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.

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