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Book Reviews

Warren, Graham and Gidmark, David, Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide To Making Your Own. New York, Firefly Books, 2001.

This bible of paddle making begins with a quick discussion on the history of paddles, but shortly gets to the point of teaching you how to make a canoe paddle. It covers making a paddle from a single piece of wood to laminating a blade and shaft. Ithink this is one of the best books out there that will teach you how to move your boat with a piece of art that you created – that is until you break it.

Excerpt: page 26: “Neophyte paddlemakers should probably note from the outset that the perfect paddle does not exist. The best you can hope for is a very good paddle, which is a compromise between many opposing design factors – a compromise that will vary depending upon the type of canoeing you intend to do.”

Jacobson, Expedition Canoeing. Connecticut, The Globe Pequot Press, 2001.

Cliff Jacobson lays down the law of canoeing big and small rivers of the Canadian North. He covers details such as researching, picking a canoe, picking gear, navigation, cooking, hazards and rescue, and much more. Jacobson also includes other great Canadian explorers as additional voices to enhance his book. You’ll here from such greats as Verlen Kruger, Bob O’Hara, and many others. If you buy one book on how to canoe, this should be it.

Excerpt: page 53: “Some people are turned on by beautiful cars. With me, it’s canoes. So it was natural that I pour on the coal when just downriver I saw what appeared to be a gleaming new wood-canvas canoe. I hailed the paddlers – a middle-aged couple from Nebraska – and slipped quietly alongside. Sure enough, it was wood and canoe – and a 1928 Old Town to boot”¦.”

Dennis, Jerry, From a Wooden Canoe: Reflections on Canoeing, Camping, and Classic Equipment, New York, Thomas Dunne Books, 1999

You can tell from the mosquitoes and black flies squashed between the pages of my copy that this book is best read next to a lake at night in the middle of the Boundary Waters. Jerry Dennis writes with authority about all things old-fashion. The anthology of his essays, most of which appeared first in Canoe and Kayak Magazine, begins with a call back to the perfection of a wooden canoe, moves on to talk about old thermoses, cast iron, and finally ends with an essay about paddling at dawn. Each individual essay is the perfect bite sized chunk to read before falling asleep after a hard day of paddling, and all the essays taken together add up to a masterpiece.

Excerpt: page 73: “Camping manuals often recommend packing those dinky folding camp saws, some of which have nothing more than a length of serrated wire for a blade. The implication is that cutting wood on a camping trip is no big dead and you might not want to bother bringing a saw at all. Sure, you can break enough wood over your knee to get by, if all you want from a fire is enough heat to warm your Spam and maybe smoke-dry a pair of socks. But if you’re after more than mere utility you flat-out need a decent saw and an ax.”

Adney, Edwin Tappan and Chapelle, Howard I., The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America. Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press,1983.

One word can describe this exhaustive tome and that word is “Wow.” This book is a compilation of Edwin Adney’s lifelong work of studying native bark and skin boats. Without his passion and research, none of this information and rich history would be available for the modern paddler to enjoy.

Excerpt: page 3: “The Indian bark canoes were most efficient watercraft for use in forest travel; they were capable of being propelled easily with a single-bladed paddle. This allowed the paddler, unlike the oarsman, to face the direction of travel, a necessity in obstructed or shoal waters and in fast-moving streams. The canoes, being light, could be carried overland for long distances, even where trail were rough or non-existent. Yet they could carry heavy loads in shallow water and could be repaired in the forest without special tools.”

Curran, David, Canoe Trip: Alone in the Maine Wilderness. Pennsylvania, Stackpole Books, 2002.

This is a modern tale of a canoeist, who is struck by the soloist bug and strikes off into the Maine wilderness by himself with just a canoe. The story revolves around five short solo trips and how Curran deals with being solo. He recounts struggles against massive waves, his families past, and gives a detailed account about what it feels like being solo in the woods. This is an enjoyable and fast read that I think you will love.

Excerpt: page 19: “After a drink, I began to think about the water rushing past nearby. How could it be on my left? Is it a swollen converging stream? I could remember none marked on my map in this area. Then again, I couldn’t recall a swamp being marked either. I was worried. I went to my pack for my map and compass. I wore no waist pouch back then. I searched the top pockets and then the rear, and then the sides. I opened the pack up. They weren’t there. I was confused. Then it struck me. I must have left them in the boat. I would have to go back.”

Stelmok, Jerry and Thurlow, Rollin, The Wood and Canvas Canoe. Maine, Tilbury House, 1987.

The classic guide to construction and restoration of a wood and canvas canoe is written by these two masterful writers, who by the end of the book will have walked you through the history of the canoe to building your own form. If you’ve ever canoed in one of these boats you will know the attraction of wanting to read more about them, or if you haven’t by the end of this book you will want to.

Excerpt: page 90: “On my walk to the shop today I intercepted a muskrat stealing across the road towards the pond, and was glad not to have the dogs along for company. “Musquash,” Thoreau called them after the Indian fashion, and I like that term better”¦”

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