17' Otca?

Max Q

Hello everyone.
I just received an old wood and canvas canoe from a friend of mine. He told me it was an OTCA. I cleaned off both stems and found serial numbers on each. The number is 113982. Can any of you tell me a little more about this canoe. I'm anxious to restore her and learn as much as I can.
Thanks for you help.
HW perhaps?

Hi Max--

Old Town 113982 comes up HW, not Otca. If this doesn't seem to be your boat, we can try again. The scan for this canoe indicates a 17 foot CS grade (common sense, or not trimmed with a fancy wood species) HW (heavy water) model with open spruce gunwales, birch decks, seats, and thwarts, fitted with a keel and painted dark green before shipment to JW Randall of Scotia NY on March 28, 1935.

Scan of this record is attached below.Scans of approximately 210,000 records were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. Additional information about the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/records/ if you want more details.

Please join WCHA or make a tax deductible contribution so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA, http://www.wcha.org/wcha_video.php to watch a 10 minute video about WCHA and our programs and http://www.wcha.org/join.html to join. If you are already a WCHA member, THANK YOU!



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Hello again-- Forgot to say that "WC" on the build record indicates the planking on the canoe is red Western cedar. And I hope you know that we love following restorations here... so if you can post pictures, you'll have a cheering squad. Any questions are freely and thoughtfully answered, with humor!
More details and some pics

Thanks Kathy.
The information you gave me makes sense. My friend who gave this to me was certain it was an Otca, but that just didn't seem to fit based on the limited research I've done so far (this boat has the 16" decks, which I believe the Otca didn't start using until about 1955, but the serial numbers clearly place it much earlier).
I've attached a few photos this time. I included shots of the serial number on both stems, but it's pretty clear. I'm just cleaning it up right now. This was sitting in the sun at my friends house for about 10 years. I don't know how much neglect it received before he bought it, but it's very clear that no one has taken good care of this canoe in a long time. The canvas was rotted and just fell off the hull in most places. The planking is in pretty good shape, but that's about it. I counted 25 ribs that are cracked (many in multiple locations) or severely rotted out. Both stem tips and decks will need to be repaired or replaced. All the gunwales are broken or severely rotted, but he had replacements for these, which he gave me. All in all, this is going to be a much bigger project than I anticipated. On the plus side, it doesn't look at all like it's been messed with. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that canvas was original. It was so full of patches and had so many layers of paint that it was probably all that was holding this boat together.
One more question. It seems like the Heavy Water model is very similar to the Otca. What are the differences? I'm going to need replacement parts and I saw that Old Town does still sell parts for the Otca. Will these fit my boat? Is there another source for ribs, decks, planks, etc. that is recomended?
Thanks again for your help.


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Hello again, John. I'll attach images from the 1935 Old Town catalog, giving what they say about the Otca and HW models, and will also attach a page showing canoe specifications. These images are courtesy of The Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Catalog Collection, version 2, edited by Dan Miller and Benson Gray, published by Dragonfly Canoe Works and available at www.dragonflycanoe.com.

Generally, I believe the HW is thought of as the boat for "bigger water" and is the model more likely to be used as a sail canoe or with sponsons, although sails and sponsons could be put on anything. The HW has very attractive lines and that's perhaps why yours was thought to be an Otca. You called it correctly when you noticed the deck!

Ordering replacement parts from Old Town seems like going to the Subaru dealership for wiper blades. Many of the folks here need to jump in with better suggestions... guide you through the things you can do yourself. (If nobody jumps in right away on this thread, that's because it's "serial number search" and not "wood canvas/fiberglass").

You might try using the "search" function at the top of the page to find discussions of rib bending and replacement and other repairs you have ahead of you... but post questions and let those who have done this at home in their spare time tell you what they did, and share their pictures... this is fun.

Then, load your canoe on your car and take it to a WCHA event--- a chapter paddle or even the yearly Assembly--- after showing off the "after" pics in Forums! The fun goes on and on. And there may be more boat projects in your future... it kinda gets under the skin.



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a "for instance"...

Your pictures show the toggle that holds a floor rack... and if the rack is missing (I don't see one listed on the build record, so perhaps it didn't have one) but you want one, you could get the specifications for making one from someone else here who has the same model and size canoe.

My feeling re short decks is that if it can be repaired, that's better than getting new. I just can't help thinking of all the eyes that fell upon that little deck over the years, and all the hands that grabbed onto it to pull it onto shore, and knowing it's original to the boat is a cool thing.

Your HW looks like a great project.
Thanks again

Thanks again Kathy.
You've provided me with a lot of good information.
No, I don't have a floor rack, but it certainly looked like one was in place for many years. Before I started cleaning the MANY layers of varnish from the inside you could see slight wear lines from where that rack sit. Unfortunately they were not pronounced enough to get much detail about it. I'll try posting to some other forums for more information on this and I would like to build a replacement. I also need to find a source for rib and planking material.
Thanks again for all your help,
Forgot one

I know what you mean about keeping the boat as original as possible.
One of those decks only has the tip rotted out and I think I can save it with just a small splice that will not be very noticeable. The other has a lot more rot and I don't know if I'll be able to save it. I'm going to try though.
Do you by chance know what material the stems of this boat were made from? I'll need to splice in new tips for each stem as well and would like to match it as close as possible.
I believe Old Town stems are oak. Here's an old discussion of stem repair that mentions sources of other good information:


On the home page of this website, if you look at "Build and Restore" there's a page that lists suppliers. You can also post about it-- under "wood canvas/fiberglass" you can ask members if they know of or have any clear cedar for ribs and planking.

It's common for folks who build and/or restore have connections to local lumber mills for what's available locally. We're lucky to be living where white cedar grows, and have told the really nice guy who owns a local mill that crazed canoe fanatics would love to have any clear cedar that shows up, so he sets that aside.

Anyone wanting to pick some up, here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is most welcome to call us and we'll help arrange it and put you up for the night too (French toast in the morning).

You'll need red cedar if you have to replace any red cedar planking. The contrast between the red cedar planking and the white cedar ribs is very nice.

By looking at them I'd guess they were made from white oak, but I'm not all that great at identifying wood species. Thanks for the input.