Thursday, August 4, 2022

Modified pole garbage spear

This year, I was quite shocked at the amount of garbage and human-created debris polluting our cottage lake. Every quick jaunt in the canoe revealed sunken aluminum cans, floating plastic bottles, golf balls thoughtlessly shot into the lake for entertainment with the shoreline marred by abandoned debris of all kinds. I ended up signing up for a program called Clean Muskoka Together, a district wide initiative where volunteers are provided with safety gloves and specially marked bags for collecting recyclables and waste. These bags can then be left at various municipal waste stations at no cost for proper disposal.

As part of my own kit to tackle the garbage problem, I adapted a piece of homemade equipment to make extraction of items from the lake bottom a bit easier.  Back in 2017, I had made a 12 foot, two-piece canoe pole out of some spruce lumber and a carbon-fiber ferrule.

The top half of the canoe  pole contained the hollow, female end of the ferrule with a roughly 35 mm inner diameter.  This formed the basis for the spearing tip as a scrap piece of plumbing tubing fit nearly perfectly in this space. A bit of hockey tape was used to create a friction fit so that that this second inner tube is tight enough to hold but can also be removed to return the pole back to its original intended use. The actual metal spear tip was created with an old pair of emergency ice picks which I used to carry years ago when snowshoeing on frozen lakes in the area.  Mine were a similar set to his stock photo:

I removed the straps from the set and jammed one of the ice picks into the inner grey tube. The foam handle of the ice pick itself fit tightly within the diameter of the grey tubing for another friction fit. A bit more hockey tape and the whole thing was quite secure.

The second ice pick can be secured to cover the sharp point so I don't damage the canoe when the spear is not in use.

The spear worked great. Here it is in action collecting a sunken aluminum can...

The spear has also been useful to extract plastic bags tangled up on shoreline rocks and branches as well as broken fishing lures snagged on rocks. I was also able to extract a half buried, six foot long piece of vinyl siding from where a boathouse was under construction. It is likely this bit of debris was never retrieved from the lake when new siding was being put up. Here's a photo bringing the construction waste out from its watery grave....

On subsequent trips I removed floating real estate signs which had been nailed to trees and broken off, 2 five gallon buckets awash on the shoreline, a floating plastic kids chair, multiple abandoned floating toys, discarded rubber dock edging and even some sunken scrap metal.

But by far the most disappointing find was the incredulous amount of golf balls simply shot into the lake. While there is a lakeside golf course at one of the resorts where a small bay forms a water hazard, these balls were found in areas no where near the course and had obviously been shot into the lake for just the heck of it. Scooping the balls out required a proper golf ball retriever tool. In the end, a total of 46 were removed from multiple regions of the lake.

Online research into golf ball toxicity reveals that they take centuries  to degrade all while shedding irretrievable microplastics into the watershed.. Well before then,  heavy metals (especially zinc) leach from the inner core and add toxicity to the aquatic ecosystem, poisoning plants and fish. 

As part of final message to our cottage community, I laid out all the debris onto a tarp on our property so folks could visualize the unnecessary amount of human created rubbish just one person could remove if an effort was made. Hopefully folks will be more conscientious of their waste production. The final tally of litter collected in just 8 trips on the lake weighed a staggering  69.75 pounds! That's over 20 pounds heavier than the 14 foot cedar-canvas canoe used in the collection!

Items included:
  • 3, five-gallon buckets
  • 11 pounds of sunken scrap metal
  • 6 foot piece of vinyl siding
  • 46 golf balls
  • 6 tennis balls 
  • 35 sunken aluminum cans
  • 13 single use plastic bottles
  • 2, five-litre water jugs
  • 2 glass wine bottles
  • 31 feet of sunken line / rope
  • broken real estate signs
  • 2 waterlogged PFDs
  • a punctured 2 person inflatable raft
  • broken 40" foam bodyboard
  • sunken buoys and rubber dock edging
  • numerous bits of food wrappers, plastic bags, snagged fishing lures, bits of dock foam, punctured inflatable vinyl floaties, plastic beach toys

Calculations revealed I paddled approximately 66 km during these multiple trips effectively travelling 3 times the perimeter of the shoreline as part of the cleanup effort.


How I Spent my Summer Holiday

Monday, July 18, 2022

Oscar Farrington Canoe Paddles, circa 1864

In the collections of the The Maine State Museum are a set of decorative paddles with some interesting decorative and carved elements. 

Catalog Number: 75.10.1
Object Name: Paddle, Canoe
Artist-Maker: Unknown
Place Made: MAINE
Date Made: Circa 1875
Media Materials: Wood, Oil paint
Measurements: 63" x 6 1/2" x 1 1/8"

The painted blades have tiny shoulders and a distinct spine. The tips have been painted black and the blade face features some double curve motifs. The handle consists of a stepped grip similarly scene in traditional Penobscot paddles, but this one features a cylindrical roll grip on top. More painted scroll patterns appear on the flattened grip face. Stamped twice onto the grip face is the name "O. Farrington" along with a date of "1864".

A digital copy of Maine Fish and Wildlife Magazine (Spring 1982) features an article entitled, "Oscar Farrington. Canoe Builder?" on pages 24-25. The article discusses the likelihood that a decorated cedar canvas canoe in the collection was also made by the same hands.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

National Canoe Day celebrations in Gravenhurst

On June 26th, I took part in the celebrations for National Canoe Day. The Northern Lakes Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association had been collaborating with the Muskoka Discovery Center for National Canoe Day. Forecasted thunderstorms and rain which threatened our whole day never materialized, so a special thanks to local meteorologists for being so wrong! 

The theme of this year's Canoe Day at the Discovery Centre was the "courting canoe", a special class of wooden boat constructed for stylish leisure and affairs of the heart. These canoes were most often designed with seats facing each other and often were accessorised with pillows, picnicking supplies, lanterns, and record players. Volunteers at Heritage Boatworks workshop had been working on restoring a vintage courting canoe in the museum's collection.

The canoe is a  Peterborough no. 44, a longitudinal strip canoe (16' x 31" x 12") produced by the factory between 1909-1930. This varnished cedar model seems to have been built with added options including a torpedo style deck with storage compartment underneath as well as a hole for a mast sail. 

The canoe was, at one time, owned and utilized by guests of one of the largest resorts in the region, the famed Bigwin Inn on Lake of Bays.

The Bigwin Inn circa 1917

Later in the day, the canoe was paddled with Gravenhurst Ward 1 Councillor, Penny Varney, serving as the "wooed lady" while dressed in period clothing and protecting herself from the sun with a colourful parasol.

By the time our group was all setup we had a dozen canoes on display around the front courtyard. These included a century old birchbark, as well as new builds and restored cedar-canvas hulls.  Very eye-catching was a modern cedar-strip sailing canoe all rigged up. 

The Chapter had a few other static displays for the public to peruse. These included a 5 foot building form (courtesy of  Rob Stevens) from which the public could glean the basics of wood-canvas canoe construction. 

I also brought along a display of both full-sized and model historic paddle reproductions as well as a 3 foot bark canoe under construction.

During the day volunteers spent time demonstrating paddle carving and seat caning to those with interest...

Craig MacDonald brought his large 20 ft freight canoe covered in Dacron. At one point he had this 110 pound craft up on his shoulders!

Smaller hulls were represented by Roger Young who brought along a stellar display of various Factory Sample canoes, models, and tribal paddles.

Modern canoes were also represented as popular YouTuber, CamperChristina, brought along her brand new carbon-kevlar H20 canoe weighing in at just 28 lbs! Christina was kind enough to allow folks to try an lift this beautiful feather up for portaging and also permitted another paddler to test the canoe during an in-water demonstration.

Commodore Rick Mroz from the Muskoka Paddling Club also brought along their group's 26 foot North Canoe.

Additional demonstrations and some paddling tests were conducted in the protected bay behind the Museum building. 

All in all, a fun day was had with fellow canoe enthusiasts. Happy Canoe Day until next year!

Monday, June 13, 2022

National Canoe Day Celebrations - Gravenhurst, ON - June 26th

This year the Muskoka Discovery & Steamship Centre (Gravenhurst, Ontario) is collaborating with the Northern Lakes Chapter of the WCHA to host a day of celebration for National Canoe Day. The event takes place on Sunday June 26. I'll be there with multiple display of my historic paddle reproductions, a bark canoe model, and other carvings. Also providing a 30 min. presentation on 3 historic paddles from the 1850s (2 of which have yet to be featured on the site) that were carved as romantic betrothal gifts. Anyone in the area is more than welcome to swing by for plenty of displays, demos and paddling. Here is the promo flyer:

A full day of programming and activities has been organized with the planned schedule below:

10:00 am :
Official Event Start & Water Blessing Ceremony 

The day's festivities begin with a talk and Blessing of the Waters ceremony by Indigenous Elder and author, John C. Payette, member of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory (Manitoulin Island)
Presentation of restored Peterborough Courting Canoe (Ron Riddell)

This year's National Canoe Day at the Muskoka Discovery Centre celebrates the "Courting Canoe", a special class of wooden boat constructed for stylish leisure and affairs of the heart. These canoes were most often designed with seats facing each other and often were accessorized with pillows, picnicking supplies, lanterns, and parasols. Volunteers at Heritage Boatworks have been working to restore a 100+ year old, all-wood courting canoe, a Peterborough Comfort. Join us for the back story behind this fascinating watercraft and its restoration back to life.

11:00 am :
Seat Caning Demonstration (Ongoing through the day)
Volunteers from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will be on-hand to demonstrate the techniques of restoring old canoe seats using natural cane. Learn about weaving patterns, techniques and get your questions answered with additional resources available for those who wish to try seat-caning at home.

Paddle Carving (Ongoing through the day) 
An ongoing demonstration of the basic skills and tools needed for making a canoe paddle. Volunteers from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will be on hand to illustrate techniques and answer your questions. Resources regarding different paddle shapes and wood choice selections will be available for those interested in learning more. 

12:00 noon
Freestyle Canoeing Demonstration (Lee Benson)
Freestyle canoeing involves a combination of simple strokes, plus momentum, angle, and heel to control a canoe and make something even more artful than its parts. Watch from shore as paddler Lee Benson performs a 5 minute in-water musical performance followed by a visual demonstration and explanation of the concepts of freestyle paddling. 

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm: Lunch Break 

1:45 pm
Seminar Presentation - Romance of the Paddle (Murat Vardar)

Join us indoors for a presentation on the history of giving carved canoe paddles as romantic betrothal gifts. This 30 minute talk will discuss three surviving betrothal paddles dating from the mid-1800s that are highly ornamented and historically significant.

2:30 pm
Official water Launch of Restored Courting Canoe

Enjoy watching the launching of the Muskoka Discovery Centre's restored Peterborough Courting Canoe complete with volunteer paddlers in period dress. 

3:00 pm
Canoe Flotilla & Guided Tour of Gravenhurst Bay

The public is encouraged to join in the on-water fun as our flotilla of boats leave the Discovery Centre area and paddles along the waterfront of Muskoka Wharf. All types of watercraft are welcome. A further guided tour of Gravenhurst bay will highlight some of the features from Gravenhurst's past, including the spot of Camp 20, the WW2 Prisoner's of War Camp in operation from 1940-1946. 

4:00 pm Event End

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Ottertail Paddle up for grabs in Raffle Contest

I've donated one of my older paddles to a worthy cause. The Maple Walnut laminated Ottertail Jay paddle is being used as the First Place prize in 2022 Raffle Contest. Proceeds will go to the Northern Lakes (Canada) Chapter of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. One of their programs that got cancelled during the COVID years was a planned program to restore old wooden canoes with urban high school students to complete their volunteer hours. The kids would learn some practical wood-working skills while making derelict old canoes water-worthy again. Hopefully the program will restart again in the fall. To cover the cost of materials as well as expenses for items such as exhibition space, advertising and mandatory insurance, the Chapter is holding its first ever raffle fundraiser contest with three prizes up for grabs. 

First Prize
 58 inch ottertail canoe paddle
This full-sized artisan canoe paddle is made of Maple and Walnut and features a unique guide style grip. The blade is decorated with a hand-burned image of a Blue Jay perched amongst some tree branches. Paddle is fully sealed with marine grade spar varnish and is ready of immediate in-water use or for display. 

Second Prize 
Framed 18" by 24" Peterborough Canoes historic reprint
 Grace your walls with this large colour poster (18" x 24") mounted in an attractive wood-finish frame. This historic reprint outlines some of the various hull designs and construction methods of the world famous Peterborough Canoe Company, active from 1892 to 1961. 

Third Prize
Paddle making book and DVD set
This set of resources has all the info you need to learn how to carve a variety of one-piece and laminated paddle designs. Includes a brand new, unused copy of Making Canoe Paddles in Wood by Graham Warren and a DVD copy of Paddlemaking with Graham Warren. The DVD (runtime 90 minutes)  includes ten full-sized, digital blade plans (*.pdf format). 

Raffle Details and Tickets
Draw Date: Friday, September 30th

Tickets for the Northern Lakes Chapter raffle are reasonably priced at $10 a piece or 3 for $20. Only 250 tickets in total have been issued. Tickets will be available for sale in person at each of the various upcoming events in their event calendar. 

Virtual Tickets can also be purchased by Interac email-transfer (sent to Chapter Head, Alex Guthro) or by sending through this PayPal Link. Funds are in Canadian Dollars. Virtual Ticket purchasers will need to provide their Name, eMail and contact phone number. This information will be manually written onto each of your numbered tickets. A scan of your completed ticket(s) will be emailed to you serving as your receipt. 

The draw will take at the tail end of the paddling season on Friday, September 30th with winners announced through this website and email. You do not have to be present to win. However, winners will be responsible for pickup of the prizes from locations in Southern / Central Ontario. Please note that prizes cannot be shipped.

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