Friday, December 19, 2014

Alternate Canoe Tump Tying Method

Calvin Rutstrum's outdoor classic, Way of the Wilderness, is often cited as an important book showcasing outdoor and canoeing skills.  Published in 1946, it features some of his practical ideas for canoe camping at the time. Pages 25-26 have a brief blurb on portaging a canoe with a tumpline rigged up in a different manner than other sources.

After setting up the headband between two paddle blades, the tump straps are lashed around the blades and extended to the thwart where the remaining ends are used to lash the handles.

Way of the Wilderness, p. 25

Never used this method before, since I find the paddle blades a bit claustrophobic around the head. Plus I tend to bring two paddles with different blade shapes when paddling and so end up with an uneven load on the shoulders. Still, this method means no need to use any other cordage or  lashings for the paddles.

This method is apparently not Rutstrum's creation. A descriptive article simply entitled "Carrying a Canoe" by   Richard Garwood Lewis appeared in the April 1930 edition of Field and Stream (Vol. 34 No. 12). In one of his photos, you can see the paddles rigged out in a flared manner (providing more headroom than Rutstrum's illustration) with the tumpline  straps extending along the shafts to the lashed grips

Tumpline Lashing Method Closeup

Monday, December 15, 2014

Canoe Art - Winchester Ad

From the December 1904  edition of Rod and Gun in Canada is this neat ad for Winchester rifles. It features a romantic image of a hunter in his bark canoe with the his paddle propped up supporting the shot. The artist also correctly captured a carrying bar lashed over the centre thwart which was common practice for some bark canoes to take the strain off the centre thwart lashings. There's also a wanigan box resting in the hull with his hat and pipe thrown on for good measure.

Paddle Closeup

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paddle from Jonas - Sweden

Many of you might know I routinely feature creations from other paddlemakers. Blog reader Jonas from Sweden has recently discovered the joy of carving custom paddles and sent in some photos of an experimental design.

This one features a pointed, spear like blade. The inspiration for his custom carved grip came from the Etched Coast Salish Paddle posted back in January of 2013. The 64cm shaft is a transitional shape, going from round at the base of the grip to oval at the blade neck.

Jonas' Experimental Design
130 cm Spear Blade

The grain pattern on Jonas' blade is incredibly straight - a great indicator of excellent wood selection. Also impressive is that this paddle was not sanded but carefully scraped smooth which adds a lot more work to the project.

Straight grain pattern on blade

The paddle is finish in an experiment mixture of raw oxidated linseed oil, pitch oil and tar on the blade and shaft with just oil for the grip. You can just make out the subtle colour difference between these sections

Custom carved grip

Finally, Jonas has decided to start his own paddle making blog to document his journey in this fun hobby. Right now it is brand new with a short series of informative posts on paddle design and a fascinating post about the use of tar and shellac in Sweden as a finish for canvas canoes. Check it out at

Monday, December 8, 2014

Burt Reynold Deliverance Canoe Auction

A potentially bit of interesting canoe history is up for auction - a canoe belonging to Burt Reynolds that has a loose link to the film, Deliverance. I had posted about this canoe back in 2012 during the 40th anniversary of the film when it was housed at the Burt Reynolds museum in Florida (original post here).

Deliverance Cast - 40th Anniversary (2012)

Now Julien's Auctions has posted some more pics of this canoe on this listing

"Deliverance Canoe" - Julien's Auctions - Lot 316 of 676

"Deliverance Canoe" - Julien's Auctions - Lot 316 of 676

"Deliverance Canoe" - Julien's Auctions - Lot 316 of 676

Of course a casual glance of this canoe shows major reconstruction efforts that were done quite amateurishly. Also this canoe is much shorter than the tripping canoe feature in the film with no seats or a center thwart.

In the classic "destruction scene" of the canoe, Jon Voight's character goes down a rapid backwards and the canoe breaks in half after slightly getting hung up on a rock. This scene likely cemented the idea in many peoples' minds that these sorts of canoes are fragile eggshells  despite the fact that wood canvas canoes survived many epic canoe expeditions  in history. The truth is that the dramatic scene was accomplished with a bit a of Hollywood special effect - the canoe had been cut in half amidships from gunnel to gunnel so as to break as quickly and cleanly as possible. You can see the scene at the 2:38 mark from the Youtube Trailer below:

Some background research by Benson Gray of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association revealed that six identical, 16' Old Town Guide canoes (in dark green) were shipped to the film location in Clayton, Georgia a year before the film was released. Furthermore, the serial numbers on either stem of Burt Reynold's canoe are still visible and match the build records from Old Town Canoe Co. It appears someone "reconstructed" this canoe with ends from two of the original 16'  Guide models resulting in a shorter 11' 6" boat cobbled together with bits and pieces.

Serial Number 184432

Build record for 184432

Serial Number 184739

Build Record 184739

The auctioneer cannot guarantee any proof that these actual canoe bits appeared in the film but thanks to Benson's research, at least there is some association, even indirect, with this iconic canoe film.

Dec. 12 Update: Benson Gray just posted that the canoe went for a hammer price of $14,000 to an internet bidder.   It was expected to fetch $800-1200.  Wow!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

1905 Hubbard Expedition Paddles

Was very excited to follow Peter Marshall's 2014 expedition attempt re-creating the 1905 Labrador crossing by Mina Hubbard (original post here). Unfortunately, the journey was halted over the Wapustan portage due to injury but credit is due to the 2 man crew for attempting this isolated and challenging route.

In the meantime, I've been re-reading The Woman Who Mapped Labrador, a very well researched book which included Mina Hubbard's diary in print for the first time. This time around, I noted some of the gear used for the trip. Page 103 cites:

"In the hold were six maple paddles and two "Guides Special" canvas covered canoes, each "Dead Grass" in colour and 19 feet in length, purchased by Mina just a month before for $70.00 from the Old Town Canoe Company of Maine."

As an interesting aside, her original invoice for the two 19' Guide Special Canoes and 4 of the  paddles were posted onto this thread on the WCHA forums.  The remaining two paddles were evidently secured by George Elson later along their journey to North West River Post in Labrador.

Mina Hubbard's Invoice (Old Town Canoe Co)
Courtesy Benson Gray - Original Link

On the 100th anniversary of the trip, the tiny village of North West River did a re-enactment of Mina Hubbard's departure. While the 19ft Old Town Guide Specials were no longer being built, 2 canoes were procured for the event and painted in that "dead grass" colour as documented in the invoice.

Here's the "George Elson" fellow posing with his paddle on shore...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Canoe Paddle Bridle - Lining Method Pic

One of the methods of lining and tracking a canoe in rapids involves tying a rope in a sort of bridle so that the main pulling force is below the waterline. A good illustration of this canoe can be found in Pierre Pulling's  Principles of Canoeing available online on (Fig. 14, Page 109).

Page 109Principles of Canoeing

Ray Goodwin's 2011 publication, Canoeing, has an step by step photo sequence of the tying method on pages 170-171. These pages are available for preview here (*pdf format). I've used this method before (see poling daytrip post here) but find tying and untying a little cumbersome so often leave the towing bridle attached with the rope in the canoe until the next opportunity for lining / tracking arises.

Recently, I stumbled across a scanned digital edition of Field and Stream  (April 1933 Vol. 37 No. 12 ). Page 70 had a tiny article with an illustration with a different method. This one involves a simple slip-knot and a paddle for tension to form an alternate bridle method. Here's the brief clipping...

Since I've never seen this method before, I posted a thread about it over on the forums to get some feedback from more experienced trippers. There are a few responses from folks who give it a thumbs up. Hoping to try this out for myself next season and will report back.

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