Howard Caplan

Wooden Canoe Maniac
We finally put the Stewart River Prospector in the water, yesterday. Over the past 1 1/2 years, we replaced planks and canvas and stripped and varnished and painted. I am not a painter. Spring turned into fall before I got it somewhat acceptable.
Although I have paddled many boats and have over 200 days in the Tundra I have never paddled a boat quite like this one. I have a friend who has a royalex Prospector, which I never paddled. But, I have paddled beside him many times as he soloed it and he never had this empty situation I had yesterday.
First, I am a kneeler and between the lack of angle on the stern seat and the deep hull, my little hobbit, like legs left me unable to kneel. Note to myself: angle both seats.
My wife, small dog and me. Wife a bit surprised it didn't leak and sink. Dog was unfazed. Into the Milwaukee River we went. A bit breezy and some stinkpots cruising way to fast. And that boat bobbed like a cork. It felt like there was no more then 3 inches of hull touching the water. My buddy's Nova Craft in royalex allows much more boat in the water, even when he is solo with no gear.
Going in, I knew with no weight and the breeze, it would be a challange. But, I never thought that boat would ride as high in the air as it did.
Now, I can't wait until I get a chance to load it with gear and turn it around to paddle solo into some class 1's and 2's.
Congrates Howard,

Has it been that long already, wow, time does fly.

And pics, we gotta have pics. :)

Now if you could find me a real Pal.......

Q: When is a Prospector not a Prospector?

A: Almost always...

OK, maybe I'm being a little facetious, but the truth of the matter is there are a lot of canoes out there being called Prospectors that, when put side-by-side with originals from the Chestnut factory, there is an awful lot of variation and poetic license. I've seen several modern canvas versions where the bottom was quite a bit rounder than the original (and were quite tender as a result). Many of the composite versions have taken significant poetic license with the design... I've not seen one of Alex's Prospectors, so don't know how it compares to the original...

I used to own a 16' Chestnut Prospector, and soloed it regularly (kneeling in the bilge, paddling Canadian-style). It was a good boat for that, mostly. But it packs a large volume for its length, is deep, and has a fair amount of rocker, which does make it somewhat tender when paddling light. Put a good load in it and it performs admirably. The seats in mine were set under the gunwales in "typical" fashion, that is hung about the same distance below the gunwales as less deep canoes. It is a little awkward when light, but you'll appreciate where you are relative to the water when paddling loaded.
Yes Dan, it was June of '06' when I picked this broken down and abused Prospector up in La Crosse. In July, I already had the fibreglass patched canvas off and drove it to Appleton to get it stripped.
September, Amy and I took the class in Grand Marais at the North House Folk School where we replaced the planks and recanvassed. Amy, by the way, was the queen of cutting the planking to fit ---- the first time. Hung it in the garage for the winter and took it down in spring. Varnish and then paint and finally got the paint kinda right. I fabricated two hand thwarts which it never had and a carry thwart. All three pieces are too heavy as I made them before I got some woodworking machines that would have easily eliminated a lot of planing and sanding. I may mill those pieces down a bit, still.

If it's 16' X 36" X 13 or 14" and has a substantial rocker, it can be called a Prospector...right? But, doesn't Alex Comb have the original forms from Chestnut???

I don't have a single pic of this canoe. Camera was stolen in Thunder Bay after a canoe trip - with all my pics from that trip and my GPS in the same Pelican case. This would have been a good one for before and after. If you saw the before shots you would forgive the mistakes you would see on the after shots.

I thought that canoe wasn't too bad when you got it? Needing a seat and a little repair?

As for Alex having an original Chestnut form, I dought it a lot. I think he even says that he took the lines off a canoe and made a form, and he isn't listed in Selway's book of who got the Chestnut forms. Somebody can correct me but I thought that the forms are currently with 4 builders in eastern Canada, can't remember all the names offhand.

If it's 16' X 36" X 13 or 14" and has a substantial rocker, it can be called a Prospector...right? But, doesn't Alex Comb have the original forms from Chestnut???

Umm, no. Neither can you call a 16'x34"x12" canoe with no rocker and very shallow arch bottom an Otca. There are a lot of "prospector" canoes out there but there are (in my opinion) a lot of subtleties to the Chestnut Prospector design that set it apart (and above) all the imitators.

No, as far as I know, Alex does not have original Chestnut molds. As Dan L. points out, Ken Solway has accounted for the surviving molds, and they are all in Canada.
My Chestnut

Hi all!- Had to jump in here and ask a question....I have a 16 Chestnut and it has the serial# 16 016240 on the front stem...its the 1 3/8 rib model and I guess it is the Pal model by Dan's list of Chestnuts...It was made in 65 and was shipped to Squam Lake in NH....I got it there from the owner after it got away and went onto the rocks (3 ribs and a section pf planking.)..Any Chestnut lovers have an idea who made it? Cant wait for next spring to try it out!....thanks!
I was a bit tongue in cheek when I said all boats, 16'X36"...are Prospectors.
And as soon as I asked if Alex had the original forms, I realized he told me he worked the numbers and built his own form.

So it rides high empty and should carry a big load of gear.
Doesn't sound like a recreational day tripper to me.
The whole point of a "Prospctor"was to carry a lot of gear.Great boat for the bush.Your lifeline to civilization.
Call it what you will but even Chestnut would be happy with a design that met those criteria.
Yup - and I knew, going is it was not a day tripper.
I stopped by to visit Alex Comb last year on my way north to take the repair class in Grand Marais.
He told me he built some Prospectors for a camp and a few for individuals. He had a guy who wanted a good boat to fish from and had already decided the Prospector was for him as Bill Mason called it the best all around canoe ever made.
Guy comes back to Alex a few weeks after pick-up and complained it was not stable enough.
Bill Mason called it the best all around canoe ever made.

I get a kick out of this (even though I don't disagree with him entirely), because if you watch his movies, he's using a Pal as often as not... for a lot of folks, that is a better choice.
With only a bit of tougue in cheek,

I think what Mason was really saying was that "Prospector" is the best name for a canoe.

Alex went on to tell me that when he next ran into Becky Mason, he asked her why her dad said that when he clearly preferred the Pal. She responded that dad would say the first thing that came into his mind.
This is Alex's story and I do feel a bit sheepish relaying it - but, it is a good story and illustrates the need for consumers to really do their homework and realize there is no one canoe design that will fit all of one's needs. Which is why, I have five different canoes and still "need" more.
one club Dan

Dan, if you were told that by another canoe fancier its likely because the club in question would need the head fixed, shaft straightened and refinished, regripped and so on only after a lenghty attempt at determining its provenance and the favourite colour etc of the factory worker who assembled it. All the while remaining in a perpetual state of half completion as other clubs were bought and sold, most totally unusable in their present state to the disdain of significant others.:D
At least golf clubs are easier to move around and store. I'm just glad I was outbid way back when on that 1929 Buick (only 600 miles on it) - that is a slippery slope I didn't need to slide down...

Just to bring this back on topic, I drove halfway down New Jersey and back yesterday to pick up what I thought was a Chestnut Chum, turns out its a bloody 15' Prospector. Just what I needed... :rolleyes:
bloody chum

Now I'm hooked on Ironics:mad: i drove to get what I thought was a prospector and got a damn chum. we could have worked this out had i known... sold the chum. ah well, we need to speak more...
15' Chestnut Chum

I just happen to have one available if you don't mind a bit of a drive.


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