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
Culture: ABNAKI, PENOBSCOT
Locale: ME
Regions: EASTERN CANADA, NORTHEAST
Country: USA
Material: WOOD
Dimensions: L:171 W:16.5 H:3 (in CM)
Acquisition Year: 1916 [PURCHASE]
Donor: PAUL, GABRIEL A.



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.



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