The voyagers of the Hudson’s Bay Company needed big canoes to transport trade goods into the American interior. The 30-foot Hudson’s Bay Company 4-1/2-Fathom North Canoe fit the bill. This 59-inch-wide canoe typically transported five bales of general trade good, one bale and two rolls of tobacco, one bale of kettles, one case of guns, one case of hardware, two bags of lead shot, one bag of flour, one keg of sugar, two kegs of gunpowder and 10 kegs of wine. In addition to the trade goods, each member of the crew brought one bale of private property, one bag of corn, a partial keg of grease, bedrolls and canoe gear. All this gear, plus the weight of the paddlers, added up, but even a long ton of goods only sunk the canoe to the 8-1/2-inch waterline, which left 18 inches of freeboard.
The Hudson’s Bay Company North Canoe appears as Figure 115 in the Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America. It’s the biggest size that was typically used in the interior. Crees posted near James Bay built it in the middle of the 19th century. This shape is rather simple and was easy to model in Delftship. The sides are vertical near the ends, but flare near the middle. If you build this model, it’s worth picking up a copy of Bark and Skin, because the gunwales extend past the top of the stem in a way that adds interest and grace to the high bows. I’d suggest copying the look. Underloaded, empty or with just a few paddlers, I can’t imagine the boat would feel stable, but it’d be interesting to see if this is the case. I’d consider building this with 1/4-inch or thicker strips and probably lots of extra fiberglass or other reinforcements.
Length: 29 feet 11 inches
Width: 59 inches
Depth: 26 inches
Capacity at the 8-1/2-inch waterline: 2406 lbs.
Get the Drawing Package
The drawing package includes the full-sized study plan and each station and stem drawn separately on a PDF that prints full sized on ARCH D size paper (nestings). You can cut these out and glue them to plywood to cut full-sized forms. A pdf of the electronic drawing package. is available for this kayak. You can print the file on 24- by 36-inch paper on your own.
Building From the Plans
Check out my canoe and kayak building books review. Everything you need to know to build this canoe is in one of these books.