The latest “Wooden Boat Magazine” has a nice article and photos of a Birchbark Canoe builder who lives in Maine.
Thanks for letting us know about the
article. Have you read “The Survival of the Bark Canoe” by John McPhee? It was required for a History of Technology class that I took a long time ago. I read it again every couple of years.
It’s about Henri Vaillancourt’s construction of birch bark canoes using designs and tools that the Indians used. The author and Henri then paddled Henri’s boats along Thoreau’s 150-mile route through northern Maine.
McPhee is a very good writer
put it on my xmas list.
Just finished re-reading
Survival of the Bark Canoe. McPhee is a great writer, I’ve got several of his books.
A couple days after I finished the book, I saw the Wooden Boat cover.
During their canoe trip, in the book, they were constantly battling leaks in the birchbark boats.
Interestingly, I did a web search and saw that Henri V. is still building and selling birch bark canoes.
birch bark canoe
also, do a search for aaron york. his b-b-c’s are beautiful!
“During their canoe trip, in the book, they were constantly battling leaks in the birchbark boats.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but in fairness to Mr Vallaincourt and his craft, I think this is overstating the problem a bit. They did accidently put an old timber spike through one of the canoes at the ismuth between Chamberlain and Eagle Lakes, and the canoes were on the small side, given the loads they were carrying, so waves kept breaking into the canoes, but otherwise I think the canoes performed admirably. They also dragged the canoes up Allagash Stream to Allagash Lake.
I’d say, the canoes are remarkably durable. Much of North America was explored in birch bark. Sure, some maintenance is required, but all the materials are found in the woods. The canoes are 100% biodegradable too!
Also there is a picture of Alexandra Conover in the WoodenBoat article taking on some fairly serious rapids in a birchbark.
Another perspective on leaks
I don’t think a few leaks in a birchbark canoe is much of a flaw. Talk to any old timer who grew up before the days of plastic, composite or aluminum boats, and you’ll find that even the finest wooden boats often leaked a bit too. To them, it wasn’t something to worry about. Having a little water in the bottom of the boat was normal. Some modern replicas of old-time wood boats have a transparent coating of fiberglass, creating the illusion that a good wooden boat really is leakproof, but that was never the case in the old days.