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Tuesday morning….and woke up to a wintery wonderland….well at least a covering of wet snow on the ground and the trees….yet I’m still thinking of canoes and canoeing….even thinking of tripping….

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

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

   

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

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

Here are some opinions on using a tumpline to portage:

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

First of all the author makes these comments:

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

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

Then he describes using a tumpline:

The Tump Strap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Camp Nominigue Setup

Murat continues:

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

 

 

 

 

NW Woodsman Tump Pics

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

 

 

One Native Tump Method

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

 

  

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

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

 

 

  

Grips lashed in; Blades secure; the final setup

Canoe tump portage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olson reminiscences fondly for both lakes and portages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


From St. Patrick\’s Day Wallpaper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canoeing Ireland (Official Site of the Irish Canoe Union)

Canoeing Holidays in Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File:Shooting the Rapids 1879.jpg

Shooting The Rapids

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

Frances Anne Hopkins Voyageurs

Voyageurs at Dawn

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

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

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

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

THE VOYAGEUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.

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

La V’la M’amie

Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I

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

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

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

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

Chorus

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

Chorus

J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle

Chorus

Paddle Like Hell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

sov.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler

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

Table of Contents

The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce

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

Table of Contents

Canot d'Ècorce Album Cover

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

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

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

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

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

TRAPPERS AND TRADERS

Summary

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

FUR TRADE GAME

Summary

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

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

phoca_thumb_l_47.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trading Post

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North Canoe, laden with trade goods.

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

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

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

Aerial view showing the industries of downtown Peterborough, circa 1918

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

Cover of book by Ken Brown that is very useful.

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

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

Introduction

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

Origins of the Industry

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

OntarioCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

Birth of the Peterborough Canoe Company

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

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

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

Birth of the Canadian Canoe Company

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

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

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

 

Growing Pains…

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

The William English Canoe Company  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PeterboroughCanada’s Boat Building Capital

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

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

Decline of the Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Canoe Companies in the Peterborough Region

The Herald Canoe Company

heraldcanoeco.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

RiceLakeCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

The “Canadian”

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

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

Pioneers in the Field

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

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

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

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

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

The Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe

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

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Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880.

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

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

Building A Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different Strokes

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

canoe_09_cedar.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

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

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

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

Remember, you belong to Nature, not it to you.” – Archibald Belaney, aka Grey Owl

“Give me a good canoe, a pair of Jibway snowshoes, my beaver, my family and 10,000 square miles of wilderness and I am happy” – Archibald Belaney, aka Grey Owl

I thought it was appropriate to post information on Archie Belaney, the Englishman better known as Grey Owl, and a bit about his canoes and canoeing. Grey Owl wrote several books including Men of the Last Frontier,Pilgrims of the Wild, and Tales of an Empty Cabin, and gave a series of public lectures, all expounding the need for wilderness.

Despite Archie’s fraudulent persona as a Native, he was at least responsible for bringing attention to the need to conserve the Canadian wilderness, first through his writing and then in public appearances. While Archie Belaney has been ridiculed as “a fraud, a bigamist, a drunk, a scoundrel and a liar” (as Dave Yanko starts out his article, Grey Owl’s Cabin on Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html),  other writers see him as a champion of conservation, to the point that “some believe he should rank with John Muir and Rachel Carson in the environmentalists’ pantheon” (as described by Kenneth Brower in his article Grey Owl in The Atlantic Online, January 1990, http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/90jan/greyowl.htm).

For those of you who may not be aware of him, I’ll post this brief overview of Grey Owl from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl:

Grey Owl (or Wa-sha-quon-asin, from the Ojibway wenjiganoozhiinh, meaning “great horned owl” or “great grey owl”) was the name Archibald Belaney (September 18, 1888 – April 13, 1938) adopted when he took on a First Nations identity as an adult. A British native, he became a writer and one of Canada’s first conservationists. Revelation of his origins after his death adversely affected his reputation for some time. Since the 1970s and at the centennial of his birth, there has been renewed public appreciation for his conservation efforts. Recognition has included biographies, a historic plaque at his birthplace, a 1999 film by Richard Attenborough (starring Pierce Brosnan), and a 2005 TV special about him.

This website gives a more in-depth biography of Grey Owl.

As well as the previous links noted, for more information on Grey Owl or Archie Belaney see the following links:

http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl_bio.html

http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/nlc-bnc/heroes_lore_yore_can_hero-ef/2001/h6-230-e.html

http://www.econet.sk.ca/sk_enviro_champions/grey_owl.html

http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=10191

http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/august_112000.htm

http://www.1066.net/greyowl/index.htm

http://archives.cbc.ca/environment/environmental_protection/clips/12551/(Note: Contains video of Grey Owl and a CBC report on him…..including the recollections of John Diefenbaker.)

http://hpcanpub.mcmaster.ca/node/176500

Some photos related to Grey Owl:

Grey_Owl.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Portrait of Grey Owl (1936), by Yousif Karsh, from Wikipedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl.

grey_owl4.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Photos and signature of Grey Owl from http://www.waskesiu.org/things_to_do/grey_owls_wake.shtml.

greyowl.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl, courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.

greyowl3.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Archie Belaney a.k.a. Grey Owl, courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl_bio.html

greyowlnature.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

The affection was real. But the images were carefully constructed to elicit a sympathetic reaction. Image courtesy of Parks Canada, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.

351130p09.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl at the time he visited Hastings in 1935, from http://www.1066.net/greyowl/.

51BF0957-1560-95DA-435A7175A97B68A8.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan, from http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/grey_owl_archibald_stansfield_belaney.html.

belaney.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Image of Grey Owl from http://www.historycomesalive.ca/canadians/images/belaney.jpg

GreyOwl11.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl is shown here with a beaver pup in Riding Mountain Park (courtesy Archives of Ontario/P-150), from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=ArchivedFeatures&Params=A2132.

greyowlbelaneyt.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Image of Grey Owl from http://www.historycomesalive.ca/canadians/images/greyowl.jpg.

greyowlcabin1s.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Picture of what is reported to be Archie Belaney’s cabin, from Mr. Canoehead,http://www.mistercanoehead.com/mississagi07.html, from the trip report on a July 2007 Mississagi River trip.

greyowlcabin2s.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Picture of one of the walls on what is reported to be Archie Belaney’s cabin, from Mr. Canoehead, http://www.mistercanoehead.com/mississagi07.html, from the trip report on a July 2007 Mississagi River trip.

This report from Mr. Canoehead states the following on this cabin that Archie Belaney puportedly lived in at one time:

The legendary Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) lived in this cabin. Although he was not a native, he lived as one and wrote about his wilderness life. It is unfortunate that his dwelling has been defaced by hundreds of people over the years….The current owner could do more than put up ‘private property’ signs. A carving board, for those who must, could be erected away from the cabin. As well, Grey Owl is an icon of our wilderness heritage and as such should be better honoured….

thompson-grey_owl02.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

The clean-cut fellow on the right is Archie Belaney, who would later become known as Grey Owl. Archives of Ontario, Duvall photo.  (C273-1-0-46-23), from http://pastforward.ca/perspectives/sep_2002.htm.

102-103-1.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

From the Chapleau Library’s Vince Crichton Collection, http://www.canadianfishing.com/crichton/vc/vc1.htm, Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) and Anahero, 1920s.

grayowl111.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) & Gertrude Bernard (Anahareo)’s cabin in Quebec, from http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/December_232005.htm.

greyowlscabin.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl’s cabin on Ajawaan Lake, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.

greyowlscabin2.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

An empty cabin a long way from Sussex. But in the wilderness – still, Grey Owl’s cabin on Ajawaan Lake, from Virtual Saskatchewan, http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html.

800px-Greyowls_cabin_ajawaan_lake.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Ajawaan lake, Saskatchewan, Canada, Grey Owl’s cabin “Beaverlodge”, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greyowls_cabin_ajawaan_lake.jpg.

From http://www.waskesiu.org/things_to_do/grey_owls_wake.shtml:

Displayed at Beaver Lodge:

I hope you understand me. I am not particularly anxoius to be known at all, but my place is back in the woods, there is my home and there I stay.
But is this country of 
Canada, to which i am intensely loyal, and and whose natural heritage I am trying to interpret so that it mabe better understod and appreciated here, at least , i want to be known for what I am

800px-Graves_go_an_sd.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Graves of Grey Owl, Anahareo, Shirley Dawn (daughter), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graves_go_an_sd.jpg.

Grey Owl or Archie Belaney have been viewed by many as an icon of the Canadian wilderness, even perhaps of the canoe and canoeing.

In the article Grey Owl: Voice for Canada’s Wilderness by Matthew Jackson, from Paddler Magazine Online, http://www.paddlermagazine.com/issues/2000_3/article_45.shtml, comes this:

An excellent canoeist, Archie’s skills as a paddler are what likely saved him from self-destruction as a bingeing alcoholic, helping him to find work as a ranger in anOntario forest reserve. Paddling a canoe, Archie was at his best, and he spent two summers traveling between ranger stations throughout the remote park. On his canoe outings he began to notice the effects timber barons were having on the northern forests, and angrily composed on birch bark his first statements as a conservationist: “God made this country for the trees—Don’t burn it up and make it look like hell!”

In The Canoe In Canadian Cultures, edited by John Jennings, Bruce W. Hodgins, and Doreen Small, in the chapter Being There: Bill Mason And The Canadian Canoeing Tradition, James Raffan compares Bill Mason to previous personalities (starting with Tom Thomson) associated with canoeing:

….though there are other people since Thomson who have come to be identified with the canoe – Grey Owl, Sigurd Olson, Eric Morse, Omer Stringer, Kirk Wipper, Dan Gibson, and a host of Liberal politicians – none have captured the essence of canoeing in the Canadian imagination like Bill Mason. (p. 24)

So maybe Grey Owl wasn’t quite in Bill’s league but he’s up there LOL LOL.

In Bark, Skin and Cedar: Exploring the Canoe in Canadian Experience, James Raffan states:

…in the more southerly reaches of the country, the great imposter Archie (Grey Owl) Belaney’s conservation efforts on behalf of the beleagured Canadian beaver were similarly secured and authenticated by the canoe-tripping experience. (p.184)

As to how he viewed the wilderness and various means of travel through it, including the canoe, Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) said it best when he wrote:

The trail, then is not merely a connecting link between widely distant points, it becomes an idea, a symbol of self-sacrifice, and deathless determination, an ideal to be lived up to, a creed from which none may falter…. Stars paling in the East, breath that whistles through the nostrils like steam. Tug of the tump line, swing of the snowshoes; tracks in the snow, every one a story; hissing, slanting sheets of snow; swift rattle of snowshoes over an unseen trail in the dark. A strip of canvas, a long fire, and a roof of smoke. Silence.

Canoes gliding between palisades of rock. Teepees, smoke-dyed, on a smooth point amongst the red pines; inscrutable faces peering out. Two wooden crosses at a rapids. Dim trails. Tug of the tump line again; always. Old tea pails, worn snowshoes, hanging on limbs, their work well done; throw them not down on the ground. Little fires by darkling streams. Slow wind of evening hovering in the tree tops, passing on to nowhere. Gay, caparisoned clouds moving in review, under the setting sun. Fading day. Pictures forming and fading in glowing embers. Voices in the running waters, calling, calling. The lone cry of a loon from an unseen lake. Peace, contentment. This is the trail.

(From Men of the Last Frontier, pp. 78-79….also quoted in Bark, Skin and Cedar: Exploring the Canoe in Canadian Experience by James Raffan, p.15.)

From Grey Owl: The Curious Life of Archie Belaney by Irene Ternier Gordon, it is in Grey Owls’ own words that a better side of his character emerges as in his description of canoeing with his fellow rangers:

The canoes seem to leap suddenly ahead, and one after another, with a wild howling hurrah, we are into the thick of it. Huge combers [waves], any one of which would swamp a canoe, stand terrifically beside us there is a thunderous roar which envelopes us like a tunnel, a last flying leap and we are in the still pool below thrilled to the bone. (pp. 35-6)

So what about Grey Owl’s canoe. On the Grey Owl’s Hastings message board, http://www.1066.net/greyowl/visitors.htm,  comes this:

27 Jun 2000

Hi there! Great Bio on Grey Owl! I am actually looking fo some information about Grey Owl’s Peterborough Canoe. Does anyone know what colour it was? Most photographs of him in it are black and white. Thanks for the help,

Sarah Ferguson, Interpretive staff

Assuming this must be someone from the Canadian Canoe Museum (the email address shown on the message indicated as coming from the Canadian Canoe Museum), I contacted John Summers (General Manager of the Museum….who happens to be a great fan of Archie Belaney/Grey Owl….he even had a sailing canoe named Jelly Roll in honour of one of Grey Owl’s beavers) who has passed it on to Jeremy Ward (the Museum’s Curator). I’ll update this entry when I hear back from Jeremy with more info on this.

On researching the WCHA forum on the Peterborough Minetta wood canvas canoe (I have a “new” old 1950s Minetta so I was looking for info on that model), I found the following, http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=1326&highlight=Archie+Belaney+Grey+Owl, which was a post sometime back about a Peterborough Minetta that was supposedly used by Archie Belaney or Grey Owl ….of course as was pointed out in the posts to the WCHA forum this canoe couldn’t have been a Peterborough Minetta as Archie Belaney died in the 1930s and the Minetta wasn’t out as a model until the 1950s. But this thread did contain some interesting comments from various WCHA members (as always quite knowledgeable).

Starting the thread, Dave Lanthier (from Kamloops, BC) wrote enquiring about a Peterborough Minetta Model #1815, S # G4628:

I have it from a good source that this canoe was originally used by the park wardens of Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. The story has it that to prevent adverse publicity it was not unusual for a park warden to assist the famous yet very inebriated “Grey Owl” [Archie Belaney] back to his ” Beaver Lodge” cabin. What I would like to do is try too prove or disprove that this canoe was used by these park wardens and that Archie Belaney might have spent time in it. Firstly, what years was the 15′ Peterborough Minetta produced? Second, does any one have pictures or any history of Prince Albert wardens and their canoes? Thirdly, what other information might help solve this puzzle? Thanks.

It was pointed out by several others that the canoe couldn’t be a Minetta because it was not introduced until the 1950s. Dick Persson (also of Headwater Boat Restorations) replied with the following:

Below attached picture is one of many of Archie Belaney in Prince Albert National Park. That canoe looks more like a Chestnut “Bob’s” than a Peterborough Minetta.

Grey-Owl-17.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Picture from WCHA forum, http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=1326&highlight=Archie+Belaney+Grey+Owl.

So while there seems some question as to whether Archie (Grey Owl) Belaney’s canoe was a Peterborough or a Chestnut, since this was after the merger of the two companies under the auspices of  Canadian Watercraft Limited in 1923, it was very likely a wood-canvas canoe made in New Brunswick’s Chestnut Co. plant regardless of what name was on the decal on the deck….as  most of the wood-canvas canoes of both companies were made at the Chestnut factory.

The Beaver Peoplehttp://www.nfb.ca/film/Beaver_People/, a short silent film that was made about the famous conservationist, Grey Owl (born Archibald Belaney), and his wife, Angele Egwuna, who had a special talent for interacting with beavers, was made in 1928. Note: The beavers in the film may be Grey Owl’s pets, Jellyroll and Rawhide. If you watch closely, there are several scenes of Grey Owl paddling a wood-canvas canoe….first appearing alone paddling along a stream or beaver “canal” at approximately 2:18….then slapping the paddle on the water to get the beavers’ attention before he is seen to be calling the beavers (roughly2:28 to 2:38)….later he seen getting one of the beavers to come into the canoe (at 2:47 to 3:05). The canoe used seems to be an earlier Chestnut model with similar “closed” gunwales as the Morris canoes. It also looks like the beavers might have been snacking on the canoe based on the damage just below one gunwale at the centre thwart LOL LOL. Grey Owl is seen from 3:43 to 3:58 again “playing” with the beavers in the canoe….which does seem to have the lines of an early Chestnut (very similar to a Morris)….these had more recurve and higher ends than later Chestnuts.

The Beaver People

In 1929, The Beaver Family was made, http://www.nfb.ca/film/Beaver_Family/. This was a short silent film portraying Grey Owl and a family of beavers who would come when he called and take food from his hand without the slightest fear. The film is set in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The first few minutes of this film show Grey Owl again with a wood-canvas canoe. At approximately 1:20, he is seen portaging a canoe….this canoe appears to be a Chestnut, possibly a Bob’s Special with a wider beam….and appears to be the same as the canoe in the picture Dick Persson posted on the WCHA forum. At about 2:25, Grey Owl is seen paddling the canoe from a standing position; then at approximately 2:40, he is seen paddling, very much in what we know as the Canadian style today.

The Beaver Family

Here are some other picures of Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) in a canoe:

grayowl2.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl on one of his canoeing excursions. From a copy of an old postcard, http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/august_112000.htm.

Grey_Owlcanoebeaver.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Photo of Grey Owl from http://www.econet.sk.ca/sk_enviro_champions/grey_owl.html.

greyowl32.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, circa. 1931, photographer: Oliver, W.J., Calgary, Alberta, also from http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/grey-owls-canoe-paddles.html.

For more on Grey Owl and stories related to him and paddling….including canoe trips see the following (I have repeated some previous links):

http://pastforward.ca/perspectives/sep_2002.htm

http://www.mistercanoehead.com/mississagi07.html

http://www.paddlermagazine.com/issues/2000_3/article_45.shtml

http://www.bearlair.ca/greyowl.htm

http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780771055379

http://www.travelarticles.co.uk/Features/greyowl.htm

http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/pageant/04/greyowlchristmas.shtml

http://wildernesscanoe.ca/article.htm

http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/grey_owl.html

As an aside, the Paddle Making blog has a post on Grey Owl’s canoe paddles, http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/grey-owls-canoe-paddles.html, that was also posted today….great info….and I really do think that great minds must think alike LOL LOL (I had no idea that this info on Grey Owl’s paddles had been posted until I checked the Paddle Making blog….after I’d posted this blog entry originally)….I have to admit that there were some great additional pictures from Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, from a link to Tom Buttle’s travel blog, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html, on the post on Paddle Making blog….I’ve included some of them here:

10_1246029958_78-trail-sign.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trail sign, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_79-trail-sign.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trail sign, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_80-trail-sign.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trail sign, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_81-grey-owl-cabin.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl’s cabin, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_82-grey-owl-plaque.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl plaque, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_84-cabin-stove.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Cabin stove, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_87-beaver-lodge.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Beaver lodge, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_89-grey-owl-tribute.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl tribute, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

10_1246029958_86-grey-owl-paddle.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Grey Owl signed paddle, http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/tombuttle/10/1246029958/tpod.html#_.

Of course there is also Grey Owl Paddles, http://www.greyowlpaddles.com/, a world renowned Canadian paddle company.

Check out this interesting video from YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhRuWMDR4Bw&feature=related, entitled Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin Grey Owl.

 

One final sidebar: In Kevin Callan’s book A Paddler’s Guide To Algonquin Park, there is an interesting tale involving Archie Belaney. Kevin writes:

Many historical figures have made use of the Smoke Lake/Ragged Lake portage….rangers continuously used the trail while out on patrol in search of poachers.

One of the most noteworthy poachers in Algonquin was Archie Belaney (Grey Owl). In the winter of 1909, Belaney boasted to another trapper that he could head clear across Algonquin Park undetected by park rangers. It  didn’t take long for the rangers to get wind of the bet, and they quickly set out in search of the skilled woodsman, with Mark Robinson and Zeph Naden patrolling from McCraney Lake to the Oxtongue River and Bud Callighen and Albert Ranger patrolling from Cache Lake through Bonnechere Lake to Big Porcupine.

There are several reports of Belaney’s capture, but the one that seems to ring most true is that of Bud Callighen. In his diary, Callighen writes that long after dark Belaney stumbled into his and Albert’s camp. His feet nearly lost to frostbite after falling through thin ice earlier in the night, he asked the rangers for help. Belaney was escorted by all four rangers to park headquarters and was then taken to have his feet treated at Mark Robinson’s Canoe Lake shelter hut. (pp.31-32)

Of course New Year’s Day is today….and I hope to spend a few hours walking around (mainly to get some fresh air….and escape this computer for a while….or endless marathons of TV shows or college football bowls). I would love to venture out into the woods and fields of my youth (what are left of them any way….there has been a fair bit of development….especially the building of subdivisions….new homes for the lucky few who can afford an escape to the country….even one within an hour of a major city). My home town hasn’t changed that much….yet it is very different from what it was when my family first moved up here over 40 years ago. The tobogganing hill is  gone….most of the fields are gone….many being bulldozed to create building lots for houses that literally seem to be stacked side by side.

Even the access to the woods that I roamed as a kid is restricted….there are signs posted indicating ‘No Trespassing’ or ‘No Admittance’ or ‘Private Property’. Maybe there was a similar situation when I wandered through the same bushlot as a youngster….it was ‘private property’ after all….but never posted. Then again it was ‘private property’….the private refuge for myself and a few other neighbourhood kids….our personal ‘private’ place….a place where dreams could be made….where we could be explorers or fur traders braving the harsh winter of a vast land….where we could search out the wildlife….looking for tracks in the snow….or other animal signs….especially those easily seen in the winter such as bird nests on the bare limbs of trees.

The winter months were very much the time of being in the bush. There was no problem with pesty mosquitoes. We could hike across the snowy fields….even snowshoe or ski (especially on old wood skis with a bearpaw binding….that attached our rubber boots to the ski) at times. The swampy areas were frozen over….and venturing through that part of the woods was a real adventure. There were a few trees that had fallen over in the swamp….lying a cross the frozen ground with exposed roots. Some such trees became hollowed out logs with time….but even the dirt covered masses of roots, twice the height of any child….some with intricate ‘caves’….any of these creating what we were sure were perfect dens for all sorts of creatures (even bears or wolves in our earlier childhood imaginations….as we became older….and ‘wiser’ we realized they might house the odd raccoon family). There was the bramble patches that housed small animals such as rabbits….which we caught glimpses of now and then….but more often saw the distinct tracks of a rabbit in the snow:

From http://www.old-weston-past-and-present.com/animal-tracks.html.

Sometimes these tracks told a story in themselves:

A photo from http://alistairpott.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/rabbit-owl.jpg, that  as it describes: “….shows the tracks of a rabbit moving across some snow when BAM an owl nails it. You can see the wings of the attacking bird imprinted in the snow – and no more rabbit tracks…’”.

There were a number of birds seen….flocks of crows….woodpeckers tapping on dead trees, looking for a morsel of food (their location given up by the drumming of their beaks on the tree)….common winter birds such as chickadees, blue jays or even grosbeaks….even the odd ring-necked pheasant or ruffed grouse flushed out….and of course an owl or a hawk now and then seen perched in a tree or on a fence post bordering one of the many fields, just waiting for a small rodent to scurry out. One winter we even had a visitor from the Far North….a snowy owl perched on the hydro pole in our backyard….and later I found out that snowy owls came south in years when their usual food source, the lemming, had a crash in numbers.

There was also the tracks of small animals such as mice or red squirrels….even larger ones such as a fox or a deer….or what we were sure was a larger canine such as a wolf….but was more likely a neighbourhood dog….or even possibly a coyote (since they frequent the area around here….and I can hear them howl sometimes at night).

I remember seeing several animals….not just their tracks….raccoons sunning themselves in the winter daylight, high up in a tree….digging under the snow and finding the nest of dead grass that housed mice (that would live warm and snug buried under the snow)….and of course red squirrels scolding from a pine tree.

But because I was limited in time….just out for a short walk before dinner….and any way to that woodlot and fields was blocked by the restrictive signage….and chain link fences….I didn’t head out onto once familiar trails or paths. Maybe that was a good thing….because my memories of those places might not live up to what I could find. If nothing more though, just thinking of what was once ‘our place’, I remembered how fortunate I was growing up where I did. How fortunate were others who had their secret places….a local creek….a ravine….an old orchard….a pond….or woodlot. And why maybe some of today’s kids don’t have it as ‘good’ as we did at the same age.

I have often quoted Sigurd Olson here…..I find much in his thoughts and reflections that just ‘fit’ with my own. Here is Sigurd’s observations of New Year’s,http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/research/sigurd_olson/articles/columns/new_years_and_the_river–jan02.htm:

New Year’s and the River

It was ten below on New Year’s Day and I had gone to the country of my boyhood to get acquainted and to renew old associations. One of the things I knew I must see at once was the river, and though I knew it was frozen throughout most of its course, I also knew that where it ran beneath the old iron bridge, it was free. More than anything else, I wanted to see its n, the bottom with its familiar stones, to listen to the gurgle as it rippled its way over them. Even though it would be sheathed in ice and the open water shrouded with mist, though there were no birds, no humming hatch of flies, no chance of sky reflections, I still wanted to see it, for the little river meant many things to me.

I hurried along the winter road and the road was beautiful with new snow and the pines along the borders of the fields were laden with it. Even the jack pines looked strange that morning beneath their heavy load, more like spruce trees than pines, but the grandest of all were the white pines with their branches drooping close to the snow, near to breaking with the weight of it.

In a few minutes I was at the bridge, and to my joy for a hundred yards the river was open, though crowded by ice above and below. Underneath me, the water was clear and transparent, more crystalline it seemed than ever. Bronze golden nuggets of gravel moved slowly in the sunlight and in between them danced tiny irridescent bits of shell, whirling in the swift undertow, settling for a moment, only to dance again. To one side was a large unbroken clam shell, the polished mother-of-pearl flashing as it also weaved in the current. The larger rocks held their position though the sands eddied impatiently around them. I could hear the soft rippling clearly now, but as an undertone was the constant swish of ice and slush drifting continually from the solid mass above to that below trying, it seemed, to close completely what open water remained.

How alive the river was in this last open space beneath the bridge. Elsewhere it was dead, but here it was as alive as an open wound, alive and full of sound and movement, and I thought as I stood there and watched it that someday I would fulfill my dream and build a house where I could always be near it, close enough so that I could make that perennial aliveness a part of myself, so that when my mind was weary with thinking and my body of work, I could come down to the rapids and watch it and absorb some of its virility and joy.

As I walked away from the river and the swishing of the ice blended at last with the sound of the drifting snow beside the road, I was glad I came, for it did me good to know that it was free beneath the bridge. Somehow, it made me feel that the year was getting off to a good start, that there was much to look forward to, that simple things which had given happiness in the past were unchangeable and true. I went back to the farm house, back to the snow laden pines and the windswept fields I had left.

Just a few thoughts for  New Year’s Day….

….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

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 crusising, 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

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 you memory to treasure for a lifetime.” – Becky Mason

The canoe has appeared in many forms of art….in paintings by artists such as Tom Thomson….and Bill Mason certainly comes to mind….and many many others….then there’s great photography such as that by Jim Davis or Mike Monaghan….not to mention great films by Bill Mason or Justine Curgenven….even the act of paddling a canoe is seen as art (especially if you’ve seen Free-style paddling by the likes of Karen Knight or even a display of Canadian style paddling by Becky Mason….truly canoe ballet)….but the canoe is also found in other forms of art too.

On Facebook, Fiona of Badger Paddles posted on a sculpture/installation in Lewiston, Idaho called Canoe Wave….Lewiston, Idaho is where Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce tribe….Christopher Fennell created Canoe Wave, a 23-foot-tall colorful wave of canoes welded together on the bank of the Snake River. From his website Making of the Canoe Wavehttp://cfennell.com/pages/lc.html, comes this description:

For him, each canoe stands for a person, and here is a wave of them. Visually, it’s a storm of canoes. It’s a monument to Lewis and Clark who used the canoe, but also to the life of the rivers that flow through the valley. It will take 50 or more canoes to create the wave. The canoes are all aluminum, a material that will withstand the storms of ages. He discovered fiberglass would disintegrate. While 10 canoes came from the Boise area, most are from Chattanooga, Tenn., where Fennell once created a giant doorway from trees. People familiar with his work there sold him their canoes after learning of his Idaho project in local newspapers. In the process they shared stories of rapids, frostbite and other adventures in their boats, which were like old friends. “I wanted canoes that had a history to them,” Fennell says. “They wanted to retire their friend into something that would last forever.” Like most of his work, the $100,000 art piece is made from 80 percent recycled materials. As an avid outdoorsman, natural forms like waves, flora and fauna are prevalent in Fennell’s work. “It’s totally where I’m inspired. The engineer in me still looks at how nature puts things together and how man puts things together and I’m mixing the two.” Another way to put it, he says, is a beehive and a skyscraper are basically the same. “I always like to think there’s nature and civilization. If you stand off a bit, we’re all nature.”

Canoe Wave, from http://cfennell.com/pages/lc.html.

This got me to thinking about various sculptures based on the canoe….especially large installations….not public (or even private) exhibits of actual canoes….so I thought I’d post a few examples.

Bill Reid, a famous Haida artist and carver, created several such works. He even helped renew the tradition of building traditional canoes. From The Raven’s Callhttp://theravenscall.ca/en/art, a publication on Bill Reid’s art comes this by Dr. Martine Reid (an independent scholar, author, and curator):

In 1991, after five years of work, Reid and his crew of assistants completed the large bronze “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Black Canoe”) and installed it in a reflecting pool at the Canadian Chancery in Washington D.C. Its black patina represents the black argillite slate carved by the Haida people. A second casting with a green patina (“The Jade Canoe”) is installed at the Vancouver International Airport. An image of “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” was chosen to represent Canadian art and culture on the Canadian twenty-dollar banknote.

Bill Reid
“The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Black Canoe”)
1991
Bronze with black patina 
3.89 m H x 3.48 m W x 6.05 m L
Collection of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT)
Catalogue number 994.98.1
Gift of Nabisco Brands Limited, Toronto, Ontario
Photo: Glen Bullard, DFAIT

Bill Reid
“The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” (“The Jade Canoe”)
1996 
Bronze with jade patina, the second and final bronze casting
3.89 m H x 3.48 m W x 6.05 m L
Collection of the Vancouver International Airport Authority
Photo: Kenji Nagai

Both photos from http://theravenscall.ca/en/art.

The canoe as an image is often used….frequently to tie in with a historical event. In Huntsville is a sculpture to Tom Thomson that Murat V. of the Paddle Making blog wrote about in this post, Tom ThomsonCanoe & Paddle Sculpture,http://paddlemaking.blogspot.com/2010/02/tom-thomson-canoe-paddle-sculpture.html:

In front of the historic town hall in downtown Huntsville is a statue of legendary Canadian artist, Tom Thomson whose raw impressionist style marked the beginning a new era in Canadian wilderness art. His suspicious death in 1917 while paddling on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park served to increase his fame and elevated him to a sort of legendary status.


The statue was sculpted and cast by local a artist, Brenda Wainman-Goulet. It features Thomson in his characteristic wool cap painting a sketch while sitting on a tree stump. Next to him rests an overturned 12 foot canoe and a paddle…..made in ’08. The canoe was sculpted in wax, cut into sections, cast and reassembled in bronze. The total weight of the bronze canoe is 900 lbs (portage that!) and is apparently the first bronze canoe of its kind in Canada.

THEMUSEUM in Kitchener will have an installation based on the Tom Thomson story by Professor Marcel O’Gorman, PhD (Director, Critical Media Lab, Department of English, University of Waterloo), as part of the art exhibition, SEARCHING FOR TOM | Tom Thomson: Man, Myth and Masterworks. For more on this see my blog post, http://reflectionsoutdoors.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/myth-of-the-steersman-more-on-tom-thomsons-canoe/ or Marcel’s blog, http://blog.steersman.ca/.

Artist John McEwen has created several canoe related projects (in these two cases in collaboration with Steve Killing, well known boat designer, including designs of canoes and kayaks….as Steve states on his website,http://stevekilling.com/specialart.htm, regarding such work: I feel honoured to work with these artists. My task is to computer model, render, and sometimes engineer the shapes that they imagine).

A Bronze Canoe Sculpture installed in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin
Artist: John McEwen, photo from http://stevekilling.com/specialart.htm.

From http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html, Canoe And Calipers.


Photos and transcription by contributor Wayne Adam – June, 2009, from http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html.

Here is more, from http://torontohistory.org/Pages_ABC/Canoe_and_Calipers.html:

Located on the southeast corner of The Queensway and Windermere Avenue is this public art for Windemere by the Lake. The accompanying plaque has this to say:

This sculpture of Canoe and Calipers, marks the meeting of two technologies: the calipers a symbol of the old world and the canoe a gift of the First Nations. Both were instrumental in shaping Canada and on a smaller scale both refer to the history of the area — First Nations peoples and early explorers canoed Lake Ontario to the south and the Humber River to the west. Most recently the Stelco/Swansea Iron Works Factory which made nuts and bolts occupied this site.

Also in Toronto is a sculpture most know simply as The Big Red Canoe. It can be seen from the Gardiner Expressway….or travelling by GO train. Here are some photos:

Photo from http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/04/30/after-months-of-hurdles-canoe-landing-park-opens/.


Photo from http://mute.rigent.com/index.php?ladat=2009-09-29 , which is described by the photographer as: A new park in downtown Toronto situated on a large condo development. The 8 acre park was designed around the vision of author Douglas Coupland and features this over-sized red canoe pointing out over the Gardiner Expressway – Toronto’s busiest ‘river’.


Photo from Eye Weekly, http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/details/article/71921. This is the description from this website:

Canadian author and designer Douglas Coupland was in Toronto last week to launch his latest project: a park between Spadina and Bathurst among the CityPlace condos. The new as-yet-unnamed park continues Coupland’s Canadiana theme with giant fishing lures, a pathway named after Terry Fox and what will likely become a Toronto landmark: a big red canoe on a hill that points directly at the Gardiner.

Since these articles the park has been named Canoe Landing Park. That is a truly appropriate name….not only for the Big Red Canoe that is part of it….but also for the fact that Toronto began as a First Nations village, then later a fur trading post….and this is close to the access (in Toronto any way) of the portage many knew as the Toronto Carrying Place. ( NOTE: Apparently up to 10 people can fit into the Big Red Canoe….that is a lot of potential paddlers LOL LOL.)

Photo of Nuu-Chah-Nulth Whaling Canoe sculpture in Port Alberni, BC, front view, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuu-Chah-Nulth_Whaling_Canoe_sculpture_in_Port_Alberni_front.JPG.


Photo of Nuu-Chah-Nulth Whaling Canoe sculpture in Port Alberni, BC, back view, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuu-Chah-Nulth_Whaling_Canoe_sculpture_in_Port_Alberni_back.JPG.

This sculpture was originally housed in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria.

Another Canadian canoe art piece is described by Nova Craft Canoes, http://www.novacraft.com/inline_whatsup.htm:

Canadian History Up in the Air

Along with 23 Nova Craft Canoes

Our canoes can be spotted in some unusual places these days.  Two London art galleries are displaying our canoes in an exploration of Canadian history from an alternative perspective.

Underway in London is a research project entitled ‘Mapping Medievalism at the Canadian Frontier’.  Led by UWO art history professor Kathryn Brush, the project aims to introduce Canadian history to the definition of ‘medievalism’.  In the exhibition, artifacts from the European Middle Ages are mixed with Native North American objects from the same era.  The effect is to visually define the ‘Canadian Middle Ages’.

Among the Native North American objects on display is our authentic birch-bark canoe.  Normally housed in London’s Paddle Shop showroom, the canoe is now a spectacle at UWO’s McIntosh Gallery – one of three exhibition sites for Brush’s project.  Together with pre-1550 Native artifacts and other historical objects, the 16-foot replica carries the Native North American side of the visual dialogue.

Our canoes also appear in a related installation, across campus in the Visual Arts Department.  Assigned to respond to Brush’s exhibition, third-year sculpture students have begun their own exhibition, called ‘Medievaled Sculpture’.  The show takes place in the department’s ArtLAB gallery.

Inspired by our birch-bark canoe, the sculpture class decided to use canoes as the backdrop for their show.  Not just one or two, however, but 23 of our Royalex Lites are being installed in the 1600-square-foot space! Moreover, most of the canoes will be hung from the gallery ceiling.  Three people are required to hang each canoe: one to ride a Skylift up and tie ropes to steel girders 30-feet high, and two on the ground to hoist the canoe using pulleys.  The canoes are being arranged in a Gothic pattern reminiscent of medieval architecture.

Underneath the Gothic canoe ceiling, the gallery floor is covered in a collaborative drawing project.  The space in between contains the students’ sculptures, involving all sorts of materials such as clay, glass, wood, metal, feathers, lights, video, and found objects.

The reaction to ‘Medievaled Sculpture’ is that of “surprise”, says Kelly Jazvac, the class’s professor.  The exhibit is a show-in-progress; the ArtLAB gallery is open during the installation.  Closing night is Dec. 2, at which time installation will be complete.  Jazvac anticipates a large closing night crowd.

We are pleased to support the university’s research on expanding the current perception of Canadian history.  In addition to its longstanding reputation as an “icon of the Canadian wilderness”, the canoe can now be considered a symbol of the Canadian Middle Ages.

Outside of Canada are other canoe related sculptures….as I noted in the opening of this post on Christopher Fennel’s Canoe Wave. Here are some other examples:

Photo of Basalt Canoes, Smith Lake, Oregon, fromhttp://www.columbiariverimages.com/Regions/Places/smith_bybee_lakes.html.

In Las Vegas another example of an installation of canoes was erected in front of the Aria Hotel….from http://motiongroove.com/2009/12/11/not-much-to-update/, comes these photos with the following descriptions:

this a crazy sculpture at the Aria Hotel, if you look closely you will see these are all canoes, probably over 100 canoes were used for this art piece.


closer look at the canoe art piece.

In San Francisco, from http://www.artbusiness.com/1open/021210.html, comes this photo of a canoe sculpture:

From New Zealand, from a blog called Gorgeous With Attitude (a blog by a couple of Kiwi, stay-at-home mums – femivores if you like – living on opposite sides of the world….who get excited about all kinds of things from slow-food,permaculture gardening, farming and pets to art (especially public sculpture and Maori art), local history,trains, fabulous walks, nature, beautiful things in general…)http://gorgeouswithattitude.blogspot.com/2009/11/waka-sculpture.html, comes this description and photos of a very interesting sculpture:

Waka Sculpture

Miranda (NZ)

This new roundabout in Hamilton is graced with this magnificent sculpture. It represents seven waka (Maori canoes). The artist is Aucklander, Dion Hitchins in association with local Hamilton artist James Ormsby.

According to the Hamilton City Council web site, the arrangement of the seven waka represents the Kingitanga symbol of the Matariki star constellation (Maori new year). Each waka has symbols of local significance on it – such as a Kowhai flower, eels, a fire.

It`s incomplete – to be added is a cluster of tuna (eels) suspended in the shape of a hinaki (eel net). Each of the waka will be up-lit and LED lights will illuminate the symbols and the eels. The sculpture is located in a suburb of Hamilton called Rototuna (roto meaning lake and tuna meaning eels), hence the significance of eels. At the moment it`s on the outskirts of town and a bit remote, but I understand the main state highway bypass will eventually join it.

Of course this is just a sampling of canoe sculptures….there are many many more….some you may like….others you may not….I still don’t know if $100,000 is what Christopher Fennel’s Canoe Wave is worth (you could buy a lot of wood canvas canoes for that….but then it might be a good use for aluminum canoes LOL LOL)….and the canoe is truly a beautiful art form in whatever that form of art takes….whether in a sculpture or a painting or a photograph….even on its own the the canoe is a beautiful thing….especially a beautiful dream of a canoe like this:

Photo by yours truly.

In my opinion, wood canvas canoes are truly the most beautiful of canoes….and yes I’m biased LOL LOL.

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

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

Paddles up until later then….and no matter what type of canoe you prefer, enjoy the canoe as an art form….especially in the ‘wave’ of canoe sculptures.

While checking out Henri Vaillancourt’s website, Henri Vaillancourt: Traditional Birchbark Canoes, I came across his work on snowshoes….specifically Attikamek snowshoes….these are very unique snowshoes to say the least….check out this book by Henri….from Henri Vaillancourt: Making the Attikamek Snowshoe:

Making The Attikamek Snowshoe: The square-toe snowshoes of the Attikamek Indians By Henri Vaillancourt

Old Attikamek snowshoe ; circa early 1900′s

Delicate grace and meticulous workmanship, combined in a harmonious blend of function and art make the Attikamek snowshoe one of the finest examples of handmade Indian snowshoes in North America.

“While Making The Attikamek Snowshoe” describes the design, construction, and use of this highly evolved Native American implement.Discussed are the various modifications of the basic”square – toe” snowshoe style and their effect on performance — the selection and preparation of timber stock — tool manufacture and use –frame assembly — skin preparation — plain and fancy snowshoe weaving — snowshoe decoration–and Native harnesses and footgear.   176 pages, 130 illustrations, 255 photos

While Indian snowshoe making was highly developed throughout all of northern Canada and the US , it reached it’s peak of refinement in eastern Canada and Maine, where the snowshoe transcended the merely utilitarian to become fine art .In these regions, the men displayed their skill and aesthetic sensibilties in the fashioning of the snowshoe frames , where the wood staves were often bent into fanciful shapes , making them pleasing to the eye without diminishing their functionality. To the south , the front of the snowshoe was often bent in the ”square toe ” pattern and , in some areas , further hollowed along the sides to enhance the overall effect ; farther north ,snowshoe tails were given the rounded or squarish forms known as the ” beavertail” style. The making of these more elaborate frames required additional labor , and consequently greater care was expended in their weaving , as the most complex woven designs can be seen in these snowshoes ; here the women expressed their talent by incorporating beautiful geometric patterns in a mesh that was sometimes so closely woven that a matchstick would not pass through.

While Making The Attikamek Snowshoe was not written in a ”how -to ” style , it was meant to provide an aspiring craftsman the detailed information needed to reproduce the fine work of earlier generations while serving ,as much as possible, the broader scope of ethnology.

Elisabeth Flamand with the finished snowshoe painted with traditional powdered pigments ; the end sections are painted solid red and the midsection is outlined in red according to a traditional pattern ; Manouane , Quebec , 1983 ; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, photo Henri Vaillancourt

Elisabeth Flamand weaving the mid-section of a pair of square-toe snowshoes ; Manoune , Quebec 1979 ; photo Henri Vaillancourt

Weaving the mid-section of an Attikamek snowshoe ; the extra space at the tail crossbar is a decorative feature peculiar to the Attikamek ; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”; sketch , Henri Vaillancourt

“While Making The Attikamek Snowshoe” describes in detail the making of different styles of snowshoe as practiced by several elderly Attikamek Indians in the 1970′s and 80′s. A partial list of topics covered include :

the relationship of the Attikamek snowshoe to other tribal types

modifications of the basic design and their effect on preformance

“Winter and “Spring” snowshoes

“Men’s”, “Womens’s” and “Children’s” snowshoes

The different species of wood used for snowshoe frame construction and their advantages and disadvantages.

The splitting and preparation of the frame stock and a discussion of the tools used, including the making and usage of the  “crooked knife”

The bending of the frame including a discussion of ”cold bending” versus the use of hot water

The different types of animal skins used for snowshoe lacing and their advantages and disadvantages , as well as seasonal variations in skin material.

The preparation of raw hides for snowshoe material , including techniques employed during both cold and warm weather , and a discussion of the traditional tools.

Cutting and preparing the snowshoe lacing to produce a weave that will remain tight when wet

Lacing the snowshoe , including both basic weaving styles as well as the incorporation of decorative geometric patterns in the toe tail portions ; also the lacing of the mid-section with the fancy double selvage cords.

Painting the snowshoe as ornamentation

The different styles of Native snowshoe harnesses and their superiority over modern systems

A discussion of traditional moccassins and related footgear and their advantages over modern footgear for snowshoe use.

Moise Flamand pulling a square-toe snowshoe frame into shape; Manouane, Quebec 1979; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe ”, photo Henri Vaillancourt

Elizabeth working on painted snowshoe

The decorative double selvage cords in the mid-section of an old pair of fancy snowshoes,;circa early 1900′s . Double selvage cords were once a fairly common feature of the more highly finished Attikamek snowshoes ; they create distinctive bands of separation between the actual woven part of the mesh and the snowshoe frame….when combined with the double space at the rear crossbar , the woven mesh appears to float in the frame , giving the snowshoes a light and delicate appearence; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, photo courtesy of lower Ft. Garry National Historic Park

Installing the double selvage cords in a pair of fancy snowshoes; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, sketch Henri Vaillancourt

Moise Flamand splitting a yellow birch log with wooden wedges for making snowshoe frames; Manouane, Quebec 1979; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe ”; photo, Henri Vaillancourt

Moise Flamand tying the tails of a newly bent snowshoe frame, Manouane ,Quebec 1979 ; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe” ; photo Henri Vaillancourt

The start of weaving the toe of a ‘square-toe’ snowshoe. The weaving pattern is essentially the same in all parts of the snowshoe, but is modified to fit different configurations of space ; here it is modified to fill the wider square-toe section of the frame [ as compared to the more triangular tail section].From ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, sketch Henri Vaillancourt

An exceptionally finely woven snowshoe, circa pre-1926, McCord Museum collection, Montreal. The pattern is unusually complex, but might be typical of snowshoes made in earlier times: from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, photo Henri Vaillancourt

Judith Quitich and a newly woven snowshoe with geometric patterns in the toe and tail sections ; Manouane , Quebec, 1979 ; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe” photo Henri Vaillancourt

The tail weave of an old pair of highly finished Attikamek snowshoes.The woven designs have been traced over with black paint to highlight them , a technique used by other tribes as well; often the woven designs are left unpainted.Note also the double space in the midsection weave at the tail crossbar , a technique peculiar to the Attikamek; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, photo courtesy of the Lower Ft. Garry National Historic Park

Cree Indian lacing up a winter moccasin ; the strings are wound around the cloth top flaps to close them. The bottoms are made of moose or caribou skin. Warm and light , moccasins are the best footgear for use with snowshoes, allowing for a control of the snowshoe impossible with stiffer foot coverings ; Assinica Lake,Quebec 1980 ; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe” photo Henri Vaillancourt

The typical Attikamek snowshoe harness. Ordinarily made of tanned mooseskin, the harness is sometimes fashioned of lampwick, canvas strips, or cord. The same type of harness is used by the Algonquin, Ojibway and Cree Indians; from ”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”. sketch Henri Vaillancourt

The moccasined foot in place within the snowshoe harness ; with a simple twist of the foot , the snowshoes can be easily put on or taken off. The soft pliable leather or fabric straps , in combination with the soft leather moccasins, allow for a ‘feel’ and control of the snowshoe impossible with modern footgear and harnessing systems ; from”Making the Attikamek Snowshoe”, sketch Henri Vaillancourt

Because winter appears to be just starting, I thought it was worth while posting this article on a very unique snowshoe….hope you enjoyed.

Paddles up until later then….and here’s to beautiful Native snowshoes too.

One of the team of builders/support staff involved in the Fort Severn Canoe Project is Doug Ingram. When Doug was in Fort Severn,  he documented Cree paddles from that area on Facebook…..I thought I would share those here, using Doug’s description from Facebook:

The Cree paddles as documented by Adwin Tappen Adney.

Some other documented Cree paddles.  Notice the similarity to the green one from Fort Severn?

Close up of the inscription.

The flat side of the blade.

Shaped side.  For all you paddle makers out there.

Here is a photo of Doug hitching a ride in Fort Severn chief Matt Kakeskaspan’s canoe….showing more of the local paddles:

As well I had posted a photo from a book by John McFie showing a paddle being made….

“While the tradition of birch bark canoe building may be fading into history, some of this legacy is retained in modern cedar strip and canvas copies. What ever romantic name modern companies give their models, Ojibway and Algonquin Indian were their original authors” - Tim Du Vernes, Golden Lake, Ontairo

There is a video featuring Ray Mears making a birch bark canoe on YouTube. Ray Mears is a British author and TV presenter on the subject of bushcraft and survival techniques, best known for shows such as Ray Mears’ Bushcraft, a show seen here in Canada on OLN. This YouTube series on building a birch bark canoe was an episode of this show. It followed the entire process of building a bark canoe, over a nine day period. It starts out with Ray briefly visiting the Canadian Canoe Museum (in Ray’s words: “a real Aladdin’s cave” of treasures). Ray is guided through the building process by  Algonquin canoe builder, P. Smith of Pikwakanagan Indian Reserve, Golden Lake, Ontario (north of Ottawa). Mr. Smith comes from a family of canoe builders although he is identified in the show as one of the people alive to have this skill. Throughout the building process, there are segments that include Bill Mason and his daughter Becky, Kirk Wipper and William Commanda, to put perspective on the canoe in general, and birch bark canoes specifically.

RayMearsSurvival460.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Photo of Ray Mears from http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Media/Pix/pictures/2009/04/01/RayMearsSurvival460.jpg.

For more on the birch bark canoe builders of Golden Lake, see the VirtualMuseum.ca website, Canoe Builders of Pikwakanaganhttp://www.virtualmuseum.ca/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000384. Included are photos of the largest canoe built in Golden Lake by Matt Bernard.

There is also this link on Turtle Island website, the official website of the Algonquins of Greater Golden Lake First Nation Membership, to an article on the birch bark canoe, http://www.greatergoldenlake.com/bark.html. Some interesting background information.

Here is the video on YouTube of Ray Mears building a bark canoe with Pinock Smith:

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

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

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

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

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

A Recipe For Success:

STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS

An elegant accompaniment to fish.

Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.

51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar

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

2600 brass tacks

18 feet of 10 weight canvas

¾ gallon of oil base filler

3 quarts of varnish

2 quarts of paint

Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)

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

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

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

A canoe must fill many unusual requirements: it must be light and portable, yet strong and seaworthy, and it must embody practical qualities for paddle, pole, and sail. It must reject every superfluity of design and construction, yet satisfy the tastes of its owner and safely carry heavy dunnage through unpredictable conditions. These demands will be met by a builder both meticulous and clever – one who, through resourcefulness and dedicated craftsmanship, can build a canoe that will be an everlasting source of joy. It will provide pleasures that continue throughout the four seasons: loving labors that extend from spring refit through a summer and autumn of hard work and play, and on through the winter layup period of redesigning, building, and improving the canoe and its auxiliary gear.

I hope the author’s text….will impart….a proper understanding of of the creation of simple, graceful canoes. It is sad that the practical knowledge and technical skill necessary to build them has remained virtually uncommunicated. One can only hope that revealing a part of this information will result in a clearer understanding of the special bond between the traditionalist canoeist and the wood-canvas canoe. For indeed, a canoe reflects the spirit of its builder and user that develops a character more akin to a living thing than to a mere object of possession…. - Clint Tuttle (canoe builder and instructor of wooden boatbuilding), from the Foreword of Building The Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok.

Time spent in a wooden canoe of fine lines and able handling qualities is intoxicating. Restoring vintage canoes or building such craft from scratch can be consuming. It will ruin a man or a woman for any other work. This is not to dismiss all canoe builders as rapscallions, curmudgeons, or reprobates. But in the majority of cases there are the symptoms of an addiction, or at least a suspension of common sense where canoes are concerned. We are kin to the hard-bitten trout fisherman who stands out in the wind and rain breaking ice from the guides of his fly rod for a chance at an early season rainbow, or the railbird unable to resist the summons of the bugle, knowing it will be followed by the starting gun which will launch the thoroughbreds from the gates. We all know better, yet we simply can’t help ourselves. Why else would we devote our most productive years attempting to revive an industry that has not known real prosperity since before the Great Depression? Today, at long last, wooden canoes and their construction are enjoying a quiet renaissance, and this only encourages us, adding fuel to our dreams. - From the Introduction to The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow.

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

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

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

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

I have often written about the wood canvas canoe as a real art form. I thought I’d share some examples of art related to wood canvas canoes….

First  All Posters.com: David Cayless Posters includes two images of Cedar Canvas Canoe, Canada:

 

Both images by David Cayless.

Timberline Canoes: Canoe Art has an image called Cedar Moon, painted by Gordy Blair:

‘Cedar Moon’, painting by Gordy Blair.

Of course canoes figured into Tom Thomson’s story as we have seen already….and occasionally in his art. As I wrote before in Reflections On the Outdoors Naturally: Searching For Tom’s Canoe Continued….Tom Thomson: The Artist And The Canoe:

Few Thomson paintings actually have canoes in them. When he did depict a canoe, it seemed to be just part of the scenery. One such painting, simply entitled The Canoe, shows a lone grey canoe on the shore of a northern lake. But by looking at most of Tom’s smaller sketches, it is apparent that these were created from a canoeist’s perspective. Thomson often painted while he was in a canoe.   Tom included the image of a grey canoe in a couple of his paintings….could this be the same grey canoe as shown in the above photo. In December 2005 Joyner Waddington held an auction of works by Lawren Harris (a member of the Group of Seven) and Tom Thomson. These included a little-known oil sketch,  by Tom entitled Canoe and Lake, Algonquin Park, which sold for $369,600 (now that would have bought a pile of Chestnut canoes LOL LOL).


Image of Tom Thomson’s ‘Canoe and Lake, Algonquin Park’ courtesy Joyner Waddington, Joyner Waddington: Canadian Fine Art Auction Fall 2005: Tom Thomson, Canoe And Lake, Algonquin Park. Title: Canoe And Lake, Algonquin Park, oil on canvas, laid down on panel, signed Creator: Tom Thomson  7 ins x 10 ins; 17.5 cms x 25 cms  EST. $80,000 / 100,000  PRICE: $377,100.00  Painted circa 1912-13.  Provenance: Private Collection, Toronto  Literature: Dennis Reid and Charles C. Hill, Tom Thomson, Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada, Toronto and Ottawa, 2002, pages 157-169, colour plates 5-17 for related Algonquin works from the same period and of similar size and medium, in particular, for a painting entitled The Canoe (plate 6).  This work was included in Joan Murray’s catalogue raisonne of the artist’s work.

Tom Thomson also painted The Canoe in 1914, which is now in the Art Gallery of Ontario, yet another depiction of a grey canoe in Algonquin Park.


Image from Group of Seven Art.com, a fine arts reproduction company, Group Of Seven Art: Tom Thomson, The Canoe.  Note: This image incorrectly identifies this painting as from 1912.

From Jerry Stelmok: Artwork:

Begin The Carry (it usually feels like you have wings on at the beginning….)

A Bear Of A Carry (….but after a while it feels like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders)

Lining (if you don’t want to run….and don’t want to portage or wade….then line)

Reflections (NOTE: you reflect sometimes on whether you should paddle or portage)

John Kaltenhauser has a series depicting wood canvas canoes on Prints Plus Posters.com: John Kaltenhauser:

Autumn Approaching by John Kaltenhauser.

Blue Canoe by John Kaltenhauser.

Into the Mist by John Kaltenhauser.

Bill Mason once said:

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 (in reference to his painting of his favourite Chestnut canoe).

Chesnut Prospector, source: The Bill Mason Gallery (found at Red Canoes: Bill Mason: Print Gallery).

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

There are  other paintings and photographs of wood canvas canoes….and many more masterpieces in wood and canvas….these have just been a sampling….

Paddles up until later….maybe you’ll even get to paddle in an work of art.

001002004006007Mike at I & I

 

Henri Vaillancourt is well known as a birch bark canoe builder. I first learned of Henri through John McPhee’s book The Survival of the Bark Canoe….an amazing story (see John McPhee: Survival of the Bark Canoe):

The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee

In Greenville, New Hampshire, a small town in the southern part of the state, Henri Vaillancourt makes birch-bark canoes in the same manner and with the same tools that the Indians used. He selects cedar for the ribs, hardwood for the thwarts, and birch for the bark covering, on long treks through the woods in New Hampshire and Southwestern Maine. He sews them and lashes them with the split roots of spruce or white pine. No nails, screws, or rivets keep his canoes together.

The Survival of the Bark Canoe is the story of the building of birch-bark canoes and of a 150-mile trip through the Maine woods in those graceful survivors of a prehistoric technology. It is a book squarely in the tradition of one written by the first tourist in these woods, Henry David Thoreau, whose The Maine Woods recounts similar journeys in similar craft. As McPhee describes the expedition he made with Vaillancourt, he also traces the evolution of the bark canoe, from its beginnings through the development of the huge canoes used by the fur traders of the Canadian North Woods, where the bark canoe played the key role in opening up the wilderness. He discusses as well the differing types of bark canoes, whose construction varied from tribe to tribe, according to custom and available materials.

As he presents the lore of the bark canoe, John McPhee also narrates a cracking good story: of battling tenacious winds on Chamberlain Lake, of exhausting portages, of coming upon scenes of breath-taking beauty, of the slowly developing tension among the five people on the trip, of the vanity of leadership and the difficulty of following. In a style as pure and as effortless as the waters of Maine and the glide of a canoe, John McPhee has written one of his most fascinating books.

Reviews:

In his own beautifully crafted work, McPhee treats both man and boat with all the respect and admiration their precarious presence commands. –Time

Every white water and wilderness buff should rise to it like a trout, but as all followers of Mr. McPhee’s work would expect, its appeal and value cannot be so narrowly limited; it’s a lively chronicle, rich in character study and observations. –The Wall Street Journal

Here is more information on Henri Vaillancourt from his website, Henri Vaillancourt: Traditional Birchbark Canoes:

Henri Vaillancourt has been self employed builder of birchbark canoes for over 32 years. In that time he has built more than 120 canoes ranging in size from small 9′ hunting canoes to the large 24′ cargo canoes like those used during the fur trade era. His work has been sought by discriminating collectors throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. His customers include Michael Eisner – Disney, Edgar Bronfman – Seagram’s, Bill Ruger – Ruger Fire Arms, Tasha Tudor – Writer/Artist, Ohchi Canoes Museum – Shimane-Ken Japan and Epcot Center – Disney World.

Vaillancourt’s canoes have been chosen in competition for exhibits such as Craft Multiples presented at the Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution. Exhibited there form 1975 to 1976 and then circulated throughout the USA until 1979. His canoes were displayed at the Hand Wrought Object Exhibit at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and, also, the Sur Bois Exhibit at Franco-American Centre Manchester New Hampshire. The Sur Bios Exhibit is presently circulating throughout New England and is scheduled to travel to Europe.

Henri has done live demonstrations at the American Folklife Festival presented at the US Pavilion by the Smithsonian Institution during the Man and His World Exhibition – Worlds Fair in Montreal, at the Ohchi Canoe Museum in Shimane-Ken Japan, and at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Connecticut.

His work has been featured in numerous books and publications such as, The Wood Ship by David Larkin, Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok, Wooden Boat Magazine, Field and Stream, Yankee Magazine, and Readers Digest Book – Back to Basics among others.

Since 1965 Henri has been actively involved in the study of birchbark canoe construction and other aspects of Native material culture. In 1977 he and Todd Crocker founded the Trust for Native American Cultures and Crafts a non-profit organization dedicated to the recording and perpetuation of northern Native American material culture. Since that time they have collected hundreds of hours of video and thousands of color and black and white stills of bark canoe construction, snowshoe making, hide tanning, clothing and tool manufacturing. Edited programs of some of these skills including bark canoe construction, are available through the Trust for Native American Cultures and Crafts.

These birchbark canoes are constructed following the centuries-old desgns and techniques of several Indian tribes , as well as those employed by the French during the fur trade period in Canada. The covers of these canoeas are shaped from high quality birchbark selected for toughness and freedom from blemishes . The sewing and lashing is done with with black spruce root prepared to a very consistent width and thickness. The ribs , planks , and gunnels are split from white cedar and shaved with the traditional crooked knife, the primary woodworking tool of the Indian canoe maker .The crooked knife , along with the axe and awl , comprise the primary tools for constructing these canoes .

For more detailed information on the construction of these canoes by Henri Vaillancourt , read the description below by Jerry Stelmok:

From ’ The Wood and Canvas Canoe ‘ by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow, The Harpswell Press, Gardiner , Maine:

Birchbark Origins

At the zenith of its development in the 19th century was a refined, func­tional, and beautiful watercraft reflecting the ingenuity, woodscraft, and artistic expression of a resourceful people acquired over thousands of years. The white cedar plank­ing and framing formed a marvelously flexible hull, which was protected and waterproofed by an incredibly durable skin, all lashed together by split spruce root into a form designed to maximize utility, while still pleasing the eye. Not every Indian in a village would build canoes, and the craftsmen within each tribe developed a definite style which was handed down through the generations. Little refinements by certain individuals of long ago can still be recognized by Henri’s practiced eye.

According to Vaillancourt, the very finest canoes were built by the eastern Abenaki Indians, principally crafts­men of the Malecite, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribes. The farther west one researches, the less likely one is to find this consistent quality, though this is not to say there were no skilled craftsmen among such tribes as the Ojibway and Algonquin. The Cree of the Romaine region of Quebec were the equals of the Abenaki in the basic con­struction of their canoes, even though the materials avail­able to them were far inferior — a testimony to superior craftsmanship which Henri can readily admire. But he points out the northern canoes lacked the artistic details which made the Abenaki canoes so remarkable.

Tools and Material

The tools of a birchbark canoe builder are few and sim­ple, and all the materials are available growing in most forests of the boreal regions of North America — although today truly fine materials are seldom found all in one small area. Because he is particular, Henri Vaillancourt ranges a fair distance for his own materials. Quality birchbark in quantities sufficient for his needs can be found in his own Granite State. His definition of quality gets more precise each year. It has come to mean a single sleeve of bark %” in thickness, free of blemishes, long and wide enough to con­tain a 15′ canoe without the addition of panels sewn onto the sides to accommodate the girth. It is a tall order to fill, and requires the careful felling (with a chainsaw these days) of a tree with a straight 24″ trunk diameter, free of branches for about 20′. Once the tree is down, Henri slits the skin with a knife and using a square of thick bark with a chisel edge cut into it, removes the bark in one piece. He gathers his bark in June or July when the bark peels the easiest; so easily in fact, that it ofen takes no more than five minutes to slip the bark from the trunk, and one hour would be an uncommonly long struggle even with a diffi­cult tree.

Once removed, the bark is rolled up, inside out (for that, of course, is how it will go on the canoe , and carried out. It may be stored indefinitely before being used. The best bark comes from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, the Mari-times, Quebec, and eastern Ontario, but suitable birches grow west as far as Minnesota.

Henri has been cutting his white cedar in Maine, be­cause he has access to a good supply that is convenient to get at, while he visits friends. The trees he takes vary from 12″ to 18″ in diameter, and just as with the birch, he looks for straight trees without twists, free of knots. When he uses cedar for the gunwales, he may split out sections up to 20′ in length, but since the planking in a Vaillancourt canoe is butted amidships, 10′ sections are all he normally needs for this use. The ribs, rarely more than 4′ long, can be split from short butt ends of otherwise unsuitable logs. With the cedar down and cut to length, Henri inserts wooden wedges into a line of notches he has made the length of the log with his axe. From experience, he has a pretty good idea where this initial split should be started. He is usually right, and a few good whacks on the wedges in series normally lays the log open into two roughly sym­metrical halves. These are split once or sometimes twice more, then the heartwood is removed from the sections. Normally further splitting of these sections takes place back in Greenville, but Vaillancourt frequently splits out the rib stock into rough frames right in the woods, result­ing in less bulk to carry out and home. The froe splits the cedar roughly along the growth rings, and the resulting ribs have perfectly flat grain. When spruce (the choice among Indian builders north of the white cedar belt) is substi­tuted, the sections are actually split across the growth rings, resulting in vertical-grain or “quarter-sawn” planking and ribs. Cedar may be split in this manner as well, but traditionally it was not and Henri sees no advantage to the method. He avoids the active sapwood just beneath the bark, because even in the white cedar, this young wood is prone to decay.

Henri likes the extra strength provided by spruce gun­wales, but finds the spruce less willing than cedar to take the sharp upward bends at the ends of some of his models. Therefore, he takes the best tree of either species he happens to find while getting his rib and plank stock.

The other material gathered directly from the forest is spruce root, which is used in the critical lashing and sew­ing processes. Henri prefers root from the black or red spruces, but admits jack pine and red pine, as well as white spruce root are acceptable. The roots grow just beneath the forest floor, and he delights in finding a spruce grove with sphagnum moss carpeting beneath, because the roots are easy to pull and grow unobstructed into long straight lengths ideal for splitting. Typically the root Henri digs is 1/4″ in diameter and is immediately stripped of its skin. It is then rolled up and taken home for splitting, and may be stored for long periods before using so long as it is first soaked in water.

Back home, Henri finishes splitting out the cedar plank­ing using first the froe, then a knife, peeling off 1/4′-thick strips, which he dresses with his crooked knife until they are nearly as smooth and uniform as finished lumber from the mill. The Indians used crooked knives of bone, switch­ing to iron and steel as soon as these materials become available. Some knives do indeed have a curved or a hooked blade, but most have a short, straight blade and the name crooked knife derives from the distinctively “bent” handle. To use the knife, the builder holds the stock to be worked against the body trunk, grasps the crooked knife in an underhand grip with the thumb extended along the handle with the other hand, and draws it into the work toward his body in long even strokes. Wood may be removed very quickly in this manner, but there is enough control so that very light, even shaving may also be accomplished. Henri can use his knife to turn out a beautifully carved paddle or a thwart in a surprisingly short space of time. He makes his own blades from file steel and has at least two knives handy all the time, each ground differently for heavy and light shaving.

The 40 or so ribs that will go into the canoe are similarly dressed to3/8″ in thickness, 3-1/2″ wide in the middle taper­ing to about 2 1/2r at each end. In the canoe the wide ribs form an almost solid floor over the planking, offering a clean appearance, increased durability, and a fairer hull. Wide ribs were traditional in many Indian canoes, and Henri feels their advantages far outweigh the drawbacks.

Bent like a mantis over its prey, Henri deftly splits the root into two identical half-oval strands which part be­neath his fingers and coil off to the sides. By carefully bending the whole root just beyond the split, he can influ­ence the rift — keeping it from wandering off to one side and shearing off. The larger root may have to be split a second time to produce a strand with the fineness he re­quires for his sewing.

The l-1/4″ inwales are prepared green — squared and smoothed, the ends tapered in width and depth, and a chamfer cut along the bottom inside corner to receive the beveled tops of the ribs. Next, they are lashed temporarily to crosspieces which hold them opposed to one another exactly as they will be in the canoe. From above you can see the plan view, showing exactly how wide the beam will be and how quickly the width will diminish toward the stems. The vertical rise of the sheerline at the ends is achieved by weighting the center of this structure on the ground, and in stages bending the ends of the gunwales upwards and prop-ring them up. Saturating the green wood with water helps keep stubborn wood from breaking during this process, which might take a week or more on more pronounced sheerlines. Once properly bent, the gunwales are left on their crude form to cure, until their tendency to straighten back out diminishes.

On canoes with extremely high tight curves at the bow, such as those of the Ojibway and Algonquin, even this tedious process is inadequate to safely form the gunwales into the proper configuration. To achieve these abrupt curves, the builder must actually split the ends of the gunwales into several layers or laminates, which are then easily bent and lashed in place.

Once it has cured, the gunwale framework is completed by replacing the temporary crosspieces with the perman­ent thwarts. The thwarts are carved from birch or ash with the crooked knife. In a Vaillancourt canoe, as in the finer Indian examples, they can be pieces of sculpture in them­selves. Although flat along the bottom surface, the top of the thwart is carved into a gentle camber, the depth dimin­ishing from about 3/t” in the center to just over half that thickness at the tenon on the ends. In plan view the thwarts are wide in the center, narrow considerable in the quarters, then flare out again to their greatest width at the very ends. This graceful curve is highlighted by a tradi­tional square decoration at the thwart’s narrowest point. Mortises are cut into the inwales, wooden pegs driven through the joint, and the whole lashed neatly together the spruce root.

White men building canoes for the fur trade brigades employed wooden platforms or beds on which the bark was laved out and the building begun. Vaillancourt sticks to the Indian method of building the canoes right on the ground. He does, however, use a building frame in addition to the gunwale structure, a flat representation of the shape of the bottom of the canoe, around which the bark is bent up to form the sides. The building form is in two sections to facilitate its removal once the gunwales and thwarts are installed.

After cleaning and scraping the bark smooth, Henri rolls rolls it out on the ground. The building frame is placed on the sheet to maximize the best portions of the bark, and then .’weighted down. The bark is softened with water and the edges are folded up to form the sides, held in place by stakes driven into the ground along the perimeter of the shape.

If the bark isn’t wide enough to reach the proposed gunnels amidships, Henri will neatly sew in panels on each side to symmetrically achieve the desired girth. Because of the complex curves of the canoe — especially one in which the sides tumblehome” — vertical wedges or “gores” must be cut along the sheerline to prevent the bark from bulging as the canoe takes shape. Once the gore is cut out, the V is closed and sewn shut. Henri seals all the seams from the inside as well as the outside. He prefers a mixture made from rosin, grease, and linseed oil to either natural pitch or a substitute he used on his earlier canoes which consisted of roofing tar and kerosene. The rosin-based sealer has been around at least since Thoreau traveled the Maine woods with his Penobscot Indian guide, Joe Polis, making it tradi­tional enough to suit Henri. It is also very effective, goes on neatly when properly heated, and over time, shrinks unob­trusively into the lashed seams.

The gunwale-thwart structure is next lashed into place, along with the small outside gunwale or cap which is about l-3/8″ wide, chamfered along the bottom outside edge. To accomplish the lashing, Henri pierces the bark with an awl and neatly winds several turns of root around the gunwales and bark with just enough space between lashings to ac­commodate the tops of the ribs.

Vaillancourt makes the stems from cedar — splitting a 1 “-square length into several laminations for three quarters of its length, bending them to the desired shape and lashing them together. The Malecite models Henri prefers display a simple but handsome profile, with the prow somewhat undercut and the moderate curve flared forward at the sheer. The top of the stem is visible between the protruding inwales, and the unsplit butt of the stem ends at the first rib. The stem is installed, and the ends of the canoe are sewn up before the ribs and planking are put in.

The 1/4″ planking in a Vaillancourt canoe varies from 4″ to l-1/2″ in width. Each plank is tapered toward the ends, offering a neat, orderly pattern of lines on the inside. Henri squares the ends and butts them flush beneath the center rib, rather than shaping the butts to a point and overlap­ping them, which is another popular method. The planking along the bottom is neatly laid into place before the ribs are installed, but the topside planks can be fitted only after there are enough ribs in place to hold them tightly against the bark.

Bending a set of satisfactory ribs for a birchbark canoe takes a practiced eye and great skill. There are no forms or jigs to assure consistency, and the final results are largely dependent upon the builder’s ability to derive accurate compound curves mentally, simply by looking at the wall-sided bark shape on the ground before him, and his dexter­ity in duplicating these images in the frames he is bending. During the process the hard-chined birchbark box must be transformed into a rounded, fair watercraft by the addition of these formed arches, and no one accomplishes this more carefully or with better results than Vaillancourt.

Henri uses a copper boiler to boil up the ribs, and when they are sufficiently supple removes them in pairs. Using either his foot or his knee as a fulcrum, he holds the ribs by both ends and carefully bends the wood to resemble what he projects to be a cross section of the canoe. The ends are then tied together, and five more ribs of decreasing girth are bent in the same manner and nested inside the first, forming a bundle of six bent ribs. It takes seven or more of these bundles to frame out a canoe, and to assure symme­try, each succeeding rib from a bundle will be placed in the opposite end of the canoe. It is the careful fitting of these ribs, sprung under tension with the ends held beneath the gunwales, that not only holds the planking in place, but also fills out the bark to a smooth configuration.

The ribs are allowed to cure in their bundles for up to a day before they are placed in the canoe. Once a rib is cut to its exact length, and a bevel cut along the two top edges, Henri puts it into the canoe, tilting it slightly until the ends fit into the chamfer on the underside of gunwale. Then, using a wooden maul and hammer, he drives the rib into its permanent position. He completes planking up the sides (all the way to the sheer) once there are enough ribs in place to sufficiently hold the planking in place against the bark. Then, one by one, all the ribs are installed to his satisfaction. Frequently a rib that doesn’t fit closely enough is removed for further soaking and rebending. This truing up and adjustment of the frames can be very time consuming, but Vaillancourt says it is absolutely neces­sary to achieve the fair hulls and taut bark skin which are among the trademarks of his work.

Final Details

At this time, the canoe may be turned over and the outside of the seams treated with pitch. The decks on a birch canoe are pieces of bark bent over the ends which are sandwiched between the inner and outer gunwales, the edges protruding from beneath the outwales a couple of inches. This flap is cut in an attractive pattern, and Henri further decorates the overlap with “winterbark work” — a type of etching process in which the thin, tough, brownish skin of the very inside of a bark is scraped away in a manner that forms a contrasting pattern or design against the lighter layer underneath.; the headboard — a small bulkhead arrangement near each end — is carved from cedar and notched to fit into the butt of the stem at the bottom and between the gunwales at the sheer, In profile the headboard is slightly arched to­ward the stem. The space ahead of the headboard is filled with moss to help the bow keeps its shape — especially critical in canoes with tumblehome in the ends.

A 1/4″-thick cap piece wide enough to cover both inside and outside gunwales and the lashings is then installed along the sheerline with wooden pegs or square-cut nails. Henri says that the cap not only gives the canoe a finished appearance, but also protects the lashings and adds rigidity to the sheerline. It prevents the gunwales from relaxing between the thwarts in subsequent years — forming hard spots at each crosspiece.

Henri has never painted the interior of one of his canoes, but in the 19th century it was not an uncommon practice, and he wouldn’t mind doing it if it were requested by a customer. Naturally, most bark canoe aficionados relish the rich, natural appearance of wood itself. He does lay on a coat of oil and turpentine, which accentuates the tone and highlights the contours in the new canoe as well as affords some protection. The bow of the canoe is often decorated with a painted fleur-de-lis or other appropriate symbol, and simple designs are sometimes painted in Indian fashion on the panels sewn in along the sheer.

16′ old-form Algonquin birchbark canoe with the squared end bow variation

14 foot Abnaki style birchbark canoe

18 foot Fur – Trade style birchbark canoe

All photos from Henri Vaillancourt’s website.

As noted, Henri’s canoes are found all over the world….in fact one was found by James Raffan in a pawn shop in Edmonton Alberta….definitely a weird place for a canoe of any kind….especially one of Henri’s.

Paddles up until later then….and check out more on this fine craftsman, Henri Vaillancourt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting the Rapids

Shooting the Rapids

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

Voyageurs at Dawn

Voyageurs at Dawn

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

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

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

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

THE VOYAGEUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.

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

La V’la M’amie

Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I

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

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

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

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

Chorus

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

Chorus

J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle

Chorus

Paddle Like Hell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

sov.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler

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

Table of Contents

The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce

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

Table of Contents

Canot d'Ècorce Album Cover

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

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

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

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

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

TRAPPERS AND TRADERS

Summary

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

FUR TRADE GAME

Summary

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

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

phoca_thumb_l_47.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trading Post

phoca_thumb_l_36.jpg phoca_thumb_l_35.jpg

North Canoe, laden with trade goods.

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

Here are some opinions on using a tumpline to portage:

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

First of all the author makes these comments:

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

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

Then he describes using a tumpline:

The Tump Strap

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

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

There is a great explanation on using a tump for portaging….specifically a wood canvas canoe….from Camp Nomiinigue in Quebec….at Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line. (NOTE: More on these two articles later in this post.)
Further discussion on using a tumpline is found at A Lecture On Tumplines:
The absolute best contemporary discussion of the tumpline I have ever read is in Garrett Conover’s 1991 work, “Beyond the Paddle.” This book is still in print, and while most of it concerns advanced canoe techniques, the section on tumplines is clear and concise. Conover is a huge advocate of the tumpline, and several photographs along with the text show his recommended techniques for use. Conover recommends a tumpline with some form of adjustment between each end of the headstrap and the longer load-lashing straps. “My guess is that those who are vehemently opposed to the tumpline are those who have never used one without taking the time to fine-tune and ensure a proper fit,” he says. “This is the fussiest point in the tumpline equation and requires some patience and experimentation to get right. If one never experiences getting it right, then the anguished howling and abject misery is easy to sympathize with and is entirely justifiable. A tumpline adjusted even a fraction of an inch too long or too short is indeed aggravating beyond belief.”
As Kevin Callan notes in The Pain of Portaging | How To Articles – GuideLines: Paddling.net:  A tump strap can help spread the stress of the load and stops the canoe from slipping down your back. Take note, however, that a tump may not be for everyone. By resting the weight directly on the spine, neck muscles are essential.
There have been several discussions on using tumplines on SoloTripping.com, such as  Tumplines: good, bad, yes, no.
In that discussion on SoloTripping.com, I also posted the following:
Murat V. wrote the best of all articles online in his excellent Paddle Making (And Other Canoe Stuff) on tumplines and using them to portage a canoe:
Murat also posted about these as well on SoloTripping.com….Song of the Paddle forum….and likely elsewhere (I’m sure I saw other posts by Murat on other canoe related forums)….in Part 3 of this excellent series, Murat covers the use of the tump in portaging a canoe….he mentions many of the same sources I’ve already pointed out in my previous post here….any way, I think Murat says it all in his three part series….
In Paddle Making (and other canoe stuff): Canoe Tump Project – Part 3: Using the Rig, Murat mentioned the two articles I had previously referred to….as Murat points out about the article, How to Portage a Canoe !:
This article by a canoe tump enthusiast suggests a contoured centre yoke is a horrible innovation. His method requires the replacement of the “stinky” centre yoke with 2″ diameter round aluminum tubing. Might work for him but not going to happen with my boat.
He continues with a great discussion on the other article previously mentioned, Portaging A Heavy Canoe With A Tump Line from a presentation made at Canoecopia 2007-2008 by Camp Nomingue staff:
 This full colour, clearly written article outlines all the technical aspects although they tend to use canvas & cord based tumps. Interesting that their lashing method involves securing the tump cord 1.5 inches ahead of the actual centre thwart.

Camp Nominigue Setup 

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

NW Woodsman Tump Pics

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

One Native Tump Method

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

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

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

Grips lashed in; Blades secure; the final setup

Canoe tump portage

The results: I’m totally impressed with the use of tumpline. While my boat isn’t a heavy beast to begin with, the tump and paddle setup really make for an seemingly lighter carry. I walked around the property with the canoe (including uphill) to a parking lot area drawing some funny looks from neighbours and while it wasn’t an authentic bush portage, the tump carry did make a difference on the shoulders. From a safety standpoint, if I slightly shrugged my shoulders up and tilted my head back, the tump would slip off and roll backwards because of the way it was lashed in. A simple hand motion would swing the tump back into place onto the top of the head so it is relatively easy to get in and out if needed.Especially significant was the ability to let go of the paddles and rest the arms while the tump & shoulders balanced the boat. Also, with the bulk of the weight borne by the tumpline, you only really need one hand to secure the boat while moving. To take the picture above, I set up a sawhorse in the driveway, placed the camera on it, set it on a 10 second delay and walked into position, all the while efforlessly balancing the canoe with the tumpline. It may have its critics, but for me, I can see the potential in this piece of gear.
I hope Murat forgives me for using so much material from his blog on the use of the tumpline in portaging a wood canvas canoe….as I stated in the SoloTripping forum:
….in Part 3 of this excellent series, Murat covers the use of the tump in portaging a canoe….he mentions many of the same sources I’ve already pointed out in my previous post here….any way, I think Murat says it all in his three part series….
Let me close with a few thoughts previously mentioned on portaging here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olson reminiscences fondly for both lakes and portages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aerial view showing the industries of downtown Peterborough, circa 1918

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

Cover of book by Ken Brown that is very useful.

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

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

Introduction

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

Origins of the Industry

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

OntarioCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

Birth of the Peterborough Canoe Company

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

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

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

Birth of the Canadian Canoe Company

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

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

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

 

Growing Pains…

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

The William English Canoe Company  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peterborough: Canada’s Boat Building Capital

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

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

Decline of the Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Canoe Companies in the Peterborough Region

The Herald Canoe Company

heraldcanoeco.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

RiceLakeCanoeCompany.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

Heraldemployees.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

The “Canadian”

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

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

Pioneers in the Field

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

canoe_02_dherald.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

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

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

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

The Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe

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

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Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe, ca 1880.

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

canoe_06_canstamp.jpg

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

Building A Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different Strokes

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

canoe_09_cedar.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

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

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

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

I have been rereading Building The Maine Guide Canoe By Jerry Stelmok (this is a direct link to the online book from Google.com). This was one of the first books on building wood canvas canoes….it was followed by The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance that was written by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow.

Building The Maine Guide Canoe had a foreword by Clint Tuttle, a canoe builder and instructor of wooden boatbuilding. Clint shared his thoughts on wood canvas canoes, which included the following:

A canoe must fill many unusual requirements: it must be light and portable, yet strong and seaworthy, and it must embody practical qualities for paddle, pole, and sail. It must reject every superfluity of design and construction, yet satisfy the tastes of its owner and safely carry heavy dunnage through unpredictable conditions. These demands will be met by a builder both meticulous and clever – one who, through resourcefulness and dedicated craftsmanship, can build a canoe that will be an everlasting source of joy. It will provide pleasures that continue throughout the four seasons: loving labors that extend from spring refit through a summer and autumn of hard work and play, and on through the winter layup period of redesigning, building, and improving the canoe and its auxiliary gear.

I hope the author’s text….will impart….a proper understanding of of the creation of simple, graceful canoes. It is sad that the practical knowledge and technical skill necessary to build them has remained virtually uncommunicated. One can only hope that revealing a part of this information will result in a clearer understanding of the special bond between the traditionalist canoeist and the wood-canvas canoe. For indeed, a canoe reflects the spirit of its builder and user that develops a character more akin to a living thing than to a mere object of possession….

Check out the preface in Building The Maine Guide Canoe By Jerry Stelmok (this link will take you to an online version of the book)….Jerry weaves an interesting ‘tale’ of the Cosmic Planetwright and how the wood canvas canoe came to be….and was ‘lost’, especially with the manufacturing of aluminum and sythetic canoes….even if for only a while. This has to be read to be fully understood….merely quoting from the preface wouldn’t do it justice. I truly love Jerry’s bend on wood canvas canoes.

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow picks up on this theme. This book is described in a review from The Essential Wood Canoe Enthusiasts Library, which also makes up part of A Canoe Reading List, found elsewhere on this blog:

The essential reference for anyone interested in wood canoes. Mainly a building guide for new canoes, also covers restoration, history, and capsule summeries of selected manufacturers. Includes plans for Rollin’s Cheemaun, Atkinson Traveler and Whisper canoes.

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide To Its History, Construction, Restoration, And Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow is part history, part manual for construction, restoration and maintenance of this classic and lovely type of canoe. The book does contain complete plans for building various models of canoes….but more than anything the fine drawings, photos and writing make it the last word on the subject of wood canvas canoes.

The introduction starts off with the following:

Time spent in a wooden canoe of fine lines and able handling qualities is intoxicating. Restoring vintage canoes or building such craft from scratch can be consuming. It will ruin a man or a woman for any other work. This is not to dismiss all canoe builders as rapscallions, curmudgeons, or reprobates. But in the majority of cases there are the symptoms of an addiction, or at least a suspension of common sense where canoes are concerned. We are kin to the hard-bitten trout fisherman who stands out in the wind and rain breaking ice from the guides of his fly rod for a chance at an early season rainbow, or the railbird unable to resist the summons of the bugle, knowing it will be followed by the starting gun which will launch the thoroughbreds from the gates. We all know better, yet we simply can’t help ourselves. Why else would we devote our most productive years attempting to revive an industry that has not known real prosperity since before the Great Depression? Today, at long last, wooden canoes and their construction are enjoying a quiet renaissance, and this only encourages us, adding fuel to our dreams.

As the introduction concludes, the authors hope to impart a small portion of the essence of these wonderful craft that goes beyond cedar and canvas, tacks and bolts – the enchantment of boats so well adapted to the moods of our waterways, they seem a part of them.

These two books are important additions to any paddler’s library….especially if you love wood canvas canoes. Check them out.

Paddles up until later then.

From Community Canoe Project Campaign:

Welcome to the Community Canoe crowdfunding campaign

My name is Ranger Aidan, and I’d like to put a Community Canoe Garden in your neighbourhood!

What’s a Community Canoe Garden? As part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, our plan is to take old canoes that are no longer seaworthy and repurpose them as bee-friendly garden planters.

The Community Canoe Gardens will be installed in parks along the corridor of the old Garrison Creek. And they will be filled with native flowers that are really good for birds, bees and butterflies.  Listen to our interview on CBC’s Metro Morning.

Our Goal

Our goal is to raise $5,000 so we can establish a network of 12 Community Canoe gardens. This money will be used to buy old canoes, plus soil, plants, mulch and other materials.

And we need your help. Not only will you be helping to change the landscape of the city, check out the amazing perks for your generous support (see some pictures below)!

Why are we doing this?

Well, we love canoes. And not only do they look awesome filled with native plants and flowers, the Community Canoe Garden network will support local bees, butterflies and other pollinators that help ensure our fruits, veggies and herbs are abundant and healthy.

Please join us in this project. Together, we can build the Community Canoe Network. And please note that the Community Canoe Garden Network is just the beginning. Working with residents, community groups, the city, and local paddling businesses, our grand ambition is to establish Community Canoe as a service similar to bixi bikes, but for canoes. We want to help make it easier for residents to explore Toronto’s waterfront and waterways. Imagine adding a paddle down the Humber or the Don to your commute, or taking a canoe trip along the waterfront!

Please help bring canoes back to the city by showing your support for Community Canoe – a “park service” of the Homegrown National Park.

Warmly,

Ranger Aidan Homegrown National Park Project

Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Video footage provided by Greg Francis and Marianna Angotti

 

Check out pictures of some of the rewards:

Pins:

T-shirts:

Good News For a Change book by David Suzuki & Holly Dressel:

The Nature Principle book by Richard Louv:

Plant Guide by the David Suzuki Foundation:

A virtual high five:

One half community canoe which will become a garden:

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) 

“The traditional way of education was by example, experience, and storytelling. The first principle involved was total respect and acceptance of the one to be taught, and that learning was a continuous process from birth to death. It was total continuity without interruption. Its nature was like a fountain that gives many colours and flavours of water and that whoever chose could drink as much or as little as they wanted to whenever they wished. The teaching strictly adhered to the sacredness of life whether of humans, animals or plants.” - Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder

“Native people feel they have lost something and they want it back. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when I talk about going back over there, that we stay over there. You have to get those teachings and pick up those things that we left along the way. The drums, the language, the songs are all scattered around. We need to bring them into this time. You need these things to teach your children today in order to give them that direction and good feelings about who they are. They need to know where they are going. It doesn’t mean we have to go back to living in teepees. You can be a traditionalist and be comfortable wherever you are.” - Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder

Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there. - William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

As William Commanda, Elder from the Algonquian Nation and keeper of the sacred wampum belts, said in the opening of his June 10, 2010 message to the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed:

I have been blessed by the guidance and strength of the Sacred Wampum Belts of our Anisninabe ancestors to assert their presence over the past forty years, and many, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have been awakened to our history, wisdom and relevance in these times of unprecedented global uncertainty and chaos. But in our traditional way of thinking, the individual is only a cornerstone of a community, and we must bring our individual strengths together to recreate the strong communities we developed in the past. I have often said that Indigenous Peoples are the only ones who have never gone elsewhere to make new homes, we are at home here; we maintain the sacred unbreakable connections with Mother Earth, and we have to assert this reality with even greater vigour and perseverance in these times of war and strife, climate change and environmental crisis. Without doubt, Mother Earth’s voice is loud now, and she is calling urgently to draw us back to her. We have a crucial role to play in restoring balance on Earth, and our Earth based and cyclical ways of thinking have a vitally important role to play in human evolution and growth. We can all see the huge deficit and spiritually bankrupt legacy looming in the global landscape.

Let me finally add these words of William Commanda:  “we need this old knowledge in our teachings to get through this new age”.

 

 

From Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign:

Epic Canoe Trip

From July 27 – August 9

CelebrateCanoersSmall

A focal point of the year-long educational and advocacy Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign will be a symbolic “enactment” of the treaty in the summer of 2013. We will bring the treaty to life with Haudenosaunee and other Native People paddling side-by-side with allies and supporters down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City. These two equal, but separate rows will demonstrate the wise, yet simple concept of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. 

Itinerary and Map

Our itinerary is set for the 13 day trip down the Hudson River this summer.  See below or download the Schedule (pdf) At each of our stops, we will need logistical assistance from local supporters.  Below the list of ideas for ways to provide support is the current, nearly-final itinerary.  If you can help at a particular location, please contact the appropriate person directly.  If you have more general ideas/suggestions/offers of assistance, you can contact Andy Mager or Lena Duby. We will generally be leaving each morning as the tide is going out which will typically be between 10 and 11 daily.

Ways You can Help

  • Provide and/or arrange for housing for people who aren’t able to camp
  • Identify potential overflow camping areas if we fill up our spots
  • Assist with on the ground logistical support, setting up for events/camping, directing people to park, running errands, setting up signs, be part of our “leave no trace” cleanup crew…
  • Raise funds to help support the journey
  • Solicit donations of food from area stores and farmers
  • Bring food and/or arrange for others to do so to our breakfast, lunch or dinner spots
  • Assist with transport/pickup of new people joining us, help identify places where cars can be left
  • Help with publicity and media relations, both before and during the event. Contact Lindsay Speer.
  • Help organize an event for us in your community when we arrive, including seeking support and welcome from local leaders
  • Help fill two specific requests:  A pontoon boat or other boat with a flat deck -and a captain!- to assist the media team, and a solar device-charging station.  (Keeping media team’s computers, cell phones, and cameras charged is a key logistical challenge)

Our Itinerary

Revised 7/19/2013

Saturday, July 27 Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign Send-off Celebration Festival* Festival @ Russell Sage College, 65 1st St, Troy, NY (map) 10 am – 5 pm Key contact: Kevin Nephew or Lori Quigley Camping Site: River St. and Division St. Troy, NY (map)

Sunday, July 28: From Rensselaer Boat Launch  (Gather 10 am, launch 10:45) Launch @ Rensselaer Boat Launch 20 Forbes Ave, Rensselaer, NY (map) Lunch @ Henry Hudson Park, Barent Winne Rd & Lyons Rd, Selkirk, NY 12158 (map) Land @ Schodack Island State Park, 1 Schodack Island Way, Schodack Landing, NY (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Schodack Island State Park For launch, Key contact: Andy Mager Key contact for site: Allison Smith

Monday, July 29: From Schodack Island State Park  (launch 10 am) No lunch stop: Lunch on the river Land @ Coxsackie Village Park, Betke Blvd & S. River St (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Coxsackie Village Park Sharing the River of Life, 7 pm Key contact: Allison Smith, Local Contact: Vernon Benjamin

Tuesday, July 30: From Coxsackie Village Park (launch 10 am) Lunch @Athens, 2nd St & N Water Street Athens, NY Land @ Dutchman’s Landing, (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camping site @ Dutchman’s Landing Protecting the River of Life, 7 pm, @ Catskills Point Park 1 Main St, Catskill, NY 12414 Key contact: Allison Smith, Local contact Sue Rosenberg

Wednesday, July 31: Launch from Catskill (launch 10 am) Lunch @ Malden-on-Hudson, End of Riverside Drive Land @ Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing Park Co Rd 37/Ulster Landing Rd (entrance) 934 Co Rd 37 / Ulster Landing Road, Saugerties, NY 12477 (map) (arrive 4:30 pm) Camp site @ Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing Park Indigenous Rights and African-American Freedom Struggles, 7 pm. Key contact: Allison Smith, local contact Sally Bermanzohn

Thursday, August 1: From Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing  (launch 9:30 am) Lunch and Event @ Hudson Maritime Museum, Kingston*, 11-2:30 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY (map) (paddlers arrive about 12:30 pm) Land @ Margret Norrie State Park, 9 Old Post Road, Staatsburg, NY 12580 (map) (arrive 6:30 pm) Camping site @ Margret Norrie State Park Key contact: Terry Eckert, local contact Tania Barricklo and Karin Wolfe

Friday, August 2: Launch from Margret Norrie State Park (launch 11 am) Land @ Poughkeepsie at Hudson River Rowing Association Dock, 270-272 N Water St, Poughkeepsie, NY (map) Camping site @ Hudson River Rowing Association Dock Lacrosse: The Creator’s Game Presentation, 5:30 pm Key contact: Jack Manno, local contacts Paul Gorgen and Stephanie Santagada Wells

Saturday, August 3: Launch from Poughkeepsie* (launch 10 am) Event @ 9:30 am: Welcome on the Walkway Gathering to Welcome Paddlers and Unity Riders to mid-Hudson Valley: Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, Poughkeepsie Entrance: 61 Parker Avenue Poughkeepsie, NY 12601; Highland entrance: 87 Haviland Road  Highland, NY 12528 website: http://www.walkway.org Lunch @ Marlboro Yacht Club, End of Dock Road, Marlboro, NY website: http://mycboatclub.com/ Land @ Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY Directions to landing site: from Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, go 1.8 miles south on Route 9D, right on Beekman St., Right on Red Flynn Drive then immediate left on Long Dock Rd. Beacon Two Row Wampum Festival at Riverfront Park, Beacon, NY, 11 am – 8 pm (for directions, see http://beacontworow.org/directions/) Campsite @ David Eberle’s land, 35 Slocum Rd, Beacon, NY 12508 Directions to camp from Newburgh Beacon Bridge: south on RT 9D, 3.3 miles; Turn right onto Grandview Ave; Take the 1st left to stay on Grandview Ave.; Continue onto Slocum Rd, camping on the Right.

August 4: Launch from Long Dock Park in Beacon (launch 11 am) Land, event and camp @ Dockside Park, West St. and Fish St., Cold Springs, NY 10516 ‎(map) (arrive 2 pm) Follow Main Street toward the river, turn Right to Dockside Park. The Two Row Wampum: Past, Present and Future, 4 pm Key contact: Terry Eckert, local contact Rosemarie Pennella

Monday, August 5: Launch from Cold Springs Dockside Park (launch 10:30 am) Lunch and Sharing the River of Life event @ Peekskill: 12:00 noon at Riverfront Green Park, Peekskill, off of Hudson St, Adjacent to the train station. Paddlers land at 1:30. Land @ Stony Point (arrive 5 pm) Campsite at Stony Point Center: 17 Cricketown Road, Stony Point, NY Interfaith Peace and Friendship Event at 7:30pm Stony Point Center, 17 Cricketown Road, Stony Point, NY Key contact: Lena Duby, local contact Turtle McDermott

Tuesday, August 6: Launch from Stony Point (launch 11 am) Land, event and campsite @ Croton Point Park, 1A Croton Point Ave, Croton-on-Hudson, NY ‎(map) (arrive 1 pm) Elders Share Haudenosaunee History Event, 3 pm Key contact: Lena Duby, local contacts: Andrew Courtney or Mary Hegarty

Wednesday, August 7: Launch from Croton Point Park (launch 10:30 am) Lunch @ Nyack Beach State Park, 698 N Broadway, Upper Nyack, NY (map) Land @ Parelli Park, Hudson Way and Piermont Ave, Piermont, NY (arrive 5 pm) Camp @ 31 Ferry Road (Piermont Pier entrance/ball field) Sharing the River of Life program, 7 pm, Goswick Pavilion, Ferry Road, Piermont Key Contact: Lena Duby, local contacts Laurie Seeman and Margaret Grace

Thursday August 8: Piermont to Inwood/Yonkers (launch 10:30am) Launch @ Parelli Park, Hudson Way and Piermont Ave, Piermont, NY Lunch stop to be determined. Either at Beczak Environmental Center 35 Alexander St, Yonkers, NY 10701 OR Kennedy Marina/JFK Marina and Park at the end of JFK Memorial Drive, off of Warburton Avenue, Yonkers NY 10701 Land @ Dyckman Street landing, at La Marina Restaurant 348 Dyckman St New York, NY 10034 Poetry and Spoken Word: Two Rows and More, 6:30 pm at Inwood Hill Park, NYC CAMPING SITE IN YONKERS THIS NIGHT. (See lunch stop information)

Friday August 9: Inwood to Pier 96* Paddlers shuttled from Yonkers to Inwood and launch from: La Marina Restaurant 348 Dyckman St New York, NY 10034 Launch time at SUNRISE Land @ Downtown Boathouse, Pier 96 at 57th St. on west side of Manhattan) (map) 10:00am: Landing and Welcome by Dutch Consul General and Other dignitaries 11:30am: March to United Nations 1:30pm: Welcome of Paddlers to the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 833 1st Ave, New York, NY, (map) 3:00pm: UN Event to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (invitation only) Key contact: Aya Yamamoto NYC housing locations: Judson Memorial Church: 55 Washington Square S New York, NY 10012 Quaker Meeting house near Brooklyn Friends School

Saturday, August 10: New York City Two Row Festival 11 am – 5 pm, Brookfield Place/World Financial Center, west of World Trade Center, (map) Comedian Charlie Hill (Oneida, Mohawk, Cree), Akwesasne Women Singers, Sherri Waterman & The Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers, SilverCloud Singers (intertribal), Josephine Tarrant (Kuna/Rappahannock/Hopi/Ho-Chunk), Speakers: Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief Oren Lyons, Chief Jake Edwards, native artisans, children’s activities, and more. *Events in collaboration with the Dakota Unity Riders

Background

We will paddle between 9 and 15 miles each day and camp along the route. There will be educational and cultural events along the way, some large and others small. The gatherings will feature talks by Haudenosaunee leaders and allies and cultural sharing.  The itinerary is still being finalized. The current version is on the attached application, updates will be available on our website. We will arrive in New York City on Friday, August 9 to participate in the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The symbolic enactment and related events will draw thousands of people to the Hudson to learn and be inspired to create an equitable and sustainable future for all in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The events will attract tourists as well as residents. We aim to educate and inspire attendees to transform their relationship to the river and all parts of the natural world, incorporating a sense of historic responsibility for the environment and justice for the original inhabitants of this land.

Onondaga to Albany: July 2-14

Dugout Hits the Water

Haudenosaunee Paddlers are en route to Albany on the first leg of the Two Row Wampum journey. They will reach the Hudson on Sunday, July 14 after which they and the wampum belt they are carrying will rest for two weeks before the second part of the journey down the Hudson to the United Nations. They are being joined by other Haudenosaunee paddlers on the route. Contact Hickory, 315-775-7548.

Full Schedule Tuesday July 2: Onondaga Nation to Bayberry. Stop at Two Row Wampum Festival on Onondaga Lake Wednesday July 3: Bayberry to Oneida Shores Park Thursday July 4: Oneida Shores Park to Paradise Cove Friday July 5: Paradise Cove to Rome Saturday July 6: Rome to Barnes Ave., Utica Sunday, July 7: Rest Day KOA Herkimer Monday July 8: Utica to Lock (E18) Herkimer Tuesday July 9: Lock (E18) Herkimer to St. Johnsville Marina Wednesday July 10: St. Johnsville Marina to Kanatsiohareke (Tom Porters) Thursday July 11: Event at Kanatsiohareke. Drums along the Mohawk Friday July 12: Kanatsiohareke to Lock (E12) Tribe’s Hill Saturday July 13: Lock (E12) Tribe’s Hill to Lock (E8) Scotia. Festival at Mabee Farm Sunday July 14: Lock (E8) Scotia to Peebles Island

Epic Canoe Trip: Symbolic Enactment

July 28 @ 2:00 pm – August 9 @ 4:00 pm

We will begin with a cultural and educational festival near Albany on Saturday, July 27 and the flotilla will set off the following morning. We will paddle between 9 and 15 miles each day and camp along the route.  There will be educational and cultural events along the way, some large and others small. The gatherings will feature talks by Haudenosaunee leaders and allies and cultural sharing. The most up-to-date version of the itinerary can be found here.

We will arrive in New York City on Friday, August 9 to participate in the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Heron on Hudson

The symbolic enactment and related events will draw thousands of people to the Hudson to learn and be inspired to create an equitable and sustainable future for all in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The events will attract tourists as well as residents. We aim to educate and inspire attendees to transform their relationship to the river and all parts of the natural world, incorporating a sense of historic responsibility for the environment and justice for the original inhabitants of this land.

Our First Day on the Water

What a wonderful start to our epic journey!  Hundreds of indigenous and ally paddlers and their supporters gathered at the boat launch in Rensselaer in the pouring rain for our rousing send off.   The rain cleared away long enough for most of the send-off ceremony.  As Tadodaho Sid Hill gave the Thanksgiving Address from the shores of the River That Flows Both Ways, a hummingbird even came to join our well-wishers.

Local political leaders also come to send their good wishes for our voyage.  Congressman Paul Tonko, Mayor of Troy Lou Rosamilia, Albany City Councilor Dominick Calsolaro, and a representative from Senator Gillabrand’s office all offered good words and well-wishes for our journey.  Dan Dwyer, the Mayor of Rensselaer, also arrived as the last paddlers were launching and shared his well-wishes with the Haudenosaunee leaders there.

Two Row Wampum Enacted on the Hudson River

And then we were off!  It was a beautiful sight to see the two great long rows of paddlers, native and and non-native side by side setting off down the Hudson.  The rains and wind came back, but our paddlers persevered down to Henry Hudson Park for a lunch.  About six paddlers found it to be more challenging than they expected and were assisted by our safety boats and the US Coast Guard Auxillary with us safely to the lunch stop.  It is a good reminder that this is a serious river that deserves all our respect.

Despite the weather, a pair of eagles and a great blue heron joined us on the water for a while and everyone was in high spirits.   The weather cleared for our final leg and we made our triumphant entrance to Schodack Island State Park.   Jun-san Yasuda of the Grafton Peace Pagoda was there at both the launch and the send off, drumming her prayers for us.  At dinner, Etoqua welcomed us on behalf of the Mahicans to their territory, as this was the site of their Council Fire in the time of the Two Row Wampum Treaty.

In the evening, the young paddlers from Tonawanda Seneca sang for us and we all shared in social dancing.  We are all tired but determined and full of joy to be on this great journey together.

Two Row and Unity Riders

UnityRide-TwoRow logosmall2

The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign is delighted to collaborate with the Dakota People of Manitoba, Canada who are bringing their Unity Riders to the Hudson Valley this summer. They ride on horseback to spread a message of peace and healing for every nation and for humankind. This epic journey of the horsemen will cover thousands of miles from Canada to New York State and will rendezvous with the Two Row paddlers at several spots on our journey down the Hudson River.

The Unity Ride, led by Chief Gus High Eagle of the Dakota Nation, will join with the Two Row Campaign on July 27 at Sage College in Troy, on August 1 at the Hudson Maritime Museum in Kingston, on August 3 in Poughkeepsie and Beacon, and on August 9 and 10 in New York City. The Two Row Campaign will join with the Unity Riders in Woodstock on August 4 for their International Walk for World Peace.

 

 

People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

This is one of my favourite stained glass windows:

Métis artist Christi Belcourt's design for a window in Centre Block to commemorate the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. (Aboriginal Affairs website)

 

 Métis artist Christi Belcourt’s design for a window in Centre Block in Parliament building in Ottawa to commemorate the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. (Aboriginal Affairs website)

 

stained glass window, designed by Métis artist Christi Belcourt

 

 Detail of window designed by Christi Belcourt.

For more info see CBC News: Residential Schools Window Dedicated On Parliament Hill.

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