Thursday, December 6, 2012

There's Nothing More Expensive...

...than a free boat.

Let me explain.

On Thanksgiving weekend I got a call from a friend of mine who is a professional woodworker.  He told me that a friend of his had too many boat projects and an old wood and canvas canoe that he was getting rid of and would I be interested.  What it was, exactly, and it's condition was a bit nebulous.  Would I be interested?  Is the Pope...?  Well - you get the idea.  Of course I was interested.   With that commitment, he picked up the boat and brought it to his house.  I made arrangements to pick it up last weekend after class.

So, last Saturday, I put the extended rack on my car that I use to deal with longer boats and headed down to my friend's house.

He'd kindly made some brackets to help the canoe keep it's shape when strapped down to the roof rack.  A cursory examination in the rapidly dropping temperature and fading light showed an old canoe with no canvas, some broken ribs, no seats and a single thwart.  We mounted the brackets with numb fingers and noses and strapped the boat to the roof of my car, retreating to the house to split a "restorative beverage" and some snacks before I had to head out for one other nearby errand before heading home.   

For the first few miles that I drove, the music on the radio was periodically interrupted by a loud "CLICK" as loose tacks fell from the canoe and dropped on the car.  It fortunately ended quickly - hopefully nobody with thin tires was behind me!

The next morning, I took a decent look at the boat on the car in daylight:

Amazingly, the boat has held it's shape fairly well, even with the broken ribs and other issues.  

Now, to figure out what it is and what it should look like.  I started with some pictures of the ends of the canoe.  Deck shapes and the area near the stems can be dead giveaways for the brand of canoe, if not the model.  I took the pictures and went to the folks at the WCHA website.  The decks look like this:

This particular design of heart-shaped decks seems to be a dead giveaway for a canoe by J.H. Ruston of Canton, NY.    Because Rushton didn't start making and selling canvas covered canoes until after about 1903, it's likely that this canoe dates from somewhere between 1903 and 1917 or so.  There still seems to be a little debate about whether this is a Navahoe or an Indian Girl canoe, but it was one of the lower trim levels when made.    More research will be required to nail things down, but it should be possible to find out what model and trim level this is.

So, now that you've seen this I'm sure you're looking and thinking, "Wow.  That's a wreck - it's going to need lots of work."  Well, yeah, it's going to need some research and elbow grease.  Oh, yeah - it will also need some cedar, some appropriate hardwood, canvas, filler paint, varnish, cane and hardware, but it will be worth it to bring such a rare classic back.

So, now you know - there's nothing more expensive than a free boat.

No comments: