W&C Nesting Canoe

Tim the Inspector

Hey all, a local museum here has a couple of old wood and canvas nesting canoes that used to belong to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that some may find interesting. They look to be about twelve feet long and I would imagine their whole reason for breaking down into pieces is to fit them inside floatplanes (it IS a bushplane museum, after all) and haul them off to remote lakes.

Does anyone know any more about these little boats? Were they somewhat common once upon a time? I would assume a fair number had to have been made to justify some of the unique hardware.

Anyways, attached are a couple pics of one assembled, one apart, and a closeup of the clamps that hold it together with the clamp tool in place on one. I'll get better pics next time I'm at the museum if anyone would like, I'll even take requests.



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Douglas Ingram

Red River Canoe & Paddle
Don't know much more than the fact that Chestnut, at least, made them. I saw one at the Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

That one looks twice as good. There's two of them!

Denis M. Kallery

Passed Away July 3, 2012
In Memoriam
You might contact Ron Pellinnen of Black Beaver Canoes in the Canadian Soo. He was a bush pilot before getting into building canoes.


Unrepentant Canoeist
Back in the mid-70s, I spent some summers in NW Ontario. The MNR office in Red Lake had some of these, which were used for dropping people into remote areas to check on anything from residents' well-being to issues such as poaching, illegal mining, etc. Having the canoe stuffed inside the Beaver or Otter aircraft, instead of tied to the pontoon struts, meant the planes could take off on smaller lakes, expanding their range & flexibility. Some folks thought being able to break the canoe down made it easier to portage, while others thought it was easier to just portage it intact.

That's if I remember correctly. It's been 35 years... :rolleyes:

Dick Persson

Canoe builder & restorer
Hi Tim,

The sectional canoes in your pictures were made by the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS). Quite a number of them were built, a letter from OPAS Plant Superintendent states that by 1937 several hundred had been built.

Attached is a scan of an article regarding sectional canoes I wrote for the Canadian Canoe Museum's Newsletter in 2006,

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop


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LOVES Wooden Canoes
Thanks Dick for adding your previous CCM article....I thought I remembered that original sectional canoe was built by Walter Dean and that Ont. Provincial Air Service had built something similar (as you describe developed originally by Jack Hyde), followed later by other builders such as Chestnut and Peterborough companies. Great article.

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
A sectional canoe was also built for the Baldwin - Zeigler Polar Expedition so it could more easily be transported on dogsleds. The idea was to use this canoe to help them over any open water sections on the race to the North Pole. They did not reach the pole but the trip did produce several books and articles in National Geographic. It appears that the canoe did help them escape to an island in open water after shifting sea ice made it impossible for the rescue ship to get to their original camp.



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Douglas Ingram

Red River Canoe & Paddle
Walter Dean's company did hold a patent on the sectional canoe. From what I recall it was especially developed for cheaper shipping to the Klondike in the late 1890's. "Saves 75% shipping charges, occupies 1/3 the space!"

I looked into it quite a bit for the 20' replica that I built some years ago.


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New Member
Thanks Dick for posting the scan of the news letter. I have read several of your museum newsletter articles, but had missed this one, great stuff as usual.
I am curious about the company St. Mary’s Canoes. A friend has a wood canvas canoe, its decal say something like St. Mary xxxx and below it xxxxxx & Sons, is it the same company?


Dick Persson

Canoe builder & restorer

I know of this sectional canoe by Old Town. I enjoyed seeing the pictures some which I hadn’t seen before. Thanks for posting them.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop

Dick Persson

Canoe builder & restorer

Thanks for your kind words.
St. Mary’s Canoes were started in 1912 by Joseph Richards, a boat and canoe builder from the Detroit area. The company was continued by J. A. Richards’ son Ben and closed sometime in the late sixties.
The company used a deck decal in the form of a maple leaf with the text: ST. MARY’S CANOE, Richards & Sons, SOO, ONT.

Ron Pellinnen of Black Beaver Canoes in Sault Ste. Marie is the person who probably knows most about the company. He has provided me with information in the past and I know he has renovated many St. Mary’s canoes.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop