No Yoke


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I have taken my Racine out three times now and it is a dream to paddle and fish from. My wife and I just got back from a little smallmouth bass lake that is a short 15 rod portage from our lake and hauled the Racine back and forth with the carry handles. However, I think the canoe would be easy to portage, but it does not have a carry yoke. What do folks do with these old canoes with regard to yokes if they did not originally have one? I did the restoration with originality in mind and am concerned I would be doing her some injustice by adding an modern yoke. Yet I really want to use her to her full intent and think a yoke would be really helpful. Any thoughts?
portage yoke

Yokes are as easy to take out as to install. I don't think that the couple of bolt holes in the gunwales would really be an insult to originality, and if a center thwart is part of the original set up, you wouldn't even have to drill new holes -- just take the thwart out, store it in a safe place, and put the yoke in.

Alternatively, you can lash the paddles to a center thwart so the paddle blades serve as the shoulder rests -- if you have a center thwart. I don't have a picture showing this, -- but someone here should have such a picture they can post. If no one does, I'll take a picture and post it when I'm back from Assembly. Here are some pictures of my 1931 OT 50 pounder, where I have installed a yoke instead of the original thwart, which is safely stored away.

. original thwart.jpg fitting yoke.jpg yoke - sm.jpg
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To add to Greg comments,

if you are real concerned, use a "clamp in" yoke, and then you wouldn't even be drilling any new holes in the rails.
Just be careful with the interface to avoid denting the rail, ie, a thin layer of soft material next to the rail.

I'd be a bit careful about just using the center thwart fasteners for a yoke, as usually there are only 1 per side, and that's a bit light for supporting the weight of the canoe.

Also, be sure the canoe is balanced, which may drive a location a bit different then the thwart location. Clamp your yoke in and carry it to be sure the balance is good. If your yoke carries the load on it's centerline, you can put the canoe on a dowel (broom handle) to find the balance point.

I use a set wheels to get to my smallmouth lakes around here in the Northwoods. The canoe goes on the wheels, the gear goes in the canoe, and you pull it one handed down the trail. Your empty hand is for swatting deer flies and skeeters.
I have canoes with thwarts and yokes. Unless the portages are particularly long or arduous, portaging with a standard yoke is fine. You can wear your PFD or wrap it in closed cell foam (taped in place) for padding/added comfort.

Yikes, did I just use the word "comfort" in a post about portaging!?
Yikes, did I just use the word "comfort" in a post about portaging!?

I don't like portages much either. You know what they say:

It’s the portage that makes travelling by canoe unique. – Bill Mason

….portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop. – Bill Mason

Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy. – Bill Mason

May your portages be short and the breezes gentle on your back. - Anonymous

The worst portage ever is the next one! – Scott MacGregor, Rapid Media (Canoeroots et al)

The thought of having to carry all your worldly possessions on your back has been cause to modify the quintessential Canadian adventure canoe trip in terms of how many portages will be encountered. Paddlers now have mutated their own aspirations of adventure by eliminating the “carry”-the fundamental and historical pith of the journey, and choose a route with the least amount of work involved. - from Grey Owl & Me by Hap Wilson

It not just about the trail one travels, as much as how one gets there….just as life is not so much about the destination as the journey….even with the portages LOL LOL. And when one gets to travel by canoe through wilderness, then one reconnects with the land….with the water….with the rocks and trees….with the whole environment….and maybe also with one’s self.

Paddles up until later then….and remember that life is not about its destination, but its journey….the journey might be tough, long and winding….but it’s sure worth the walk….or the paddle at least LOL LOL. – Mike Ormsby

It is kind of like a canoe trip: one route may have a long portage but also has the best scenery or special sites such as Native pictographs or old growth forest; another is more direct and quicker but bypasses all the good parts that a canoe trip should involve….it might be quicker or more direct….but in the long run we miss out on so much by taking that route.

So when you’re on a canoe trip, hopefully you know where you want to go (well you should know….so you can “file” a trip itinerary with somebody so they know where you’re going….and in places like Algonquin so you can reserve camp sites), and you have different ways to go, before getting to your chosen destination….but sometimes you may want to take a bit of a side trip too, maybe somewhere of great interest or just a special place ….so you need to plan for those possibilities too….as in life, you may know where you want to go but aren’t quite sure how to get there….or what unplanned events might happen….but you plot out the best course possible….taking into consideration the length of time it may take to get where you want to go….even a long portage into that special lake or campsite. – Mike Ormsby

Maybe my dislike for portages comes from my preference for wood canvas canoes, sometimes which do have a bit extra weight....although as pointed out by a Rob in a recent email he sent regarding a blog post: “It all depends”. In this case, size sometimes matters, as well as other factors. My 62 lb wood/canvas canoe is lighter than my fibreglass canoe of the same length (16′). And I have certainly portaged some 80lb beasts, both 18′ aluminum with waterlogged “bouyancy” chambers and “Royalex” tripping canoes.

Any way, I once wrote:

The cedar and canvas canoe rolls up onto your shoulders
Not too much weight, a bit more than you remember from last year
Just enough to let you know you’re still alive
You double the carry over so you don’t overdo it
Or maybe it’s just to take more time to see where you’re at

Sorry if I hijacked this thread.
There is a reason why kevlar is/is becoming the most popular canoe material in the BW/Q, where 8-10 portages a travel day is typical.

As much as I like the W/C, I dought I'll ever take one again on a BW/Q campout. Day trips sure, but not campouts.

As to whether you want/need a yoke in your canoe depends on you and where you think you'll use it.
IF you will be taking it over significant portages, you'll want a real yoke. On the other hand if you just need to get it a short distance to the water, or maybe a few short, flat, easy carry's, then the other options given would be fine.

Make a paddle yoke. Tie the blades of the paddles about 6" apart on the centre thwart and the shafts to the bow quarter thwart or seat. Roll the canoe up, stick your head in between the paddles, and 'voila'! And nobody has to schlep the paddles across the portage either.

(Next episode - same thing, with a tump. Kinky!)

A portage can be a nice break after a long paddle. Helps to avoid deep vein thrombosis.
Probably a good time to ask..
Many Peterborough style canoes only have three kneeling thwarts, the centre one is about 6 inches aft of centre. Is it the norm to use lashed paddles for a carry yoke on these? If paddles were used there would be about six inches of blade between the middle thwart and the shoulders. I think that the gap might have enough leverage to break a paddle blade. I have not seen clamp portage yokes sold for these.
I like this clamp on, especially if you have several boats of different widths. I like that the weight is in the whole gunwale, not just a perforated inwale, although the part that sticks out past the gunwales sometimes catches you and can make it hard to flip up.


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