Friday, August 3, 2018

3 day Father & Son Trip - Year of the Deerfly

Got to spend some quality outdoor time with my older boy on our annual father son trip.  For the last 2 years, we've been visiting the Haliburton Highland Water Trails (formerly Frost Centre) to explore these well maintained waterways. If you missed them the first time they were posted, those trip reports can be read here and here.

I had planned to take him further north on a more adventurous route to the Temagami area for some Crown Land camping but a large chunk of the area came under a voluntary evacuation due to serious forest fires. About 100 kids from the famed Keewaydin camp even had to be evacuated to North Bay

Given these conditions, we decided to make an easy trip to familiar waters so we went back to the HHWT. The summer has been hot and dry and we went in knowing the area had a daytime fire ban. Turns out the day we paddled in, a large swath of the region (including Algonquin Park) declared a total fire ban so no campfires in the evening either.

Brought along the wanigan and a few other bits of homemade gear including his custom paddle made last summer, folding bucksaw chair and our trusty set of oil tanned leather moccasins. Along with these heavier luxuries, my little guy wanted to bring his acoustic guitar for entertainment so I didn't want to do something too excessive. We had anticipated one night at the far end of the access point lake then we would paddle a short stretch of river, take two easy  portages (less than 100m each)  over to the next lake for an additional two nights. 

We arrived to an near empty lot with only one other vehicle parked at this normally busy access point. Glorious weather was predicted for the week so the fact that we would see only one other group was a nice surprise.

Paddling in

After a leisurely paddle down the lake, we explored the campsites along the route for future reference. In the end we ended up with a nice peninsula site tucked in its own private bay that had two tiers of elevation and a large rocky expanse to lounge around.

Rocky spit and easy waterfront access at site

We set up our tent under a large pine by the shore and also hung our water filter system on a cut branch stub. Some  flat boulders near the tent pad served nicely as a bench. 

The rocky frontage had many little points where the lake depth dropped quickly. After helping out with the site setup, my boy grabbed his rod and started casting right off the edge.

No bites at this time of day, so he decided to take out his guitar and jam. Can't quite see it in the photo below but there was a loon in the distance serving as his lake front audience. Got a couple of loony wails when playing some acoustic AC/DC.

While he was rockin' out, some food was prepared and I got to enjoy a mid-day cappuccino in a new camping cup. The cup was made from a split coconut shell sanded down to remove all the hairs and a piece of antler for the handle. Holds a good 1-1/2 cups of fluid...

Coconut Kuksa Cup

After a nice shore lunch by the breezy shore, I surprised my boy with some bushcraft gear I made over the off-season.

New camping / bushcraft gear

The set included his very first "real" knife & firesteel combo. Up until now he's been playing and practicing with a wooden set made a few years back. Used a Helle Fjording blade (short 70mm = 2-3/4 inch long) with a walnut bolster and elk antler handle. Also tried a different sheath and belt loop design with stamped markings and his initial. The pointy tip from the antler piece was re-purposed as a handle for his own ferro rod. Leather scraps were stitched up to make a belt holder.

Also ended up making myself a new knife using a very affordable Condor Woodlaw blank. The olive wood scales came from my Great Uncles property overseas and was from the same tree that I used to make one my crooked knives back in 2009. Decorated the handle with a bit of pyrography and made an accompanying dangler sheath - a very comfortable design for canoe camping when you need to kneel in the boat.

Anyway, my son loved his new kit. He wanted it on his belt right away and pretty much kept it on for the rest of the trip. 

Proud little bushcrafter

Later in the evening when the wind died down we tried our hand at fishing as well as exploring a wetland for any wildlife.

Exploring a wetland for  herons

No luck fishing

Day one ended well and the following morning a beautiful mist was rising off the lake. 

The mosquitoes were out at this time, so with armed with a bug jacket, another attempt at fishing was made while breakfast was being prepared.

Early morning misty fishing

No bites again so the patient fisherman wanted to paddle and explore another section of the lake. The mosquitoes weren't quite as bad by this time but the deer flies came out in aggressive hordes. Never been bothered by bugs in all my years of camping but have to admit this year's deer fly scourge even got me frustrated.

Time had come to pack up and move to the new campsite (the same one I stayed on during my solo trip last fall), but the thought of dealing with the blood thirsty deer flies on the paddle over and portages through the bush didn't seem too much fun. So far we had the whole lake to ourselves and despite being booked on another site, we decided to bend the rules and stay on being ready to move on if anyone came.

I was going to keep our bug shelter at home and just rough it with bug jackets. At the last minute, my boy mentioned we should bring it just in case. He even moved stuff into his pack so we could make space for this bulky piece of gear in the main pack. In the end it was a super smart move!

We set up in an elevated part of the site and this became our home to cook and relax in relative backcountry comfort.

VCS 13 Bug Shelter = total necessity in the year of the deer fly

The wanigan proved to be a great practical use on this trip again. It was our kitchen, our table and our entertainment centre. The chess set I made with wood scraps and the inner tray got lots of usage. My son played lots of chess at school this year and decisively beat me every single game.

"You should stick to making stuff instead", he said.

That reminded me of another camp gift I made buried deep in the pack. Years ago spotted a design on the site of a folding canvas and leather pouch. I stitched the sack from a scrap of dropcloth tarp and attached the leather components that serve as a belt loop and cover. Explained to him that he could keep the pouch folded up on his belt and then open it up to throw-in whatever he collected. Here's a shot of the "Dump Pouch" on his hip.

With bug shirt back own, we explored the thick bush behind the site to find various forms of tinder. I gave him a challenge to try and find things that he thought he could light with a spark from his ferro rod.

In the end he collected some dried sphagnum moss, old man's beard lichen, reindeer lichen, a pine cone, and some birchbark.

The fire starter collection

Given the total fire ban, we packed these up to bring back home and experiment in the safety of the backyard back in the city. Another trip is in the books and hopefully we'll get some more family paddling in later this summer.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

2018 WCHA Assembly Highlights

Just concluded a wonderful 4 days in wooden canoe heaven at this year's WCHA Annual Assembly in Peterborough, Ontario. Given the family obligations I needed to commute from home each day but the whole event was quite worth it. Due to our extremely dry summer, the normally lush grass turned into a field of dried yellow, but the canoes on "The Green" were nonetheless quite stunning.

The theme for the event this year was Chestnut Canoes and a wide variety of these classic Canadian icons were out on display on the lawn.  

Chestnut Chum complete with wanigan and Woods canvas pack

A Chestnut Bob's Special, and a few Prospectors

1930s Chestnut Bob's Special with beautiful heart shape decks

A new Canadian attendee to the assembly brought in a very old Chestnut cruiser that has been pretty well cared for. The owner installed a new centre thwart to carry it, but the seat and thwart placement is what was found in older boats. I overheard expert Dick Persson of Buckhorn Canoes assess it as a post-fire, late 1920's Chestnut.

My own little 14 foot Chestnut Playmate seemed crowded with the wanigan and homemade pack basket. On the lawn was a digital scale to help weigh the boats. My little Playmate clocked in at 68.8 lbs without all the gear! Visual evaluation by the experts revealed it has spruce inwales and oak outwales. It'll be needing new canvas and I learned some techniques as well as some creative ideas to get the weight down on this boat. 

My own 14ft Playmate loaded up

Couldn't speak to the owner of the following boat, but it had very interesting outwales with a feature I've never seen before. The ash outwale had a laminated layer of walnut on top giving it a two toned appearance.

walnut and ash outwale

Also fascinating was one of the project canoes on display. Turns out it is the same model as my own Chestnut...another 14foot Playmate being brought back from the dead!

14 foot Chestnut Playmate - "minor repairs needed"

In just a few short days, the hull was regaining its shape. Totally fascinating that an old reject like this could be made to float again.

Pretty boats aside, the real highlight was the chance to re-connect with old friends and make new ones. Craig Johnson and family made the lengthy trip from Ohio. He brought a 1930's Peterborough High End Champlain as well as some his lovely paddles. It was great to get a feel for them in person.

In fact, his wonderfully carved White Cedar paddle was a personal favourite at the show. Weighing in at around 1 pound, it felt like magic in the hands. Craig has apparently tripped with the paddle as evident by some healthy scratches on the surface 

1 pound white cedar paddle

Canoe builder Pam Wedd of Bearwood Canoes was there showcasing her marvelous skills with workshops and some of her boats, including another 14ft Cherish built on the same form as my build from 2008.

Very fortunate for attendees was that paddlemaking master Graham Warren of Moosehead Canoes was able to make the long trek over from the U.K. Graham educated the audience on various ancient paddlemaking techniques as well as his novel ideas with experimental paddle design. Also intriguing to me  was his demonstration of making a paddle by burning a board and scraping out a shape.

Professor John Runciman of Guelph University brought along a series of his own paddle replicas made by measuring various indigenous designs in museums across the continent. While mostly dealing with West Coast and Subarctic designs, there were a few East Coast designs including an etched paddle replica of an Abnaki/Penobscot paddle featured in one of the early posts of the site.

Catalog No: 50.1/ 9826
Locale: ME
Country: USA
Material: WOOD
Dimensions: L:171 W:16.5 H:3 (in CM)
Acquisition Year: 1916 [PURCHASE]

My own paddle display was up during the day time and the presentation on Historic Paddle Decoration hopefully added a different angle to the morning lectures. My older son accompanied me and was a wonderful assistant showcasing our 10 paddle replicas while I spoke. 

Many thanks to the Assembly coordinators and volunteers who made this event possible.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Preview of WHCA paddle display

I've been frequently mentioning the upcoming WCHA Assembly in Peterborough, Ontario taking place from July 17th to the 22nd. All of my paddle projects of late have been designs to form an outdoor display for this event. The display is now completed and will focus on  Historic Paddle Decoration to go along with my short presentation scheduled on July 21st.

For the display, I chose 10 examples of Woodland paddles previously discussed on this site which feature unique decorations as documented in historic artworks, manuscripts and museum collections. It needed to be portable for transportation so I started off with a metal sawhorse with collapsible legs. I have a set previously used to make a pair of elevated canoe cradles (post here).
Mastercraft folding metal sawhorse

A four foot piece of 1x10 pine was bolted on top and 10 little paddle stations were drilled out with a large spade bit. I also made a backing of sorts with some wood scraps on hand and painted the thing with excess black paint collecting dust in the basement supply.

Sturdy base with room for 10 paddles

Two, 2'x4' hardboard panels were used for the upper display and attach at the base with bolts and wing nuts for easy tightening. The boards were also painted black to serve as a backdrop. Images of various historic paintings were printed on thick cover paper, glued onto bits of scrap wood and then sealed with a slightly glossy varnish. These art panels were then attached to the hardboard with some industrial Velcro so they can be removed and reattached for transportation. Some of the art pieces were mounted on thick wood others on thin stock so they give the display a bit of a 3D feel. Hopefully, these will add some interesting context to the visitor.

Small panels of Historic Artworks

My two page article on the Schoolcraft paddle (Wooden Canoe - Issue 205, Vol. 41 No.1) has been put into a protective glass frame that can be removed and read for anyone who might be interested. Here is the final display all set up...

Completed display of 10 Historic Paddles

The 10 paddles selected for the display (left to right) are:
Codex canadensis paddle
circa 1750-1780 Algonquin Paddle
Davies' paddle from 1788
• 1820 Schoolcraft Paddle
McCord Museum Eastern Woodlands Replica
• circa 1850 CMC Eastern Woodland Paddle
• circa 1850 Mi'kmaq paddle from Anonymous
Krieghoff paddle from Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada
• 19th century "Delaware" paddle
Green Passamaquoddy paddle (Peabody Museum)

If any readers are planning to attend the Assembly, feel free to drop by to check out the display and say hi!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

C1849 Peabody Green Passamaquoddy Replica

Long time readers of the blog will recognize my affinity for a special paddle in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.  Item Number  99-12-10/53655 is a Passamaquoddy paddle featuring a green blade and decorative double curves added in white paint.

Peabody Number: 99-12-10/53655
Canoe paddle, elaborately decorated. Blade painted green, double curve motif.
Dimensions: Length: 180.5 cm, Width: 17.6 cm, Dep: 3.3 cm
Donor: Heirs of David Kimball (1899) 

Discussions of this beautiful piece have been made in many posts over the years.  The lovely blade shape has been been the inspiration for many of my paddle creations, including the heirloom paddles for my two sons, my main  tripping paddle and a few others (posts here and here). 

Using an old piece of poplar stock, I decided to replicate the design again while trying to stay true to the original paddle's features. It was however scaled down to my preferred paddle length. The shaft was stained to mimic the aged wood in the museum photo and the blade painted with green Tremclad oil paint with the white decorative curves.

Given my clumsy nature with paints, the double curves ended up thicker than the original, but here is the final result...

c1849 Peabody Paddle Replica

This one will also be featured in the feature display for the WCHA assembly

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Juraj's paddles from Slovakia

Here are some paddle submissions by blog reader, Juraj from Slovakia. More photos of his carving process can be seen on his online gallery link.

The paddle on the left is American Black Cherry and the right is Maple. The grip design and decoration for the cherry paddle is based on the circa 1860 Woodland paddle that appeared on  page 384, plate 473 of the exhibition catalogue,  Pleasing the spirits : a catalogue of a collection of American Indian art by Douglas C  Ewing (1982).

The grip on his maple paddle is based on the design of my elder son's heirloom birth paddle which also appeared on the cover of Glooscap, the Beavers and the Sugarloaf Mountain illustrated by Réjean Roy.

Juraj finished both paddles with 3 coats of Boiled Linseed Oil and then a mix of BLO, turpentine and beeswax. In addition, he restored a fiberglass canoe with some custom carved wood components. The finished canoe has been launched and paddles have been dipped in a tributary of the Danube. Check out pics of this beautiful canoe country below.

Well done and happy paddling, Juraj!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Anonymous Algonquin Couple Paddle Replica

Another unique paddle design replicated for the upcoming WCHA assembly  is from an illustration by an anonymous artist. Dated to between 1750-1780, the painting in the collection of the City of Montreal archive illustrates an Algonquin couple in period clothing.  The male figure holds a paddle over his shoulder.

Algonquine, Algonquin . - [ca 1750]-[ca 1780]
Ville de Montréal. Section des archives
CA M001 BM007-2-D27-P004

The paddle has a fairly unique shape, a short blade design with recurved shoulders, a lengthy shaft and a distinct bobble shape grip. It seems very reminiscent of modern day SUP paddles hitting the market.

In any event, I had an idea to re-use an incomplete blank that was begun years ago and never finished. At the time, I used a narrow maple board and laminated some walnut edges to make a whitewater paddle with an experimental Battenkill Grip.

Laminating walnut edging

Original whitewater blank

In the end, I never really did much whitewater paddling and the finishing the blnk no longer became a priority. The short blade design seemed suitable to re-purpose into this display paddle but the overall shaft length was too short. So a simple shaft splice was done with some maple stock and the shaft extended. Here is a photo after the splice and with the blade roughly re-cut.

Ended up cutting the shaft down a bit more and used the bits to laminate a cube at the grip. The was eventually worked down to form a bobble grip similar to the original artwork. I had some blue and red Tremclad Rust paint on hand for the blade decoration, but ended up using a torch to burn the shaft and grip to a charred finish.  Here is the final result...

Circa 1750-1780 Algonquin Paddle Replica

Friday, June 15, 2018

Davies, Berczy & Armstrong paddle replica

Just completed another display paddle for the upcoming WCHA Assembly in Peterborough this summer. My presentation on Saturday July 21 will focus on decorative themes featured in various artworks over the centuries. One such pattern that consistently occurs in several artworks is the "checkerboard" pattern where the blade is painted in opposite quadrants, sometimes with additional decorative elements.

The earliest painting illustrating this pattern I could source is by British Artist, Thomas Davies (1737 - 1812). His painting entitled  A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec.. is dated to 1788 and features a standing figure holding a short canoe paddle decorated an alternating red pattern. The native group is thought to be Abenaki or Huron / Wendat based on the canoe designs and clothing.

A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec with an Indian Encampment, Taken in 1788 (1788 )
 Thomas Davies (1737 - 1812)

Davies' Paddle Closeup

Decades later the red checkered pattern appears on a work by William Bent Berczy (1791 – 1873) entitled Indian Encampment near Amherstburg features a stylized shore scene. In the rear is a bark canoe and a set of decorated paddles lying on the ground.

Indian Encampment near Amherstburg, c. 1819-1830
William Bent Berczy
British, Canadian, 1791 - 1873
watercolour over graphite on wove paper

A closeup reveals that one paddle looks to have a single side painted red while the one underneath has the diagonal checkered pattern with red paint. Given that the paddle grip was not depicted in the earlier work by Davies, I ended up using Berczy's illustration as the source for my reproduction.

Berczy Painted Paddle's Closeup

Then 30+ years later, the decorative element occurs again in multiple works of William Armstrong.

Hudson's Bay Store, Fort William c. 1860-1870 
William Armstrong
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30490)

Indians Completing a Portage
William Armstrong
1873 watercolor 
Library and Archives Canada, Mikan #2833414

Paddle Closeup (far right corner of original image)

The Distribution of the Government Bounty on Great Manitouling Island 1856
William Armstrong

Paddle Closeup (bottom left corner of original image)

Echoing the images portraying rather short paddles, I carved this one from an offcut of basswood. In the end it has a 21 inch blade and an overall length of 4 feet, making it quite suitable for one of my sons to use. It has a blunt, flattened grip as in the Berczy painting. On one side, I included the additional dot element from Davies' work in 1788 and on the other painted the simple checkered pattern found in later artworks of Armstrong.

Paddle Reproduction from Davies, Berczy and Armstrong

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