Friday, December 20, 2013

Labrador Passage 2014 Expedition

Just found out about interesting canoe expedition planned for the summer of 2014. Labrador Passage is a documentary film project setting out to retrace Mina Hubbard's historic 1905 canoe journey through Labrador.

In this particular trip, the two paddlers will be using as much traditional, non-synthetic equipment as possible - canvas packs, tin-cloth rain gear, a canvas tent, etc. In addition, one of the sponsors - The Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum - is commissioning a specially built Atkinson Traveler cedar canvas canoe from Rollin Thurlow of the Northwoods Canoe Company. The plan is that after the expedition the Traveler will be returned to the WCHM where it will be added to museum collection for display.

Here's a vimeo vid of one of the crew members describing the plans for the journey.

This isn't the first attempt at retracing Mina's 1905 route in a cedar canvas canoe. In 2000, British freelance author Alexandra Pratt attempted this route with a single Innu guide, Jean-Pierre Ashini. Interesting that the canoe then was another Thurlow Northwoods canoe.

Pratt & Ashini setting out from North West River, Labrador

Unfortunately changes to river water levels due to modern hydroelectric projects, forest fires, as well her guide's knee injury during some upstream travel meant the expedition had to be abandoned quite early on and the team evacuated by helicopter. Not sure what happened to the canoe in the was left behind to be picked up in the winter. Her adventure was published in a book entitled Lost lands, forgotten stories : a woman's journey to the heart of Labrador. 

Hope this 2014 expedition has lots of success in tackling a very challenging route with the added "burden" of using historic gear on their trip

Thursday, December 12, 2013

18foot Agwiden Penobscot Birchbark Ocean Canoe

Recently came across this newly uploaded video (52 min) called "Agwiden" showcasing an 18 foot birchbark canoe build. Steve Cayard was the builder invited to the Penobscot Nation to help construct the first bark canoe there in over 60 years. Lots of closeups of the build technique. Learned some new things about bark canoe construction.

Can't seem to embed the video due to restrictions by the film-maker, but here is the direct link for viewing on Vimeo...

One of the neatest things is around the 4 minute mark where Steve climbs up the trunk of the monster birch to harvest the bark. Never saw this standing method of bark harvesting need to haul a ladder into the bush!

What also caught my eye was the elegant paddle used by Chief Barry Dana during the initial launch (around the 48:00 mark). Here is a screen shot...

The grip style is what Adney described as a "Malecite Group" paddle (Fig 65) belonging to a 18 foot Passamaquoddy Ocean Canoe.

Passamaquoddy Ocean Canoe Paddle (Fig 65)

I've carved quite a few paddles with this simple but effective grip style, including one of my earliest cherry paddles from 2008. It is quite comfortable when draping the wrist over the wide palm area. Here are some shots from the old condo balcony "workshop"

Ended up decorating this with a burned image of a Chickadee on a white pine branch...

For all you folks in the south who get to paddle year round...enjoy it! The temperature right now feels like a chilly -22 Celsius with the windchill.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rick Nash Maliceet Class Cherry Paddle

Longtime followers of this blog will know of my gushing awe for the traditional paddles carved by Rick Nash of Woodland Heirlooms. Many of his beautiful creations have been featured on the site before (click here for all these posts).

Here's another paddle that's been recently updated on his page of Maliceet Class Paddles. This one from split cherry is 66" long with all the incising decoration done with a jack-knife and nail...

Maliceet Class Paddle Blade

 Maliceet Class Decorated Grip

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rollin Thurlow Atkinson Traveler Giveaway

Pre-eminent wooden canoe builder Rollin Thurlow of Northwoods Canoe Company is celebrating a milestone in his shop and is running a contest that every lover of cedar canvas canoes should like. A recent post on his Northwoods Canoe Shop Cam blog states the following:

Write your way to a Atkinson Traveler
Over the last 36 years I have been very fortunate to be able to make my living doing what I love in such a specialized and admittedly old fashion occupation as custom building and restoring wooden canoes/boats. I have been able to restore almost every type of old classic boat, build reproductions of some of the best boats ever built and I have also been able to build and sell my own designs.
My shop has always been no more than a one, two and in some very busy years, a three person shop. I have been extremely lucky to have the help and assistance of Peter who has been my shop partner for over 20 years; Pam who does all the mail order shipping and book keeping and Andrea my supportive wife!
In the near future I will be taking the order for the one thousandth boat to be restored or built in my shop. To celebrate this milestone I want to build a special canoe that means a lot to me, the 17.5’ Atkinson Traveler. It is the first canoe I designed; named after the village I live in and designed for the wilderness paddling that I enjoy. It has been a very successful design which I am very proud of.
While I want to put all my years of experience into this canoe I also want it to be a canoe that is used as the design was intended. The Atkinson Traveler needs to be in the water, a few scratches on it, maybe a cracked rib or two from hard use, mud on the paint and a smile on every face in the boat. This is a boat that I want to build to my own specifications and I want it to be used as the canoe was designed for.
Because my customers and the WCHA (Wooden Canoe Heritage Association) have been such a important part of my professional success, I want to celebrate this one thousandth boat by offering this commemorative Atkinson Traveler completely free of charge to either;
1) A past or present member of the WCHA.
2) Any one of my past canoe/boat customers.
Cost of any shipping not included!
There is only one stipulation: The owner of the boat must promise the boat will be used as it was intended as per the original design; and the harder the use the better!
To be eligible for this boat please send me your name, your; contact info and a brief description of how you intend to use the boat. Please, no more than 300 words and be sure to include your WCHA membership number or NWCC customer number. Peter, Pam, Andrea and I will choose the top 25 essays and then have a drawing for the winner. There is no cost for the boat or to enter your essay. The boat will be on display at the 2014 WCHA Assembly where the drawing for the winner will take place. You need not be present to win but of course that would be nice. Sharpen up your pencils and plan on attending the 2014 Assembly!
Thank you for your years of support.

Wow...what a contest! If those words aren't enough to tempt you, here are some pics and stats of the boat in question - The Atkinson Traveler. I'm drooling looking at this beauty in action.


Traveler Specifications:
~ Length......... 17 1/2 ft.
~ Depth.......... 13"
~ Beam........... 35 5/8"
~ Bow Height..... 24 3/8"
~ Weight......... 75 lbs.

As Rollin outlines in his post, the contest is open to members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. Membership is a very affordable $40 US ($45 for Canadians). I know I eagerly look forward to each edition of the Wooden Canoe Journal which to me is worth the cost alone.

As a side note, I never found out who won the Moosehead Beer Canoe Contest from 2012 where another cedar canvas canoe was up for grabs up here in Canada. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rejean Roy Canoe Art

Last week I posted Réjean Roy's wonderful vimeo vid, "Le Peintre, le canot et la forêt" . It's a six minute video about his wilderness canoeing art and his traditional means of canoe tripping for inspiration.

After seeing all that wonderful canoeing equipment, I happened to get in touch with him hoping to get more info about his light blue canoe. I just found the colour such a lovely contrast in the deep green forested region of his journey. Turns out the canoe is "Al Gordon" model ( 14'6" ) built by McCurdy and Reed out in Nova Scotia. It just so happens there is a wonderful backstory to his canoe built for him in 2013 which  Réjean wrote about in an post HERE

Réjean  also sent me a few thumbnails of his canoe-specific paintings and with his permission, I've posted them below.

Réjean Roy

Réjean Roy

His vimeo channel has another older video featuring a familiar scene to many hardcore river trippers - dragging the canoe upstream... 

Turns out he replicated a scene from this vid into another pretty painting.

Réjean Roy

Also turns out  Réjean does some illustration work for books. Here is a cover for a tri-lingual pulblication  (Mi'kmaw, French, English) from 2012. Turns out my c1849 Passamquoddy replica featured on the header of my site served as a bit of artistic inspiration.

Very much looking forward to more tripping videos and artwork from  Réjean in the future.   

Friday, November 22, 2013

Algonquin Bark Canoe Pics

Some amazing vintage images from an article in Scribner's Magazine (September 1899) entitled "Where the Water Runs Both Ways"...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspirational Wilderness Canoeing Artist

Just stumbled upon a fantastic video showcasing the wilderness art of French Canadian Rejean Roy, who travels by wood canvas canoe to gather inspiration for his artwork. What a treat this video is - a beautiful production with traditional gear, wanigans, canvas packs, a campfire baker tent. Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Painted Paddle Trend

One of the trends I've noticed in the paddle making world is the move towards "artisan" style painted paddles with bold & simple patterns, not unlike the simple decorations found in historical paddle art.

The first company I came across with this trend (back in '11) was Contact Voyaging Company - a Toronto-based design company that launched a series of factory carved 56" basswood beavertail paddles with patterns based on the Naval Semaphore system of Code of Signals.

Sanborn Canoe Co. out of Winona, Minnesota also features a line of Artisan Paddles with painted decorations over the laminated cedar blades they are well known for.

Just recently found out about Norquay Canoe Company - another Canadian startup which is trying to put an artistic touch to utilitarian paddles. These ones are cherry paddles manufactured by Teal Canoe in New Liskeard, Ontario. Here are some of their paddle art patterns...

What also caught my eye was the simple yet effective leather harness strap used for hanging. 

Clearly these painted paddles are being marketed as wall art but at least there are some creative folks out there trying to make beautiful works from the humble canoe paddle. For more pretty paddle imagery, check out Norquay's Instagram Feed

Saturday, November 9, 2013

96" Single Blade Monster Paddle

From this Ebay Ad comes an interesting paddle. The seller claims it is a "very early old Indian made wooden paddle". It looks to have been finished with some sort of ochre-coloured paint with the exception of the end of the grip. It's a huge monster at 96" long (wow!) with a 6 - 3/4" wide blade. Normally this length is associated with rowing oars but the distinctive grip point to some sort of stand-up paddling usage.

Undated Canoe Paddle,  96" x 6 - 3/4" 

The length and shape remind me of this earlier post featuring an 1898 photo of Athian Lewey at West Grand Lake, Maine posing with 2 tall  paddles & a birchbark canoe. The paddle leaning on the inverted bark hull shows has a similar slender profile and some peeling paint on the blade.

Athian Lewey, West Grand Lake, 1898

I'm not totally familiar with this area in Maine, but have read about Grand Laker Canoes - large 20ft+, square back, cedar canvas freighter canoes used by locals & guides. When not using an outboard motor, these large canoes would often be maneuvered with likewise large paddles.

Another example of large paddles like this being used are for the Cree freight canoes in the far north. Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe documented large push paddles used up in Fort Severn that were 88" long - see  his photos of Fort Severn Freight canoes & paddles here). Don't think I'll ever have use for an 8ft long paddle but this Ebay item sure looks like pretty bit of history at any rate.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

1934 - Reg Blomfield - Traditional Canoeing Skills Video

Many thanks to YellowCanoe over on the forums for posting a fantastic video find! It is dated to roughly 1934-1935 and features Reg. Blomfield, holder of International, Canadian and American Championships demonstrating some amazing paddling skills.

It was shot in Stoney Lake, Ontario just north of the historic canoe building centre of Peterborough. Reg. seems to be paddling a classic Peterborough / Lakefield style all wooden cedar strip canoe with its distinctive 1/2" oak ribs. These were the canoes in Ontario's cottage county and north before Chestnut cedar canvas canoes took over.

Unfortunately the audio is a little difficult but there are some great clips of traditional paddling techniques and demonstrations of his paddling and balanced virtuosity. Lots of crazy gimmicks too like launching and landing on a dock (a testament to the strength of the all wood canoes in those days) as well as some great footage of effortlessly surfing some waves.

At 4:35 he talks about the "Indian - Temagami Stroke" which features a particular short stroke with body bobbing to power the movement. I tend to favour this style in my own paddling technique instead of the modern, more rigid stroke advocated by experts today.

Check out the canoe over canoe stunt at the 10:00 mark. Hilarious - maybe something to try with "indestructable" royalex boats of today.

Water levels too low leaving your dock high and dry? Check out the dock exit and entry at 10:21!

Hope you enjoy the clip and it gets you excited for next year's paddling season.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Historic Paddle Art: C Krieghoff's Indians in the Employ of the Hudson's Bay...

Here's another historic painting featuring some basic paddle decoration. It is from Cornelius Krieghoff's 1858 work - Indians in the Employ of the Hudson's Bay Company at at Portage. Leaning on the rock is a paddle featuring some etched chevron markings

 Indians in the Employ of the Hudson's Bay Company at at Portage
Cornelius Krieghoff - 1858
Art Gallery of Ontario - Toronto (Canada)  
Dates: 1858

Paddle Closeup

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vintage Canoe Poling Photo (Florida)

A beautiful image of canoe poling in Florida from the American Museum of Natural History Image Collection...

"Harrison canoe poling, Cape Sable, Florida, 1906,"
Dimock, Julian A. (Julian Anthony), 1873-1945,
American Museum of Natural History Library
AMNH Image Collection, Image # 48388

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DMB Birchbark video

Came across a neat little video featuring some great shots of David Moses Bridges putting together a beautiful bark canoe. I'm getting the itch to build a better bark canoe myself, but right now that's just fantasy talking. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the clip as much as I did...

Monday, October 7, 2013

CCM Historical Canoe Print

A recent posting on the Canadian Canoe Museum blog asked readers to help identify a historical print featuring a trade canoe with a serpentine decoration and some accompanying paddles...

My French is quite rusty but the paddle on the left seems to have some measurements. I believe the  "5 pi 2 po" corresponds to 5 pieds 2 pouce which roughly refer to feet and inches (this page on french measurement terms mentions the pieds is equivalent to 1.066 ft and the pouce equal to 1.066 inches)

The other paddle oddly features a caption that reads "pagaye de la Martinique" and looks quite exotic...nothing like the paddles used in the birchbark canoe trade. Maybe just a bit of artistic license to add some flair to artwork?

The shape reminded me of the ceremonial Dayak Borneo paddles posted on back in 2009 that also have and exotic blade design...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chris Fisher's Passamaquoddy Paddle

Blog reader Chris Fisher sent in pics of his paddle creation...his very first! His 65", yellow birch  paddle is based on the diamond-shaped c1849 Passamaquoddy design described in Bark Canoes & Skin Boats of North America (Fig 72: Adney & Chappelle).

Fig 72 - Adney Paddles

Chris added his own interpretation by changing up the grip and adding a carved drip ring at the throat. The whole thing was then decorated and stained with oil and red ochre...nice!

 Chris' beautiful paddle creation

Carved drip ring and feathered blade edges

It also turns out that Chris is planning to build a birch bark canoe and like myself, is starting out with a 3 foot model. Good luck on the build and here's  hoping he'll send more pics of his creations for all of us to enjoy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Faux Hickory Canadian Canoe Company Paddles

Blog reader R.C. Cross kindly sent me some pictures of an interesting bit of paddle art in his collection. They are a pair of historic paddles from the Canadian Canoe Company (founded 1892). According to the information he sent, it was claimed they were made of hickory but closer inspection revealed that the distinctive grain pattern turned out to be faux painted. Apparently faux painting was quite popular in the 1920's and was likely applied to these paddles to add some flair. The pair of paddles are 60" and 57" with one having a clear CCC decal. One blade is finished smooth and the other has cracked. The grain painting does not extend up to the handles so you can see that the original wood grain was quite plain.

60" & 57" Canadian Canoe Company Paddles

Faux painted Hickory grain pattern on blades

Speaking of amazing grain patterns, R.C. also happened to carve a curly Douglas Fir paddle with a very peculiar grain. It was featured back on this site in March, 2012. I've often thought that if a canoe paddle could ever be used to induce hypnosis, it would be R.C. amazing creation. See that post by clicking here. Hoping R.C. will carve some more paddles and continue to post for all of us to enjoy.

As a side note, for anyone interested in reading about the very interesting history of the Canadian Canoe Company, check out Ken Brown's recent publication. It's full of fantastic photos and details about this lesser known Peterborough area canoe company, including the interesting court trials the company faced to be trademarked with the "Canadian" name. 

To support the local canoeing community, I had ordered mine through the Canadian Canoe Museum online store but it looks like they are sold out for the time being. If you want to support another great organization appropriately carrying on the tradition of wooden boats, consider ordering through the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Interesting blog post on tumplines

For anyone interested in the historical description and use of tumplines for portaging, check out Isaac Walter's recent post on his blog, The French in Wisconsin. He has posted images of various tumplines in the American Museum of Natural History collection as well as a few historical paintings featuring the tumpline portage carry.

Isaac's decorated paddles were featured here in a post back in September 2012

Monday, September 23, 2013

"HBC" Maliseet Paddle

While searching on my computer of old saved images, I came across another Maliseet style paddle from New Brunswick that I haven't posted on. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the original link or photo credit source about it, so if any readers of the blog recognize this paddle, feel free to comment.

Not the best lighting but a bit of photoshop adjustment and closeup of the grip reveals a decorative carving with the letters "HBC". No other info on the date or dimensions.

"HBC" Inscription on Grip

Friday, September 20, 2013

Missing in Action for the last while

Apologies to followers of my blog for the lack of posting since August. Our family has had a bit of a rough go health-wise with each of us having some issues but we're now on the mend. I had two outbreaks this summer of painful dyshidrotic eczema (pompholyx) all over my hands and arms. It's been recurring for three summers in a row now whenever the heat and humidity get too much. Couldn't use my hands to even type on a keyboard let alone carve or hold any paddles. Really put a damper on my canoeing plans. Unfortunately had to miss the annual Killbear Paddlers Rendezvous and other paddling events planned in September. Also want to apologize for my inability to respond to the emails some folks have sent me. Between work and other stuff, I'll try to respond soon.

Hope to get some more posts up on this site ASAP too, but in the meantime, check out his post on Dick Persson's great blog about a 1930's J.B. Odette 13 foot trapper restoration.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Poling Pic up the Allagash Stream

Here's another vintage pic of poling in a cedar canvas canoe complete with pack basket! It looks like an image from “Tales from Misery Ridge: One Man’s Adventures in the Great Outdoors”  by Paul J. Fournier. Apparently the book was named the best book of 2011 by the New England Outdoor Writers Association.  

Paul J. Fournier poles his canoe up Allagash Stream in Maine 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

1942 Potomac Canoe Trip

Not directly related to paddle making, but I'm a sucker for these vintage canoeing pics. These ones are LIFE magazine from a series entitled "1942 Potomac Canoe Trip". Love the second shot - the ladies seem perfectly relaxed.  Think I'll be scrounging around some scrap wood to build an appropriate backrest for my special lady.

Potomac Canoe Trip
Date taken: July 1942
Photographer: Thomas Mcavoy
For Personal, Non Commercial Use

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kent Lund's Grand Rapids Paddle Co

Here's a link to a great article on paddle making entitled, "The Art of Making a Splash" recently posted on MetroMode Media. It features fellow paddle maker, Kent Lund of Grand Rapids Paddle Company. Kent's fantastic work has been featured on the blog before and if interested, you can read some of those earlier posts by clicking here.

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