Friday, October 28, 2011

Woodpecker Paddle Art

Check out this awesome Woodpecker paddle art piece made by Joanna Haslem at Owl's Pen.

Carved Woodpecker Paddle


Closer Closeup

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steersman Voyageur Paddle

Here's a long steersman voyageur replica paddle found on Flickr...

Seems very much shaped like the paddle used by the Avant (Bowsman and lead voyageur of the brigade canoe) as pictured in Arthur Heming's exaggerated depiction on Voyageurs running a rapid below...

Arthur Heming
illustration from his book, The Living Forest

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woodspirit Canoe Paddle

Here's an interesting bit of paddle decoration. From the BWCA Forums
is this post of laminated paddle with modern "voyageur" style blade and tripper grip. The area at the base of the grip has been carved with a Wood Spirit motif...

Wood Spirit Tripping Paddle

Always wanted to try my hand at carving something like this...might be nice to add a touch of flair to an otherwise mediocre laminated paddle. Still, I'd be afraid to mess up the carving until I get more practice. For those interested, there is a lengthy (33 pages!) and pic heavy post on Bushcraft USA that offers a very clear step by step tutorials on wood spirit carving.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Porpoise Hunting Canoe & Paddle

From the NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are some public domain images regarding the fishing industry in the US. I found an interesting photo of some native hunters in their ocean birchbark canoe posing before a porpoise hunt.

Indian porpoise hunters of Passamaquoddy Bay
Image ID: fish6819, NOAA's Historic Fisheries Collection
Photographer: Archival Photographer Stefan Claesson
Credit: Gulf of Maine Cod Project, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries; Courtesy of National Archives
Photo Link

The chap on the far left is holding an exquisite example of a Maliseet/Passamaquoddy style paddle with fine lines and elongated grip. You can just make out the decorative semi-circular cut out near the bottom of the grip. Looks to be like the modern replica to its right made by Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe.

Paddle Closeup; Doug Ingram's Similar Grip pattern

For visual example of native porpoise hunting from a canoe, check out this post which features a 1936 silent film of Mi'kmaq hunters in their canoe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Windpaddle Sail Review

In anticipation of the paddling season coming to an end (always a depressing time for me), I had splurged on a bit of retail therapy to help my mood - a WindPaddle sail. When a breeze picks up during paddling trips, many folks rig up a makeshift sail with paddles and tarps for some downwind crusing. I've done the same when paddling with a partner, but solo canoeing makes it more akward. This sail seems to fit the needs of solo paddlers and was different from any other product I've seen out there - a fiberglass, tensioned hoop supporting some ripstop nylon clipped to a boat and controlled by a loop of line (sheets) from the shoulders of the sail.

It can be folded to 1/3 of its size and pop-up ready for action at a moment's notice. I liked the fact that it was absurdly lightweight (13 oz.) and did not require any permanent modification to your can be simply secured to seats or thwarts with two unobstrusive clips

On the stern seat for scale>

The larger version of this sail (the "Cruiser") has been reviewed by canoeists before...check out this one over on Song of the Paddle. Since my boat is a very light, 14footer I went with the smaller, more manageable "Adventure" sail which seemed a better fight for my canoe. Like MagiKelly's review, I found the sheets to be awkward to hold at the location the sail was I ended up using an extra bit of line tied with a tautline hitch on one end which allowed for some lateral adjustment and attached this new line to the center yoke with a quick-release highwayman's hitch. This freed up my hands to steer with a paddle and in case I needed to bail out, a quick yank of the free end line and the sail would immediately collapse forward onto the deck and power down.

Rigged up with clips to the seat

You can also power down by pulling the lines in - after a very moment of acceleration, the wind spills over the top and the sail collapses under its own weight. It would then rest easily on the the widest portion of the canoe until you flicked it up again to catch any wind. In practice, this is where my tripping packs would be and the sail could easily lay on top of them without hindering any paddling performance. When portage time begins, it can then be recoiled and secured to the seat easily enough for transport across the trail.

Easily pulled forward

When needed again, a quick flip up and the sail begins to capture wind again...

All in all a lightweight bit of gear that I plan to bring along on some overnight trips next summer to take advantage of any blowing wind.

Windpaddle Power

Friday, October 14, 2011

1860-1875 Voyageur Paddle

Searching through the forums on Canadian Canoe Routes, I came across a this dated post by Dave (Watersong) with a link featuring an aged but interesting canoe paddle. Apparently experts at the Canadian version of Antiques Roadshow confirmed it is an authentic voyageur paddle dated to between 1860 - 1875. Very cool!

Aged Voyageur Paddle

Narrow Blade Width

Small pear grip

The relatively short length (56") with a long & narrow blade (35" long by just 3 inches wide!) makes it very consistent with true voyageur style working paddles. While the term "Voyageur" is used by many paddle makers because of its romantic connotations, most that bear the name are usually paddle designs inconsistent with historical evidence.

The main power of the large trade canoes were supplied my the grunt working Milieux Voyageurs who needed very narrow bladed paddles to prevent fatigue with their manic stroke pace. Also if a paddle was lost or broken, one would have to be carved from a log en route. From my own experience in making a few bushcraft style paddles, it is a whole lot easier to find and quickly carve a narrow blade from a log than try to carve a wider blade pattern with an axe and crooked knife. Add the fact that that along more northern trade routes, the diameter of the trees are limited by the short growing season and you have a practical limitation with blade width.

Although designed to power large 26-36 ft trade canoes, I personally believe that this design still has merits for the modern solo paddler. The relatively short shaft length of only 21 inches on Dave's paddle can be explained by the fact that voyageurs travelled in heavily loaded boats, some with just a few inches of freeboard. As a result, the paddler was in fact quite close to the water line and a narrow shaft makes sense to sink the whole blade into deep water for the propulsion stroke.

Today, many solo canoeists heel the canoe over to its side for added paddling comfort and maneuverability. This means the modern day solo paddler is also quite close to water line. Check out the pic from BB's article on the "Omering" technique

Solo paddling close to the water line

In my own experience with slender blades (both the Walnut Kingfisher and Sparrow Maple Solo, I've made the shaft shorter in comparison to the blade length but nowhere near as Dave's Voyageur. Still, they are a delight to use but of course have their limitations in shallow, rocky water so I tend to use them only for deep water style paddling rather than tripping.

This might be a fun design to replicated by carving from a log and recreating some authentic Voyageur history when the season begins again in the spring.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Circa 1860 Penobscot HBC Paddle

From Jeff Bridgeman American Antiques comes another antique paddle. The description cites that the wood is Tiger maple and that the paddle was made by the Penobscot Indians in Maine for the Hudson Bay Company for their for 50-foot-long "barge canoes" that were used to transport furs. It is dated to circa 1860.

Native American Barge Canoe Paddle
Circa 1860
Width: 7.5"
Height: 83"
Depth: 1.5"

The whole backstory seems very strange to me. Never heard of 50 foot barge canoes before. My understanding is that the largest birchbark canoes (Canot du Maitre) used in the Fur trade of this era were limited to about 36 feet since this is the approximate maximum length before the weight of the hull would cause the bark to collapse onto itself. This is described by Canadian Canoe Museum Curator Jeremy Ward who built a 36 ft replica that was featured in a Ray Mears episode here.

The wide paddle blade at 7.5" is very inconsistent with narrow fur trade paddle that voyageurs tended to favour for their arduous stroke pace. This is also the first I've ever heard of the Hudson Bay company commissioning Penobscot Indians from Maine in United States (never part of HBC fur territory) to make canoe paddles for their fleet. Although, I have read about the tradition of Cree, Montagnais, Algonkian tribes in Canada assisting with the construction of paddles and canoes (particularly in Quebec). Maybe I'm missing something here but it is an interesting piece nevertheless.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Historic Paddle Photo: The Sennet Girls

Hope all my Canadian visitors are having a great Thanksgiving weekend. Weather here in Toronto has been stunningly enough for shorts and bathing suits. In that theme, here is a oddly quaint shot of some "bathing beauties" with a canoe paddle dated to dated to 1919 (via Vintage Ephermera).

Another angle of this same shot can be seen on which contains a caption explaining the context.

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Sennett girls." Producer Mack Sennett's comedy reels featured a bevy of "bathing beauties," among them Marvel Rea, seen here in the harlequin costume. National Photo Company.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

c1890 Green Ojibway Paddle

The October Current Items page from the features a painted Ojibwa canoe paddle circa 1890...

Ojibwa Indian Canoe Paddle
A finely carved maple paddle with an early light green painted surface. It features a rolled-top handle with faceted details, and a stepped transition from blade to shaft.
Circa 1890
4.5" w, 67" h

Here are some closeups of the interesting roll grip and blade pattern. It looks very consistent to Graham Warren's outlines of Ojibwa paddles with the interesting addition of some notched shoulders...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chartres Canoe Model Paddles

Found some pics of another, earlier canoe model with some decorative paddles. These photos date from 1955 showing the "Chartres Canoe" dated to 1762, at the Musée des Beaux-arts in Chartres, France. Black and white only, but you can just make out the chevron style hash marks on the paddles.

"Model of a birch bark canoe 1762, at art Museum, Chartres; Summer photos 1955; CCFCS [Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies]" 

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