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Russ Parker and kayak

Russ Parker and kayak

A weekend visit to The Canadian Canoe Museum will often lead to an encounter with a very talented woodworker on our team named Russ Parker. Retired from a long career with the Toronto Fire Services and an avid guitar maker, Russ has also been producing some very fine skin-on-frame kayaks in our Living Traditions Workshop as a Canadian Canoe Museum volunteer.

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Like the rest of this community also involved with The Canadian Canoe Museum, I share a peculiar affection for the little human-powered boats that are so celebrated in our country’s heritage. It is certainly my privilege as the Museum’s Curator to spend quite a bit of time with its collection of over 600 of these little boats.

Canadian Canoe Museum onsite Collections Storage Facility (CCM photo)

Canadian Canoe Museum onsite Collections Storage Facility (CCM photo)

If pressed, I do not have a favourite canoe– at least today’s choice would not be the same as yesterday’s favourite. I will however make a small confession: I’ve long had a soft spot for one unusual branch in the canoe’s family tree and it usually has an outboard motor hanging off the end.  Now I’m not really a motorboat person, not at all, but there’s something about the shape and workboat finish of the great freighter canoes found across the Canadian north that gives me a thrill. Read the rest of this entry »

ORU folding kayak

ORU folding kayak

Determining a useful boundary between what has historically been deemed a kayak rather than a decked, double-paddle canoe is something of a messy task and won’t be the goal of this short piece. Suffice it to say that, 150 years ago, the kayak was pretty much a boat made by and paddled almost exclusively by the Inuit. Meanwhile, the popularity of canoeing in the late nineteenth-century had caused the development of umpteen patented methods of shaping wood into the complex, curved forms required for a canoe (whether open or decked).  Outside of its original Arctic context, efforts at commercial kayak construction continued to experiment well within sight its Inuit root, relying upon a waterproof skin stretched tight by an internal frame even well into the 20th century. Read the rest of this entry »