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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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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 »


Sunday, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day and Peterborough residents love this celebration. The annual parade attracts over 10,000 spectators and the local pubs prepare for a day of Irish cheer! I was curious if there were any “green” paddling events as part of the festivities and although I couldn’t find anything local – probably because of our Peterborough weather – I did find a few events in warmer climates.  The most interesting celebration I found was in Chicago – the river is actually dyed green!  This tradition has been going on for over 40 years – what a novel way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

green riverimagesCA6QCV3Ountitled

Perhaps the Canoe Museum can start this tradition in Peterborough once we move to the water!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!


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.”


Stone: grey-rose Brazilian soapstone and caribou antler. Carver: Tuma Saumik, born 1948 in Naajuat, Nunavut. Community: Kangiqlinik, Nunavut.

What would the Museum’s second floor Kayak gallery be without a collection of Inuit carvings on display? That is exactly what we were wondering when the much-loved Hahn-Moss Collection moved home last month.  The display case in question is often the first stop for many school groups that come to the Museum to take part in our ever-popular Soapstone Carving program. Students walk around that case, and using only their faculty of sight to explore the carvings, they determine the qualities of the stone and the context of the carvings. These carvings also carry the responsibility of inspiring these students when it comes time to carve their own piece of soapstone!

Bert and Lyn Horwood of Kingston Ontario are two people that understand the importance of these sculptures and the role that they can play in educating our youth.  Bert and Lyn are long time fanciers of soapstone art that they have collected both in the north and at galleries around Canada.  As a canoeist, Bert had paddled some rivers in Nunavut and the NWT, which have taken him into the realms of Inuit carvers in a variety of northern communities.  But they have also frequented galleries in Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver.  The result is a lovely family collection of soapstone from which these ten pieces were selected for display.

As a long-time, now retired, professor of education at Queen’s University (first in Science and then in Outdoor & Experiential Education) Bert’s interest was piqued when he heard that the pieces in the soapstone display case were used as part of school programming in the Kayak Gallery.  To make the display as informative and interesting as possible Bert and Lyn looked through their collection for pieces they thought were representative in terms of geographic diversity, as well as in the types of stone and the characters being depicted.  They were also conscious of selecting works of varying complexity, knowing that if these are to be a guide for novice soapstone carvers then some simpler or more naive pieces might be more inspiring than more elaborate or complex pieces.

It is integral to the quality of our programs at the Museum to have these unique and valuable Inuit carvings on display.  They help to tell the stories of the northern Canadian landscape, the people and animals, and the rich culture and art that comes from this area.  Thank you Bert and Lyn Horwood!!

Here is a glimpse of what’s now on display.

Mother and child carving

Stone: serpentine. Carver: Utye, born 1924. Community: Kimmirut and Iqaluit.

Crane-Horwood Collection

Stone: Muskox horn on caribou antler base. Artist: unknown, possibly Rex Goose, born 1965. Community: Uluhaktok, NWT.

Loon-Horwood collection

Stone: black stone. Carver: work signed “Itualuk”, possibly Itualuk Kadyulik, born 1938. Community: Sugluk, QC

Bear-Horwood Collection

Stone: green-grey stone. Carver: Novoligak, born 1921. Community: Kugluktuk, Nunavut.


Stone: Brazilian soapstone. Carver: Mary Ann Taylor, born c. 1978. Community: Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. This was the carver’s first shown piece. She was about 15 years old and learned mostly from her father and brothers.

Kneeling Woman braiding hair-Horwood collection

Stone: grey stone. Carver: Evie Tullaquaq Oumugaaluk, born 1925. Community: Sugluk, QC.

Man-Horwood collection

Stone: flinty, grey stone. Carver: Samaotik, born 1907. Community: Inukjuak, QC.

We are providing a welcoming atmosphere where our products are displayed in an organized and visually appealing way; there is an abundance of merchandise for you our visitors such as:

  • Artisan Crafts Created Onsite at the Museum
  • Children’s Toys, Games and Kits
  • Kayak & Canoe Craft
  • Jewelry and Accessories
  • Books, Maps, CD’s and DVD’s
  • Prints and Posters
  • Canadian Canoe Museum Apparel
  • Vintage Canoe Company Clothing and Publications
  • Items From Local Artists and Suppliers

Remember to come in and get your items for our upcoming events such as Beaver Club Gala, and the book signing of Joseph Boyden.

Will you be attending? Show your support of these events with a comment or a ‘Like’

Some days, it’s too windy to go out on the water. Some days, the water is just plain frozen. Some days, it’s too hot and some days, you just plain don’t feel like it. When this happens, it can be almost as much fun to read about paddling as it is to do it. Here are three things to read that I think you will enjoy.

The history of the canoe building companies that were a significant part of the economic life of Peterborough, Ontario, for more than one hundred years is as rich and tangled a story as you’re likely to find in Canadian business history. Invention, entrepreurship, patents, lawsuits, rivalries, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and catastrophic fires: it’s a tale that has all this and more. It is also a complicated story, and those who are interested in canoeing history, Canadian history, Canadian business history and the story of how the city of Peterborough, Ontario came to be synonymous around the world with the canoe will have a much easier time figuring it out after they have read Peterborough author Ken Brown’s 2011 book: The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories.

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Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

Now that our deck beams and masik are pegged into place we are ready to begin lashing them together.

Using artificial sinew to lash the first deck beam

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Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3,  and Part 4.

Finishing work on the deck beams

We set to work today by installing the last of our decks beams. We had only the deck beam closest to the bow to shape and fit into place. The deck beams and gunwales meet at a compound angle which can prove to be difficult to work with. Properly shaping the deck beams to fit flush with the gunwales can be time consuming and requires a bit of trial and error.

The masik sitting on top of the frame where it will be installed

Our next task was to shape the masik. The masik lies towards the bow just ahead of the centre line and will eventually help anchor the cockpit into place. Like the other deck beams, the masik joins the two gunwales together; however, the masik differs in that it is a bent deck beam that needs to be shaped accordingly. There are various ways of shaping the masik: steam bending, laminating and/or cutting it out of a solid piece of wood. Pros and cons are associated with all three methods; however, we opted to laminate numerous thin strips of red oak together.

Checking to make sure the masik has been trimmed to fit properly

We first had to build a form reflecting the desired shape of the masik. Once the form was built we simply coated the individual strips with glue and clamped them around the form. Once dry, the masik was ready to be fit into place.  We had hoped to begin lashing the deck beams into place this week but ran out of time.

Installing the masik using wooden dowels

The museum was busy with patrons exploring the various galleries and engaging us in conversation. It was a welcomed distraction. As much as we enjoy working on the kayak, sharing our enthusiasm for this project with the patrons of the museum is equally enjoyable. It was great to see so many children enjoying the various activities set out for them throughout the museum. We did our best to provide hints and clues for the scavenger hunt.

Next week… We start lashing for real this time!

Remember Grade 6? Didn’t it suck? Looking out at the world from behind a mask of braces and zits.  Awkwardness, weird body stuff. And school. The only thing I recall from my grade 6 so-called education is that each and every month we had to make an elaborate new cover for our science workbooks, for a hefty part of our mark, while the Bunsen burners gathered dust. (It occurs to me now that Mrs. K  was a thwarted art teacher, but jeesh.)  Now I see grade 6s and 7s coming into the Museum for our Education Programs, and my heart goes out to them, so transparent is the coolness or, sadder still, apathy, that so many try to hide behind. It is a testimony to our wonderful Education Animators here at the Museum that they can inspire kids of all ages and stages to engage in our programs. And once the students start getting their hands on soapstone, or tying tumps, or baking bannock, or building kayaks, the coolness always starts to crack and the tenacious spirits of these kids get a chance to emerge. I love that about this place and its people. Read the rest of this entry »