Summer Means Canoes Built the Old-Fashioned Way


Image from tri-town

"Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver...." It's a song familiar to cottagers and a symbol of all that's magical about the north. So is a canoe, slipping silently across the water.

Canoe-making could be Canada's oldest industry. The companies that used to make canoes are long gone, now there are individual craftsmen working alone and turning out a few a year. These old style wooden canoes hearken back to the days of the voyageurs.
The Leader of the Liberal Party Sterns a Canoe

Canada's national newspaper, the Globe & Mail, calls it Canada's oldest industry, in its affectionate round-up of Canadians still making canoes the old-fashioned way: by hand and one by one.

They are an eccentric group; working alone mainly, in their early 40's and older and not making much money. Each canoe takes months and it's a solitary job. But it's an obsession and a passion: they love the work, the craft and the people they meet.

Making Miller Canoes has been a life long passion for Bill Miller. Working in New Brunswick, he built his first one at age 15 and figures ""I've got 36 more years before I retire. I will gladly build my last canoe on my 100th birthday."


Image from Fiddlers on the Tobique

He initiated a canoe festival, Fiddlers on the Tobique, where canoes, people and musicians come together for three days of music, fiddle playing, jam sessions and celebrating the wonder of canoes.

Anyone can build one! Ha! Here are instructions from Bill Miller. Good luck.


Image from Barry Sharpe
Barry Sharpe is another lone wolf, working in New Brunswick. His grandfather was in the business and it is obviously in the family blood. He makes 15 to 30 wooden canoes a year with a small team of 4 people. Bobby Orr owns one and former President Carter fished in one. They weigh 250 lb. and are very stable, so they are more suited for salmon fishing in the Restigouche River than solo paddling.


Image by Ruch Canoes
Will Ruch has been in the business in Bancroft, Ontario for 25 years. Some consider him to be the "Stradivarius" of builders; he only makes a few a year. Each one takes approximately 120 hours (2 months) to make and costs $5,000.

Red River Canoe & Paddle is Doug Ingram, a fine arts graduate who began working on canoes professionally after university. West Country Canoes in Alberta was started by Larry Bowers because of his passion for cedar canvas canoes.

As Will Ruch said about the business: "If you spend two or three months making something, it becomes a chunk of you, like for a painter."


Image from Red River Canoe & Paddle
Land of the Silver Birch

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver
Where still the mighty moose wanders at will
Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more.

Refrain
Boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom
Bo-o-o-o-m

Down in the forest, deep in the lowlands
My heart cries out for thee, hills of the north
Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more.

High on a rocky ledge I'll build my wigwam
Close by the water's edge, silent and still
Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more.

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver
Where still the mighty moose wanders at will
Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more.

Tags: Boats | Energy Efficiency | Transportation

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