This is the start of my repair blog for my wide board and batten canoe, first seen here. It has been waiting patiently for other boats to be repaired for other people, but now has finally been moved into the garage so that work can begin. I think this will be quite a slow process, as Iíve never worked on a boat like this before and there is very little information available. There is a book being written by Mike Elliott at present and if I was to ship my boat back to Canada, I could have it repaired for the cost of the materials as part of research and developing techniques for the book. The type of boat construction is not common and he has been asking for donor boats with that offer for about 6 months now. This post is just an introduction that will be added to as I progress. The boats name is June Ė so that is when I hope to have it finished by.
Before we begin, a history lesson:
My canoe was made by the Canadian canoe company in Peterborough, Ontario. The company started in 1892 and the last of this type of construction were commercially built around the mid 30s, so this gives me a starting point for ageing it. It was imported by Salter Bros Ltd of Oxford, so it must be after 1915. Looking at the Salter Bros history, they mention that in 1930, 21 canoes that were out-sourced from Canada; I wonder if mine is one of those?
It was owned by Lightfoot and Deacon of Bedford where it was in use as a hire boat during WW11. Judging by the state of the varnish it had been stored up in the roof of the workshops for many years Ė probably awaiting repair. It was sold to me by the grandson of the founder who obtained it after the workshops were finally cleared in 2007.
This type of canoe was the first attempt at building canoes commercially. It seems the first ones in 1857 were built using a dugout canoe as a form, but soon, custom made solid forms were been used. The ribs were oak or rock elm and the planking was usually basswood. These boats were developed before the steel bands were introduced, which means as the planks were nailed to the ribs, the nails also went into the form. The boat had to be prised off the form and the nails were all bent over and the battens fitted at the plank joins between each rib before decks, thwarts and gunnels were fitted. The earliest board and batten canoes had just 2 planks each side. This became 3 then 4 as time passed. Mine has 4 planks so will be a later canoe.
I have a copy of the C.C.Co 1894 catalogue. I was surprised to find that because three different types of canoes could be built from one form (cedar rib , cedar strip, and wide board and batten) in the catalogue, there are just three canoe models, differentiated only by the length you wanted and the decks. The ĎNassauí has short 2í decks like mine, the ĎChemongí has longer 2í6Ēdecks and a coaming around the cockpit, and the ĎOtonabeí has long 3í decks and 3Ē decks along the sides with a coaming. Each model came in 7 different qualities defined by construction technique. íAí quality were cedar strip using cedar and butternut strips with copper and brass fittings ($48 - prices for 16' boat), ĎBí quality were the cedar rib canoes ($52), ĎCí an ĎDí were strip canoes with single type of wood ($41cedar and $39 basswood) and ĎEí the same as ĎDí but painted and using iron instead of copper and brass fixings ($36) . My boat would have been ĎFí as it has copper and brass fittings ($32) and ĎGí had iron fittings ($25). Having also seen a 1929 catalogue, Wood canoes were by then only available in one model with short decks but still in all the qualities. Now called the ĎCanadianí all wood, the price for the 16 foot model in quality ĎFí has risen to $70. For this size boat only, the model has been re-numbered 16 Ė all dimensions are the same.
I think I can confidently say my boat is a Number 16 ĎCanadianí All Wood Canoe in ĎF quality, built probably in the 20s or 30s.
My boat has had quite a hard life. After initial assessment, and apart from the stripping, sanding and varnishing . . .
There are repairs to the planking where another piece of basswood has been nailed inside between the ribs and battens to give a double thickness . . .
A hole in one plank which needs either a patch putting in or a double thickness making . . .
There is a plate fitted under the gunnel where it has a crack . . .
The brass stem band is in 5 pieces at one end . . .
Damage to the stem at the other end . . .
There is also a piece of planking missing . . .
Ė and, as if that wasnít enough, the big damage where most of a plank has been removed following some accident which resulted in 10 broken ribs.
This will take some thinking about and problem solving as the ribs go under the keelson so removal will be difficult. I might just fit in new ribs on the damaged side of the boat that run alongside the existing one. Another slight problem is that the planks are basswood which I can only find in the uk in small pieces from model supplies shops. Basswood is a type of Lime, so I will use that instead and worry about any colour differences later.
I'll probably spend the first part of this project cleaning and stripping while I work out ways of repair.