Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes XI

Continuing with the "Wooden Canoe" article:
The Indians who buzzed by them in gasoline powered freight canoes didn't think the guys foolish, they thought they were stupid for paddling when outboard motors were available. Grandpa said from then on they called themselves "the stupid white men."
The Indians that they encountered were mostly families traveling in twenty-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 Grumman made it possible to aluminum-plate every other wet rock in the north country.*
Rainy Lake is big, windy water 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.
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 campsite are a few trees and a place to build a fire. Since no level ground is required, their choice of campsites was practically unlimited.
Their food guide was Deep River Jim's "Grub List for a Two-Weeks Cruise" (very heavy on bacon, flour, macaroni and beans). On Lloyd's Emporium's recommendation, they added hard-tack, dried fruit, Canadian canned butter, and Cadbury's Carmello Chocolate Bars. Their food supply, supplemented by unbelievably good fishing, turned out to be quite adquate and nourishing except that they vastly underestimated their appetite for anything sweet. Exertion-driven energy demands and a shameful failure of self-discipline caused them to deplete a two-week's supply of sugar, candy, jam and syrup in five days.
They were thus facing many days of deprivation and possible sucrose starvation when a minor miracle occurred. They rounded a point on what they believed to be a wilderness lake when lo and behold, there was a fly-in fishing lodge with two good-looking Chicago girls in bathing suits sitting on the end of the dock! Grandpa said that it was indicative of the state of their desperation that they were as interested in the prospect of aquiring sugar as they were in the girls.
* Historical note: When World War II was drawing to a close, Grumman Aircraft Company on Long Island developed a line of canoes made of aluminum using the same technology that they used in building their famous Navy fighter planes. They became ubiquitous. Son Jim and I own a 17-foot Grumman Eagle that we use for paddling on the Grand River. The Grand is a "boulder garden" in our area to which I would not expose my precious 56 year old wood and canvas canoe. 
Next: Shooting rapids.

Emailed August 18

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