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  • Alick Burt

Three Men in Wooden Canoes

Today's paddle had a purpose. Nick ,Sam and I were to test Sam's Newly refurbished 1920's Canoe.

Sam has put quite a lot of work into getting her from a wreck to her current condition and you can read his blog here.

Nick had brought his Peterborough rib canoe circa 1900 and I had Peterborough 1 a mere baby at just six years old. We were launching onto The Great Ouse in St Ives where there is easy access near the church.

Pic 1

The thing about old wooden canoes as opposed to my epoxy covered ones is that the only thing they rely on to be watertight is the varnish and closeness of all the timber joints. They often leak a little until the planking becomes damp and swells enough to close any gaps. In the olden days they even used to get their canoes out of winter storage and put them in the water a month before they wanted to use them.

Sam had already had one test launch and discovered some leaks that he had repaired so hopes were high that this would be a leak free day.

We paddled down river onto the main river and down to the bridge. It was a perfect day with a light breeze and almost clear sky. As we passed through the bridge I turned and took a picture of the chapel. The bridge was built in the 15th century and is one of only four that has a chapel actually built on it!

As Sam paddled through I noticed he was looking down...

We milled about a bit taking pictures and I took one of the front of Nick's boat. This is a Peterborough built by the same company in Ontario that designed the boat my Peterborough's design is taken from. You will notice the planking runs around instead of along the hull and if you look closer at the ends of the planks you can see they are also tongue and grooved together! This construction is very rare as it is a lot of work and takes so long to do but it does produce a boat of exceptional quality.

Turning around we noticed Sam was taking on water and removing it with his sponge. (An essential item in an old wooden canoe!)

It wasn't a serious leak so we were able to carry on and turned around to go back up river. You can see the Dutch influence in the Architecture here.

We paddled up to the lock and then took the backwater up to the weir.

Once again Sam had a sponge full. Unfortunately he had put some bottom boards in the canoe so was unable to see exactly where the water was coming in but he said he'll test it again with them out and have a look next time.

We came back down and took the backwater to the left as we came down the first one to do a little more exploring and look for Angelica who was out with the dog in the area and had sent Nick a picture so he thought he knew where she was...

In the event we couldn't find her despite me hopping out to scan the surrounding countryside up the second backwater but the sun was out and we were paddling so no worries :-)

We paddled on getting admiring glances and comments from folk on the banks as we made our way down the meandering backwater to the main river.

Once on the main river I was gasping for a coffee and let the others go ahead and they were paddling quite fast with the current pushing them home.

We got out at the put in and had more admirers stop and chat as we loaded up our boats after a short but rewarding paddle on a fabulous spring morning.



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