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A little late for Mother’s Day (we’re clearly running on Cultural Standard Time here at Playing With Boats, which is always a bit behind real-world time), here are some images of women in canoes from my collection, all from around the turn of the last century.

Entitled “Landing,” this card shows our friend alighting from a handsome little lapstrake cruising canoe.

Some time later, in the same canoe, with the same lacy shawl (or a gill-net, but somehow I think it’s a shawl. . .) but with a different outfit (but a no less fluffy hat), she bids “Goodbye.” We can only speculate about what’s happened in between these two cards. Judging from how straight the post is, I’d say we’re looking at the stern of the canoe here.

Scenes suggestive of shoreside trysts notwithstanding, the theme of womens’ independence shows up often in these postcards–we might call it the “canoe of one’s own” motif. In a sporty sailor suit, charmingly encircled with two lines of rope and with a decorative background of paddles, our subject is clearly enjoying being out for a paddle. As she’s out on her own doing a sports activity, a pleasure all-too-rarely afforded women of her era, perhaps the most important word is “yourself.” She certainly seems to be firmly in control of her canoe.

“Paddling my own canoe” is another motif that shows up frequently in popular culture images of canoing. I wouldn’t say she looks altogether comfortable, and there’s at least a chance that she’s holding an oar and not a paddle, but the point remains that women like her can and did paddle their own canoes at the turn of the last century.

She’s definitely holding a paddle, but she’s kneeling aft of the bow seat, and I have a feeling that the line tied to the seat frame is holding her fast to the shore, so this shot strongly suggests “studio.”

The more of these cards you look at, the more interesting they get. Here we have several elements from other images, including the same initial “D” painted on the bow as above, albeit on a bright-finished canoe. The red and white striped fabric and the shawl lying on the deck sure look a lot like those in the first image, and come to think of it, her dress and hat are also pretty similar. That’s a pretty wide-shafted paddle she’s holding, too.

OK, strictly speaking Kate Vaughan isn’t in a canoe, but she is wearing the colours of the American Canoe Association in this 1890s card from the Duke Tobacco Company, part of their “Yacht Colors of the World” series. Kate Vaughan (1852-1903) was a well-known English actress and music-hall performer.

While you’re reading the impressive list of yacht clubs on the back of the card, take a moment to enjoy the exquisite typography of the titles at the top and bottom. There’s a font that’s worth reconstructing.

Until next time, when we might have done enough work on it to get back to our sailing canoe design. . .

One of the things I’ve always found almost as interesting as boats is images of boats, especially pop culture and advertising images. Pop culture? Really? But it’s so, well, so popular. What does it really have to say? A lot, I think.

The same argument is sometimes levelled at pleasure boating as not being a subject worthy of serious study because it “only” deals with pleasure (as if the pursuit of pleasure hasn’t been a constant of human affairs for some time now). The thing about pleasure boating, and its wealthy cousin yachting, is that they’re of significance precisely because they’re not serious (unless you’re trying to win the America‘s Cup, perhaps), and this is what makes them important. The purchase of a pleasure boat is the ultimate discretionary expenditure. There’s no practical reason to own it unless you want to, or you think it’s beautiful, or it makes you happy, or all three. If you think about it, then, these purchases can tell us about what we really want, unfettered by the practicalities that constrain our everyday acquisitions. If pleasure boats are an interesting place to study people, therefore, then advertising for pleasure boats, or that uses pleasure boats, is a great place to find out what we all desire.

I’ve been collecting images of pleasure boating for a while now, and for me it’s a real pleasure because I only acquire things that interest me. No scheme, no system, no need to have footnotes or be representative of a particular historical style or period. I just get things I like. I think I’ll share some of these with you from time to time, so here’s a few to start us off. These are all on the theme of canoes and double paddles.

Our 1890s friend here with the snappy beanie, striped shirt and moustache to match is paddling a sturdy little Rob Roy type. He’s also advertising coffee while he enjoys boating. Here’s what the back of the card looks like:

And the connection between Lion coffee and canoeing is, well, it is what ever you would like it to be. As it it says at the top, you had to buy the coffee to get this charming trade card.

On a less muscular and manly note, we have some very slender 1880s young ladies paddling some very slender Rob Roy canoes. I’m not sure what the displacement of the hull in the background is, but I would think that it’s not suited to rough water use. This is a lovely, serene pastoral image, perfect to accompany your note to a friend.

Skip ahead a few years to the 1920s, and this trim couple have been so rejuvenated by taking Dr. Roussel’s anti-anemia remedy that they are able to paddle in perfect synchronization–as the tag line says, it gives you strength.

And here’s a personal favourite. Once again, nothing says Rob Roy canoe like a striped t-shirt. One of the earliest pieces in my little collection, this tiny tobacco card, measuring 3″ x 1  1/2″,  is from 1888, one of a set that depicted a rather ecclectic group of watercraft ranging from iceboats to battleships.  It is also one of the earlier instances I’ve seen of the slightly disturbing pairing of canoeing [think healthy, outdoors, clean] with tobacco and smoking [think the opposite]. This ran all the way through to Camel cigarette ads in the 1980s that showed our hero lighting up as he paddled.

There’s so much to like about this image, including its well-proportioned canoe, the tam on the paddler’s head, the artful spray of water fro the upper paddle blade and the large, pointillist printing dots. Two nice boats in the background too, one with a dipping lug to the left and another canoe or two to the right.

Until next time. . .

In the December, 1886, issue of Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly magazine, the noted American journalist and yachtsman W.P. Stephens, about whom I’ve written before, published an article called “Why We Canoe.” You can read the text of the article online here, courtesy of Google and the Hathi Digital Library.

Stephens was a tireless promoter of the sport of canoeing, and especially canoeing under sail, and with his canoe Jersey Blue was a fixture in the early days of the American Canoe Association. A copy of his wonderful Canoe and Boatbuilding: A Complete Manual for Amateurs should be on the shelf of anyone with even a passing interest in canoe sailing and late 19th century small craft. The book went through many editions, and original copies can be found for sale at a reasonable price. It’s also been reprinted. My friend Dan Miller over at Dragonfly Canoe Works has kindly made it possible to read the book online. As important as the book, but much harder to find, are the plates, which originally came out in a companion volume. In 1987, as the date on the cover of my well-thumbed copy says, Mystic Seaport Museum collated and re-published a complete set. Mystic also holds Stephens’s drawings and papers, a veritable treasure trove of canoeing and yachting history.

The article is vintage Stephens, arguing strongly in favour of his preferred type of sailing canoe, the all-’round paddling/sailing boat, suitable for extended cruising. He notes with approval the recent development of classification rules by the American Canoe Association, designed “to prevent, as far as possible, the construction of racing canoes.” Unfortunately for Stephens but fortunately for those of us who enjoy 16-30s, ICs and other “dangerous racing freaks,” as he condemned them, racing craft did develop.

His article contains some charming engravings of mid-1880s canoes that were just on the verge of the bifurcation in design that began to occur under the pressures of racing under sail. The four illustrated here are exemplars of what Stephens considered to be wholesome types.

Atlantis was owned by the noted Adirondack writer, photographer and artist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Robert Tyson’s Isabel was well known on the Toronto waterfront and at the Toronto Canoe Club, as was her skipper and his characteristic tam, with its cap ribbons hanging down behind. Like many canoeists of this era, Tyson tinkered incessantly with his rig, and Isabel exhibits one of his interesting innovations. The unique bent mast serves least two purposes. The first one is to get the rig as far forward as possible without putting the mast right up in the eyes of the canoe. Combined with the heavy roach, held out by battens, this gives a big mainsail with a low centre of effort. The spar extending below the boom also permits a vang to be used, something not normally possible because of the low boom on sailing canoes which would create too shallow an angle for a vang to be effective.

Marion B ‘s mainsail displays the turtle totem of Albany, NY’s Mohican Canoe Club, one of the powerhouses of organized canoeing in the late 19th century. The standing lug rig with its two reefing battens is an early example of what would become known as the Mohican rig. Later versions pulled the whole sail aft of the mast and did away with the small portion extending forward, using elaborate hardware to attach the yard, battens and luff. Owned by General Oliver, Marion B was be decisively outsailed in the 1886 ACA meet by Commodore Gibson’s new Rushton-built canoe Vesper.

Siren represents one of the main types of early sailing canoe, the Nautilus (the others being the Rob Roy and the Shadow) The Nautilus type originated with a number of canoes of that name sailed by Warington Baden Powell. In their first incarnations, they were solidly constructed seaboats with moveable inside ballast and heavy boilerplate centreboards, sailed semi-prone. As the caption indicates, this American canoe, though ostensibly a Nautilus type, is already being sailed from the deck and not below. It was but a short step (a short slide, actually) from sitting on the weather edge of the deck to sitting outboard on a sliding seat, so notwithstanding Stephens’ misgivings about racing canoes, the wind of change was already filling these small sails.

Until next time. . .

Back in the second post in this series, I was thinking about how to translate the arc bottom of the original sailing canoe into something I could build in stitch and glue. Using the original linesplan, I’ve modeled several different version of the hull in Delftship that allow me to make some numerical comparisons between them. All I’ve changed in each case is the number of chines and the underwater shape–everything else is the same (with the exception of some small changes to the bow profile to accommodate an additional chine). The design waterline and draft of 4″ are as on the original plans, and all these hulls are shown in a full bow-on view.

Here’s the original arc-bottomed hull, which displaces .117 short tons, or 234 lbs.

Here’s the same hull with all of the arc taken out of the bottom sections so that there’s just a straight section from chine to keel. This results in a significantly lower displacement of only .075 tons, or 150 lbs. How much displacement do we want or need? Well, I’d say something at least equal to the original hull. I’m also keeping in mind the displacement of my hard-chine 16-30 hull, which is .133 tons, or 266 lbs. From my experience in building and sailing those boats, they float pretty much on their marks with a sailor of average weight, so there’s a good comparison for what displacement we should shoot for in a two-masted, decked 16′ sailing canoe built in stitch and glue. I don’t think 150 lbs is going to do it.

Here I’ve added another chine and pulled it down amidships to make a nearly flat bottom. I may have overdone it on the extra volume, though, because now our displacement is up to .139 tons, or 278 lbs. I’m not sure we need quite all of that.

If I introduce just a little deadrise into the midships sections, leaving the ends unchanged, the displacement decreases to  .128 tons, or 256 lbs, which is pretty close to our 16-30 hull.

So far, so good. The next step is to add the deck and deck camber, put the bulkheads in the right places instead of just at a uniform 1′ interval and expand the individual hull panels. Then, I’ll buy some balsa wood and make a 1 1/2″ – 1′ model.

Until next time. . .

As I mentioned in the last post, I started to do some work on the original linesplan for  the late 19th century decked sailing canoe Isalo to explore making the arc bottomed hull suitable for the flat panels of stitch-and-glue construction. I began drawing by hand, but then I decided to put the lines on the computer and see what I could come up with. To do this, I used a hull design program called DelftShip, a development of an earlier program called Freeship (which is still available from SourceForge). Both programs are powerful, full-featured naval architecture packages, and both are free. Once you figure out how to use them for canoes, you could also design yourself an oil tanker, passenger ship or tug if you’re so inclined. A professional version of Delftship with more features is also available for €150, with the latest version slated for release in late February. These programs have a steep learning curve, no pun intended, but are well worth the investment of time.

One thing they’re particularly useful for is projects like Isalo, because with them you can import a scanned linesplan of unknown scale, such as you might find in a magazine, and, as long as you know a couple of the principle dimensions, draw new fair lines on top of the original. There’s a handy tutorial about how to do this, based on, of all things, Leo Friede’s legendary 16-30 sailing canoe Mermaid on the WoodenBoat Forum. If you use this tutorial, go through it with the DelftShip manual in front of you, because author Bruce Taylor leaves out a couple of important steps whose absence will drive you crazy until you also read the DelftShip tutorial on Reproducing An Existing Lines Plan, which you can download from the company’s web site.

Even though I’m planning to add one or more chines, I thought I would start by getting Isalo‘s original arc-bottomed hull re-drawn in DelftShip. After a weekend’s worth of work, here’s what I’ve come up with:

This is the main Delftship window with all four views: perspective, profile, plan and body plan. Much as with regular lofting and fairing, you alternate between them, working iteratively on each one to gradually firm up and reconcile the lines. In each case, the starting point is the original linesplan in a background layer, on top of which you work with curves and the control mesh to shape the new lines.

Here’s the profile with the three main lines defined: the centreline of the hull [composed of bow, stern and bottom], the chine and the sheer.

And here’s the body plan, with the control curves [red] and stations [green]. Once you begin to develop the wireframe, you can add the other side of the hull and shade it to check on your progress.

 One of the most useful features for a project like this is that you can also run a developability check on the panels to see if they can be gotten out of plywood, which nominally doesn’t like to do compound curves, though you can torture it into shape to a certain extent. When you use that feature, the program adds red shading to show you areas that can’t be expanded into flat sheets.

DelftShip is telling me that the sections below the chine aren’t developable, which is not surprising since they’re still the original rounded arc bottom. The good news is that I seem gotten the topsides pretty straight, as it’s all green from sheer to chine. The next step is to go back to the body plan and make sure I’ve added enough curvature to the bottom to capture the volume of the original hull below the waterline. After that, I’ll  ask DelftShip to calculate the hydrostatics to get some numbers against which I can compare my multichine versions as they’re developed.

Until next time. . .

I recently received a note from my friend Ed Maurer down in Florida. A couple of years ago, Ed took the brave step of starting a new magazine called Canoe Sailor, which is a noble project in its own right. In this case, it was even better because the magazine was focused on, of all topics, sailing canoes–imagine such a thing!

Ed’s note let me know that he’s just re-formatted the original Canoe Sailor a new, all-digital page-turn publication called Skinny Hull. In his own words,

Skinny Hull covers sailing canoes and kayaks, proas and similar style boats, Chesapeake log canoes and a variety of purpose-built two- and three-hull boats that are essentially canoes (or kayaks) with outriggers. (We’re even working on bringing you ice boat sailing!) So, essentially, if it mounts a sail and has a skinny hull we cover it!

The first few issues will contain archived content from Canoe Sailor, and there’s some good material there. Like any editor, though, Ed will be looking for new content too. I’m going to try do do my part, and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in contributing to contact him at editor@canoesailingmagazine.com, and also to subscribe, which I’m going to do as soon as I finish writing this post.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve started to explore whether the 1893 sailing canoe design Isalo would be suitable for re-designing for construction in modern materials. One of the first big questions to is how to build the boat.

If I follow through with the idea that this cruising canoe and the 16-30 are “bookends” that between them cover a nice range of sailing canoe history, then it would be best if Isalo was rendered in stitch-and-glue plywood. This has worked well for the 16-30s, proving to be light and durable and reasonably quick to build.

The body plan for the 16-30, showing its single chine hull made up from four separate stitch-and-glue panels.

The original 16-30 was a perfect choice for stitch-and-glue construction, with a single hard chine and a V-shaped bottom. The only difference from the original to the new version was that the plank keel was replaced by a filleted epoxy joint.

An interior shot of the original 16-30, showing the top of the plank keel. The bottom planks converge in a slightly rounded V-joint on the bottom of the hull.

The interior of the plywood 16-30, showing the filleted and taped seam on the interior bottom.

Our original 1893 canoe, however, has an arc bottom, much like a Star-class keelboat.

Body plan for Isalo from the original 1893 drawings.

You could likely make the plywood conform to this shape, but not in stitch and glue. In order to get the compound curve in the bottom panels, you’d have to introduce some interior framework, as on the 15 1/2′ sailing canoe Zephyr, and this would take us away from the idea of making both canoes as similar in construction as possible.

The arc-bottomed sailing canoe Zephyr, published in Yachting in 1925, was designed for traditional batten-seam plank-on-frame construction.

There are (at least) three possible ways to tackle the bottom of the new canoe, starting with the original lines. Here’s a sample section.

The original body plan at midships, with an arc bottom.

Option one is to take all of the arc out of the bottom and connect the chine and keel with a straight line, as on the 16-30:

Bottom section straight from chine to keel, with the dotted line showing the original arc section.

As you can see from the sketch, this takes a fair bit of volume out of the bottom. It might be ok, but I wouldn’t know until I did some hydrostatic calculations. Another option would be to introduce a second chine below the waterline.

The straight section from keel to chine has been broken into two parts by the addition of a second chine, with dotted line showing the original arc section.

This option preserves more of the original volume, but we’re now up to six hull panels, which will be more work to construct. Another way to do this is to give the canoe a narrow flat bottom panel:

Introducing a flat bottom panel equals or exceeds the original volume of the arc-bottom hull.

There are a few reasons why I like this option: it only needs 5 panels; it will make the boat easy to beach; and finally, the flat bottom will give a good solid anchorage for the centreboard trunk and mast steps without the complications of fitting them over a filleted centre seam. I built and sailed a little canoe with a hull like this for several years in the 1990s and it worked quite well. It was designed by John Bull, who used to own Solway Dory in the UK. He’s since retired, but the company continues, though I don’t believe they offer this design any more. The only drawback is that you need to install some floorboards so that you’re not sitting in any water that happens to come aboard!

Next step is to lay in the flat bottom on the original hull, re-draw the lines and do some calculations.

Until then. . .