Saturday, August 31, 2019

WCHA - Northern Lakes Chapter - Cherry Beach Paddle

In an effort to meet local members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, I offered to lead a group paddle to Toronto Islands for the Northern Lakes Chapter.  It was scheduled for August 27th, but after weeks of beautiful weather, that day happened to coincide with heavy rainfall and extremely gusty southerly winds. The event was bumped a few days to Thursday. Joining me on the outing was Chapter Head, Alex G and local Toronto resident, Bernadette F along with her cute dog, Pookie. Bernadette was able to use public transit to arrive at the location as a shuttle bus leaves from Union station and stops right at the foot of Cherry Beach, our access point.

Conditions were much more favourable than two days prior, but a brisk Westerly wind (the prevailing direction) created some chop for the initial departure. Luckily, Alex brought his 16ft North Bay Canoe prospector which handled the conditions well and I  bobbed around in my re-canvassed Chestnut Playmate. Once in the main canal however, all was calm for a enjoyable tour.

We were greeted by a picturesque family of Mute swans, with mother and father book-ending their two cygnets in a postcard formation. This will be my wife and I walking our kids to school in a few days...

Summer canoe camps run on the island and a group had recently landed on the shore of one of the undeveloped islands to sing some camp songs while we silently paddle by...

Water levels on Lake Ontario were down from their all time high earlier this year, but they were still much higher than anything I've seen before. The shoreline which used to be sandy beach was flooded and getting under one particular bridge meant ducking under or getting your forehead smacked with concrete.

Large fibreglass voyageur canoes took tourists around, yet the local wildlife seemed undisturbed by the grunts and competing splashes of the paddles.

The group spotted two herons in the marshy areas which impressed us with their noble poise...

Due to the flooding, the island train that skirts the waterfront was non-operational and many of the farm animals at Far Away farm were inland away from their waterside pens. However, we were later gifted with seeing a mink swim across are bows.

The wind conditions in the inner harbour were too intense to check out the old Hanlan's point where the old baseball stadium once stood and where Babe Ruth hit his first home run into Lake Ontario waters as a pro-baseball player. Instead, we stayed in the protected channels until we reached the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes. At one point it was just 25 feet from the exposed lakeshore, but sand deposits and fill have now left it marooned 100 yards inland. The tree line to the south has also grown so that the lighthouse is no longer visible from the lake as originally intended.

On the way, we got some interesting comments from people riding the Gondola above one of the canals. Mostly, it was how cute Pookie the puppy was while riding in the canoe. The white and brown building in the background is the island church, St.Andrews-By-The-Lake (1884) where the every summer in July, the lagoon fills with all sorts of watercraft for the annual Blessing of the Boats, a neat local tradition.

My re-canvassed stayed completely dry which was nice. I may need to tweak the seat a little bit, but on the whole I'm absolutely delighted with this narrow 14 footer as a solo boat. Plans are to perhaps attempt another group paddle to the Islands in spring. Perhaps we'll have more people turn out after a long difficult winter.

In the meantime, the WCHA Northern Lakes Chapter may run another in another paddling hot-spot in the city - The Humber River Marshes - sometime in late September, early October to coincide with peak fall colours.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer 2019 - Working on new paddles

Any morsel of free time was spent working on paddles this summer. At the moment, I have 3 distinct designs being worked on. First up is a 58" replica of the circa 1860's Woodland paddle collected from the St. John River area in New Brunswick featured earlier in this post here.

Circa 1860
5 ft. 3 3/4 in. 

I didn't have any birds-eye to work with, but just used plain soft maple. Still have to work on symmetry and the grip area, but here is the progress so far. It will likely be stained to match the honey-toned patina of the original.

1860 St. John River paddle in soft maple

Simultaneously, I've been working down a choice piece of spruce to make a reproduction of a pole grip Cree paddle dated to circa 1930-1935. The original with a black painted blade is in the Musee de Quai Branly in Paris, France.

Géographie :  Amérique –  Amérique du Nord –  Canada
Culture :  Amérique –  Cree
Date :  1930-1935
Dimensions et poids :  158.5cm  x 12.5cm, 647 g
Donateur :  Paul Coze
Précédente collection :  Musée de l'Homme (Amérique)
Numéro d'inventaire :  71.1931.44.155

My version was hewn with an axe and turned out ok except for a cumbersome knot at the top of the pole grip which created a slight bulge in an otherwise straight shaft. It was easily worked down with a crooked knife creating lots of wood shavings and bits for the evening camp fires.

c1930-1935 Cree Paddle in spruce

The inspiration for this final paddle is an illustration by famed Canadian artist, Arthur Heming (1870-1940), who travelled with voyageur brigades at the very end of the fur trade era. This specific artwork depicted a hardy voyageur  climbing up a steep slope with a tumpline loaded with a crate and large sacks of supplies. A narrow paddle with an oval bobble grip acts as a support stick.

This particular illustration was selected to visualize a description of a tough uphill portage by the canoe party in J.W. Tyrell's Across the sub-Artics of Canada, published in 1898 and available on Heming accompanied Tyrell on this trip and sketched many realistic portraits of the crew and environment. It stands to reason that the accomplished artist drew this paddle design from a realistic sample in the field.

My version was made from a narrow basswood board and also worked down with a crooked knife and spokeshave. Still not finished yet but it is coming along...

Heming Voyageur replica

Here are all three paddle side by side for comparison. Interesting to see that in their raw states, they all have similar pale tone. 
2019 Summer's work so far

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ville K's 2nd paddle submission

Blog reader Ville K from Finland sent in his second paddle creation (see his first paddle here).  This one features the same "Algonquin" blade shape described in Graham Warren's books but has Ville's own style of the elongated Northwoods grip.

This paddle is also made with from aspen and is sealed with a traditional Scandinavian pine tar / boiled linseed oil / wood turpentine mixture. This time around, Ville explained that he applied another layer the next day, when the first treatment was still moist.  He believes this wet on wet  method resulted in a better surface treatment and also resulted in some pleasant tar colour being absorbed into the wood.  Well done!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Blanchard's 2019 Adirondack Auction paddles

Blanchard's Auctions is hosting their Adirondack Auction beginning August 9th. Their online listings of items includes a variety of canoes and paddles.

First off, a vintage all wood canoe listed as a 16foot J.H. Rushton with half round ribs

Also included in the collection is a 72 1/2" long paddle with green painted blade and extended grip. It apparently appeared in a book, Ralph Kylloe's Cabin Collectibles on page 84.

Grip Closeup

Below is a photo of a birds-eye maple paddle from Boston maker F. Brodbeck. It is 68 1/4" long with a motif etched into the short handle base. The company was active from 1898 to 1930, so this paddle can be roughly dated.  For comparison sake, another Brodbeck paddle (with an H inscribed on the grip) was featured on this site here.

Blade Closeup
Etching closeup on grip

Another wide blade with broad handle is featured below This one is 69 1/2" long

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