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High Ends in the Wind

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by Fitz, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    There is some discussion on the forum about the percieved disadvantages of high ends on a canoe in the wind.

    I have been wondering about this for some time. Seems the high ends come from many Native American birch bark designs.

    So this makes me wonder. Why would people with THOUSANDS of years of experience build canoes with high ends? Could be for decoration, could be to make a more comfortable lean-to when sleeping under it, or maybe, just maybe it served some other function.

    I have found I LIKE high ends when soloing into the wind. Yes, call me crazy! Point the high end just off wind and paddle on the same side. This allows strong paddling into the wind without changing sides or using correction strokes.

    So I throw it out there to the canoeists and the birchbark makers. Is there more to a high end then meets the eye?
  2. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    They were decorative and to demonstrate the strength of the warrior.

    Whoever had the highest ends and could still go out when it was windy was quite a guy and admired by one and all.
  3. OP

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    There's got to be more to the story than...

    "Chicks dig my high ends and guys want to be like me".

    I suspect Native Americans used high ends for a functional reason besides attracting mates and lean-tos to keep mates dry.

    Do you really think the Voyageurs would have built those HUGE canoes with HIGH ends if they were as petrified of lake winds as modern canoeists? (note, the high ends could serve to keep breaking waves out of the canoe, but voyageur canoes do take high ends to an extreme - no?)

    I will proceed with my living archaeological experiment and report back. That's my story and I'm sticking too it.

    Last edited: Jul 30, 2008
  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    In my experience, the part of the stem profile that matters most in winds is usually the part that's in the water, rather than the top section. In the case of Voyageur canoes, those high ends make quite a difference in headroom when your boat is turned over on land to function as a temporary roof over your head at night.
  5. Canerodz

    Canerodz Trout Bum

    I think Voyaguers were afraid of lake winds on the great lakes and St. Laurence River. There are some absolutely hellish waves kicked up out there, and I imagine that if you had to paddle through them having a tall bow to plow through the waves and a high stern to keep the following seas out was a serious design consideration.

    I don't have any proof of that, but someone should look into it.
  6. OP

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood


    Roofing. Yah, this is the reason probably most often reported for the high ends, but it doesn't make sense to me. So you are comfortable for a few hours at night, but these Voyageurs must have been absolutely battling winds on a daily basis. All you hear about on a modern trip is complaints about "WINDS".

    If the Voyageurs thought a low profile would help with the winds, dollars to donuts you would have seen low ends on canoes.

    I think they used the high ends to an advantage. Then the recreational canoeist came along and didn't know what to do with them.
  7. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The protection from waves of a Voyageur canoe is not done by the shape of the ends, it's done with the flare in the hull's sides, of which there is a considerable amount. The higher a wave comes up the hull, the wider the hull gets and the more volume, buoyancy and lift it has. At the same time, the outwardly-angled sides help deflect waves and splash. The modern, recreational canoe with tumblehome or straight sides is pretty feeble in big waves when compared to a boat with a lot of flare. Waves seldom break over the bow of most canoes. If you're going to take water from big lake waves it's usually going to be at a point a bit farther toward the middle of the boat (like into the bow paddler's lap in a tandem or a similar location near the stern).

    You also have to keep in mind that a North or Montreal canoe was generally heavily loaded with tons of people and cargo. This is very different from a modern recreational canoe with two paddlers, maybe 100 lbs. of gear and 3"-4" of draft. Even my little 22' North Canoe will hold its own pretty well in a crosswind once you add about 1,200 lbs. worth of paddlers and toss in another few hundred pounds of their gear.
  8. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    The high ends also displayed the various company names through out the Fur-Trade::: NWC HBC etc.


    Attached Files:

  9. Canerodz

    Canerodz Trout Bum

    And you could hide behind them when someone was shooting arrows at you!
  10. MikeCav

    MikeCav Restorer/Videographer

    The Voyager canoes were often heavily laden with men and supplies, not quite as easily pushed around by winds as a solo recreationalist.
  11. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    That is easily the most salient fact stated thus far.

    In fact, most recreational canoes of today go out with two people and their paddles and maybe a camera and a binocular and on flat water in favorable weather......and the bulk of them never see white water.

    Their perfect canoe is something like a We-no-nah Escapade rather than a Prospector. Some do, in fact, buy "the best all-around canoe in the world" and find that it's all wrong for their needs.

    The next factor is that a lot of inexperienced and innocent folks have gone out alone without a load, facing a slight wind (sometimes in aluminum) and been blown in circles until they were dizzy and screamed to high heaven that their high front end had turned the canoe into a weather vane.

    So comparing recreational canoeists of today to Voyageurs is like comparing a teenager in a BMW convertible to an over-the-road trucker in an eighteen-wheeler.

    Different skills, different equipment, different loads, different world.

    If all canoes today were paddled by veterans and went out loaded to the gunwales and in heavy weather and harm's way......we'd still have the high, flared ends.
  12. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I don't think I can agree with that......if I look at my 20 foot White I don't see high ends. That boat is the ultimate freight hauling machine, dialed in to fit the needs of guides and lumberjacks alike. You can run it up and down rapids, cross miles wide lakes in huge waves, haul your entire family and their gear on a vacation and if you have the inclination, solo it if you toss a few rocks in it. High ends in wooden canoes (IMHO) have more artistic than practical value.
    By the way, that White can be a real handfull in a big wind if it's not loaded down. I can't even imagine what it would be like with sail like ends.
  13. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    I don't think you disagreed with me at all.

    I clearly stated that I was talking about heavily loaded canoes.
  14. revcp

    revcp Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I think it's true that these days high ends have more "artistic than practical value". The question is whether that artistry makes makes them impractical. With a reasonably accomplished canoeist I don't think it does, especially since a high end is hardly the same as a sail.

  15. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    Especially when heavily loaded, since a good portion of that "high end" is then UNDER the water where it actually stabilizes the canoe.
  16. Canerodz

    Canerodz Trout Bum

    But wouldn't that mean you were sinking?
    Stable but sinking is still sinking, right?
  17. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    Not when it's the bottom portion of that high end.


    If it WERE the top part, of really wouldn't be sinking.

    Just wrongside up.
  18. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    I cannot understand how high ends have anything to do with tracking no matter where the waterline is (i.e. how much of the canoe is "under the water"). You could build ends 16' high, but with an otherwise equivalent stem profile below the waterline, the ends have no effect on tracking in the water.
  19. Wadena

    Wadena White Pine September Moon

    Even if you did build an end that was 16' high, when the canoe is heavily loaded, a greater proportion of that high part will be under water, therefore, your high end will catch less wind and you will have more of that high end under water.....which will help stabilize the canoe.

    But sixteen feet high may possibly be too stylish on most canoes.
  20. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    If I'm missing something here, please correct me, but the height of the ends above the sheer will have absolutely no effect on tracking once the gunwales are under water! Canoerodz, I missed your earlier point- we're making the same point- the height of the ends above the sheer has no effect on tracking except for the detrimental effect of catching the wind. It is what's UNDER the water that matters.

    For a given stem shape below the ultimate waterline and for a given load, no matter what the shape of the ends above the water, there portion of the hull that is under water will be identical.

    Maybe Wadena is designing a submarine?

    In any case, the original question was about the purpose of different shaped ends. Though I'm no expert on Native American canoe shapes and their cultural significances, I'm quite sure that canoe shapes evolved, just as organisms evolve. A variety of competing forces surely shaped canoes- effects in wind, effects in water, utility in an overturned canoe on land, potential storage area, aesthetic value, and perhaps even symbolism of wealth and/or power. Through trial and error over the ages, different shapes likely evolved because of the competing costs and benefits of these forces. If someone hasn't studied this, it would make a fascinating project.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008

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