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A different kind of upset in whitewater paddling: the Massive C-1 Groove

Massive Groove

In general, we prefer to maintain four or five decades of hindsight to accumulate before acquiring a modern canoe or kayak for our permanent collection. In a family as diverse and dynamic as the paddling sports in their myriad forms, there have been many flashy newcomers that have perhaps not had the lasting effect once claimed or imagined. A result of this caution is that a walk through the 500 or so canoes and kayaks in our Collections Storage facility shows a predominance of wooden hulls, peppered lightly by the odd modern composite.

CCM Collections Storage

On rare occasions, however, we have the opportunity to acquire a contemporary boat that has a story, a pedigree or a relationship to a singular person that calls for a hastier response. For instance, several years ago we had the opportunity to acquire two K-1 sprint kayaks belonging to celebrated Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden. One, by Plastex, was used at the 2004 Athens Olympics to earn Gold and Bronze. The other, a Nelo K-1, was used to claim Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Adam van Koeverden spring K-1s

Adam van Koeverden sprint kayaks

Earlier this year, we learned about a great little boat with a tie-dye colour scheme called the Groove C-1 by Massive. Designed by that company’s owners Ian Thompson and Paul Danks for the vibrant whitewater freestyle canoe and kayaking community in the mid to late-90s, this playboat caused one of those wonderful moments in sport where a break-through design succeeds at a meet. In the hands of its accomplished paddler and co-designer, Danks, it cleaned up. In competitions leading up to the 1997 Ottawa Rodeo Worlds, Danks and his Groove had dominated again and again but would ultimately be barred from competing at the Worlds for concerns over the boat’s revolutionary design. However, the boat would leave its mark and many competitors have stated that elements from the Groove’s form influenced future hull designs in this sport.

Billy Harris (Canadian Freestyle team since 1999) claimed that: “the Massive C-1 Groove not only revolutionized the freestyle movement that we have today, but was so instrumental, that the sport had to change overnight to accommodate the capabilities of the boat.Massive Groove 2

The Canadian Canoe Museum would like to thank accomplished whitewater paddler and filmmaker Ben Aylsworth for the donation of this important part of Canadian sport paddling history and also for compiling many testimonials from the paddling community. In his words:

“The Groove changed freestyle paddling forever. It is, I believe, the most important modern freestyle boat ever designed. It exemplifies not only the lasting impact that Canadians have had on the sport (they don’t call it C-1 for nothing!) but also the spot where the world of kayaking continues to take shape: The Ottawa River.”

Perhaps it is because of their elegant silhouette or likely it is due to the strong and complex associations we have with them that canoes have unwittingly inspired many artistic efforts over the past century or so. Indeed, the elegant pictograph left on a rock face near Pictured Lake in northern Ontario and which was adopted by the Canadian Canoe Museum as its logo takes us back much farther than that.

Some months ago, we became aware of a local artist who had incorporated a full-sized canoe to serve as the frame for a monster of a kettledrum. For his prototype, artist David Hynes had sewn a number of hides together and laced them over the hull of a 16-foot Grumman to provide a whimsical but very engaging, interactive piece. To the eye, the organic shape of the stretched skin and the pattern of its lacing contrasted strikingly with the symmetrical (if slightly battered) form of the canoe’s hull. Did I mention that, with a 1200-litre soundbox, it also had a heck of a voice?

David was surprised by the crushing power of the skins (the lacings pulled the bottom of the aluminum hull upwards towards the drumhead, “hogging” the hull somewhat) and has recently brought to us the reinforced mark II version, or rather, “Conundrum II”.

The canoe has served as muse for other artists as well and we are very excited to gather and install several interactive art pieces within the sympathetic context of our museum’s galleries, to open on Family Day February 18th, 2013. Also featured in this show is an elegant and award-winning structure that blends the complex elements of a canoe’s framework with the religious guidelines for the sukkah (a temporary hut built and used during the Jewish Festival of Sukkot) and named by its creator “the Sukkanoe”. Another innovative piece to be included is named “Myth of the Steersman” and is an engaging multi-media installation inspired by the art and passions of Tom Thomson.

For more information, please watch for updates on this museum’s website.

On August 29th, The Canadian Canoe Museum opened the doors of its collections storage facility to the public to host a very special event. Inside the building, the smell of a recent sweetgrass smudging enhanced the usual reverential atmosphere of this space.

Surrounded by the world’s largest collection of canoes and kayaks and laid out for guests were the elegant remains of a bark canoe recently returned to Canada after more than two centuries years in the hands of a family in Cornwall, England. The canoe, which dates back to the late 1700s, is one of the oldest known birch bark canoes and is a significant piece of Canadian history. As a young officer, Lt. John Enys first came to Canada in 1776 with his regiment to defend a besieged Quebec City during the American Revolution. Since his return to the UK after the war and for the last 230 years this canoe has been kept at the Enys estate.

The bark canoe’s fragile hull has been inevitably damaged over the past two centuries. Its remains were removed from the family’s storage building and carefully prepared for display by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) in the summer of 2011. Enys’ descendents desired that the canoe ultimately return to an appropriate Canadian collection and chose to donate this important artifact to The Canadian Canoe Museum. In the summer of 2012 the canoe crossed the Atlantic once again, this time by aircraft rather than troopship, thanks to the combined efforts of the Canadian High Commission in London, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Air Force, the generous support of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the NMMC.

In the quiet hours before the event began, Curve Lake First Nations elder Doug Williams was joined by several helpers in welcoming the canoe to this area with words, prayers and song. The drumming group Unity formally started things off with a Welcome Song, sung for the guests assembled and also for the canoe. Over the course of the event, Williams and also Stephen Augustine (curator, Canadian Museum of Civilization) joined Canadian Canoe Museum executive director James Raffan and curator Jeremy Ward in discussing the significance of this artifact and its return to Canada.

The canoe is not currently displayed and will undergo an extensive assessment and treatment period over the next months with the aim to prepare it for future exhibition. For additional description and photographs of the event, please read Evan Holt’s excellent account.

If you’ve visited the Canadian Canoe Museum recently or perhaps read my earlier blog about a crazy, mid-19th century inflatable cloak that can also be turned into a canoe, you’ll  know that we have a new exhibit called “Canoes to Go: the Search for a Truly Portable Boat.

photo courtesy Sean Sexton

One of the many great stories we pursued for this exhibit was the invention and remarkable life of Campbell Mellis Douglas. He, like other inventors also featured, saw the need for a practical canoe that could also be made to conform to the constraints of a baggage compartment, steamship, aircraft fuselage and even submarine as new modes of intermodal transport became available.

Douglas’ invention, patented in 1883, was a canoe made from wood and waterproof canvas that collapsed along its keel. Like an umbrella, the longitudinal framework is fastened directly to the cloth and the result is something of a flattened, full-length silhouette of the canoe. We are fortunate to have three Douglas “folders” in our collection – two likely made by his son George and the third manufactured by the Peterborough Canoe Company in the early 1900s. Read the rest of this entry »

Every year at this time we move into high gear developing a new temporary exhibit for our McLean-Matthews Gallery. This year’s show is playfully called “Canoes to Go: The Search for a Truly Portable Boat”.

Foldable, collapsible, sectional or inflatable: these are some of the principals used in making a full-sized canoe or kayak small enough to fit into a baggage compartment or a bushplane or a backpack. While researching for this exhibit, we’ve encountered all sorts of fascinating and unexpected characters and events. I’m intending to share one or two more stories over the coming weeks and certainly hope that you are able to join us for the exhibit’s opening on the night of our Annual General Meeting, April 25th, 2012 or thereafter.

The Halkett Boat-Cloak

Several years ago our general manager John Summers acquired a reprint for a 1840s manuscript that described in illustrated detail the invention of an extraordinary, if ridiculous, waterproof raincoat.  This marvelous garment could be removed from the shoulders of an adventurous spirit and inflated by bellows conveniently located in one pocket. This quickly transformed it into a vessel ready to carry him away. How to propel you ask? Imagine then, our intrepid explorer removing from his cloak’s other pocket the blade of a paddle that could be threaded onto the tip of his walking stick. If lucky and the wind was right, a modified Englishman’s umbrella could also be used as a sail and the once-thwarted adventurer could continue in his adventuresome way. Read the rest of this entry »