Thursday, March 29, 2012

Becky Mason - Northwoods Stroke

Recently received my copy of Becky Mason's new instructional video, Advanced Solo Canoeing. It's been getting rave reviews all over the paddling community and recently won the 2012 award for Best Instructional film at the Reel Paddling Film Festival. I have a old VHS copy of Becky's first instructional video made back in 2000 and it's a bit of a seasonal ritual to watch it during the winter months. Anyway, here's the preview of her new advanced paddling film complete with some stunning underwater shots...

The highlight for me however, was the brief footage of Becky demonstrating the famed "Northwoods Stroke" as practiced by many paddlers in Maine & New Brunswick. She demonstrates the quick cadence paddling style with a northwoods style paddle grip. This very well may be the only instructional footage of the elusive northwoods stroke out there at the present. The footage is only a few minutes long, but Becky's easy to follow narration and the multiple angles provide lots of clear views of the mechanics. A few screenshots...

All in all a very rewarding paddling video that has gotten me excited about the upcoming paddling season. More info on Becky's site -

Monday, March 26, 2012

Temagami Birch Bark Canoe Project

An interesting Birchbark canoe project is in the works for this summer. The folks at Voyages of Rediscovery are raising funds for a canoe build on Bear Island, Lake Temagami. They've begun their drive with a detailed video of their goals and intention (see below)

Seems like worthy project to involve the youth of the island and bring back some pride in their native canoe heritage. Their project site on Kickstarter mentions their fundraising progress...they're getting close to their goal of $10,000. Their pledge page also lists some tempting "rewards" for pledges ranging from bumper stickers, T shirts, DVDs, crooked knives, for donations of $25 or more.

The builders previously built a 25 foot trade canoe based from a historic HBC freight canoe photo taken on Bear Island in 1896...

Photo credit: R.S. Cassels collection at the National Archives of Canada.

Here are some of their Program Objectives:
  • Film the entire project and conduct interviews with tribal community members and the young people who help build the canoes.
    Harvest enough materials to build 3 birch bark canoes.
  • Build 2-3 birch bark canoes with and for the young people of the Bear Island Band of the Temagami First Nation.
  • Incorporate the youth in every facet of the Birch Bark canoe building process: harvesting materials, preparing materials and building the canoe.
  • Facilitate a week long material gathering canoe trip for 10-15 teenagers. On this trip we will look for all the necessary materials needed to build a birch bark canoe: Birch Bark, Spruce Root, Cedar, and Ash.
  • Produce a professional feature length documentary as well as a 3 minute trailer, and a 12 minute promotional edit.

For those wondering what the donated money will be spent on, here's a list from their site:
  • Transportation to and from Bear Island, Lake Temagami, Ontario, Canada. We will be driving from Washington State in our Waste Vegetable Oil Van over 6,000 miles round trip (WVO is cheap but there are still expenses). Then taking a 2 hour barge ride with all of our equipment to Bear Island.
  • Fine wood working tools
  • Food for three months (we won't have a fridge so it'll be cheap: rice and beans, cans, pasta, nothing fancy)
  • Some professional quality videography equipment
  • Post-production expenses
  • Entry into film festival

Wishing these folks well and good luck on their exciting project!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ojibwe Women Canoe

From the Smithsonian Digital Images collection is a pic of some Chippewa (Ojibwe) women in a canoe...

Three Women and Infant in Cradleboard in Canoe
Zimmerman, Charles A. of St. Paul, Minnesota
SPC BAE 4605 01601913, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

The paddle images seem similar to the writeup in Bulletin 86 (1929) of the Smithsonian's Enthnology department, referenced in a post HERE.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Omer Beaver Canoe Pic Ads

Roots Canada has an small album of pics taken in Algonquin park. It's obviously a staged photo shoot to market their products, but it also features what looks to be an authentic Beaver Canoe. Beaver Canoes was the short-lived business enterprise between the clothing retailer and legendary Algonquin guide & paddler, Omer Stringer. My understanding is that these wood canvas canoes were based on a modified Chestnut Chum form built to Omer's specifications. Today the brand lives on only in a few surviving canoes and a huge retail brand of sweaters, T-shirts, and other apparel.

Omer paddling one of his Beaver Canoes

Roots ad photoshoot

The cynic in me totally questions the fashion choices of the models in the pics...leather jackets and backpacks to go paddling in Algonquin? But at least it's not as bad as this pic...some type of wacky Haute Couture, Karl Lagerfeld monstrosity...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Paddle Photo - Maliseet Canoe on the Nashwaak - 1867

Here's a nice photo a graceful Maliseet bark canoe taken from Leaves from Juliana Horatia Ewing's "Canada Home" courtesy of The brief letter written be Ms. Ewing describes a day paddling on the Nashwaak stream in New Brunswick.

Here's the accompanying excerpt...
Last Friday we were asked to Government House for a picnic. . . . We went across the river, and by water up the Nashwaak Cis. (i. e.. Little Nashwaak), and landed at a very pretty spot, where we ate luncheon off such lovely old china I wonder his Excellency had the heart to risk it at a picnic!

The A. D. C. lent Rex his own boat, that Rex might row me there. I told him I must have a good wrap and got a buffalo robe to keep me warm, and sat like a queen in the stern. There were lots of canoes and a few boats. . . Coming back down the Cis it was lovely, half dark, and the canoes gliding past among the shadows. The Cis was very narrow and required careful steering. I got some new water lilies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Curly Douglas Fir Paddle

R.C. Cross posted pics of his paddle on the WCHA forums. It is made from a piece of curly Douglas Fir and has a stunningly, hypnotic grain pattern. Apparently it was quite a chore to carve because of the multiple grain reversals, but what a magnificent visual effect!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Voyageur Paddles - The Beaver has an online edition of The Beaver, June 1922 which features an article on Birchbark Canoes. Here's a brief excerpt describing the paddles used by the canoemen:

The paddle used in these canoes was narrow in the blade, being about 3 1/2 inches in width, and the style of paddling peculiar to the canoe itself. The stroke was quick, and continuous, 45 strokes to the minute being about the average, and in the hands of a good crew 4 1/2 to 6 miles an hour would be attained. The stroke was set by the bowsman, always a good man, not only as a paddler and guide but an expert in rapids and rough water. He always carried two paddles, the narrow one for ordinary paddling and a long wide one for quick manoeuvering in running rapids.

The article continues in the next edition, July 1922. Interestingly, the cover of the September, 1922 edition is the one featuring a fur trade canoe with narrow paddles and an improvised sail from a red HBC point blanket.

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