Since the material cost of building a full-sized birchbark canoe is relatively inexpensive (but with no guarantee that I can pull it off), I've decided to pursue my canoe building dreams with a professional builder. I've officially enrolled in Pam Wedd's build course just outside Parry Sound where over 9 intensive days, we'll be building my very own 14ft cedar canvas canoe based on an historic, circa 1890's E.H. Gerrish mold. Pam's Bearwood Canoe Company is really famous around here and her premium canoes (decked out with Sitka Spruce inwales, Black Cherry trim, hand-caned seats) retail for over $5000. The course build cost is about half that price with the added bonus of learning all these skills in a one-to-one setting. Seeing a finished model of the intended boat at the WCHA assembly sealed the deal for me...it was gorgeous!
Pam's 14ft Gerrish model I'll be building
As a history buff, I was also attracted to the fact that E.H. Gerrish is apparently accepted as the first commercial builder of cedar-canvas canoes having basically adapted the building process of the local Penobscot natives in Maine to use oil-sealed canvas as a replacement for birchbark. In the end, I'll end up with my own hand-built boat (under professional supervision) that is the next best thing to a bark canoe while probably learning some extra woodworking skills that'll help me out during the future birchbark build.
So basically during the days I'll be working on this Cedar Canvas canoe and in any spare time, I'll be gradually working on the bark build. Somewhere in there will be my wife's OB-GYN appointments and time for sleep.