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Decked sailing canoe research

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by David Darwin, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    I have inherited from my father-in-law's estate a wood sailing canoe which I believe to be from the 1930s or 1940s. The construction is all wood. The bow and stern are covered and include an opening for a mast. The canoe does not have any seats. The key dimensions are: length 15.4 feet; beam 33 inches; forward mast position from bow 42 inches; mast 80 inches tall; boom 8 feet. The sail is shaped more like a mizzen or a reversed bailey (bafter). I am doing lots of web searches, but have not found anything exactly like it. I have pictures attached. Any assistance you can offer would be appreciated.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    The flush batten seam construction leads me to believe your canoe is of Canadian origin. See this thread: http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=211 for some more information about similarly constructed canoes. Many Canadian builders offered sailing canoes with a variety of deck configurations.

    Cheers,
    Dan
     
  3. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    Dan:
    Many thanks for your quick reply. I have been to your website several times in my research journey, especially the wood canoe identification guide. Do you have any idea where a serial number might be on this type of canoe? I see it often suggested the inboard bow stem is a good location, which in my case would mean a crawl under the decking with a flashlight. As the canoe is stored in someone else's garage and cannot be accessed for a while I wanted to compile a list of possible locations before getting it out of storage again.

    I have been going through some old pictures and found photos from 1941. These seem to indicate the original rigging may have been modified. The enclosed photos show additional foredeck trim and the original sterndeck shape.

    David
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2005
  4. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    The search continues

    I now have the canoe in my possession and can probe it in more detail. I am pretty sure it is a Walter Dean model manufactured in the 1920s or early 1930s. My wife found the purchase receipt from July 5, 1937 when her father bought it from the original owner in Toronto, Ontario. It is made of mahogany (I am fairly sure) and uses brass screws, tacks, battens and bow/stern protectors. It last saw water in 1976.

    I love old, useful items (like woodworking tools) and would love to try getting this craft ready for use once again. Does anyone have recommendations for books or websites to get me started? I don't want to proceed to refinish the canoe without some idea of what I should do. I am hoping more modern finishes will hold better than the varnish now on it (but peeling and blistering).

    Thanks in advance.
     
  5. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    re: dean canoe

    Wow, that is a great boat and its always nice to have its history - I only wish I had some photos and history on the boat I collected!
    Years ago during one of its former incarnations I was at the canoe museum and was going through some of the archives; I remember there was some great obscure material on Walter Dean, but I'm sure Dick Persson would know better what they have that might give some further info on your boat.:confused:
     
  6. abhraxas

    abhraxas LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Does anyone have information on a decked sailing canoe with mahogany decks and copper/brass strips at the bow and stern?
     
  7. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Yes, I have lots of information about decked sailing canoes. Your description sounds like the vast majority of them. How about some photos, details about how it is constructed, dimensions, etc.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    Additional info on decked sailing canoe

    I have created a website to contain the pictures and description for the decked sailing canoe I am researching. The site may be found here: http://web.ncf.ca/aa686/interests/in_index.htm. There are several recent and very detailed (read large) photos.

    I visited the Canadian Canoe Museum last week and the fellow I spoke to for about 45 minutes also believes it is a Walter Dean canoe, but there are some puzzling inconsistencies which need to be researched further.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2006
  9. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Well, the brand looks something like ????HERS & SON - I don't have any builders on our master list that fit that pattern, but maybe Dick will chime in with a tidbit. Since the brand also says "BUILDER", it suggests to me it wasn't Walter Dean. Not much help I know....

    Dan
     
  10. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    Dear David,

    Almost everything points to Walter Dean; the torpedo stems, the metallic joint batten, rib spacing, workmanship and material selection. The details not fitting are the burned in markings and the decking, but the decks might be a special order detail.
    Did you include the outside gunnels in the beam measurement? Beam measurements should be taken to outside of the planking at the hulls widest point, not including the outside gunnels. If so measuring without the gunnels should give you a beam of 30 inches or so which fits well with Dean’s 15 1/2foot model
    By the way the planking on your canoe is not basswood it is most likely Red cedar or maybe Spanish cedar. Dean also built luxury versions of his models in Mahogany.
    It is hard to get much from the photo of the burned in markings, have you been able to decode any letters beside “builders”?

    There was a handfull of other small builders around Humber Bay, Toronto; O.L. Hicks. Hicks & Son, H.F. Hodson (W. Deans mentor and employer for 7 years), Aykroyd & Sons, Robert Maw and others.
    Some of those builders are known to have copied W. Dean, but I am not sure if any of those will fit in this case.

    Dick Persson
    Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2006
  11. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    From your photos, it looks like Hicks & Sons would fit.
     
  12. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    Dick:
    Many thanks for your post. From what I can make of the letters on the brand, HICKS & SON (singular, not plural) would fit the lettering pattern in my photo. Since my father-in-law's family lived near High Park, Toronto and used the Sunnyside Beach and Humber River as regular haunts, it would seem natural that they could have seen Hicks crafts.

    As to the builders brand mark, no, I cannot make out anything of the names. The photo on my website has been enhanced through Photoshop as best as I can. Maybe if I could use some of that great CSI-type computer magic I might be able to get more information. :)

    In reference to the beam measurement, I just went outside and unwrapped the canoe to measure again. Yes, I did include the gunnels when I measured. The new measurement would be 31 inches as the gunnels are exactly one inch wide. (As I note on my website, there have been some modifications made to the gunnels area - however, I believe it was to eliminate the inboard portion. The historical pictures are not exceedingly sharp, but there does seem to be a wider gunnel. No matter, the beam is 31 inches at the midpoint (where the brand marks are on each side).)

    Do you or anyone else have any leads on where I might find out about H.L. Hicks? Do you know around what time period he manufactured boats?

    I really appreciate all the assistance you *all* have been offering me in this quest. I am more hopeful of tracing the history of this craft than I have ever been.
     
  13. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    David,

    During the heyday of canoeing in Toronto, 1890’s to 1920’s the City directory shows 19 canoe and boat builders, many of them also operating sizeable livery operations. Most of them around the base of York Street, but Walter Dean’s success at Sunnyside Beach and Humber had encouraged many of them to centre there as well.

    Octavius L. Hicks had established his boatbuilding business and livery operations there already in the late 1870’s. Octavius Hicks was a man of many talents and owned or was involved in many enterprises; commercial fishing fleet, road and bridge contracting business, brick yards, Humber Steam Ferry Company and for awhile the Royal Oak Hotel at Humber Bay.
    His son William J. Hicks was early on running the boat and livery business and stayed in that business all his life, still operating in the mid 1950’s. However, very few boats and canoes were built by the Hicks after WWI, who instead concentrated on the boat livery aspect of the business, and often purchased his rental boats from other builders.

    However, I doubt that this is a Hicks built canoe as I have found no proof of them ever building a metallic joint canoe. It is possible that your canoe might have been a rental canoe in the Hicks fleet built by Walter Dean, thus the brand mark possibly saying Hicks & Son.

    Dick Persson
    Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
     
  14. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    Dick: Again, thanks for the additional information. This is really helping me to understand the historical context.

    To the group: If we assume this is indeed a Walter Dean canoe that was a rental, where did Dean mark his craft with a serial number? I am assuming the 115 stamped into the keelson is more likely a Hicks addition for rental purposes and not something placed there by Dean. I have looked at the inboard stem area and cannot see anything resembling a plate or other marking. Did Dean mark all his craft, or only certain ones?

    I really wanted to get a little closer to a manufacturing date for this craft. Are there any build records (like there are for the Old Towns) or other sources of info?

    I am getting hooked on this history of canoes and loving it!

     
  15. Dick Persson

    Dick Persson Canoe builder & restorer

    If we assume your canoe is a Walter Dean.
    W. Dean marked his canoes with a serial number on the inside stem, sometimes on the keelson, sometimes on the thwarts and occasionally not at all. I have seen 3 digit numbers as well as 4 digit numbers.
    Unfortunately there are no known build records. However, your canoe has what is called a torpedo stem supposedly first used by W. Dean, this model came out around 1915 or 1916.
    Walter Dean retired from the business around 1919 or 1920.
    The shop was completely destroyed by fire in 1920; W. Dean’s sons rebuilt but closed the manufacturing part of the business late 1923. The sons concentrated on the rental aspect of the business and only built canoes for their rental fleet. The company declared bankruptcy in 1931.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. OP
    OP
    David Darwin

    David Darwin Canoeist and sailor

    The story continues

    I just wanted to let readers of this thread know that the story of the research on this canoe continues through email exchanges and phone calls between Dick Persson, John Hicks (great grandson of canoe builder O. L. Hicks) and myself. The details of our correspondence is available on the portion of my website dedicated to this research: http://web.ncf.ca/aa686/interest/canoe/inc_dial.htm

    Contributions to the dialogue through this thread or the website are most welcome.
     

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