Friday, February 18, 2011

Paul Provencher - Coureur du Bois Paddles

Paul Provencher was a forester in the Quebec and Labrador country on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river. He traveled extensively with native guides and eventually wrote a book entitled, I Live In The Woods . It's a great little book of personal recollections and woodland lore complete with sketches by the author. Included amongst the many diagrams of bushcraft skills like trapping, snowshoe making, wilderness survival is a brief section on canoes & paddles.

Here is a sketch of Provencher's preferred paddle design, certainly influenced by the Innu designs local to his region.

His write up:
"Long, narrow paddles, such as the North Shore canoe paddle illustrated here, are much better in rapids. Wide paddles are too hard on the fellow who has done a hard day’s work and are of no use in rapids as they are too apt to split. Besides, they cannot be relied upon for poling purposes. An extra paddle should always be carried along and kept on hand in case of emergency. If a man is alone when going up rapids, he should also place an extra pole near him."

Some more sketches show the paddle profile while illustrating his method of portaging using a tumpline to carry packs and a fully assembled reflector oven

Provencher also details the Montagnais method of prepping a canoe for the portage. It includes using a canoe tumpline and lashed paddles which are uniquely crossed before being secured onto a thwart

Montagnais Tying Method

His write up on the topic:
In packing a canoe, the best canoe-carriers of the Manicouagan and the Moisie Rivers just cross the paddles and tie them on top of the front bar. They then pass the tumpline over the blades at the middle bar. To judge the distance from the bottom of the canoe to the tumpline they measure a handspread upright.

Other carriers prefer to put the paddles parallel. If you wish to carry an extra packsack with the canoe, I suggest the Montagnais method of crossed paddles, as it gives you more room to put the bag and the blades of the paddles are not in your way. With parallel paddles most of the weight rests on the crest of the shoulders while, in the Montagnais way, the weight rests on top of the arms. Other advantages of this method are that the tumpline is more comfortably loose and it is much easier to load the canoe on the shoulders or to set it back on the ground. When the tumpline is too short, “canoe bumps,” as they are called, are apt to develop.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Interesting blog post (as usual of course)....but very much more so for me after this past weekend's Wilderness Canoe Symposium, which had many presentations related to that area of Labrador....and the Innu

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