One day early in August I received the following email:

“Hi, I have a Chestnut, I think. No canvas. How much would it cost to have it recanvassed? Conversely, what might you pay to buy it? Is it sacrilegious to fiberglass the hull? Carole”

Carole's Hurno CanoeIt was a few weeks and a few emails before I finally met up with Carole in Nanaimo. Twenty years previously a friend of hers, on leaving the country, gave her his canoe. Carole is a professional carpenter and no stranger to wood. She always meant to refurbish this canoe but like many of us never got around to it. So it sat, underneath her house, for 20 years until she answered my ad.

On dragging it out from under the house she realized that, although under cover and relatively dry, sadly time had done considerable damage to the canoe.

Carole cared about this canoe, I believe both because of the friend who gave it to her and the timeless beauty and craftsmanship it represented. When I arrived at her house she told me what mattered most to her was that this canoe should live on and not end up in a landfill someplace.

As is turned out he canoe was not after all a Chestnut, but a Huron, made by first nations people living in what is now called Wendake (AKA Lorette/Huron Village), in the province of Quebec, just north of Quebec City. These canoes were for some time sold through Sears, and were popularly known as the “Poor Man’s Chestnut”. While perhaps not as well constructed as a Chestnut or a Peterborough, the lines of the Huron are strikingly beautiful and, when lightly loaded, are pure pleasure to paddle.

At the end of the day Carole sold me the Huron, at a very fair price, on the condition that I would give her life again. In return I assured her we would go for a paddle next summer.


“Is it sacrilegious to fiberglass the hull?”

For some this is the best option, but in most instance, especially if it’s a solid boat, it really is a waste. I can do this, but if a fiberglass boat is what you want, you’d probably be better off selling this canoe and buying a fiberglass canoe that can be left out in the weather and requires little or no maintenance.

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