sorts in paddling. Whether actually on the water in my favourite green wood canvas canoe….or in life itself….I am learning – and realizing - the importance of ‘paddling your own canoe’. Others have spoken of this far better than I can:

Voyage upon life`s sea, To yourself be true, And, whatever your lot may be, Paddle your own canoe. - Sarah Bolton

. . . as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move. - Katherine Hepburn

This isn`t exactly a stable business. It`s like trying to stand up in a canoe with your pants down. – Cliff Robertson

Paddle solo, sleep tandem. - Caroline Owen

Love many, trust a few, and always paddle your own canoe. – Anonymous

The quote from Katherine Hepburn really sums up a lot of this for me personally….it is posted on the wall of Pam Wedd’s shop (where we are working out many of the details for the Fort Severn project)….and I do know that as one goes through life one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move. 

So here’s to moving ahead….to find your own passion in life….to ‘paddling your own canoe’….

Paddles up until later then….

Well it’s the beginning of 2012….the first of January 2012. Hopefully you’ve survived the festivities of New Year’s Eve….and didn’t drink too much ringing in the New Year. Or maybe you opted for a quiet night at home….reflecting over the past year….maybe making plans for 2012. I stayed home….watched a bit of TV….read a fair bit (even a new book I just got from Kathy Klos….which I’ll review soon when I’ve finished reading it)….

I was even looking over some canoe plans for a 15 ft. canoe I plan on building (that Bryan Hansel, of PaddlingLight.com fame, http://www.paddlinglight.com/, has been helping me with his superior expertise on DelftShip 3D marine design software)….this 15 ft. canoe is based on the Chestnut Chum….but narrower and not quite as deep….with a bit more rocker….I hope to build later this year….building as light as possible….maybe even using Dacron in place of canvas….my intention is that such a canoe will be my main solo canoe, especially for Canadian Style paddling (maybe even for use in a canoe ballet/dance demo, or even pageant – more on this later)….

  

An image of the canoe design….very much a work in progress….with thanks to Bryan Hansel for all his help.

I plan on working on several other canoes over the course of the year….next month I’ll be heading up with a group of builders from the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild – the others are Bruce Smith, Pam Wedd, and Ian Devenney) to Fort Severn First Nation to restore a number of 20 ft. Freighter canoes….working with the band members to show them how to restore these ‘workhorses’….I’ll be up there for a month this winter….and another month later on….it will be an adventure….pretty cold in the winter….Fort Severn is the most northern community in Ontario….on Hudson’s Bay….we have to have supplies and materials brought in by truck over the ice road from Winnipeg (like they show on Ice Road Truckers)….but I’m really looking forward to going….

One of the canoes we’ll be working on in Fort Severn; photo by Ian Devenney

I will also be working with several  youth canoe building/restoration programs, especially with Ian Devenney, as we develop the B.I.L.D. program (B.I.L.D. stands for Boatbuilding for Interpersonal and Life Development)….these projects will include First Nations youth….but also youth from the inner city….and not only in wood canvas construction but also skin-on-frame…..and maybe even having one of the best bark builders involved in one such project (and I look forward to learning more about bark building if that is the case)….

I hope to spend some time paddling as well….a few canoe trips….mostly just getting out on the water as much as possible….

Plans are in the works for a canoe ballet/dance demo, and even possibly a canoe pageant in the summer….with a performance at night….such could involve some great paddlers (much better than I)….maybe with a few different types of canoe construction involved….of course wood canvas canoes….maybe a few Kevlar models….perhaps if lucky enough even a bark canoe….but definitely a skin-on-frame with clear nylon skin, that will be lit up like a Christmas tree….all of the canoes at night will be lit up with battery powered lights (not taking a chance with kerosene torches like we did at Kandalore LOL LOL)….the proceeds will go towards various charities, particularly ones related to paddling and the environment….I have found a great possible venue….on a beautiful northern lake in central Ontario….complete with ample seating already in place….

To get you in the mood for such a canoe dance, I’m reposting this….while searching on YouTube for videos on canoes, I came across a very interesting video called canoe.mov….well this canoe certainly moved….it moved me enough to post:

 

Apparently this footage is from Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park….I know there is some film trickery involved….but this canoe really dances. Hope you enjoy. Just a perfect video for a winter day….

I  also plan on getting back as often as I can to the Canadian Canoe Museum….especially going to Peterborough for the National Canoe Day celebration….

I hope to take part in this year’s Killbear Paddlers’ Rendezvous….the WCHA Annual Assembly….the Change of Seasons Ceremony with Alex Mathias in Temagami….hopefully even getting down to Florida later this winter to dip my paddle early (and thaw out from a month in Fort Severn LOL LOL)….

 I hope to get out on a few canoe trips….if I can in Temagami….especially to Chiniguichi….and to Wolf Lake….but a few shorter trips….to places such as Haliburton or Kawartha….even Massasauga….

I plan to a new GoPro camera this year….and improve my video….and photography….well get better at it any way….since I can’t get any worse LOL LOL….the GoPro seems simple enough to use (even for me)….and is waterproof….

I have the opportunity to share my passion for canoes and the outdoors with others….I’ll even be talking once or twice about topics like Tom Thomson’s canoe….and be at various shows, mostly helping out Bruce Smith….but also putting on a paddling demo or two…. 

I hope to write a few articles….especially on my experiences in Fort Severn….maybe a few on wood canvas canoes, especially their history….but most likely more reflections on canoes and canoeing….

Definitely I will be sharing about these on this blog (and as usual I may have way too much to say LOL LOL….the next blog post here will be the 750th….and I expect before the end of this first day of 2012 that 100,000 wil have viewed this blog since it began)….so keep an eye on here on for more this coming year….it should be a busy but very rewarding year….I’m excited about what 2012 is about to bring….

 Paddles up until later then….2012 should be a great year….even for an old guy who can only sit in his canoe and move his arms LOL LOL….

Only a few more days left in 2011….this has been an interesting year for many of us in paddling….issues over the proposed registration of canoes as commercial vessels….Becky Mason released a great new DVD on paddling….Rapid Media continued to become one of ‘the’ sources on paddling, forming partnerships with the American Canoe Association and Paddle Canada to offer its various paddling publications (including my favourite Canoeroots) to more paddlers; as well they produced their first Paddlesports Buyers Guide….the Canadian Canoe Museum opened up a wonderful exhibit on Walter Walker….and the outside of the building got a great new facade of canoes and kayaks being paddled on its walls….

Canoeing and paddling was not without its losses too….Kirk Wipper passed away this year….his numerous contributions to canoes and canoeing have been written about in great detail on these pages before….certainly his collection of canoes that became the Canadian Canoe Museum is but one of many such contibutions….some of his former U of T B.P.H.E. students, Kandalore staff, and friends portaged a canoe from Toronto to Peterborough….and in May many gathered at the Museum to remember Kirk and celebrate his life….

Kirk was certainly one of the biggest influences in not only my paddling, but also my life….he was more than just one of my professors….but very much my friend and mentor….he is very much missed….but certainly not forgotten….thoughts of Kirk are never far….and his words still continue to inspire:

The canoe carried aboriginal people for thousands of years, followed then by the explorers and the missionaries and the engineers and the surveyors….until in modern times it gives us the gift of freedom. The canoe is a vehicle that carries you into pretty exciting places, not only into whitewater but into the byways and off-beaten places….You are removed entirely from the mundane aspects of ordinary life. You’re witnessing first hand beauty and peace and freedom – especially freedom….Flirtation with the wilderness is contact with truth, because the truth is in nature….I like to identify myself with something that is stable and enduring. Although [nature] is in a state of flux, it is enduring. It is where reality is. I appreciate the canoe for its gifts in that direction. - Kirk Wipper, from CBC Radio’s  Ideas program The Perfect Machine: The Canoe.

Watercraft was humankind’s most important conveyance outside of walking. - Kirk Wipper

In its contemporary use, the canoe and kayak become a medium to experience peace, beauty, freedom and adventure. These values are of utmost significance in a world which has lost much of its contact with the profound lessons learned in nature. To travel the paths in natural places makes all the differences and in this the canoe and kayak are essential partners. – Kirk Wipper

First, the canoe connects us to Ma-ka-ina, Mother Earth, from which we came and to which we must all return. Councils of those who were here before us revered the earth and also the wind, the rain, and the sun – all essential to life. It was from that remarkable blending of forces that mankind was allowed to create the canoe and its several kindred forms.

From the birch tree, came the bark; from the spruce, pliant roots; from the cedar, the ribs, planking and gunwales; and from a variety of natural sources, the sealing pitch.

In other habitats, great trees became dugout canoes while, in treeless areas, skin, bone and sinew were ingeniously fused into kayaks. Form followed function, and manufacture was linked to available materials. Even the modern canoe, although several steps away from the first, is still a product of the earth. We have a great debt to those who experienced the land before us. No wonder that, in many parts of the world, the people thank the land for allowing its spirit to be transferred to the canoe.

Hand-propelled watercraft still allow us to pursue the elemental quest for tranquility, beauty, peace, freedom and cleaness. It is good to be conveyed quietly, gracefully, to natural rhythms….

The canoe especially connects us to rivers – timeless pathways of the wilderness. Wave after wave of users have passed by. Gentle rains falling onto a paddler evaporate skyward to form clouds and then to descend on a fellow traveller, perhaps in another era. Like wise, our waterways contain something of the substance of our ancestors. The canoe connects us to the spirit of these people who walk beside us as we glide silently along riverine trails. – Kirk Wipper, in foreword to Canexus (also published as Connections” in Stories From The Bow Seat: The Wisdom And Waggery Of Canoe Tripping by Don Standfield and Liz Lundell, p. 15) 

An interest in the wilderness means getting there, and getting there means canoes.- Kirk Wipper (from 2010 interview)

A better understanding of one’s past can only lead to better understanding of one’s present and one’s future. (Quote from slide at Kirk Wipper’s presentation in Gravenhurst in October 2010….shown on video of this talk by Brian Hayden, from his Docanoementary.)

You have to do what you can, do your best with what you are. And you have to believe in wilderness. If you do that you can’t go wrong. –  Kirk Albert Walter Wipper b Grahamdale, Manitoba, December 6th, 1923 d Peterborough, Ontario, March 18, 2011

Photo of Kirk and I, taken by Barry Wallace. 

Personally, 2011 was not my greatest year on the water….fewer days spent paddling than in the previous year….partly because of an injury to my shoulder….old age obviously has started to catch up with me LOL LOL….but on a positive note, I did get to share my passion for canoes and canoeing with many others….I got to speak at various paddling related events….on Tom Thomson and his canoe in Kitchener in April….also in the same month I got to talk about wood canvas canoes and paddles at the ORCA Seminar: Tripping, Then And Now (of which I was proud to be part of the organizing committee, along with Bob Henderson, Bruce Hawkins et al)….and I got to share some of my memories of Kirk Wipper at the memorial for Kirk at the Canadian Canoe Museum in May….I also had the opportunity to demonstrate paddling at the Spring Cottage Life Show in March (although the water wasn’t quite deep enough in the demo pool to really do the Canadian Style paddling demonstration I had intended….but then I did get to use a nice Badger Cub paddle….and even a Swift canoe)….

As well this blog has seen nearly 100,000 views since its start a little over two years ago (hopefully hit that mark by the end of the year)…..over 70,000 this year alone….and averaging about 200 hits per day….and getting close to 750 posts (I really do have to much to say, don’t I LOL LOL)…..my thanks to each and everyone of you who frequent this blog…..

So while I didn’t get a chance to paddle as much as I had intended, I didn’t do too bad for an old man….I can still sit in a canoe and move my arms LOL LOL….most of the time any way LOL LOL….   

2011 was not without its environmental concerns….global warming and climate change are still on many minds….oil pipelines and oil spills….and so many more issues world-wide….even more locally with issues like Wolf Lake in Temagami…. 

Global Environment Summer Academy (GESA) even created a GESA 2011 Environmental Issues Word Cloud:

From  http://www.globalenvironments.org/resources/creative-interludes/gesa-2011-environmental-issues-word-cloud/.

However you look at it good old Mother Earth is still very much in need of our help….very much needs to handled with special care:

From http://www.buzzle.com/articles/environmental-issues2011.html.

On New Year’s Day, there are several ways to celebrate 2012….even the annual paddle planned for the Chicago area…..this great way to ring in the New Year is described on the Chicagoland Canoe Basin website bulletin, HAPPY CA – NEW YEAR FROM CHICAGOLAND CANOE BASE – Let’s start out the New Year the right way: Join us on the North Branch, January 1, 2012, http://www.chicagolandcanoebase.com/nyd.html.

At this time of year, we begin to reflect on the year about to end….and think about the year ahead….making plans and even resolutions for the coming year….last year at this time, I posted here on Happy CANOE Year….A Few Final Reflections On 2010….Some Resolutions For 2011….Even Canoe Plans,  http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/happy-canoe-year-a-few-final-reflections-on-2010-some-resolutions-for-2011-even-canoe-plans/. I listed the following resolutions for 2011 (with added notes on how I actually did in 2011….and hope for in 2012): 

1. To get out as often as possible outdoors….especially paddling (I might not get on the water as often as in 2010….I start a new job soon). But also more hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. (Well the new job didn’t work out quite as planned….I guess I’m not cut out to spend that much time stuck beind a desk….nor am I meant to be working in social services for the government. But I did get the chance to be outdoors more….maybe not as much on the water as I could’ve due to my wonky shoulder….but I did out to do more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing….even a bit hiking.)

2. To try to get the canoe building program for youth that I (and others) have proposed finally up and running. (The youth canoe building/restoration program is becoming a reality….B.I.L.D. or Boatbuilding for Interpersonal and Life Development is up and running….with many thanks to my partner in this venture, Ian Devenney.)

3.  To write the great novel….or at least a couple of articles on canoeing LOL LOL. Seriously I would like to write something on the history of canoe building in Ontario, especially the Peterborough area. (Well I didn’t quite write the great novel….although many would say I write ‘volumes’ at time, especially here LOL LOL….there are a few articles planned for 2012….and somebody else wrote a great book on the historyof canoe building in Ontario, specifically the Peterborough area in The Canadian Canoe Company and the Early Peterborough Canoe Factories by Ken Brown; you should check out this book.)

 4. To continue to share my reflections on the outdoors….and the environment….and, of course, paddling. Hopefully this blog will continue to grow….and you folks kind enough to spend some time here will find I still have something worth saying. Besides my writing, I also want to learn more about photography, maybe film or video, so I can share even more with others on the outdoors and canoeing. (As previously noted this blog has certainly grown….though still not sure I really have much to say….well then at times I have too much to say LOL LOL….I’m working on the photography side more in 2012….looking at updating my old reliable digital camera with a GoPro camera.)

5. As far as canoe tripping goes, I hope to get up to Temagami….the Chiniguichi area again….also likely Obabika….also hope for several other trips including Massasauga, Algonquin, and Haliburton Highlands….possibly the Missinaibi as well. (OK I didn’t get to do as many trips as I had hoped….but at least got up to Chiniguichi….and some short trips in Haliburton and Kawartha….plans for 2012 are to get out on trips in the places planned for 2011.)

6. I look forward to learning more about paddling….maybe even doing some teaching as well. I want to work more on my Canadian style paddling….and even do a bit more canoe ballet. (Well I didn’t teach much in 2011….unless you count my demo in how to paddle in 14 inches of water at the Spring Cottage Life Show LOL LOL….at least I proved you could do a pivot without a paddle, my version of ‘look Ma, no hands’….however I did get a chance to work on my Canadian style paddling….and plans are in the works for a canoe pageant showcasing canoe ballet/dance in 2012.)

7. I want to learn more about building wood canvas canoes….and making paddles (and I look forward to working with Bruce S.). I even plan on learning a bit about bark canoe building. Certainly I hope to add a few more paddles and a canoe or two to my personal collection. (I did get to spend more time with Bruce Smith….we were at several shows together….hanging out with Bruce is always great….I learn a lot from him….and I intend to make a better paddle under Bruce’s instruction in 2012. I’ve learned a lot more about building wood canvas canoes….even restoring them….and am now a member of the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild….and in 2012 I look forward to spending time at Pam Wedd’s learning more from one of the best….and of course from Bruce too….as well as several building/restoration projects planned….such as the restoration of Freighter canoes in Fort Severn….as well as youth projects scheduled. I hope to eventually learn more about birch bark canoe building. I added a few paddles and some canoes – mostly intended for youth restoration programs. But more are yet to come in 2012.)

8. I hope to stay healthy and well….and I have decided to eat better….and most importantly, to quit smoking (today was my last day hopefully). (Except for injuring my shoulder I stayed relatively healthy….I certainly ate better – as my added girth will attest LOL LOL. However I didn’t quite manage to quit smoking….something I really plan for 2012.)

9. I hope that family and friends also stay well….have all they wish for….and have nothing but the best for 2011. (Hopefully this came to be true….and will remain so for 2012.)

10. Actually, I wish the best for everyone for 2011….especially a healthy planet and environment….peace, love, and understanding amongst us all. (As above – hopefully this came to be true….and will remain so for 2012.)

So the resolutions I made for 2011 didn’t all work out….and the ones I’ve noted for 2012 hopefully will be better….but no matter how 2012 turns out let me wish the following (as I did last year):

Paddles up until later then….and Happy CANOE Year in 2012!!!!

….the canoe is not a lifeless, inanimate object; it feels very much alive, alive with the life of the river. – Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe. – Bill Mason

I have always believed that the Canadian Wooden canoe is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe. It is as much a part of our land as the rocks and trees and lakes and rivers. It takes as much skill and artistry to paddle a canoe well as it does to paint a picture of it. In this painting I wanted to capture the look and feel of a well-worn travelling companion. There’s hardly a rib or plank that isn’t cracked but after a quarter of a century it’s still wearing its original canvas. - Bill Mason, Canoescapes (NOTE: This was in reference to a painting done by Bill Mason of his favourite Chestnut canoe.)

There is one thing I should warn you about before you decide to get serious about canoeing. You must consider the possibility of becoming totally and incurably hooked on it. You must also face the fact that every fall about freeze-up time you go through a withdrawal period as you watch the lakes and rivers icing overone by one. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can help a little to ease the pain, but they won’t guarantee a complete cure. – Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

When you look at the face of Canada and study the geography carefully, you come away with the feeling that God could have designed the canoe first and then set about to conceive a land in which it could flourish. - Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

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

It was the canoe that made it possible for the Indian to move around before and for several hundred years after the arrival of the white man. As the white man took over their land, the native people would regret the generosity which they shared their amazing mode of travel. The more I study the birchbark canoe and what it can do, the greater is my admiration of these people who were here long before we arrived.

The birchbark canoe is made entirely from materials found in the forest: birch bark, cedar, spruce roots, ash, and pine gum. When it is damaged, it can be repaired easily from the materials at hand. When it has served its purpose, it returns to the land, part of a never-ending cycle. - Bill Mason, Path Of The Paddle

….we need to be more aware of where we are headed and from whence we came. An appreciation of the canoe and acquisition of the necessary skills to utilize it as a way to journey back to what’s left of the natural world is a great way to begin this voyage of discovery. - Bill Mason, Path Of The Paddle

A journey by canoe along ancient waterways is a good way to rediscover our lost relationship with the natural world and the Creator who put it tohether so long ago. - Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

The path of the paddle can be a means of getting things back to their original perspective. - Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

….the age of the canoe is not gone; it’s justdifferent. the canoe is no longer a vehicle of trade and commerce. Instead, it has become a means of venturing back into what is left of the natural world. It’s true there isn’t much left to be discovered, but there is much to be rediscovered about the land, about the creatures who live there, and about ourselves. Where do we come from and where are we going? There is no better place and no better way to follow this quest into the realm of spirit than along the lakes and rivers of the North American wilderness in a canoe. -Bill Mason, Path Of The Paddle

The first thing you must learn about canoeing is that the canoe is not a lifeless, inanimate object; it feels very much alive, alive with the life of the river. Life is transmitted to the canoe by the currents of the air and the water upon which it rides. The behavior and temperament of the canoe is dependent upon the elements: from the slightest breeze to a raging storm, from the smallest ripple to a towering wave, or from a meandering stream to a thundering rapid. - Bill Mason, Path Of The Paddle

It is certainly not my intention to convince everybody they should grab a canoe and take to the wilderness. We are all different, and our interests vary. That is how it should be. Some people are content to enjoy the land from the edge of the road or campground. Others are only happy when isolated from the synthetic world by many portages and miles of trackless wilderness. I used to think it was a major tragedy if anyone went through life never having owned a canoe. Now I believe it is just a minor tragedy. – Bill Mason, Path of the Paddle

Wilderness: a beautiful word to describe a beautiful land. Wilderness though is a white man’s concept. To the Native people, the land was not wild. It was home. It provided shelter, clothed and fed them. And echoing through their souls was a song of the land. The singing isn’t as loud as it used to be. But you can still hear it in the wind….in the silence of the misty morning….in the drip of the water from the tip of a paddle. The song is still here if you know how to listen. – Bill Mason, Song Of the Paddle

On her Dad’s art: Like him, I find that paddling can take you on a voyage of creativity where you store up experiences in your memory to treasure for a lifetime. – Becky Mason

May every dip of your paddle lead you towards a rediscovery of yourself, of your canoeing companions, of the wonders of nature, and of the unmatched physical and spiritual rapture made possible by the humble canoe - Pierre Elliott Trudeau, foreword to Path of the Paddle by Bill Mason, 1980

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

Today, most Canadian canoeing is recreational. Many of us would assert that it is usually meaningful, aesthetically fulfilling and ecologically sensitive recreational canoeing. Admittedly, these modifiers are not present in the highly competitive, highly structured and technically oriented canoe racing sports which tend not to take place in a wilderness environment. But with these large exceptions, canoeing, certainly canoe tripping and lake water canoe cruising, tends to involve in varying degrees a quest for wilderness or at least semi-wilderness. It also involves a search for high adventure or natural tranquility or both. These activities are an integral part of Canadian culture. Bill Mason asserts that the canoe is “the most beautiful work of human beings, the most functional yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created,” and that paddling a canoe is “an art” not a technical achievement. That certainly means culture. - Bruce Hodgins, from Canexus, p.46

It’s pretty hard for me to go more than a few days without getting a paddle wet somewhere. For me, that stepping into the canoe and pushing off is a very special spiritual and physical experience. Bill Mason had it right: it’s like walking on water. It transports you to another way of being, another way of feeling – it restores my soul. – David Finch

From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Mason:

Bill Mason was an award-winning Canadian naturalist, author, artist, filmmaker, and conservationist, noted primarily for his popular canoeing books, films, and art as well as his documentaries on wolves….He canoed all of his adult life, ranging widely over the wilderness areas of Canada and the United States. Called “wilderness artist,” in one book about him, Mason left a legacy that includes books, films and artwork on canoeing and wild nature. He died of cancer in 1988.

….In his review of James Raffan’s 1996 biography of Mason (NOTE: James Raffan’s biography of Bill, Fire In The Bones, is a must read), Michael Peake refers to Mason as “the patron saint of canoeing.” To many Canadian and American Paddlers and Canoeists growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, his series of instructional films were the introduction to technique and the canoeing experience. In many ways, Bill, Joyce, Paul and Becky Mason were the “faces” of Canadian Canoeing in the ’70s.

….Although he used a variety of Chestnut models in his films, including the “Pal” and the “Fort”, his favourite boat was a red Chestnut Prospector, a 16 foot canvas covered wood canoe that he claimed was the most versatile design ever manufactured, in spite of the popularity of more durable and modern construction techniques and materials. After his death, this canoe was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, where it is on display. His wife, Joyce, and children, Paul and Becky, frequently travelled with him and contributed to his later books and films, and have continued his life work and environmentalism.

From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Mason.

From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Mason.

Bill Mason was a huge influence on me….as a paddler….as a lover of wild places….and of old wood canoes….

Bill was definitely one of a kind….I had the pleasure of meeting him (through Kirk Wipper)….his kids Becky and Paul, along with his wife Joyce are definitely carrying on his memory….see http://www.redcanoes.ca/bill/ for more on Bill….

The Bill Mason Scholarship Fund, http://www.paddlecanada.com/about-us/bill-mason-scholarship.html, is awarded by Paddle Canada, and described as:

The Bill Mason Memorial Scholarship Fund is a tribute to the late Bill Mason, a Canadian recognized both nationally and internationally as an avid canoeist, environmentalist, filmmaker, photographer, artist and public speaker.

Established by Paddle Canada in 1990, with the permission and input of the Mason Family, the scholarship is intended to incorporate some of the characteristics that made Bill Mason unique and to help ensure that the memory, spirit and ideals that he represented are kept fresh in the minds of Canadians.

Paddle Canada is proud to award this annual scholarship of $1,000 to assist with the education of tomorrow’s environmental stewards – to those people who help make a difference in the kind of world we live in today and pass on to future generations.

Becky Mason (besides being a fantastic artist as is her partner Reid) is a great paddler (like many others I wish I could paddle as well)….and has a recent DVD that is equally as breathtaking as many of her Dad’s films….this new DVD is also informative and instructional….

Paul Mason is a great cartoonist….his Bubblestreet cartoons are favourites with many paddlers….Paul is also a fantastic whitewater paddler….

Both Becky and Paul (along with Joyce) were featured in many of Bill’s films….the family took part in the canoe tripping film Song of the Paddle….Paul was featured in the Path of the Paddle series….Paul also played the little boy (who finds Paddle-to-the-Sea along with his yellow Labrador Retriever) in Paddle to the Sea….

As I’ve already noted here and in other blog posts, like many paddlers, I was greatly influenced by Bill Mason….I remember seeing The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes and Paddle to the Sea as a youngster….later on seeing his canoeing instructional film series Path of the Paddle (if my memory serves me right, first at a CRCA Canoe Instructor’s School at Kandalore, where it was shown by Bill as a ‘film-in-progress’)….Bill’s films are available for all to see on the NFB website (or look down the left side of this blog for direct links to several)….

One film that really speaks of Bill’s passion for canoes and canoeing is Waterwalker….and recently the NFB blog, http://blog.nfb.ca/2011/12/16/waterwalker/?ntpg_src=links&ntpg_sid=kr_fb_20111216, featured a piece entitled Waterwalker: Bill Mason’s Masterpiece…..the film is described in author Albert Ohayon’s words as:

I have viewed over 7,000 NFB films as part of my work. People often ask me what my favourite film is and I never hesitate to answer Bill Mason’s ode to the majesty of nature, Waterwalker (1984). There is so much about this film that works for me on so many levels….

….I invite you to view this film and share in Mason’s beautiful journey. Perhaps you will be deeply touched by its message like I was—or perhaps not. In either case, the beautiful images and haunting Bruce Cockburn music are sure to make a lasting impression on you. Enjoy.

From NFB Blog, Waterwalker: Bill Mason’s Masterpiece, http://blog.nfb.ca/2011/12/16/waterwalker/?ntpg_src=links&ntpg_sid=kr_fb_20111216.

I remember seeing Waterwalker in a Toronto theater (the Cumberland I believe)….it was incredible to see on a big screen….I missed on repeating this experience this past March in Kitchener when the Princess Theater had a special viewing of the film….with Becky Mason in attendance to talk about her Dad and the film….

Waterwalker was made from extra footage Bill shot during the filming of the Path of the Paddle series….just an example of ‘recycling’ I guess….something I believe Bill had done on other films such as his projects about wolves….the feature-length Cry of the Wild was made from extra sequences shot during the making of his shorter documentary Death of a Legend….

Whatever Bill filmed….be it about canoes or wolves….whales or the Great Lakes….or whether he wrote canoeing instruction books (Path of the Paddle and Song of the Paddle) or on his art (Canoescapes, finished just before his death)….he devoted his life and work to the discovery and the protection of nature. Bill Mason was one of the first ecologist filmmakers….and he is still celebrated as North America’s most famous exponent of canoeing.

Bill Mason was born on April 21st….and lived to 59 years of age….I guess being born on April 19th….and pushing 57, I feel just a little more in common with Bill lately than when I first became aware of him….beyond a shared love for canoes and canoeing….and for the environment and wild places. I hope I’m able to keep paddling on for many years to come….but I will always be inspired by Bill’s films and books. Bill passed away the same year as another huge influence on many paddlers did. Both Bill and Omer Stringer passed away in 1988. I can never be as good a paddler as Omer….certainly can never make a film or write a book like Bill….but from what I learned from both, I hope I will always be able to share the same ideals.

Let me close with a poem by Charles Burchill:

Ideals by Charles Burchill

Who will speak for us now?
Pierre and his canoe have left us.
Bill and his Pal are gone.
Politics threatens our union.
Tell me when will it end.

We believed at Stockholm
We believed in
Rio.
Now Voices from
Kyoto fall.
Where does it end.

When do we start?

Paddles up until later then….check out this article on Waterwalker on the NFB blog….better yet check out Bill’s films on the NFB website….his films are still as relevant today as when he first filmed them….and be sure to see Waterwalker…..to paraphrase a quote mentioned above, made by David Finch, Bill Mason was truly a waterwalker….especially through his work on the canoe….letting one literally walk on water….while transporting you to another way of being….another way of feeling….restoring your soul.

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