Thursday, November 27, 2014

Early Chestnut Bobs Special with Tumpline

An Ebay seller has posted what looks to be an early (1920s-30s) Chestnut Bobs Special wood canvas canoe.

These wide beam canoes were first marketed as "50-Pound Specials" since they weighed roughly 50 pounds and were nearly 10 pounds lighter than any other canoe of comparable size using novel construction methods of the time. Their relatively flat bottoms allowed for more stability when standing in flat water so were preferred by fisherman and other sportsmen.  A more detailed history of the Bobs Special (including the curious originating source of the name) can be read in this article by Kaydi Pyette of Canoe Roots magazine.

One of the more "famous" users of this canoe was Grey Owl (Archie Belaney). Here is a photo of him standing in an early model 50 Pound Special. The photo was taken during his stay in Prince Albert Nation Park sometime after 1931.

Grey Owl in Chestnut 50-Pound (Bobs) Special

Back in 2010, I wrote a post researching Grey Owl's paddles and discovered that one of the paddles he used is kept in his cabin on Lake Ajawaan, SK. That post also has 2 silent films from the National Film Board of Canada showcasing his skills in a canoe.

Anyway, the Ebay canoe up for sale needs new canvas along with some minor planking and seat repairs. But overall, it looks to be in great condition for the age. What caught my attention however, is the original home-made tumpline (all stitched - no rivets) along with a custom carved notched carrying bar.

A closeup shows a carved indent in the middle of the carrying bar where it was lashed with a separate piece of cordage to the centre thwart. Additional cordage is wrapped with hitches to slide the paddle blades through.

Apparently this canoe has its original canvas and has sat unused under a cabin for quite a while. Either way, the original paddler knew about this method of rigging. Hopefully, this interesting canoe will be purchased by someone who will restore it and bring it back to its full tripping glory.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Historic Paddle Photo: Maliseet Guides - Rod & Gun in Canada

My latest discovery of of old periodicals on is the outdoor themed publication, Rod and Gun in Canada. It was first published in June of 1899 and ran in various incarnations until 1974. While not strictly a canoeing magazine, many of the issues feature some sort of canoe related expedition to hunting grounds or fishing spots and make for great reading. currently has 38 early volumes of venerable magazine for copyright free browsing and use.

The Sept 1910 issue (Vol 12 No.4) has an article entitled,  "Diary of a Canoe Trip" by   W.C. Gaynor.  It documents an  82 mile canoe trip from the border of New Brunswick into Quebec. Gaynor took the liberty of crediting his Maliseet guides for their superb performance in the many rapids and included a photo of them in his article.

The full page photo luckily captures both a full frontal view of the main Guide's paddle (right) and a profile view of another.

You can tell these are working paddles. They are rather roughly carved and have especially thick shafts for strength. Curious as well is the obvious knot hole  in the blade of the paddle on the right. Paddles like this would've been carved from whatever resource was available and likely discarded.

This paddle shape with its elongated blade and long tapering grip is one of my favourites for tripping - although mine is reduced to a relatively short 58" length. While I've been using one made out of cherry for the last few years, it is currently being refurbished as an heirloom paddle for my 2nd son. Now there is another one in the works being made from Sassafras to use as my working paddle.


Guide's paddle with my similar Cherry Version

Monday, November 17, 2014

Grandfather Canoe Update

Here's an interesting update regarding the famed 21 ft "Grandfather" canoe discovered in Ireland and repatriated to St. Mary's Maliseet First Nation back in 2009.

Documentary make Joe Kearney created a podcast on RTE Radio1 (Ireland) explaining the spiritual significance of the canoe. A bark replica of the original was built under the guidance of Steve Cayard and appropriately named the Grandmother Canoe.

G. Wayne Brooks & Steve Kearney with Maliseet Paddles

Turns out that if funds can be arranged, another replica with be made in an effort to teach youngsters these nearly forgotten skills with the final product donated back to the University where the original Grandfather Canoe once hung. 

More details in the accompanying article that appeared in the Irish Times...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zender Dale Arts - Woodland Paddle

Came across another woodland style paddle on the woodwork gallery page of Zender Dale Arts

"Handmade maple paddle canoe with carved handle, 6 inch wide by 34 inch wampum belt, and trade hatchet"

Unfortunately, the low resolution photo doesn't show details of the interesting step-like grip. It is very reminiscent of the circa 1860 Northeastern Woodlands paddle posted on before.

Circa 1860
 Maple  - 5 ft. 3 3/4 in. Original full post here

This specific  paddle was featured in Pleasing the spirits : a catalogue of a collection of American Indian Art  by Douglas C  Ewing  (1982) - plate 474. Luckily one copy of this out of print exhibit catalogue was available at the Toronto Reference Library where I went to find some extra information. The black and white pics included a closeup of the floral carving details etched on the grip.

Basic Floral Etchings on grip

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Northwoods Ways Paddle Cover Photo

The Facebook page of Northwoods Ways features a gorgeously composed cover photo of some paddles. Mesmerizing grain and wonderful grip shapes...

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