Strange Sighting

MikeCav

Restorer/Videographer
Margaret "Splinter" Fisher of the famous Wisconsin Splinters, Dan Miller and yours truely got a behind the scenes tour of the boat collection at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, courtesy of curator Hallie Bond.

The main purpose of the trip was for Margaret to see what a birchbark canoe really looked like, having just purchased a rather disorganized collection of bark and sticks referred to as a "vintage birchbark" from some guy who is, at this very moment, sitting in a bar somewhere in the Catskills, telling his buddies about this crazy woman who drove from Wisconsin to buy the reminants of his firewood pile.

After visiting the museum, Margaret came back to Mike's house where they tried to reassemble the pile of parts into a package sturdy enough for the return trip.

Photo 1 - Hallie shows Margaret what a BB canoe is supposed to look like.
Photo 2 - Mike and Margaret shove bent wood into curved spaces in the bark - hope it looks like ribs!
Photo 3 - temporary thwarts to help make the 800 mile ride less exciting
Photo 4 - Anyone know how to iron the wrinkles out of a BB canoe?
Photo 5 - enough stretch wrap to enclose Yankee Stadium and it's ready for the road!

Seriously - I had the opportunity to host Margaret on her trip east and we really had a ball! Safe voyage home, Splinter!
 

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Not so much a canoe.....

As an "embarrassing piece of filth". Thanks to both of the Cavanaughs for hosting me on this expedition. Mikes excellent cooking and Kathy's humor and brilliant hospitality was exactly what I needed to sustain me on my trip home with this monster on my car. I COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOUR HELP!!! Had a great time at the Ad'k museum and pub hoisting with Dan Miller Fam and Al Mapes, too. Sorry about flooding your basement. Hope all those sawblades are o.k. I think I will leave this thing wrapped and intact until Ferdy can have a look at it. Let me know when you're this direction so we can hook up again. We have beer here, too I understand. With gratitude, Margaret
 
Never fear for the old canoe will float again, (as long as you don't remove the stretch wrap).
 
Cheer up there woodgirl.
Keep in mind you have a 100 year old historic birch bark canoe. How many other people do you know that have one in their personel collection?
This is a very valuable ($$$) piece of canoe history and not an "embarrassing piece of filth"!
 
Thank you

for that optimistic pat on the head. However, you may want to save your opinion until after you see the thing. Mikes description "disorganized collection of bark and sticks" is right on. I'm eager to see what can be done with it to improve it. I am keeping my expectations LOW in case it is hopeless. I am really concerned about those wrinkles in the bark. NO idea how to get those flat. Maybe someday I can just sew up the end and let some kids play with it........ Not sure it will ever be a boat again.
 
Provenance

Very little, some guy told the previous owner that he remembers seeing it at "this camp" in 1947. That is as far as it goes back. The gunwale cap is pegged not nailed. There do not seem to be any nails in it. I am trying to compare distinguishing marks and it's characteristics to what I see in several BB canoe books. Could be anything from anytime. It's redeeming quality remains that it is make from only one (wrinkled) piece of nice bark. I doubt it was made in the US. (Maple leaves on bow) I might be able to narrow it down somewhere along the line if enough people see it.
 
Margaret of the Lost Cause:)

Hi All,
Ferdie would say to you what he said to me: "Sure you can do it--if you don't mind stitching!" As for the bumps they were probably there on day one. It sounds completely authentic and they weren't so much interested in beauty as they were function. No nails, as any iron was considered to be bad luck in canoe construction at that time. I think this project looks very doable; it's a beautiful canoe. (I am a graduate of David and Ernestine Gidmark's birchbark canoe building school so they all look beautiful to me.)

Margaret, you seem to not shrink at a challenge. I have an old and battered "skin on strip" square backed canoe I am thinking of parting ways with here in Madison. All that's salvageable basically are many of the long strips. It's encased in fiberglass...I know, I know, could it get any worse? If you are interested or know anyone with good canoe woodworking skills who might be, and who is close enough to make it worth their while, would you please let me know? I belonged to the WCHA back when Chris Merigold was at the helm and I was rebuilding a couple of Old Town's, but it's been years since I've been involved. I am: Barb Huhn, work: 608-301-9263, home: 608-334-6356. Thanks!
 
Sounds like

Just the kind of thing my ex-husband would have loved. I'll let him know. Meanwhile, I have spent time stripping off fiberglass resin and I have to say, it beats out stripping varnish in awfulness. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible score for "niceness" I would have to give stripping varnish a score of +2.46 and stripping fiberglass a -7,462. I currently have 4 canoes in the hospital and no desire to attract another that needs TLC but there would no doubt be someone who would like this project. I'd say, post the thing with photos on the WCHA classified ads. Hey!!! Welcome back! Our Chapter is getting really active and it would be fun to have you join us at our events so we can get to know you. Watch for our event postings on "Chapter Happenings" We are now called the "Great Rivers Chapter". Our next event is directly north of you on Lac Du Bay, May 19th. See you there, bring your BB if you have one to show us. Thanks for the note. Margaret
 
The Review

For those who have been tuning in to find out what the verdict is on this "rather disorganized bunch of bark and sticks"....... Ferdy Goode (birchbark canoe builder par extraordinaire) went over the thing in detail and while I have much work to do, the cost won't be much as the materials are all found in nature, after all. It is all repairable and worth the repair time. I will start it next year. His assessment is that is was well worth the drive from WI to NY in the sleet to rescue the thing off the rusty chain that held it to the rafter of that "garage" that was about to fall down on top of it. When the canoe is repaired and the lost parts are rebuilt it has the potential to be worth several K. I'm still glad I only paid $405.00 for the thing. I'll clean up the parts this year and start to fix it next year. I'm still trying to get that 1914 Otca done that I bought from Dave Osborn last year at this time. Dad and I sanded and faired that hull yesterday and next weekend I'll do the Bee Varnish in the interior. Then the canvas. I want to get this one done for the Assembly, this July.
 
10 years ago, I made the trip to New York to pick up this Birchbark Canoe.
Now it's 2017 and lots has happened since then. BUT, this past Memorial Day, I loaded it up on my car again and delivered it to Ferdy Goode for a total restoration.
He is confident it will be able to be paddled again. While this canoes life story is sketchy at best, he's also found some good info indicating it's likely origin.
Sometime in the relative near future, the restored canoe will be back in the water continuing it's life story.
Book to follow. . . .
 
Here are some photos from the day I drove out to eastern NY to pick it up; April 16, 2007.
 

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