1935 Old Town 50 lb. - Sailing Canoe?


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I just got ahold of a 1935 15 foot "50 lb." canoe that has a sailing set up. The build list does not indicate anything related to sailing. The base (where the mast is anchored in the canoe) has the canoe's serial number written on it. Could this be an original sailing set up from Old Town or a later add on?

Also, the seat caning has a diamond pattern. Did Old Town ever do a diamond pattern?

Photos below may help you in answering.

Thanks so much for your help!


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It has been fairly common for canoes to be fitted with sailing rigs after-market. Was yours shipped to a dealer? The dealerships carried sail rigging and could have added it at the time of sale, or at any point. The most common canoe to be fitted for sailing at the factory was the HW model, but any canoe model could be used (the HW was considered the best suited for "heavy water"). It's also common to see a mast seat, such as yours, with a step below it, that never had any other sail rigging and was never actually used for sailing. If you post the serial number of your canoe, I can look it up-- or check yourself and see if the build record says "mast seat and step", in which case that was added at the factory.

As far as I know, Old Town seats had the 7-step design when shipped from the factory. The 7-step design is the one you see on dining room chairs and the one in the sheet-cane pattern. Your seat appears to have what's sometimes called "canoe weave", and it was probably re-done by someone who knew this particular pattern. I know PennYan and Detroit Boat Works canoes were shipped from the factory with this design and probably some others as well-- it seems to be a little "springier" and is pretty.

If you want to attach more pictures, one of the deck would be nice. Deck in the picture doesn't look like a mid-30s Old Town deck to me. You could have something else, and that might explain why there's no mention of the mast seat on the build record.

OT Cane

This cane pattern is slightly different than the typical canoe weave. All the steps are doubled up making a very durable seat. I recall seeing a few OT's, maybe all AA Grade, that may have been in unrestored condition that had this pattern. I wonder if it wasn't a short lived experiment at Old Town or a pattern related to an individual caner.

There is an AA Grade Guide at Maine Maritime Museum. The story behind the canoe is that it was picked up new at the factory, driven home, and stored in a barn and never saw the water. It has the same pattern and even the corner hole/binder cane is treated the same way.

Worth pondering.
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Caned Seat

Maine Maritime OT Seat.


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It's a really nice pattern, and great information, Fitz. As you said, interesting to ponder-- do you recall when the canoe at the museum was built?

The family that owned the canoe was a prominent Maine family. Word was they were too busy to use the canoe. Although, the floor rack was not mentioned on the build record, maybe they wanted the whole belt and suspenders.

It is a 20 ft Guide.

I will try and attach the build record.


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More Info

Kathryn & Fitz, thanks for the responses. I don't see anything on the build list to indicate any sailing related parts - build list below (of course I can't read some of it), so I'm guessing this is an after market addition. What is odd is the hand written serial number of the boat on the underside of the mast step.

Another photo is below of the deck. This deck is much smaller than typical OT deck, probably to reduce weight, since that was a major goal with this boat.

The caning info is interesting. Do you know what year that canoe at the museum is?


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Interesting that the museum boat dates from a time after Old Town began using sheet cane (from my understanding)-- suggesting that hand-caning could still be ordered and perhaps this was either the requested pattern or the pattern that the caner chose to do.

Regarding the floor rack-- I think they automatically came with AA grade canoes. The museum canoe is also interesting because tricked-out guide models are less common.

Bonagee-- your canoe appears to have a typical older Old Town deck-- later decks are clunkier and heavier. I couldn't see it well in the first pictures you attached. If you can't interpret the build record you can always ask-- Benson in particular can interpret just about any strange chicken-scratches. The record says your canoe has open spruce gunwales, Western red cedar planking, and what looks like birch decks, thwarts, and seats and was originally the color of dead grass (which may be a form of yellow-green). Since the canoe was shipped to a dealership, my guess is that's where the mast seat and step were added.

These discussions are always interesting!

One More Thing

I just realized that my 1936 OT Guide AA Grade also has the diamond pattern of caning. So, OT must have been doing more than one style of caning.
50 pounder deck

I restored a 50 pounder that was of a much later vintage (1964) and it had a smaller deck, presumably to save weight and it is much more proportional too. My canoe also had a sail rig, that wasn't mentioned on the build sheet. In my case, I think it was an OT rig added by a dealer later.


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not OT sailing rig?

The mast step is round on your canoe as well, didn't OT use a square holed mast step? Or perhaps not until a certain year? Thats gotta be dicey having a sail on a Fifty Pounder!:eek:
The mast step is round on your canoe as well, didn't OT use a square holed mast step? Or perhaps not until a certain year? Thats gotta be dicey having a sail on a Fifty Pounder!

This does seem a bit late for a round hole mast step but I don't know exactly when they changed to the square hole ones. The canoe at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=6475&d=1226605573 from 1927 has a factory step with a round hole and the one at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=4224&d=1204470667 from 1936 has square ones. The catalog pictures of the sailing rig changed between 1931 and 1932 as shown at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?4107 so this may be when the mast step changed as well.

I've sailed a 15 foot long fifty pound model with a 55 square foot sail and it can get exciting. The construction is so light weight that you can actually feel it flex during strong gusts. My 15 foot HW model with a rounder bottom and a 60 square foot sail is more solid and even more fun. A canoe with two sails adds a whole new dimension.

My 1939 AA otca had the remnents of what looked like diamond pattern cane now that I've gone back and looked at the pre restoration photos. I just recaned the way Jean Bratton taught me, at the time I thought that was the way all
canoe seats were done.