Mom & Dad's Old Town #98698 - 16


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi all-

First posting, great site and links.

My Mom and Dad have Old Town canoe #98698 - 16. The feedback that I have so far (validity check) is that it was a 1924 model, originally purchased in NY. I am interested in any information you can provide. My parrents are both 80 this year, a couple of years ago I started actively paddleing with my Dad. I hope to put together an info package and framed copy of the build certificate as a gift. Also any info on how to "paddle right" (we have our styles, but I see many new paddles on the market) could be beneficial. Any other gift thoughts you might have are also appreciated.

The canoe story (briefly)-
My parrents purchased the canoe, used, while on vacation in upstate NY. The year was about 1950. Mom and Dad were planning a "honeymoon" trip into the Ely, MN area. They took the canoe back to their then home in Madison, Wisconsin. My understanding is that they took three trips into the boundary waters before I was born in 1958. After that time the canoe was used very sparingly - I also have an older brother, born in '54 so I guess that two youngsters and a conoe didn't mix very well. I remember the canoe being around during my school years, but it was always tagged as "broken". I finally came to understand what that ment during my last couple of years in High School. It was then that the canoe moved to a place of stature - into Mom's family room. In 1975 the family project was to strip and refinish the canoe. We replaced two broken ribs, the canvas and repainted it dark blue. Upon completion, it was time for a family trip into the boundary waters. What a great time and great memories. Some of the travels re-traced the original routes that my parents had taken some twenty years earlier. After that the canoe had only one more trip back to Ely, MN with my Dad and my brother. Then it gained a perch in the garage, hanging upside down and covered for many years.
Finally after many years of begging: "why don't we bring the canoe up north to the cottage" (Traverse City, MI), Dad decided it was time for the canoe to come out again. This just happened a few years ago.
After a couple of trial runs and a new coat of paint the canoe is seeing regular use. Dad and I paddle together everytime that I am up north with them. In the last two years we have gone over most every inch of Long Lake, south of Traverse City, in Interlochen, MI. The trips are always interesting, taking us to new areas or areas that hold many memories. It has been a great way for the two of us to have our special time together.
Our Old Town canoe, what a great piece of family history, that keeps on giving.

Thanks for your assistance, happy trails.

Your folks canoe seems to be a 16' OTCA in AA grade with open mahogany gunwales and mahogany decks. It also came with floor racks. It was painted what appears to be a custom shade of blue with a yellow stripe like "design #34" with the name "Blue Heaven" written on it. It was delivered to Rochester, NY in August 1928. The build record is attached. Design #34 stripe looks like this:

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Paint color and design

Thanks for the feedback-

Regarding the paint:
Color - is the a cross reference available so that I could get a sample of the color?
Design - the canoe had a diamond pattern design on it when my parents purchased it. Was a series of diamonds under the gunwale a standard Old Town design?


My intrepretation of the color note "Blue to sample" meant that the purchaser wanted the paint to match a color sample that they sent in to Old Town. Perhaps they owned other boats all painted with the same blue and they wanted the entire fleet to match.

EDIT [If this is still the original canvas, though unlikely, you could try to scrape the paint down throught the layers and find a shade of blue.] Sorry - I missed the fact that you have already recanvased the canoe. Failing that, paint it a shade of blue that YOU like - who can argue with you?

It is great that you and your dad can still paddle together. It sounds like this boat is in loving hands and will remain a family treasure.

BTW - there are a number of canoe collectors, restorers and paddlers from Michigan who are here at WCHA's annual Assembly this weekend. Join WCHA and come join us next year>
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When you put together the package for your folks, don't forget to include the posts on this thread. It show what lengths you went to get all the information. They will appreciate it...
tx for the info and more design info?

Thanks to everyone for your feedback.

Interesting development this past weekend regarding the design; Mom gave me three slide from 1954. They show a dark blue canoe (like now) with a red, white, and light blue "diamond or triangle" design that appears to be factory original. The story had always been that the design had been painted on by a boy scout. I appears that the name; "Blue Heaven" is painted on the side.

I am having the slides printed up and converted to electronic format. At that point I should have a great idea of the details of what the canoe really looked like.

Do we have any sources for duplicating the original Old Town designs? Are there any patterns available? Has anyone tried using the new vinyl decals that are so popular on race cars and such?


Take a look at the thumbnails

there are a number of designs with triangles & diamonds, the most famous was #4, an Indian like design. #5, #8, #21, #22 & #38 are all possibilities. There has been much discussion of patterns etc. For the most part, there were done by individual painters at Old Town and any patterns, if they existed at all, were either scribbled on a wall, a chunk of cedar or in someones notebook.

Benson Gray is the most knowledgible source for info on the OT patterns and has done significant research. Benson, you're on...

Regarding use of the vinyl decals - I used them on my canoe "Taconic". I used a gold leaf type material with a printed boarder. Looks good and goes a long way towards compensating for my lack of artistic talent - but painted would be better IMHO. Take a look at:
Actually, I thought that everyone else was doing just fine with this topic so I was going to stay out of it. However, since you asked...

My guess is that it left the factory as a blue canoe that matched a sample that was provided by the original customer (Henry Sheve?) with a yellow stripe like the one shown in the Design Number 34 and the name "Blue Heaven" written on it. The 'red, white, and light blue "diamond or triangle" design' was probably added by a boy scout or someone else at a later date although it may have been modeled after an existing Old Town design. The best sources for duplicating an Old Town design are the design poster at or the Old Town catalog CD from or on the web. There are no other patterns or stencils available. The factory simply had an old piece of cardboard with cut outs from the old catalog thumbnails pasted on them. They also had a set of cardboard triangles for the Design Number 4 that were sized to fit the various gunwale lengths but those are long gone now.

I agree with Mike that the vinyl decals look good from a distance but a hand painted design looks much better up close. A local sign painter can probably help if you don't want to try painting this yourself.