Saturday, January 24, 2009

Low Tech Canoeing

I suppose I sound like an old man nostalgic for the " Good Old Days" but I am glad I did my canoeing before GPS was invented. It must take away a lot of the thrill of wilderness travel when you know you can't get lost.
This is a re-telling for the Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge 09 audience of the story of my 1948 canoe trip in Western Ontario which was first published in "Wooden Canoe", the journal of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, in its June 1997 issue. The article was entitled "Grandfather's Collegiate Canoe Trip". The author was my grandson Adam Tury.
I will Email this in what my nieces call "digestible bites" to those who were last year's recipients of my almost-daily reports on Charlie Parmelee's Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge progress paddling and wading and portaging from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan. If you want off the list or know anyone who would like to receive this year's reports let me know. Once th UHHC 09 gets underway I will send out daily reports.
Canoe and eqipment-wise in 1948 we were much more like the 1790 Hugh Heward party than the Challengers who will be paddling and portaging across Michigan's Lower Peninsula this Spring. Grumman was just converting one of its World War II fighter-plane factories to the manufacture of aluminum canoes. Royalex and Kevlar had not yet been invented, graphite was for pencil lead, bicyle wheels were for bicyles not canoe carts, and what I might call the Kruger Revolution in canoe design was still decades in the future. In fact, this trip took place 15 years before Verlen first paddled a canoe of any kind.
"Once upon a time four college guys went on a canoe trip to Western Ontario. Two were veterans (war veterans, not canoe trip veterans) and two were not. I shall call these collegiate voyageurs Ken, Ned, John and Jim.
Ken and Ned purchased an 18 foot Guide Model Penn Yan wood and canvaas canoe from a War Surplus store for the trip and sold it back to the same store afterwards. They were both of rather sleight stature and quite inexperienced.
Jim and John, the veterans, had their family's 18 foot wood and canvas Old Town Otca which had been built in 1921 The Otca had spent most of its previous career on a local resort lake surrounded by cottages and big-band dance pavillions, and where the only wild things were the Saturday night parties. Jim and John were both over six feet tall and had paddling experience.
I turned out to be an even match. The Penn Yan had a low bow and stern and was sleek and light in weight. The Otca had the clssic high ends and was heavy with many layers of paint and varnish. Thus the two smaller, inexperienced canoeists in thei fast Penn Yan kept right up with the two larger, stronger, more experienced paddlers with their heavy weight wind bucker. Actually the Penn Yan traveled more miles than the Old Town because Ken didn't believe in the J-stroke. He insisted on switching sides to steer when he was in the stern, a practice which resulted in a lot of zigging znd zagging by the Penn Yan.
NEXT: Trip planning

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