Jun 20, 2011


The recent revival of Sebago's Canoe Committee, and the upcoming Bronx River trip have reminded me that I used to do a lot of paddling, single blade, old school, "J" stroke and all. I dug up some of my old photos of two special wood canoes that I had. One, an Old Town 15' lightweight "guide" model that I completely restored, and the other an ultra-light, Tom Hill designed lapstrake canoe that I built. Holly and I put many miles on these two boats, making several week long trips in the Adirondack lakes, and some weekend forays to the Pine Barrens. We paddled a bit on salt water too, on trips to Maine and Nova Scotia. Here are some pics.

The Old Town Guide, with her original canvas before restoration.

Stripping off the old varnish. The canvas has been removed.
I decided to take a canoe restoration class from renowned builder Rollin Thurlow, who was teaching at the WoodenBoat school in Brooklin, Maine. This week long course was excellent, and I came away with a nearly done boat. We stripped the old canvas off, and removed all of the old varnish prior to traveling up to WoodenBoat. This was back in 1990 or 91. Once there, I removed the old end decks, repaired the stem ends, and replaced several broken ribs with new, steam bent white cedar. Most of the planking on my boat was sound. The exciting part of this whole business was the re-canvassing. The hull is suspended in a "hammock" of #10 canvas, attached to the building on one end, and a powerful come-along tackle on the other. Here, Rollin is jumping up and down in the boat, and shoring down from the ceiling to stretch the canvas tight.

New canvas!

Stretching the canvas tight at the gunwales, before stapling.
The canvas, once stapled, nailed, and trimmed, is filled with a proprietary canvas filler (secret recipe) before painting. This mix has to dry for a few weeks, so I finished off the boat at home.

The finished boat rests beautifully in the Batsto River, Jersey Pine Barrens.
I had actually begun building the lapstrake canoe before we bought the Old Town. At the time I thought that the restoration would be quicker than building the new boat. I was wrong about that! We  finished the lapstrake boat and took a trip up with her up to Nova Scotia before we ever finished the wood and canvas restoration.

Lapstrake canoe building form.
The lapstrake canoe is built on molds and ribbands. The finished hull is lifted off of the form, which can be used to build another boat, which we in fact did. The bottom planks were glassed before planking the rest of the hull.

Sanding the interior. Inwales are also being glued on.

Portaging the 45 lb. canoe in Vinalhaven, Maine.

A beautiful sunrise on Lake Kejimkujik, Nova Scotia.
I would love to see Sebago revive some of the regional canoe trips to the Pine Barrens, the Adirondacks, and beyond. Its a wonderful experience!

No comments: