Thursday, November 5, 2020

New Project: Trapper's Canoe Restoration

Picked up a new boat that seems a perfect candidate for a restoration...

The canoe originally belonged to Richard "Alan" Reid of Otonabee-South Monaghan who passed away this year at 93. Reid was a full time fur trapper and utilized the canoe in the Kawarthas area. A few years ago, Richard gave the canoe to his neighbour & caretaker who intended to do a full restoration but had given up on the project. According to her, the canoe was originally picked up directly from the Peterborough Factory sometime in 1950s. Apparently he used the canoe extensively for trapping beaver and covered the boat with fibreglass sometime in the 1960s.

Dimensions and build look very much like a Peterbough Mermaid. It seems to be very similar is shape and dimensions as my Chestnut Playmate / Peterborough Mermaid hybrid acquired in 2015. It's a just over 14' long, quite narrow (30" beam) and a 12" depth. Ribs are the narrow "pleasure" style (1-1/2" wide). Unlike my existing boat, this one has outwales that are not spliced or rounded off so they appear quite bulky and squarish. The canoe must've been used pretty hard by the trapper as it shows signs of practical repair / alteration.

Over the course of its lifetime, the bow deck has been replaced with a new piece of black cherry and the tip ends of the inwale spliced with a different wood, possibly oak. The seat caning has long since disappeared but the original holes are there. Reid replaced the stern seat covering with a plywood plank and the bow seat with some sort of metal mesh. Presumably it was better for usage in the winter. The original center thwart is gone and replaced with a plank.

Most notably, the flat wide shoe keel standard on the Mermaid was removed and the ribs show that the original screw holes were plugged. In its place, a narrow hardwood keel with two additional bilge keels were installed each using different fasteners. The centre keel uses square Robertson screws driven from different alternating ribs from the plugged original holes. One bilge keels uses wide slot head bolts secured to the keel with square nuts. The other bilge keel seems to have been fastened with basic wood screws but from the outside of the hull towards the ribs so that no fasteners appear on the inside of the hull. 

All three keels are covered with a thick application of sloppy fiberglass but as this was likely done with 1960s Polyester formula, it is chipping off relatively easily and should be easy to remove with a heat gun.

Once I told the seller about the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, our local chapter and my intention to work local high school kids to help with the restoration, she graciously threw in 4 vintage paddles, including two very old ones that were heavily used by the original owner. More on these paddles in a different post.

Update: Read the next post about the restoration HERE.

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