Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Celebrating National Canoe Day in Gravenhurst, ON

Got to spend a gorgeous Sunday morning paddling with other canoe enthusiasts at the Canoe Day celebrations in Gravenhurst, Ontario. The event was hosted by the folks at the Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre. Great place to visit with interactive displays and neat stuff.

Photo Credit: Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre

It's mostly focused on the steamships that plied the lakes in the region as well as the wooden motor boat tradition in the area, but their awesome in-water boathouse also features some historic canoes. They've got all wooden Peterboroughs dating to the later 1890s, two birchbark canoes, very interesting Walter Dean racing canoes among others all mounted on displays where you can touch and get real close.

Photo Credit: Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

The paddling group launched from the docks on the rear of the building for an informal tour of Gravenhurst Bay. Included was a large carbon-kevlar voyageur canoe powered by seven folks from the local canoe club. A few kayaks accompanied the group. Well known Temagami expert and winter camper Craig MacDonald from Dwight, ON brought along his 20 foot canoe recently finished with a dacron fabric skin. Here's my newly canvassed 14' Playmate floating nice and dry...

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Some of the group ready to depart
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

C. MacDonald's Cedar Dacron 20 footer
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Also in the group was a local volunteer at the Discovery Centre who lives on the lake and paddles in to work nearly everyday. How awesome is that! I paddled along side 83 year old Ron Riddell for most of the tour hearing about his paddling adventures throughout his youth. We were excited because we both had the same 14' model of Chestnut. Here's an online bio I found of this amazing gentleman...

Paddler Extraordinaire Ron Riddell
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

We learned about the logging history of the bay, the location of WW1 POW camp for German Officers and the modern day development pressures happening in the area.

Back at the centre, some fellow volunteers with the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association worked our booth. Here's Bill showcasing two paddles he brought with him. The one on the left is 100+ year old paddle that his belonged to his grandfather. When Bill was in his twenties, he carved a copy. Both were made from clear spruce and were very light given their overall size.

Bill's paddle belonging to his Grandfather (left) and his copy made in his 20s
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

I brought along my display of historic paddle designs. Here's Ron getting a feel for the Krieghoff replica paddle.

Talking historic paddles with Ron
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Here's a final photo of the WCHA team and Ron at our shaded booth.

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Monday, June 17, 2019

Reader Submissions

Recently I received correspondence from two readers of the blog who have begun carving their own paddles.

Ville K from Finland sent in a photo of his first attempt at a paddle. This one is carved from a board of aspen which is apparently commonly sold for sauna seating in Finland. The paddle has been treated with a mixture of pine tar and boiled linseed oil, a traditional treatment for dugout boats in the region.

Ville's Aspen canoe paddle

Another blog visitor,  Art Shaw from Lyndhurst, Ontario, sent in a few more photos of his paddle creations. These are richly decorated with etchings and beautiful chip-carving details. .

Very happy to hear that this site is serving as a useful source of inspiration and guidance for other paddle makers. Keep up the great work!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Completed Canoe Restoration

Been working on the Chestnut Restoration over the last several weeks. Unstable weather hasn't really helped with working in the back yard but the canoe finally has a new skin and is water worthy.

Canvas stretched and preservative about to be brushed on

After the untreated canvas was stretched on the hull, the cloth was lathered with a chemical preservative to prevent rot. The stuff is very stinky and the boat needed about a week for the smell to dissipate.

Next up the dried, treated canvas was filled with a waterproofing agent. Last summer I learned of a relatively new compound used by canoe restorers, a water-based sludge known as pipe lagging compound. It is normally utilised to treat the canvas insulation for industrial pipe and duct work in buildings as a water-proof & fire resistant alternative to asbestos. Turns out, this lagging compound makes a functional canvas filler for canoes with a dry time of about 30 hours rather than the 30 plus days for traditional oil-based filler. The cost per gallon is also about half for pre-made oil-based + silica filler.

Water based canvas filler

Since the point was to get this canoe functionally out on the water for the summer season, I opted to use this stuff. It is a gelatinous white goo that can be worked in with a foam roller and brush. The downside is that it requires multiple thin layers rather than a thicker application of the traditional filler. Due to the lack of silica in the mixture, it also doesn't sand well to a polished surface so it needs a more careful application. Advantages include a much easier cleanup along with the relatively fast hardening/drying time. It finished to a white rather than a slate grey colour which means the contrast on the canvas isn't the greatest but it worked well for this user boat.

Canvas filled with lagging compound

After a few days, the hull was roughly sanded with 120 grit and a layer of primer added. Then the process of multiple colour layers with vigorous sanding between layers begun. The canoe was again painted in its original red colour. Here's a shot of one of the sanded colour coats...

A few more coats and the hull was a nice smooth shiny red and the canoe was flipped over to trim the excess canvas at the sheer line.

Done painting the hull

Thought about changing the outwales but for the time-being the original oak outwales were put back on after cleaning up 50+ years of gunk on the inside surface and resealing with fresh layer of varnish. All the rusted, stainless screws were replaced with brass. The original show keel was removed and I've decided not to return it back on. The original brass stem bands were also cleaned up and temporarily re-positioned on the stems with some tape in order to drill pilot holes. Sometimes, the staples or tacks used to secure canvas at the the ends ends up blocking the original stem band holes and need to be delicately drilled. In this case, I managed to avoid any issues and could feel the drill going easily into the original holes  after puncturing the filled canvas so that was very satisfying.

Temporarily securing stem bands to re-drill pilot holes

Some messy bedding compound was added to the underside of the stem bands and they were secure with tiny #4 screws. After a few final touch ups the canoe is now ready for a decades of more service. Haven't weighed it yet, but by eliminated the keel, using lighter weight #12 duck canvas (which takes less filler to fill), it would've dropped some poundage. I also might remove one of the heavy ash seats and replace with a homemade thwart at some point but for the now the canoe is water-worthy again. Hopefully will be tested out in the near future. In the meantime, the lawn is going to need some major TLC.

Fresh new skin

As an aside, a neighbour has a beat-up fibreglass canoe that has rested dormant on its side for years in their backyard. The sad reality is that the boat in need of major repairs and has likely lived out its short existence. The only way to dispose of it is now to take up space in landfill. The beauty of the cedar canvas design is the ability to restore almost endlessly with minimal toxicity at the end of its life.

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