He whistled and he sang till the green woods rang
And he won the heart of a lady
Most of you will of heard the names Chestnut, Peterborough, and Old Town. However, if you’re not from British Columbia, Canada, few of you will have heard the name “Greenwood”. Bill Greenwood founded Greenwood Canoe Co. (aka Greenwood Water Craft) in 1934 and built boats of unmatched quality until 1975 when he sold his canoe molds and closed his doors. His canoes are beyond beautiful, the craftsmanship exquisite. Greenwood canoes are among the finest examples of the canoe builder’s craft you will find anywhere. Bill didn’t just buy wood, he selected the raw logs from which his boats would be built. Tight grained Sitka Spruce for ribs, and old growth Western Red Cedar for planks, was quarter sawn into cants which he later re-sawed in his own shop. The gunwales were of rot resistant Philippine Mahogany (Luan). The seats, stems and thwarts were of white oak.
As a young man Bill Greenwood was and avid outdoors-man, an active participant in the in the YMCA’s Intermediate Leaders’ Corps, and a councilor at Camp Elphinstone in Vancouver. At the age of 24 he suffered a stroke while on a ski trip on Mount Seymour in North Vancouver which left him with partially paralisis on his left side. Despite this disability, Bill went on to not only build some of the finest canoes I have ever seen, but also ran a successful company for 40 plus years. Susan Greenwood, Bill Greenwood’s daughter, wrote of her father “Among other things, Dad taught me to ride a bike, ice skate, ski, walk on stilts, and of course paddle a canoe. I didn’t even consider his handicap until grade one, when one of my friends asked me “why does your daddy walk funny?” Prior to that, I hadn’t even noticed his disability, as it seemed there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.” The man and his canoes remains an inspiration to anyone, be they faced with a physical disability or adversity in any form.
For more information on Greenwood canoes, Bill Greenwood and the history of Greenwood Water Craft you can visit Susan Greenwood’s wonderful site: Greenwood Canoe Company
Steven Defehr’s Flickr Album: 1971 Greenwood Prospector with original canvas.
By: Editor in Agriculture, Kamloops this Week, News August 24, 2006
Big thanks for Mary Gazetas’ column on Bill Greenwood and his famous canoes (“Paddling through historical waters,” Richmond Review, Feb. 17). It really got my blood pumping.
I bought a five-year-old, 16-foot, Greenwood prospector in 1977 for $500. I also had the privilege of talking with Bill Greenwood at a YMCA-sponsored canoeing course. There wasn’t much that man didn’t know about canoe building. He spoke emphatically about the importance of “tumblehome” for seaworthiness.
Seaworthiness was tested beyond any reasonable expectation in my canoe, Gently. If Gently could tell stories from the ensuing 30 years, what stories she would tell: bone-aching cold on muddy portages around the Bowron Lakes right after break-up; beaver, moose, caribou, and charging grizzly bears; fly-casting for huge rainbows on Hunter Lake (for which my son is named); salt-water surf and fresh run coho; family excursions across the South Arm to Alaksen Wildlife Refuge; an ill advised group run down the Squamish in freshet after which Gently was the only canoe not swamped or capsized; we finished, through the worst rapids, with six people on board!
Thirty years ago I could jog down a portage with 130 pounds of canoe, paddles, and gear on my shoulders. Now I’m one of the Gnarly Old Dudes of Steveston. Gently has taken her lumps, too, but she is in better shape than me. She always was prettier!
Neither of us are going to finish up in a museum. We still get out there, though perhaps a little less radically, usually launching off the sand at Garry Point for a paddle around Shady Island.
Bill Greenwood’s spirit lives on in Gently, in all his surviving canoes, and in the hearts and memories of all who paddled and continue to paddle his craft. Thanks, again, to Susan Benson and Mary Gazetas for sharing his story.