Sunday, August 13, 2017

Historic Illustration - William Armstrong "Numbering the Indians" 1856

Paddle related artwork by Canadian Artist William Armstrong (1822–1914) has been featured on the blog before (previous posts here). Another public domain image is in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

Numbering the Indians, Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island (Ontario)
Armstrong, William, 1822-1914
16 August 1856
Image Source Link: Toronto Public Library
Public Domain

In this particular scene, a few of the subjects are seen holding simple, non decorated slender paddles, most of which feature no discernible grip area...

Image Closeup

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick 3 day trip

Had another short trip with my older boy back to Gun Lake in the Frost Centre. Realized after the fact that I had forgotten my camera's memory card in the computer at home so my old camera could only hold about a half dozen shots in its internal memory. So not too many photos to share.

The weather was pretty decent the first two days (got sunburned!) but then it started to turn for the worse. Our extremely wet and cool summer meant no fire ban this season and water levels were about 10" or so above last year. Unfortunately that meant more bugs (many people have said this is the worst bug season in years) but our elevated campsite had a steady breeze off the lake which kept the bloodsuckers at bay. Perhaps the fear of bugs also kept other paddlers away because we had the whole lake (with 7 or so campsites) all to ourselves for the first 2 days.

The day we arrived, a crew from the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails came to the site to dig a new hole and install a brand new cedar thunderbox. It smelled awesome which is pretty weird when describing a toilet. They also removed all the garbage and food that previous campers dumped into the privy despite warnings written all over NOT to do this disgusting and dangerous habit. Glad that this potential bear attractant was removed from our site withing an hour of us arriving.

A short paddle from the site  was a marshy stream and a waterfall. There were signs of fresh beaver activity too including what looked like a bank beaver hole dug into the muddy shoreline.

Later on that evening a beaver swam right off our site while we were sitting on rocks. We were basically about 15 feet away and stayed perfectly still while it calmly swam right by us. My boy has never seen a beaver in the wild and thought it was the highlight of the trip! Next goal is to see a moose but we will have to go deeper into the bush for that.

Further down the lake were amazing stone cliffs with trees growing out of seeming impossible places. The echo along these walls was neat and probably helped to amplify the look calls at night.

Fishing was awesome too. There was a large shallow rock shelf right off the site that dropped at least 8 ft down.  Within minutes of casting he started getting hits including a huge bass that jumped right out of the water and got free of the line.  He was disappointed that he couldn't reel it in but for the rest of the trip we kept talking about the "big one that got away".

Much of the rest of the trip was spent just lazily paddling around and practicing some paddling strokes. The little guy is learning pretty well and makes for a great bow paddler. He's really good at drawing left and right when given the command and we practiced some sculling draws to help pull the canoe sideways to the rocky shoreline dock.

All in all a decent trip!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tom Thomson Commemorative Canoe Raffle

Langford Canoe has donated a 16' cedar canvas canoe to raffle off with the benefits going to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation in Muskoka. We've had to make use of the Hospital's Emergency a few times over the years and it is wonderful facility with very caring staff. This summer being the 100th Anniversary of the suspicious death of Artist Tom Thomson, Langford has tried to replicate a canoe in the style used in the early 20th century.  Thomson is said to have purchased a 2nd grade  Chestnut Cruiser in 1915. Normally covered in a dull slate grey paint, the artist mixed in a tube of Cobalt Blue to make his canoe very unique. The devastating fire of 1921 destroyed the Chestnut factory and all the forms and canoes after this period had quite different shapes.

Tom Thomson's canoe circa 1915

I happened to be in Huntsville when I noticed a distinctive "blue-grey" canoe with high curved ends in the window of a local sports outfitter. Given the tight space and other merchandise, I couldn't get a full shot of the boat but managed to capture a few features.

View of the Langford "Tom Thomson" canoe in the window

Once inside I noticed how robustly this canoe was built. Unfortunately, no stats were available and the store staff knew nothing of the boat other than erroneously calling it a "Cedar Strip". A key feature (rarely seen on Canadian boats) are the distinct half ribs added to strengthen the hull. The two ash thwarts are very wide and bulky and coupled with the ash outwales, seats and keel, this will likely be a very heavy duty boat.

Half ribs and wide ash thwarts

Don't believe the early Chestnuts came with babiche seats but Langford decided to go for this rustic style...
Rawhide seats

Pre-fire Chestnuts came in both closed and open gunnelled forms but had a very distinctive narrow deck. Langford decided to use another darker hardwood along with their own commemorative logo...

Langford Deck

The canoe also comes with two painted cherry paddles to match the hull...

Cherry paddles with painted blades

The only Pre-fire Chesnut Cruiser I'm aware of was found by Andre Cloutier of Ravenwood Canoes. He has documented many of the details of these rare boats and has even built a new form of this historic design. Recently, he completed the first build and his boat (much closer to Thomson's original) has recently been launched...

Anyway, 1000 tickets at $25 each will be sold and the draw takes place on September 1st. More details found on the local poster below:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

More late 19th Century Penobscot Paddles

Auctioneers James D Julia are having their annual Summer Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Auction taking place over August 16th-18th, 2017. Lot 3221 features a set of Penobscot paddles along with two other artifacts.

Paddle 1 (Left)
• Penobscot paddle with old patina, finely carved stepped handle.
•  68-1/4" l x 7" w 
• With excellent patina and showing good in-use wear. 

Paddle 2 (Right)
• Penobscot paddle with exceptional carved, stepped, chamfered handle.
• 70" l x 7" w
• Good patina, showing good in-use wear, paddle portion has 5" crack with old staple repair.

Lot 3221

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Homemade Portage Pads

My 14 foot Chestnut / Peterborough has a basic centre thwart instead of a carved yoke which makes for some rather uncomfortable portaging. I've dabbled with some traditional paddle yoke methods (described in this post here) but found that with my habit of taking two very different blade designs when out, the resulting yoke would always be uncomfortable on one side.

While not too commonly used here in Ontario, clamp on portage  pads seem to be quite popular in the Boundary Waters region. I picked up a pair of Stewart River pads back in 2011 and they have been used on the 15' Langford with modest success.

Stewart River pads 

I like repurposing whenever possible and the opportunity came up to make use of some free discarded stuff. During an end-of-season shoreline cleanup on the cottage lake last fall, I came across a barely used kid-sized, keyhole style lifejacket tangled in some reeds. There was no name on it and a listing on the lake association's lost and found page has turned up no claimants.

The foam inserts seemed perfect for this project so it was cut up and the innards removed. The orange nylon will be re-purposed into some rope bags or sacks for tent pegs.  

Anyway, I searched online for a tutorial on making pads and came across this very descriptive writeup here. Many thanks to the author for outlining the necessary hardware. In my case for the wooden base, I used pine cutoffs from the recently completed plank seat experiment. These were originally slats from an IKEA bed that someone discarded on garbage day.

Discarded Ikea bed slats

I basically followed the tutorials instructions but used 2 1/2" carriage bolts simply because I had them. For the metal bar, I used a 4" straight steel brace commonly used in shelving. The holes in the brace are offset which explains why the carriage bolts don't look aligned. Here is a picture of the wood bases (3.5" wide by 8" long) along with the foam from the lifejacket.

The foam was easily trimmed to shape but before wrapping in canvas, I wanted to test how many layers would be suitable for the pads in order to be comfortable but also reduce the bulk. The Stewart River pads are 4" thick. After temporarily wrapping the wooden bases with foam and rubber bands, I attached them to the canoe for a test run.

 Testing out the foam

After tinkering by removing or adding foam layers, I settled on 5 pieces per pad which worked out to about 2 1/4" of padding. With the 3/4" wooden base that worked out to  3" overall height for the pads.

The wooden base was laid down onto some brown  material (left over from a weather treated canvas tarp). Here you can see that the metal support bar was also wrapped in black duct tape to avoid scratching the wooden thwart when attached.

I differed from the original tutorial in the fold up technique to minimize the folding. Started by stapling the top and the bottom.

Then the edges were tightly brought in and stapled for a more square effect.

Here's a final pic of the underside. Certainly not professional but good enough for the job, especially for an area that won't be that visible in the end.

Attached to the centre thwart, the pads should make this relatively heavy 14 footer a bit easier to manage

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