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Willets Brothers' sailing canoe "Nakwasina"

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I'm curious if anyone knows the whereabouts of this canoe. It is featured in National Geographic, Vol. LXIV, No. 1, July 1933. A couple sailed/paddled this canoe from Tacoma to Juneau in 53 days in 1933. It is a 17 footer, made from Port Orford cedar with mahogany trim. Was originally owned by Jack and Sasha Calvin.

    It is a great story with some good pictures of the canoe if anyone wants to check it out.

    Regards, Bob
  2. Mark Adams

    Mark Adams all wood nut

    If I remember correctly, Nakwasina is still with the family. It was exhibited by the family at the Sitka Maritime gathering on June 16, 2007. You can find out all about this canoe and the Willits story, in Pat Chapmans book, The Willits Brothers and Their Canoes"
  3. OP
    OP Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Mark, thanks for the quick reply. I will check out the book on Willet's canoes. Bob
  4. Mark Adams

    Mark Adams all wood nut

    Hi Bob,

    They have the book for sale here in the webstore, or you can order a signed copy directly from Pat Chapman. His business is listed in the builders and suppliers section under WA builders. His business name is Mcfarland Lake Canoe Co. He also has a couple of Willits for sale right now if you are looking.
  5. Tanya Birkeland

    Tanya Birkeland New Member

    Hi Bob,

    The Nakwasina belonged to my grandparents, Jack and Sasha Calvin. When my mother, Natasha Calvin, died, she willed ownership to her three daughters and custodial ownership to her cousin, Larry Calvin who lives in Sitka with his wife, Mary Ann. Larry loves the Willits!

    I remember the Nakwasina well, as Grandpa kept it in the big boathouse on his property on Thimbleberry Bay in Sitka. I recall running my fingers over its enchantingly colored wood and brass (?) studs.
  6. Whymcycles

    Whymcycles New Member

    I was in Sitka, Alaska in January of 1988, visiting a young woman who was the Grand-daughter of the canoe owner, Nakwasina . They showed me a copy of the July, 1933 Nat'l Geo. and I read the article while there
    Her parents were oceanographer/biologists, who had, and I rode in, A modern cabin cruiser, The Nakwasina II(?) based there in Sitka. Their home was on the shore in an
    inlet there, and under the house, in a dirt floored basement area, was the original Nakwasina, complete and in good condition. My former wife knows the woman's name, i will try to get it via my daughter. is this information of any use?

    Peter Wagner, Davis, CA
  7. Tanya Birkeland

    Tanya Birkeland New Member

    I wish you would respond, Bob.

    The most interesting part of the story is the meaning of the name "Nakwasina". If you call Bertha Karras in Sitka and ask her how the Russians failed to defeat the local Tlingets because they were in Nakwasina, you will learn something interesting. Bertha is in her 80's and is a wise and wonderful Tlinget woman who has seen it all, and is a fount of fabulous information.

    The granddaughter spoken of above is most likely Mary Purvis, my sister. She is imbued with our family history and is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in more information about this wonderful canoe.
  8. Greetings From A New Member:
    There is a photo showing a canoe on a rack, riding atop a motoring boat called the Grampus in 1932. Jack & Sasha Calvin owned the Grampus, and if I am not mistaken, the Nakwasina is the canoe riding atop the Grampus in the photo. The Grampus traveled the Inside Passage in 1932, following the route of the Nakwasina in 1931. Along with Jack & Sasha Calvin, were Jack's friend, Ed Ricketts, and Ed's new friend, Joseph Campbell. I hypothesize that both Ed Ricketts and Joseph Campbell had the opportunity to row the Nakwasina in shallow water near tide pools along the coast of British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Any additional information on this topic is welcomed.
    Peace, Roy
  9. The Nakwasina, according the National Geographic article, shows photos of Jack & Sasha rowing the canoe and sailing the canoe.
    I am curious if the oars and sail of the Nakwasina have been preserved too?
  10. Hello Tanya:
    Thank you for sharing history and contact information regarding the Nakwasina, and I am very curious to learn more.
    I read that a motorboat is called the Nakwasina 2, but are there any additional canoes out there named the Nakwasina 2, 3, 4, so on?
  11. Hello All:
    My earlier post stated the Nakwasina was canoed by Jack & Sasha Calvin in 1931. However, they were married in 1929, and this newlywed couple did their canoe trip of the Inside Passage as a honeymoon in 1929. So this post is a correction.

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