Saturday, January 24, 2009

Low Tech Canoeing III - The Stupid White Men

Heading north: Continuing from the "Wooden Canoe" article  about my 1948 canoe trip in Western Ontario:
"The Indians who buzzed by them in gasoline powered freight canoes didn't think the guys were foolish they thought they were stupid for paddling when outboard motors were available.. Grandpa said that from then on they called themselves "the stupid white men".
"The Indians that were encountered were mostly families traveling in 20-foot wood and canvas canoes with square sterns for their outboards. Usually these canoes were double-ribbed with half ribs between each pair of full ribs."
"The year this trip took place was well beyond the era of birch-bark canoes but a little before the time when Grumman made it possible for canoeists to aluminum-plate every other wet rock in the north country".
"Rainy Lake is big, windy water to eighteen foot canoes so they turned the two canoes into a catamaran by lashing them together outrigger fashion with two sturdy saplings. This system provided excellent stability. Four paddlers gave them good power and it didn't matter on which side Ken paddled."
(I Emailed Valerie Fons and asked when Verlen developed his catamaran system. She says: "The catamaran poles were part of Verlen's design early on. His prototype Loon had holes drilled in the deck combing for the fiberglass pole to fit into. Ultimate Canoe Challenge may have used a pole with Steve--don't know. Verlen used the pole with my canoe when we paddled Baja, The pole system developed into a pontoon design for the Eddie Bauer Mississippi River Challenge where we used a single hull and put floats out for stability in big Mississippi water.").
(Valerie lives on Washington Island between Green Bay and Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. She has adopted six kids. She and Joe run Bread & Water, a restaurant, lodging and kayak tour business. Her big deal this summer is the Washington Island Canoe and Kayak Race, Expedition and Symposium.  She needs a kayak tour leader--a paid position. Also a cook for the kitchen at Bread & Water--hopefully someone who can paddle too).
Continuing: "Army surplus jungle hammocks were used in lieu of tents and worked out very well. Jungle hammocks have sewn-in mosquito netting and waterproof roofs. All you need for a camp site are a few trees and a place to build a fire.  Since no level ground was required their choice of camp sites was practically unlimited."
(You had to do a good job of tying your hammock to the trees as Ned learned the first night when his hammock sagged and dipped his butt in a puddle. We used war surplus down and feather sleeping bags. They worked fine. As I learned on a subsequent trip on the Manistee the GI blanket sleeping bag is way too cold.
NEXT: Food

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