So the group I’m part of is finally (yes FINALLY LOL LOL) heading north to Fort Severn to undertake the restoration project of several wood canvas Freighter canoes….we are leaving early Wednesday (March 28th) morning from Toronto….flying to Thunder Bay….then to Sioux Lookout….and then onto Fort Severn….should take the whole day to get there (including layovers….and connecting flights)….but Thursday we will be starting work on building the shop….assembling the various wood working stationary power tools (bandsaw, table saw, etc.)….plus sorting out the various supplies (canvas, wood, etc.) and storing these….then bringing the canoes into the shop….and beginning the actual workshop/instruction course next week.
We’ll be up for a month….working on several of the Freighter canoes.....
Initially Fort Severn contacted the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild with the following request:
We have twenty, 20ft square stern canoes in Fort Severn ON on the beautiful coast of the Hudson Bay, that need minor wood work and re-canvasing. This project would involve learning sessions, teaching members of the community the proper way to re-finish canvas canoes.
An important part of this project is for some of the Fort Severn band members to be taught how to do this work themselves. There will be at least 6 or 7 band members involved….but this could quickly grow to as many as 10 or 12 as we get underway.
This should certainly be a rewarding project for everyone involved….and there has been a lot of time and effort invested in it. Maybe more than we reckoned on at the start. We began planning for this project back in October. We had to source out not only materials (such as wood and canvas) but also all of the tools -power and hand – needed for this work. We literally had to get everything needed for a complete canoe/wood working shop. Then we had to arrange to get everything up to Fort Severn….most of the tools and supplies went into Fort Severn via ice road….the last few items are being flown in. The ice road wasn’t open until late this year….and only open for a few weeks….so this added to the task. And added to our delay getting up there. We had originally hoped to be up there by mid-January….then February….but at long last we’re about to depart.
Our team is John Hupfield of Lost In The Woods Boatworks. As many WCHA members may already know, John has years of experience in wood boat construction and restoration….and takes on the role of master builder. (NOTE: John is also one of the organizers of the Killbear Paddlers’ Rendezvous….a not to miss paddling event in September.)
Ian Devenney, the co-founder of B.I.L.D. (Boatbuilding for Interpersonal and Life Development) youth canoe building/restoration program, is also heading north. Ian is a certified Ontario teacher and outdoor educator with a background in working with troubled teens. He recently completed his Master’s of Environmental Studies (York University), where he explored the impact of changing technologies on craftsmanship, art making and learning. Ian also has begun a business called Tangled Tree Industries, specializing in skin-on-frame canoe and kayak building, wooden paddles and rustic furniture.
The last member of the group is yours truly….and I won’t bother (or bore) you with my ‘illustrous background’ (or lack thereof LOL LOL)….suffice to say I’m no expert (besides an EXPERT is better defined as an ‘EX-SPURT’ or ‘a former drip under pressure’ LOL LOL)….kind of a jack of all trades (or at least several LOL LOL), master of none….maybe I can best define my role as ‘chief cook and bottle washer’….I’ll be writing posts for here and elsewhere online….taking photos and video of the project’s progress….pitching in wherever I can with the actual work….and, for better or worse, I helped organize this project.
One member of our group that was very involved in getting this project together was Pam Wedd of Bearwood Canoes….Pam will not be going up this time (we’re planning for a follow-up later in the year at which time Pam can hopefully go)….but Pam was key to this project….we worked out some of the restoration techniques at her shop….her knowledge and experience was essential in developing the logistics….what we needed and where to get it….going up in November to initially access the canoes and work needed (she went up with Ian)….so even though Pam is not going to be there in person, she is very much a part of the project….certainly Pam will be there in spirit.
I have to thank Lynne Case and Doug Long of the Wooden Canoe Builders Guild for letting me know of this potential project….and for their support and advice….as well as other members of the Guild such as Bruce Smith….and also from other canoe builders such as Bill Miller, Doug Ingram, and Dick Persson.
So why are we doing this project?
These canoes have been in use in the north for long enough that they can probably be considered to have heritage value. Certainly helping the Fort Severn band members to continue to use them, instead of turning to a more modern alternative, would fit in with the mission of many of us, which would be:
1) to preserve the art and craft of wooden canoe bulding;
2) to pass on the skills of wooden canoe building through workshops, courses and apprenticeship programs;
3) to preserve the heritage and history of wooden canoes through education and restoration.
Since these are effectively the pick up trucks for the local people, they are work vehicles and don’t require a lot of fine finishing. It should be possible to turn the rest of the restoration work over to the Fort Severn band members after they have been instructed on the first two or three canoes. Working together as a team, our role is to facilitate this project.
The local youth will also be documenting the project through video….which will be shared via link to the Canadian Canoe Museum website.
So we will have more to share over the next month….the next time I post here it will be from Fort Severn. Paddles up until later then….