Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 19th Century Verlen - 3

Son Jim put the new Bell Rob Roy 15 in the Grand behind my house Sunday and paddled to Grand Ledge. Maiden Voyage. Great weather. He experimented with wooden paddles; straight, bent and double bladed. Also double bladed composite. Tried raising the seat level with a boat cushion. He loves it. Pat Harrington went along in his genuine 1983 made-in-Oscoda Sawyer Sglass Summer Song, shown below with the Rob Roy.

Robin Barfoot shuttled. She argued that the Rob Roy should be called a kayak. I insisted that since MacGregor, Verlen, Bell and I call it a canoe she should too. I don't know whether I converted her.

I sat on the end of the dock at the JC Boat Launch in Grand Ledge with a beer in my hand (furnished by Robin) commenting and observing like I used to do for Verlen when he was paddling behind my house.

Back to Verlen and MacGregor. I emailed Phil Peterson Sr., author of All Things are Possible, asking him how familiar he thought Verlen was with John MacGregor and his Rob Roy canoes and his travels and books. Phil responded, referring me to page 63 of his book for the only words he wrote on my topic: "Verlen even ordered a Rob Roy out of Denmark, but it wasn't big enough for their needs. Though well designed and built, neither he nor Jerry (Cesar) felt felt it was big enough to carry what they needed." Phil goes on " I believe it was the Rob Roy episode that made him and Jerry elect to build their own boats. I am almost certain Verlen had read MacGregor's books. I don't believe there was anything available on canoeing at the time that Verlen didn't read. I do remember a conversation he and I had in his basement one time when he said he liked the looks of the Rob Roy, but it simply wasn't enough boat for how he planned to use it."

Mark P wrote: "Phil is right on, this is just about the same info I talked to Verlen about on the subject. I think the only major difference other than size of the canoe would be that Verlen added a rudder and used a single blade."

A later message from Phil said: "Mark's comment about 'Verlen added a rudder and used a single blade' is significant. These were enormous changes for an expedition canoe." Then he referred me to page 218 and all of Chapter 26 of All Things Are Possible for insights into Verlen's design strategies.

Next: Some of MacGregor's 1865 voyages on the rivers and canals of Europe.

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