Monday, August 29, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustration: Mi'kmaq Waltes Paddle Counter

Here's an interesting paddle illustration from The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada by Wilson D. Wallis and Ruth Sawtell Wallis (1955) partially available for preview on Google Books. The chapter details a Mi'kmaq game called waltes which involved the use of carved counting sticks to keep track of the score.

The authors documented various shapes sticks including one accurately carved in the shape of a canoe paddle. Below the pear grip is a circular etching.

Source:  Wilson D. Wallis and Ruth Sawtell Wallis
The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada  (1955), pg. 198

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

3 Day Father & Son trip - Success!

Happy to report that I finally managed an overnighter with my 7 year old son. He's been comfortable in the canoe for years but only showed interest in camping overnight this summer. Wanted to give him a nice experience for his first trip so planned a 3 day, 2 night simple loop in a familiar area that involved a combination of large lakes, marshy rivers and easy portages. We ended up in the Frost Centre just southwest of Algonquin park, a short 40km away from our cottage. I had assumed that given the relative proximity of the route to Highway 35  and the town of Dorset there would be cell coverage to ease my wife's worried mind. Once at the access point however, there was no signal so we would be in communication silence for the duration of the trip...exactly what I wanted! 

The route started at the Deer Lake access point, down Raven Lake, a 360m portage to Gun Lake where we would camp on a peninsula point (campsite #94). The way out involved going up the narrow channel north of Gun, through another short 160m portage and loop back into a marshy area of Raven Lake before returning to the access point. Wanted to make the exit closer in case it was needed and get the longer portage out of the way on the first day when we were energized for the trip.

Packed relatively heavy because I wanted him to have some of the comforts for his first time. Our 15' wood canvas Langford Trapper would be the transportation for the trip. The portages were simple anyway and the double carries were a welcome time to stretch our feet. Here is the shot of our gear at the Deer Lake access point.

A little over an hour and we approached the first portage. The map said 360m, the sign 343m.

The little man was ready for his first carry. He's using the wool blanket pack I made for him earlier in the year. He's got the Stewart River kneeling pads rolled up on top voyageur style

His favourite part of the first portage was the wooden boardwalk setup over some soggy areas.

A huge rainstorm the night before made the place extra mucky. The mosquitos were out in full force and showed the poor guy no mercy. But on the walk back for the 2nd load, we spotted this young snapping turtle right in the middle of the path so that was a nice treat.

Another 45 minutes of paddling and we eventually made it to our elevated rocky site. He was eager to get out before fully unloading the canoe to explore our new home. I dropped him off and took this shot...

Just before the trip, I ended up getting a tent for the family that was 25% off. It's the Eureka Midori 3. Good enough for our family needs and the dimensions fit our super comfy double sleeping mat. Here's the tent setup with rainfly rolled out of the way. The canvas pack in front is the recently repaired Woods 200.

 Eureka Midori 3

Here's our tarp setup in our living area. The natural rock edge served like a countertop and someone placed a flat slab on top for an even better cook surface. You can just see the tent in the far left of the photo.

Dark clouds rolled in for our first evening, but he patiently waited out the hour long rainfall in the tent, content to draw pictures of the day's events. We had also made a leather case for his coloured pencils in anticipation of the trip.

The rain let up later that evening so mealtime was under the comfortable tarp. Brought along some more homemade gear, including the folding tripod stool and the collapsible bucksaw chair. Re-using one of the kneeling pads as a cushion made it super comfy and he pretty much hogged the chair for the rest of the trip.

A new gadget for camp was a little device called the SaveAqua tap. It is a self closing gadget that can attach to virtually any plastic container lid to serve as a hand washing station. I attached it to the lid of an un-used 64oz Sawyer Squeze bag and suspended it from a nail left on a tree. A quick push up of the ball tip and water would flow out allowing you to efficiently wash hands or pots. Once released the water flow would shut off tightly.

The "faucet" at camp

closeup of the SaveAqua tap

The next morning was grey but serene. Woke up to my son missing from the tent. He had gotten dressed and was watching calling loon in the distance with his binoculars.

Breakfast was some pancakes made with mini trangia set and some homemade utensils carved a while back.

The campsite featured a wonderful flat rock right at the water's edge that we called the "dock". We lounged around camp that day wondering if the drizzling rain would persist, but thankfully sunny skies were in for the rest of the trip

Just around the bay, is a small waterfall - Brandy's Falls. Last time I visited here it was completely dry, but the deluge from 2 days before raised the water levels enough for us to hear the falls from our tent. We hopped into the canoe and went to explore...

Creek section and sunny skies...

At this point in the trip, I gave him the option of bailing out early if he was bored and wanted to go home. He said "No way" and wanted to start on an early dinner. We made dehydrated soup and he dug right in.

After playing some cards and more drawing I was wondering what he this restless 7 year would do to entertain himself. He decided to spend the next hour finding and throwing small rocks off the ledge.

Then he grabbed the camera to photo document our campsite. Snuck up on me to capture this shot.

We learned from a passing group that the regional fire ban had been lifted given all the rainfall so it was off in the evening to collect some dead wood along the shore for a small fire.

He had a pair of water shoes for paddling but to be comfy in camp, I had made a pair of father and son mocassins from oil-tanned leather using this tutorial here. They held up well and he noticed how quiet they were  while walking around camp. He spent even more time wandering around the peninsula silently tracking a persistent woodpecker going from tree to tree.

We fell asleep easily the 2nd night  and woke up to a nippy morning where the full moon was visible in the horizon.

By now the food barrel was considerably lighter so he wanted a go at carrying it. Here he is retrieving it from out stash point on the far side of camp. The straps needed to be adjusted but he was willing to carry it on the next portage.

The morning ritual included filling up our water bottles. I've modified the Katadyn base camp filter with a quick hack learned online to eliminate the constant clogging of the filter.

After a leisurely breakfast and breaking camp, he helped load up the canoe by the shore dock before the paddle back to the car.

I had anticipated an hour to paddle out, but the river and marshy section was choked with lily pads that slowed us down considerably. Ended up being about the same amount of time as it took to paddle in. Managed to get one more photo of the stillness on the paddle out before the camera's batteries died. Wanted to get more pics of the 2nd portage but the batteries were at the bottom of the pack and not worth the hassle. We had all the great memories we needed.

Now he wants to help design and make his own paddle and go for a longer trip next year! Stay tuned for that project in the near future

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Historic Paddle Photo: Schmidlin Family Reunion - Grand River

Many thanks to fellow Torontonian Stephen F for pointing me to another historic photo showcasing some paddle designs. The wikipedia page of Paris, Ontario has a photo featuring "A turn of the century family gathering on the banks of the Grand River near Paris, Ontario."

The woman in the centre of the image is holding a paddle with a full view. The original image is out of focus but the it looks to have a relatively tiny ball grip compared to the size of the grip. Unfortunately couldn't find any more details about the photo, but the filename is save as SchmidlinFamilyGathering-ParisON.jpg.

Paddle Closeup

Sending in any historic photos featuring paddles is always appreciated!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustration: Peltley - Indian of the Mic-Mac Tribe

Found another slightly higher resolution image of a painting by Lieut. Robert Petley (1809-1869) previously posted back in 2010.

Indian of the Mic-Mac Tribe
Library and Archives Canada

MIKAN 2837766

The higher resolution image shows some subtle chevron markings on the blade the paddle...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Quick Woods Pack Repair

Started working on repairing the three Woods packs obtained earlier this summer.

This first one is a later model pack with thinner, darker olive canvas but some neat additional features. It has a some nylon webbing around the perimeter along with a built in map storage packet in the top flap. There are also small slip pockets on either side of the base. The previous owner mentioned this was one of many packs supplied by Woods Canada for a group sponsored trip to Labrador.

Here's a photo of the original condition of the pack, complete with an oval logo patch on the front.

This pack had a large repairable tear by one tump buckle anchor as well as a growing hole on the front. The leather components were dried out but salvageable so they were not removed, but just re-oiled. I also removed the torn Woods logo from the front as the thin material was flimsy and cracking.

Original Condition front

Original condition rear

The vertical shaped tear along the tump buckle was easy enough to stitch back together resulting in a discrete seam that I could live with. However, the round hole in the front could not be stitched closed as too much of the woven canvas had been lost and I didn't want a pucker in the front that could tear again under stress.

medium sized hole in front

Instead, I secured the perimeter of the hole using a blanket stitch of waxed braided cordage. This resulted in a neater round hole that shouldn't enlarge any further.

Edges stabilized with blanket stitch in waxed thread.

Then to cover the hole, a square scrap of veg tan leather was stitched over the hole. Not the neatest job, but it was in a very awkward spot to saddle stitch. Just to add a little Canadian flair, I ended up stamping the leather with a maple leaf...

Leather patch job

Unlike the other 2 packs which will be washed and scrubbed with a cleanser, I left this one in its obtained state. The clean spot left over from the original oval Woods label is obvious but it should fade over time.

Oiled up and ready to go

This pack was also missing its tumpline so another one will need to be made, but for now this user pack is good to go.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ethnographic Sketches - Adney Paddles

Stumbled on the marvelously illustrated site of Aldo & Corrado Cherini. They've collected loads of sketched images representing various enthographic marine vessels from around the globe. Their North American Gallery showcases images of bark canoes. Most of the sketches are remakes of Adney & Chappelle's Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America which is now freely available online at (see post about that here). Still it is nice to peruse their galleries and see their sketched paddle artwork like the samples below...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Great Lakes Maple Paddle

Came across an archived listing of an interesting paddle from Cowan's Auctions. Lot 723 of the 2004, American Indian Art Auction was loosely identified as a "Great Lakes Maple Paddle".

Great Lakes Maple Paddle,
beautifully carved with broad flat blade, a narrow rounded shaft, and broad flat handle. Openwork carving resembling ribbon work at end of handle
length = 66.5 inches

Condition: Insignificant/ light surface abrasions.
Price Realized 

Sept 29, 2016: Offset data for this paddle shape is available. See this post here.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Maiden Test of the Playmate & Sassafras paddle

Got a few hours to dip the 14foot Chestnut Playmate / Peterborough Mermaid into some water after finishing the basic refurbish (read part 1 post here and part 2 here). We're lucky enough to live a quick 10 minute drive to Cherry Beach in Toronto, where one can access some protected waters and paddle around. The real point of the trip was to see if the re-sealing job on the canvas held up and if the boat had any leaking issues.

Quick access to the lake

This was also the first water test for the latest Sassafras paddle I've been  working on since last year. Also brought along the Birch Cree paddle as a backup.

Loaded up ready for the first dip

First impressions of the canoe were great. She is certainly deeper and narrower than the 14' built with Pam Wedd back in '08. The playmate / mermaid feels like it rides lower in the water and the shoe keel makes the canoe feel stiffer. Thought it handled very well heeled over too. The sassafras paddle worked really well. Feels lightweight but has a nice bit of flex, like ash. I've got 2 more paddles in the works from Sassafras that should be fun to paddle with too.

After confirming that no water was gushing into the boat, I proceeded to do a little tour of the bay. Instead of going over to the channels in the Toronto Islands, this time I just paddled the shoreline of Tommy Thompson Park. It's actually an urban dump for concrete construction waste and dredged sediment that has become a naturalized bird sanctuary. There is a healthy popluation of urban coyotes taking up residence here too.

Naturalized shoreline and shallow beach shore

Loads of ducks and waterfowl abound, but I was drawn to follow a pair of mute swans in the distance...

Mute swans and other waterfowl

Around one bend, I started to smell a strong fishy odour only to see this beast dead on shore. For size reference, there is a washed up can at the upper left. Some type of carp I suppose?

Right after I took the shot, I noticed two large bluish fish quickly shoot under the canoe. They looked to be the size of the paddle blade (27") and could be some of the Salmon being stocked into the lake for the sport fishery.

Anyway, more paddling and one quickly realizes that Tommy Thompson Park has become a huge nesting ground for Cormorants. Their guttural croaks silhouetted outlines make the whole area look pretty eerie.

Always reminding you that you are in an urban centre, started to hear an aggressive motor roaring. It was a Police Boat zooming off to an emergency call...

Eventually turned around and took a last look at the city skyline before heading back in...

Turns out there is a little bit of water seepage from the stern stem which can be easily dealt with some more sealant. Might have to remove the stem band to seal properly afterall, but I've confident I can get at least 2-3 seasons more usage out of her before the need to recanvas..

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