Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cool find!

Photo by SARAH DYBDAHL / Sealaska Heritage Institute

Canoe found in Southeast may be 500 years old

Ancient tools were used to hew wood in 34-foot craft.
A centuries-old Haida canoe has been discovered near the Prince of Wales Island village of Kasaan, Sealaska Corp. announced Tuesday. Work on the nearly 34-foot vessel may have stopped around the same time that Columbus sailed from Spain.

A surveyor with Sealaska's subsidiary, the Sealaska Timber Corporation, spotted the canoe under a heavy layer of moss while working on forested land owned by the Alaska Native regional corporation last winter.
"(Engineers and field personnel) are instructed to immediately secure the area" when they recognize potential historical objects, Sealaska Executive Vice President Rick Harris said in a written statement. "(To) stop any activities that may negatively affect the cultural resource, and contact Sealaska Heritage Institute, which oversees these matters." Steps were quickly taken to protect the area until a full investigation could take place.
Following the spring snowmelt, Sealaska leaders and tribal members from Kasaan visited the site. Daniel Monteith, an anthropology professor at the University of Alaska Southeast helped with the inspection.
Of particular importance was the fact that the work on the canoe appeared to have been done with pre-contact hand tools.
"Other abandoned canoes have been found in Southeast Alaska, but it is rare to find canoes crafted with traditional tools," said Dr. Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
The present-day village of Kasaan was founded in 1900, at which time tribal members had access to modern, metal tools.
The visitors also noted that at least five cedars in the vicinity had been harvested using traditional tools.
Equally important was the age of the cedar forest that had grown up around the canoe site after it was abandoned. Wade Zammit, President and CEO of Sealaska Timber Corp., put the age of that growth at around 500 years.

The carving of the canoe was nearly complete, but it had not yet been steamed, a process used to give the craft its final shape. Another log that apparently split when it was harvested also lies at the site, and segments of its wood appear to have been salvaged for other uses.
For now Sealaska is keeping the canoe site private and secure. The Organized Village of Kasaan will make decisions about the care and use of the canoe and site.
Worl hopes that the canoe can be replicated so modern Haida canoe-makers can study the ancient techniques. In the longer term, the site could become an educational forum where future carvers could make monumental art such as canoes and totems, she said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Are you round?

Well, maybe I should say "well rounded".  If you're going to build small boats, you will build an amazing skill set.  My students started on yet another skill on their path to becoming accomplished boat-builders on Sunday.  We had a little caning party at the Chateau D'Zaster on Sunday afternoon so that they could learn the finer points of hand-caning their own seats. 

Yeah, we could buy pre-made seats.  We could also buy sheet-woven cane and press it into routed grooves with a spline.  I think hand-caned seats add a timeless elegance to a small canoe and are more durable than the pressed-in cane.  I also think that it's nice to be able to select the species of wood to use for the frame to match other wood on the rest of the canoe other than the ubiquitous ash frames.  Two of my students are using Peruvian Walnut for trim on their canoe and wanted matching seats - where would you find pre-made seat frames made of it, anyway?

We started the afternoon by pulling strands of common cane from the bundles that we ordered and soaking them in glycerine loaded hot water to make them slippery and pliable.  While I'm not the most masterful cane weaver, I can instruct the weaving of a basic square seat with a little bit of effort - because over time, I have learned to become a well-rounded builder and continue to become more well-rounded over time.

It was a very pleasant afternoon that was enjoyed with warm sunny skies, a soft breeze, good company, snacks and cold drinks.  We managed (for the most part - with some fits and starts...) to get the seats ready to weave the diagonal sections of the cane at our next session. 

I was reminded today about just how well-rounded my students become in building these small canoes.  My students learn to:
  • select materials
  • work safely with a variety of hand and power tools.
  • prepare and align strongbacks
  • rip and mold strips
  • laminate and shape stems with a rolling bevel
  • create feature strips
  • strip the hull
  • fit the bottom panels
  • cut back stem ends and install outer stems
  • fair a hull
  • glass the hull
  • make a seat frame
  • varnish
  • cane the seat
  • trim the hull
  • build a paddle - at least those with the ambition to do so...
That's a pretty significant resume, really, and it only skims the surface of what they really do while building the canoe.  We get into more detailed discussions of things like thinning first coats of varnish, epoxy technique, cloth handling, surface preparation, clamping and stapling.  The minutia is really mind-boggling and the students don't always realize how much they are really absorbing.

Another good session and they'll all be ready for binder cane!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A trip on the Concord River.

On Friday, I took a little trip down to visit a few fellow WoodenBoat Forum members.  MoMan and Fitz.  While the WoodenBoat forum is not as focused on canoes as, say, the WCHA's Forum, there are still a few of us canoe/kayak people there.

MoMan and his bride are in the Boston area for a bit to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Fitz had the wonderful idea to schedule a paddle for Friday while they were visiting. Seeing as how this was a good opportunity to meet everybody, I thought I'd join them.

The day didn't get off to an auspicious start. It was grey and overcast and strong thundershowers had passed through early in the morning here at the Chateau D'Zaster. As I headed for Fitz's place, it began with isolated pockets of rain which progressed to deluge quantities. For a bit of the drive I had visions of giving Fitz a call and saying, "Maybe some other time..." but I pressed on nonetheless.

Greeted warmly at the Fitz residence I was introduced to Fitz Jr. and the resident mousers. When MoMan arrived with his bride, we were treated to a tour of Fitz's inner sanctum. I think I counted about 15 wooden canoes and a Mill Creek ("Two aren't mine.") He still has at least one more classic canoe on his wish list, 'tho.  Still, an impressive selection:

(Sorry Fitz, I know you're cringing at the picture, but hey, it's a WORKING shop.")

As it had stopped raining, we made the decision to press on and try to go for a paddle anyway - the weather report showed a window of a few hours that would let us partake in the beauty of the area. Like a master sommolier selecting fine vintages from his cellar, Fitz made a selection of a 17 ft. Chestnut Canoe Company, Prospector and 15 ft. Chestnut Canoe Company Bob's Special to take for the day:

Part of the reason that Fitz selected the Ranger for MoMan and his DW to paddle was that this was the boat which was closest to the cedar-strip canoe - A Chestnut Prospector 16 that MoMan is building at home.  His excellent thread on the building process can be found here.

We headed on over to a boat ramp on the Concord river and put in just upstream from Minuteman National Park. Minuteman National Park is the spot where the "Shot Heard Round the World" was fired sparking the American Revolution.

~Take me to the river!~

We paddled downstream through the park passing this guy:

... and then paddling under the Old North Bridge while our group seemed to be the subject of a bit of videography and photography from the bridge. You'd think people hadn't seen wooden boats before.

We paddled downstream through some beautiful countryside enjoying great company and talking about, well, wooden boats. We also passed through a section of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge where we saw many ducks and geese with hatchlings in tow and quite a few blue herons. A deer was browsing off in one of the fields before moving on as we approached. I didn't manage to get any shots of the wildlife as my camera was snugly ensconced in its drybag. I wasn't quite fast enough...

We turned around when we reached a stretch of the river where it widened out into a broad sweep. While it wasn't really sunny, it was warm and humid and the surface of the river was alive with waterbugs rowing their way along. For such a pleasant stretch of the river, I was surprised to see only one other paddler, but given the weather of the day, I guess I shouldn't be.

On the return trip, Fitz started to have some trouble with his bow motor (Note the paddle across the gunwales):

But MoMan and DW seemed to be gliding along nicely:

I managed to be patient enough to get a shot "en masse":

Arriving back at the put-in where we started, there was a group having some sort of tour. I think that the tour guide seemed to lose the attention of about a quarter of the group that sort of shifted over to look at the boats...

We then headed over to the Concord Inn's Tavern for a spot of lunch and some "restorative beverages" (Thanks again, MoMan!) and discovered the problem with Fitz's bow motor - watching the way only a boy of a certain age can nearly inhale food. A bit of beautiful sunshine graced our trip in and out of the Inn.

We headed back to Fitz's to unload boats and to have a quick tour of the Dungeon where the Nick Schade designed Nymph that Fitz built was assembled - quite a challenge considering the space! I had to say my goodbye in order to try to beat some of the traffic and headed south down route 126 along Walden Pond on my way to REI in Framingham for a few goodies and a bottle of pale ale from John Harvard's. Timing appeared to be nearly perfect as it began to rain again as I arrived in Framingham and poured buckets for the rest of my ride home.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday

The following image was sent to me by my Mother-In-Law.  It's currently requiring a caption.  I think some suggestions are in order, don't you?  Let's hear them!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July Weekend

This year it seems we made every possible effort to be away from home over the 4th of July weekend...

On Saturday, we were invited up to the same camp where we celebrated the 4th last year.  While last year was definitely a "top ten" kinda day, this year was only a "top twenty" as DD is away visiting family for the week.  
As with any good outing, it starts by packing the car with food, drinks and gear...

Then, we've got to get it all unloaded once we get there.  Fortunately, my porta-minion (DS) was helping to carry the paddles, and later the new life-jackets that we bought for he and DW.

This year we were smart and were strategically early...

Note the nearly vacant front lawn...

The weather was perfect - not too hot, not too humid, not too sunny and amazingly I didn't notice many mosquitoes.  Then again, I did spend the better part of the day out on the water in my boat.  I should be ashamed, really as this is the first time I've been out this year.  The location is a rural camp on a man-made pond and natural beauty surrounds you wherever you look:

This year, DS decided he definitely wanted to go paddling.  Partially, I think he was looking forward to seeing a young lady who is a classmate of his who was there last year.  While initially timid, he finally decided that he wanted to paddle the hostess's blue plastic kayak.  I must say, with the wooden boats at his disposal, I don't know why he chose that one, except that it probably "felt right" to him.   DW got into the Charlotte  - much to my amazement.  So,  with everybody properly kitted out with their brand-new PFD and a borrowed boat,  the three of us headed down the pond.

Not long after our return, DS decided that another trip was required.  Down the pond he and I went again:

...and back around to the dock.

As you can tell from the pictures, the weather was perfect and the water pleasantly warm for so early in the season.


As the afternoon wore on, more guests arrived and the party next door was in full swing.  The neighbors with the cabin next door are actually folks that I went to High School with and have known for years as are quite a few of their guests.  I later found out that their parents (who are no longer with us) started the tradition of the 4th at the "lake" 35 years ago.  The boys are carrying on the tradition in fine style with live music and a great time.


DS's friend arrived and I took the two of them out for another paddle.   We paddled down the pond towards the dam and stopped for a minute to visit with two of my boat-building students who have a camp at the pond as well.  The patience of my two paddling partners wore thin and I had to leave, chasing them up the pond.  When we returned, the two of them played in the shallow water near the shore for a long time, enjoying each other's company.

Just prior to dinner time, DS decided that a little fishing was in order.  So, with borrowed rod, tackle and canoe, we headed across the pond for a little fishing and more quality time.  DS hasn't done much fishing and was having a hard time getting the mechanics of pressing the release button at the appropriate time to cast.  Eventually, he got the hang of it and was casting the lure a decent distance.  Not being much of a fisherman, I was much relieved that he caught little other than pond weed, although he did have a few nibbles.

Quite a few people as you can see from the lean on this swim dock.


Dinner was a truly impressive affair with prodigious quantities of grilled ribs and chicken, hot dogs and sausage, bowls of fresh fruit, salads and cole-slaw of many kinds.  If you were hungry, it was your own fault.  Dessert followed at a respectable pace for those who could manage to find a little room after dinner.  I'll have to say that I couldn't give the desserts the respect that they deserved!


As the sun set, party-goers reluctantly dragged themselves out of the water and changed into warm dry gear for the evening's main event. 

DS's classmate and her mother generously stopped by with some glow-bracelets for the kids on the dock which was certainly loaded to capacity with people chatting and passing the time away. 
The folks at the cabin next door put on a display of fireworks that is truly impressive.  They tow out an old aluminum rowboat that is the launch platform.  A canoe, which was loaded beyond belief (Heaped well over the gunwales - almost chest height!) with boxes of fireworks stood off at a distance from the rowboat. The main fusilier is in a small kayak and carries the boxes of fireworks one at a time over to the rowboat and lights them.  It takes a minute or two between boxes, but it was well worth it.  They put on a display with patriotic music playing that lasted about 45 minutes - each box probably held about a dozen shells that were very impressive:

Other camps around the lake also had their own fireworks displays launched from shore - sometimes one or two, sometimes a whole barrage.  Often they'd be shooting them off as the rowboat was re-stocked.  Fireworks were going off nearly continuously and sometimes you had a difficult time choosing where to look.  I will say that there is a sense of competition going on here - the displays from other camps were much more impressive than they were the previous year!

We finally departed at about 10:15 PM and DS was asleep in his car seat before we even got to the end of the road.  When we got home, he went straight up to his room and fell asleep in his clothes!

The next morning we slept in and were generally lazy.  We had an invite to a picnic at a classmate's house in the afternoon and the weather wasn't looking promising.  It started to rain - OK pour - at about 10 AM and was still raining when I left to pick up a few things at the grocery store for our contribution to the food.  It continued to rain as I got home and prepared the food.  We left in the rain and arrived at the picnic in the rain.  The host had fortunately thought to get another awning to keep food and people dry.  It is a good thing that my friends are hearty stock because it was well attended - only a few invitees didn't show.

The groaning board was truly well-laden and again, we ate much too much... 

Eventually, the rain stopped and we had a few peeks of sunshine.  The kids played in some inflatable pools and squirted the hose and waterguns at each other, while parents watched, were occasionally sprayed and chatted with one-another.  Much to DW's chagrin, DS got into the water action in a big way.  I say this because we'd told him to bring a swimsuit and towel anticipating pool and water play.  He refused  - "I'm not going to swim in the pool and I'm not going to get wet!"  Yeah, right.  Shortly after arrival he was soaked to the skin.

Mud and wet bits of grass stuck to the children seemed to be the rule:

A cold glass of beer with friends wasn't unwelcome...

When we finally arrived home, DS's major complaint was that he was hungry.  Hungry?  We just left a party with all kinds of things to eat and you're hungry?   It seems that at the party his only intake was a few cookies, lemonade and some watermelon.  What?  no ribs, chicken, burgers, hot-dogs, pulled pork?  No salads, corn-on-the cob (best of the season, too!) cole-slaw or veggies?

The kid needs to ditch the "air and Cheerios" diet.

On Monday - the 4th, we got up relatively early and picked up my father.  We were headed for a wonderful parade at a nearby town.  This parade is a real "Norman Rockwell" experience with a country parade with all the trimmings, a petting-zoo, craft exhibition, fireman's muster, games and entertainment for the kids and all the trimmings you'd expect with a small town parade.  It's like you turned the clock back 50 years - and it is wonderful!

The parade opens with a state police cruiser followed by the town police chief.  Military veterans, politicians and scouts follow along with some home-spun entries, horses, cattle, floats, antique cars and trucks and finally the volunteer fire-fighters bring up the rear. 

 We arrived a bit later than usual for the parade and were situated right at the start.  DW picked a spot in the sun and it was HOT.  I was sweating just sitting there.  I went through a bottle of water and was just praying for a cool breeze.

Did I mention that it was hot?


DS managed to catch his usual quota of candy thrown from various floats and vehicles as they passed by...

After the parade, we were invited over to a friend's house for a barbecue.  It was a nice quiet affair after the past two days with 8 adults and 4 children.  My friend is a former co-worker and the builder of a beautiful sea kayak - a very clever and handy guy.  His wife, also a good friend is the sister of a high school classmate and he and his family were the other attendees.  A few red, white and blue corn chips, salsa and guacamole to start and again, the tables were well-laden with wonderful things.   There was shade and a breeze and it had cooled down a bit after our medium-rare experience at the parade.

I really need to say something about this friend's house.  His parents bought it from a farmer (along with a woodlot) as a summer camp.  It's landlocked in the famer's property and the camp is located at the edge of the fields.  Both the farmer and my friend's parents have both passed away and the current generations do what they can to help each other out.   It is a peaceful and bucolic location - cows browsing just behind you over the stone walls on occasion.  The pace is just different here and I think that it's wonderful.


It's such a small town that the one of the farmers who works the land - here turning over hay that afternoon - is the police chief and a volunteer firefighter for the town!  He and his brothers also helped my friend split wood the last two years.

DS brought his binoculars so that he could go "cow watching".    He was good enough to share and play with my classmate's son.

I think the true highlight of the day for the two youngsters wasn't actually the parade - it was the trip down to the back fields and into the woods to go see an old sugar-house in my friend's little 4-wheel-drive Kubota!