You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Canoes/Canoeing’ tag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me quote from this article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIIGWECH FOR TAKING PART IN  THE JOURNEY

MIKE

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

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

   

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

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

Here are some opinions on using a tumpline to portage:

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

First of all the author makes these comments:

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

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

Then he describes using a tumpline:

The Tump Strap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp Nominigue Setup

Murat continues:

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

 

NW Woodsman Tump Pics

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

One Native Tump Method

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

 

  

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

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

  

Grips lashed in; Blades secure; the final setup

Canoe tump portage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olson reminiscences fondly for both lakes and portages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chestnut Canoe Models

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 17’ Chestnut Prospector Wood-Canvas Canoe

Dimensions for a Chestnut Pal Wood-Canvas Canoe

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

Honeymoon with a Prospector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My beautiful dream, photo by yours truly.

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

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

Paddles up until later then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh! Paddy, dear, and did you hear

The news that’s going round,

The shamrock is forbid by law

To grow on Irish ground.

Saint Patrick’s Day no more we’ll keep

His color can’t be seen

For they’re hanging men and women

The wearing of the green.

I met with Napper Tandy

And he took me by the hand

And he said “How’s poor old Ireland?

And how does she stand?”

She’s the most distressful country

That ever you have seen,

They’re hanging men and women

For wearing of the green.

Then since the color we must wear

Is England’s cruel red

Sure Ireland’s sons will n’er forget

The blood that they have shed.

You may take the shamrock from your hat

And cast it on the sod,

But ’twill take root and flourish still

Tho’ underfoot ’tis trod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canoeing Ireland (Official Site of the Irish Canoe Union)

Canoeing Holidays in Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Recipe For Success:

STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS

An elegant accompaniment to fish.

Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.

51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar

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

2600 brass tacks

18 feet of 10 weight canvas

¾ gallon of oil base filler

3 quarts of varnish

2 quarts of paint

Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Ownership

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

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

Q:What are the advantages of a wooden canoe?

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

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

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

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

Q: Can I use a wooden canoe for whitewater?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also this from McCurdy and Reed Canoes: Construction:

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

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

Jeanne Bourquin

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

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

Wooden canoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine Canoe Journeys adds:

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

Finally as Pam Wedd  says on the Bearwood Canoes website:

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

bear_m.gif picture by ducksoup_photo

My Top Ten Possible Captions:

1. “Go ahead you wake it up!!!!…..”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From St. Patrick\’s Day Wallpaper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canoeing Ireland (Official Site of the Irish Canoe Union)

Canoeing Holidays in Ireland

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

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

bus

bus1

Mock up of bus

bus2 bus3bus5

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

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

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

OMER STRINGER

1912 – 1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Omer5.jpg

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

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

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

Omer6.jpg Omer7.jpg

OmerPaddles.jpg OmerStringerandJoeZiembaofCarryingPlaceCanoeWorks.jpg

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

lg_CAN02omerstringer.jpg

Omer Stringer Classic canoe, from Carrying Place Canoes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paddles up until later then….

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

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

Black Ash Pack Basket in Canoe

Black Ash Pack Basket in Canoe

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

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

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

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

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

Some videos from YouTube:

Adirondack Pack Basket (AKA Trappers Basket)

Black Ash Basket Making.

Black Ash Basket Making: Pounding Ash


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

Another really good basket maker from Maine is Mark Young.

The Art Of Ash Basket Making – Mark Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Nanabozhoo And The Thunderbirds written by Mark Sakry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File:Shooting the Rapids 1879.jpg

Shooting The Rapids

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

Frances Anne Hopkins Voyageurs

Voyageurs at Dawn

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

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall

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

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

THE VOYAGEUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproduit sous l’autorisation du Festival du Voyageur inc.

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

La V’la M’amie

Traditional Voyaguer Song, on Canoesongs Volume I

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

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

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

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

Chorus

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

Chorus

J’y fis cent lieu sans parler avec elle

Chorus

Paddle Like Hell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

sov.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

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

The Sons of the Voyageur, Bien travailler

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

Table of Contents

The Sons of the Voyageur, Canot d’Écorce

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

Table of Contents

Canot d'Ècorce Album Cover

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

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

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

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

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

TRAPPERS AND TRADERS

Summary

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

FUR TRADE GAME

Summary

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

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

phoca_thumb_l_47.jpg picture by ducksoup_photo

Trading Post

phoca_thumb_l_36.jpg phoca_thumb_l_35.jpg

North Canoe, laden with trade goods.

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

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

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

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

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

Global warming obviously affects much these days!!!!

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

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

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

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

But then times are tough too:

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

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

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

From the Canadian Canoe Museum website.

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

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

001  003 004 005 006 007

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

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

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

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

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

A Recipe For Success:

STEAMED CEDAR WITH CANVAS

An elegant accompaniment to fish.

Make ahead of time for relaxed visit with friends.

51 board feet of peeled and deveined eastern white cedar

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

2600 brass tacks

18 feet of 10 weight canvas

¾ gallon of oil base filler

3 quarts of varnish

2 quarts of paint

Assortment of beer to taste (chilled if possible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Canoe Construction

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

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

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

 

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

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

  

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

 

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

Also these drawings from the old WCBG site:

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

Also this from McCurdy and Reed Canoes: Construction:

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

Q:What are the advantages of a wooden canoe?

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

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

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

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

Q: Can I use a wooden canoe for whitewater?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #16 (no lead)

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

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

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

Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #31

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

Jeanne Bourquin

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

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

Wooden canoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine Canoe Journeys adds:

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

Finally as Pam Wedd  says on the Bearwood Canoes website:

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

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

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

A few years ago,   CBC TV showed The Return Of The Jets about the Winnipeg Jets and the second coming of the NHL to Winnipeg. When they were discussing the Jets’ new logo, it was mentioned that the idea for the logo came from Winnipeg’s close ties to the Royal Canadian Air Force….in particular the 17 Wing Squadron….in fact the new team sweaters were premiered at the 17 Wing Winnipeg base. But something caught my eye other than just the story of Winnipeg’s new NHL team….it was the 17 Wing Badge:

From Royal Canadian Air Force: 17 Wing Squadron.

Yes, of course I would have to notice the canoe….but why a canoe on a Royal Canadian Air Force Wing Badge????? Well I did an online survey of various resources….but could find nothing definitive….

Since 17 Wing  is based in Winnipeg, could it be something to do with Winnipeg’s ties to the fur trade????

I would love to find out if anyone reading this might know….

The RCAF and canoes???? Canoes and aircraft???? Flying canoes?!?!?

Of course there is the story of the La Chasse-galerie also known as “The Bewitched Canoe” or “The Flying Canoe”….this is a popular French- Canadian tale of voyageurs who make a deal with the devil (as described in Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie).

La Chasse-galerie de Henri Julien (1852-1908), from Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie.

There are several versions of this tale….as Wikipedia: Chasse-galerie adds:

After a night of heavy drinking on New Year’s Eve, a group of voyageurs working at a remote timber camp want to visit their sweethearts some 100 leagues away (300 miles). The only way to make such a long journey and be back in time for work the next morning is to run the chasse-galerie. Running the chasse-galerie means making a pact with the devil so that their canoe can fly through the air to their destination with great speed. However, the travellers must not mention God’s name or touch the cross of any church steeple as they whisk by in the flying canoe. If either of these rules are broken during the voyage, then the devil will have their souls. To be safe, the men promise not to touch another drop of rum to keep their heads clear. The crew take their places in the canoe which then rises off the ground, and they start to paddle. Far below they see the frozen Gatineau River, many villages, shiny church steeples and then the lights of Montreal. The bewitched canoe eventually touches down near a house where New Year’s Eve festivities are in full swing. No one wonders at the trappers’/loggers’ sudden arrival. They are embraced with open arms and soon are dancing and celebrating as merrily as everyone else. Soon it is late and the men must leave if they are to get back to camp in time for work. As they fly through the moonless night, it becomes apparent that their navigator had been drinking as he steers the canoe on a dangerously unsteady course. While passing over Montreal they just miss running into a church steeple, and soon after the canoe end up stuck in a deep snowdrift. At this point the drunken navigator begins swearing and taking the Lord’s name in vain. Terrified the devil will take their souls, the men bind and gag their friend and elect another to steer. The navigator soon breaks his bonds and begins swearing again. The crew become more and more shaken at the possibility of losing their souls, and they eventually steer the bewitched canoe right into a tall pine. The men spill out and are knocked unconscious (or pass out). Notably the ending of the story changes from version to version. Sometimes the men are condemned to fly the canoe through hell and appear in the sky every New Year’s Eve, but in other versions all, or all but one, escape the terms the devil made.

One variation has the devil himself steering and deliberately trying to break the rules on the return journey, at which point they threw him out of the canoe to save themselves.

Here are a few videos from YouTube about the ‘Flying Canoe':

 

On Daily Motion, check out this telling of the tale:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zjwf_felix-leclerc-la-chasse-galerie_music.

So several versions of the tale have been told….through songs sung….even animation. The ‘Flying Canoe’ has been depicted on  amazing art work….on postage stamps….even on beer labels….even through amusement rides….and all based on this legend.

During the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, a canoe containing a fiddler was lowered from the ceiling in an allusion to the legend.

Of course, some folks have taken the idea of the ‘flying canoe’ to extremes….well maybe even past extreme….check out this YouTube video at your discretion (please be advised that the humour attempted….or even the rap music played…. may not be everyone’s taste….personally I found the idea of the TV ad for a flying canoe ‘for only 27 payments of $19.95′ amusing at least….but I think these guys need to take paddling instruction so they don’t have to keep switching sides just to keep from ‘popping a donut’ LOL LOL):

 

Paddles up until later then….even if you’re up flying in the air….just watch out for the Devil….

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)

“There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known.”

Sigurd F. Olson
The Singing Wilderness

A few years ago (on this blog’s first New Year’s Eve) I wrote a blog post entitled  A Canoeist’s Auld Lang Syne, after a post was written on the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association’s forum. In it was cited the famous old New Year’s standard Auld Lang Syne, quoting the fourth stanza that most may not know but which states:
 
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
 
I felt that obviously this has some ties to canoeing and to paddling (it does say we paddled after all….even I was quick enough to see that LOL LOL).  But after rereading the post….and rereading the version of Auld Lang Syne quoted, I thought it might be appropriate to reword this verse. So you’ll excuse me repeating my attempt here (and if it takes away from the original) but I felt it was fitting, especially as a wish for all to have the very best of a new paddling year. Hope you enjoy again:
 
Should old wood canoes be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old paddling pals be forgot,
and memories of the past year’s canoe trips left behind?
 
CHORUS:
For canoes of wood and places still wild,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll raise our paddles yet,
for auld lang syne.
 
And surely you’ll restore that favourite old boat!
and surely at the very least I’ll recanvas mine!
And soon we’ll take to the waters again, not much longer yet,
for auld lang syne.
 
CHORUS
 
We two have carried across each and every portage,
and watched the skies for weather’s sign;
And we’ve paddled many a weary mile,
since auld lang syne.
 
CHORUS
 
We two have paddled in the middle of the lake,
from morning sun till it’s time to dine;
With nothing between us but smooth waters, no waves or wind
since auld lang syne.
 
CHORUS
 
And so I’ve traveled in my old canoe, my trusty friend!
And with paddle in hand, I’ve dipped the blade below the waterline!
Next year we’ll take another good long trip, venturing again into wilderness
as we have since auld lang syne.
 
CHORUS
 
So let me raise a paddle yet,
And wish all nothing but good cheer
May your canoeing be great in 2014
And have a Happy New Year….or rather a Happy CANOE Year!!!! 
Paddles up until later then….and have a very Happy CANOE Year….and may all your hopes for canoeing for the coming year come to be….

….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, https://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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers