Friday, September 24, 2010

Sevareid's & Port's Canoe & Paddles

Just re-read the paddling classic, Canoeing With the Cree documenting the momentous trip of Eric Sevareid and Walter Port as they traveled from their home in Minnesota to York Factory on the shores of Hudson's Bay. The book is not just any travel journal however, it is a fascinating historical glimpse of simpler time and ...

Book Covers

The read got me curious about the gear these 2 teens used on their trip. A passage I found which describes the purchase of their canoe states:
"Our canoe was 18 feet long, an American made cruiser model, with a wide beam and a small keel...The Sans Souci, we chistened her. That was Walt's idea. It means "without care." We painted on her, "Minneapolis to Hudson Bay." In order to beat other buyers for the canoe, which was secondhand and on which the middle thwart was missing, we had to skip some of our final examinations."
This matches the classic photo below of the pair about to launch their canoe at the start of their journey. Sure enough the middle thwart is missing (which would mean a two person carry of the canoe at each portage) only to be replaced with a massive load of packs.

Sevareid and Port launching

Further mention of their paddles is found in the equipment list that Sevareid prepares for the book. It includes mention of "three, five foot, copper-tipped paddles". I guess copper tipped paddles were the rage back then and considered necessary for expedition purposes. What caught my eye was the paddle length chosen for both boys (5ft) despite the dramatic height difference between the friends. Here's another photo from an archived article on the trip

Eric Sevareid and Walter Port at the start
of their canoe trip to Hudson's Bay
Date: 6/1930

The paddle just reaches Port's chin which is the paddle length dimension I've found comfortable to use, but look at the paddle dwarfed by Sevareid's tall frame. He makes it look like a child's toy! I wonder how it could have been comfortable for him to use?

At any rate, the book mentions how the canoe and gear were left behind at York Factory so it is likely these have been reclaimed by the ravages of time.


Anonymous said...

But what kind of canoe was it?
Aluminum? Wood? Or what?

Murat said...

Wood-canvas construction by Old Town Canoe Co. Read more at:

Aluminum canoes were not widely manufactured until after WW2.

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