To say Concord, Mass., resident P.G. Downes (1909-1959) was ahead of his time is an understatement. Between 1936 and 1947, the Harvard-educated schoolteacher spent his summers exploring the then-unmapped reaches of the Canadian subarctic, sensitively documenting the plight of fading aboriginal cultures and creating detailed maps of the waterways he followed by wood and canvas canoe.
C&K’s canoe technique gurus, Paul and Willa Mason, demonstrate some of the finer points to packing for an overnight canoe trip in this latest episode of VIRTUAL COACH.
After 460 grueling miles of turbulent waters, frigid cold nights, aching bodies and 50-plus hours of paddling on the Yukon River, the two-time defending champion team, The Texans, emerged victorious as the winner of the 13th Annual Yukon River Quest on Friday. As their boat came to a stop on the banks of the Yukon River, the three-time winners dawned humbling smiles.
Billed at “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race,” the Texas Water Safari will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the summer of 2012. Starting this year on June 11, the Water Safari sends teams in canoes and kayaks over a 260-mile course from San Marcos, near Austin, Texas, to Seadrift on the Texas Gulf coast.
It is a cool, overcast morning (12 degrees C) and paddlers are slowly making their way to the edge of the Yukon River with boats in tow. By 11:30 a.m. yesterday, June 29, the banks are packed—support crews, boats, fans and officials—for the start of the 13th annual Yukon River Quest, a 460 mile (740km) paddle down the Yukon River.
On Monday, June 27, Skip Ciccarelli will set out to shatter the speed record for paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which stretches from Old Forge, NY to Fort Kent, Maine. His goal is to complete the 740-mile journey in 27 days; the current record, held by Mike Stavola (aka Kayakathon Man), is just over 32 days.
It had been decades since the coastal waters of British Columbia saw canoes like the ones that plied the Inside Passage in the summer of 1997. Aboriginal artist Roy Henry Vickers and Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff sergeant Ed Hill brought native people and corrections officers together for the 31-day VisionQuest journey from the interior town of Hazelton, B.C. south to Victoria.
TOM BYERS’ DARK, DUSTY CANOE WORKSHOP IS CLUTTERED WITH EVERYTHING EXCEPT POWER TOOLS. The accomplished backwoods builder shapes immaculate birchbark craft by axe, knife, awl, and bit brace. Hundreds of feet of peeled jack pine roots join the pieces, all products of the northern forest-birchbark skin, white cedar ribs and sheathing, spruce gum-steeped in the indigenous heritage of this centuries-old alchemy.
IN THE EYES OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD CANOEING IN WHITEWATER FOR THE FIRST TIME, the 3-foot drop of Oblique Falls on Tennessee’s Hiwassee River must look like Niagara Falls. Each year, the tiny ledge on the popular beginner’s stretch sparks dozens of new paddlers. It’s where Matt Thomas, 25, had his first open-boat taste of whitewater, bumping and grinding tandem “coal barges” down the Hiwassee’s Class II rapids with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)-sanctioned Hubert Bennett Jr. Canoe School.
FOR C&K’S CANOE TECHNIQUE GURU PAUL MASON, getting on the water to film a series of skills videos with his daughter, Willa, has made for a fond trip down memory lane. Canoeists around the world still remember Paul as the plaid shirt-wearing 14-year-old paddling with his father, the late filmmaker and canoeing icon Bill Mason, in the acclaimed “Path of the Paddle” instructional series, which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in the 1970s.
Two summers ago when he was 15, Sam Levar and his older brother Caleb, then 21, grabbed their dad’s 1972 Grumman aluminum canoe to paddle the 270-mile La Verendrye fur-trading route. The brothers from Duluth, Minn., finished the historic trail along the Canadian border to Grand Portage, on Lake Superiror, in just nine days, paddling and portaging the 75-pound canoe through the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness at a pace of nearly 35 miles a day.
THERE’S A SELECT BREED OF PADDLER OUT THERE. The few, the very proud, who wear their helmets high for one simple reason: to protect their hair. Then there’s the rest, who eschew personal grooming on the water, letting their hair down (and out), and facial follicles slip well beyond five o’clock shadow, past 10:30 crustache and into the darkness of beard-dom. Fearing the razor ourselves, we salute those talented paddlers who red-line the shag-o-meter.
Earlier this month, Darrin Kimbler launched his canoe at the mouth of the Columbia River, near Astoria, Ore., with his dog, Mike, and a full load of gear. If all goes according to plan—and according to Kimbler’s blog, CanoeAcrossAmerica.com, not all has gone according to plan already—Kimbler and Mike will paddle into Key West, Fla., in eight months time.
“So you’re starting to see what I mean about all the sanding?” says Ron Pellinen, my wooden canoe-building mentor, when I walk into his shop on a brisk March morning in Northern Ontario. Perched on an office chair in his workshop garage, Pellinen has just cut the power to the orbital sander he was using to smooth the contours of a thwart, one of the ash crosspieces that adds strength and structure to a canoe.