Monday, October 19, 2015

Chestnut Playmate / Peterborough Mermaid acquisition

Excited to pick up another wood canvas canoe this weekend.  She was advertised as a 14' Chestnut. Not too many of those tend to pop up in the classifieds so it peaked my interest.

Over the years I've read many positive things about the 14 foot pleasure models by Chestnut & Peterborough Canoe companies. Sometime after 1954-1955, Chestnut began marketing a 14 footer named the Playmate which featured a narrow ribs only 1-1/2" wide with 1 1/2" spacing. Back and forth with the seller revealed the dimensions of his boat were consistent with this model.

 These boats seemed quite narrow, the outwale to outwale width is just 30 inches with a depth of 13" at centre thwart. In comparison, the width of my other 14' canoe is 32" with an 11" depth.  I was also happy to see that there was no visible restoration work on the ribs or stems. The previous owner stored it properly because the ends look pretty good too. Normally this area is the first to rot heavily and need replacement.

The outwales look like oak and have scarfed joints that are just coming apart where the glue has failed over time. Oak rails were apparently common on 14' pleasure canoes.

Scarfed oak outwales

A chunk of the outwale has been broken off or maybe chewed by a curious critter? Same for a small piece of the inwale although this taste test looks more recent.

Broken / Torn piece of outwale

Nibbled bit of inwale

It sort of reminded me of this bit of canoe art...

Not sure if the seats are original. They do look quite aged. Certainly the steel hanger bolts are a recent addition. The seats will need to be re-done but not sure if I'll bother re-caning. Might go with something more utilitarian since the intention is to use this as a solo tripper.

 Original brass carriage bolts in the back; steel modern bolts in the front

The paint on the canvas is heavily cracked and it looks like it's only been one colour for the life of the canvas - red. Took off a few paint chips and the filler is still pretty decent. I might just gently scrape, sand and slap on some primer and paint just to get a season out of her before attempting to recanvas.

Crackling paint job


The Chestnut decal in the seller's original advertisement looked pretty authentic so I went in thinking this was a narrow-ribbed Chestnut Playmate. When I got there, however, I notice a non-Chestnut serial number stamped on the stem: 1814 5453. The first number looked like a Peterborough model code - 1814 is the model number for their 14foot Mermaid model.

Chestnut Decal

Serial Number

I've posted on the Wooden Canoe and forums to get some feedback from the experts there. Given the overlap in production history between Peterborough and Chestnut, it doesn't seem that odd that it was built as a Peterborough and then slapped with a Chestnut decal - making it a hybrid of sorts...a Peternut.

The other advantage of the Peterborough code is that it offers a rough date range that a Chestnut serial number cannot provide.

Since Peterborough officially went out of business in 1962 (some sources state production ended in 1961), the presence of this code would mean it would date to before that period.

More updates to follow...

July 2016 Update: The superficial restoration has been Part 1 post.


David said...

Good looking boat Murat, I wish I could find a wood canvas canoe up here that is not a full restoration( even that doesn't come up often).

Have you find out more info? Do you know if it all original?

Have you weighted it?

Anyway, great find!


Murat said...

I'm pretty lucky to live pretty close to a bunch of restorable wood canvas canoes always available. But living in the Yukon has way more get to enjoy the real outdoors! I sent more pictures to a few other canoe experts for them to review. For now it looks like the boat started off as a Peterborough but then in order to fill a Chestnut order, a Chestnut decal was put on. So far, most everyone I talked to says the canoe cannot be later than 1961 but the build quality looks like late 1950s. Only the machine woven cane in the seats looks to be a replacement for the original handwoven cane. Other than that - an original.

Planning on weighing it tomorrow. Now working on building a covered structure to store it for the winter.

David said...

Wow that is fantastic!! The yukon has its benefits, you should come to a family trip one year, We would take you guys out!!

A covered shelter is a great idea!!


Unknown said...

I have recently restored a Peterborough Mermaid. It's a wonderful boat to paddle. Mine wasn't anywhere close to the nice condition yours is in. Wonderful find.

Claude D

Murat said...

Thanks Claude. I'm very much looking forward to next season and getting it in the water!

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