Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Pal, My Buddy

This will seem a long way around the barn to get where I’m going to make a point, but a little history is worthwhile. The Chestnut Canoe Company of Fredericton, New Brunswick, was founded at the end of the 1800’s, and along with Old Town, of Maine, became the pre-eminent designers and builders of wood and canvas canoes. The Chestnut canoe was so well regarded that Teddy Roosevelt acquired them for his South American expedition. The company closed, however, in 1979.

Nova Craft of London, Ontario, has done a great job of preserving many of those old trusted designs by lofting their lines to produce new molds that enable these canoes to be built in new, modern materials. While these designs include the Prospector, Bob Special, and Cronje, it’s the Pal that I’m working my way to. This design began as the Ajax. It had such universal appeal as the boat that seemed able to do anything, that paddlers developed such affection for the canoe that it became common for them to refer to their’s as “My Pal.” That’s how the name was changed from Ajax to Pal. I have no association with the Pal, but love both the name and the concept of forging a close bond with one’s boat. I believe wholeheartedly that it is possible to develop a personal attachment to a boat, sailboat or canoe. They help you realize your dreams, and carry you to one adventure after another. You develop a feeling of trust and confidence in the craft, and it helps more if they have pleasing lines that appeal to the eye. Such a canoe could indeed become your Pal. Of course since that name is both taken and well known, my pal will have to be my “Buddy”---same idea, different name.

Credit: canoelover.com & Nova Craft
The Superior Expedition, or its sister, the Kruger Sea Wind, is an unbeatable expedition boat, so Ibi will retain a revered position in my little fleet. In an expedition, however, the objective is to make miles in a fairly straight line. When gunkholing (poking about in small, nearly inaccessible watery places) or paddling small streams, it isn’t often necessary to carry a 600-pound load like the Superior does. Also, when the boat you are using has a large turning radius, and weighs 70-pounds when a fair amount of portaging is needed, you have to wonder if there are not others better suited to the task. What I needed to bridge the gap was a smaller pack canoe, but one still able to carry 450 pounds if I wanted a week’s trip. I’ve spent the last year looking, studying, and comparing. Finally, I ordered the Hornbeck Fourteen from Hornbeck Boats It has been built, and in fact was picked up at the builder’s on Friday, February 22nd, by the trucking company. I now have to wait for them to assemble a load coming in my direction. Waiting for them to gather a load of canoes and kayaks bound for the “Great American Desert” could take awhile.

Credit: Hornbeck Boats.
From Hornbeck's site, this is in carbon fiber.  I promise plenty of pictures of
Buddy when she gets here.
Hornbeck Boats, of Olmstedville, New York, has spent 35 years building ultra-light boats for the Adirondacks, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and the Boundary Waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota where portaging is the norm. On the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, for example, there are 62 portages totaling 55 miles of carrying. That’s enough to make anyone a true canoe-head. This requires a light boat able to both handle rough waters on a windy lake, as well as not over-tax the paddler in handling the boat ashore. For those of us with a few years on us, getting a much lighter canoe on and off a vehicle more easily is also a plus. The boat also needs to track well enough for a solo paddler, yet able to maneuver quickly in tight spots or a riffled stream. The Fourteen is built in Kevlar, carbon fiber, or a composite of the two. I chose the Kevlar, which weighs 30-pounds. It also comes in a low, medium, or high twelve-inch profile depending on the weight being carried or how open the waters are where the boat will be used. I chose the high-profile. That means a bit more windage, but also a bit more freeboard when the wind and waves pick up.



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