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Membership and the future of the WCHA

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by Benson Gray, Feb 25, 2007.


How did you first learn about the WCHA?

  1. From another member?

    11 vote(s)
  2. From a builder or restorer?

    9 vote(s)
  3. From the web site?

    13 vote(s)
  4. From the brochure?

    1 vote(s)
  5. From a demonstration or presentation?

    2 vote(s)
  6. From a story in the press?

    0 vote(s)
  7. From another source? (Please reply with the details.)

    4 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I've been thinking about how people find out about the WCHA and thought that a poll here might provide an interesting way to get some perspective on the topic. It has also occurred to me that this organization may be on the wrong end of a declining demographic. The total population of people who have fond memories of growing up with wooden canoes is small and likely to continue shrinking over time. What is the long term future for an organization like the WCHA? One obvious growth alternative is to offer more for the builders of fiberglass / wooden strip canoes. However, my brief research in this area has not uncovered any obvious unfulfilled needs that have not already being addressed by other vendors or organizations. Am I missing something here?

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2007
  2. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Sorry but I don't remember - that was back in 1979. Denis :eek:
  3. mark wismer

    mark wismer WCHA Member

    I found the link on Old Town's website as I was looking for restoratiion information for my Otca. It had been hidden away of 15 years and I wanted to get it back in the water.

    I joined WCHA after I got if afloat again.
  4. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder


    I "discovered" W/C after looking/searching the web for strip/glass building info/designs.

    Growing up, I had no exposure to or knolledge of canoes much less W/C.
    We did spend a lot of time on the water in fishing boats though.

    I bought my 1st canoe, a used Grumman, because I couldn't afford a fishing boat. About that time I went on a canoe trip to the BW and was hooked. The desire to build a stripper came from a love of the BW, and that interest transitioned to W/C when I "discovered" them.

    Without the web, I wouldn't be here, or have a small fleet of W/C.

    As far as I'm concerned, maintaining the web site is the single most important thing the WCHA does, bar none.

  5. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    WCHA might consider more on small vintage wood boats.

    In our area, due to mandatory powered small craft operator licencing requirements and pollution caused by marine engines, many are going back to rowing or paddling. This trend will only increase. Add to that the fact that many of our parks and small lakes have banned motorized crafts there seems to be a demand for the wooden canoe or row boat by those of all ages that can afford non-plastic. As time passes it is getting harder to find these units to restore. I now have to pay for units that would have been free a few years ago but these same restored units easily sell for a much more than they previously did. Many are just hung in so called "cabins" but that's another market. Bottom line is that the population is going "green" and many can afford the best.
  6. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I enjoy canoeing, love wooden boats, and had decided to build a wooden canoe, but it wasn't until I read "Canoecraft" by Ted Moores that I learned of the WCHA. Local member and chapter visibility seems to me to be the most effective "advertising". I get comments and questions every time I have the canoe on the top of my vehicle or take it to a public launch site. Our chapter seems to be picking up members, many of them younger adults eager to restore a family heirloom or build new.

    Max Peterson
  7. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    recent new member

    I've been in canoes since I was a kid, and long ago spent four long summers canoeing north central Canada, in homemade 'glass boats. About ten or fifteen years ago, I started talking about building a strip & glass boat, bought the Canoecraft book, read it several times, dreaming. At Canoecopia, 2000, I met Tom Niesen, of Kedros Canoes, who hooked me. Well, my wife made me buy the kit... she said that if I didn't go back & buy it, she didn't want to hear any more about it.

    So I built the strip & glass boat, and over the years have always stopped at the WCHA booth at Canoecopia... Finally, a couple years ago, I followed Tom's suggestion & joined WCHA. This past summer, I bought a '46 Otca, in need of work... This year at Canoecopia, I'll be helping with the WCHA booth... I think I'm hooked?

    People are out there like me -- they WANT a nice boat, but are awed by the prices, and maybe don't think they have the skills/time/tools/space to build one themselves, and have no idea that a resource like this org even exists. Maybe doing talks at events like Ccopia would generate interest? There is a presentation there this year on W/C canoes, maybe somebody could do one on strip & glass?

    Just ramblings...:confused:
  8. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Regattas & Boat Shows

    That's another good point Paul. The Cleveland area folks are represented at the Cleveland Boat Show and at other similar regattas, and our own Three Rivers chapter will have a display at one area regatta, and perhaps more this year depending upon member willingness and participation. We hope to have one of the WCHA banners to display at these events.
  9. Jim Okkema

    Jim Okkema LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Last edited: Jan 26, 2011
  10. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Boat shows

    The web site is absolutely critical -- it gives newbies a place to go for advice, ideas, help, etc., and has given me a good feeling about the people who hang out here. The tenor of the answers given seems to be that the only dumb question is the one you didn't ask -- this site & its participants are great resources. Knowing that this environment exists here made my decision to buy the '46 Otca a no-brainer -- I knew the repairs were not too difficult, and I knew there was high-quality help readily available, so I didn't hesitate to buy it.

    But getting people to visit the site requires that we get out there & blow our own horn. That maybe starts with putting WCHA stickers on our nice wooden boats, and wearing WCHA clothing (why don't we have a baseball hat?), then making sure literature is available at your local paddle club meetings, and doing high-visibility presentations at shows. So how do we get a float in the Macy's New Year's Day parade? :D

    When people ask about building my boat, I tell them I started out very apprehensive, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected it to be; you just take it in little steps, and it all comes together in the end.

    Okay, I'll shut up now...
  11. Ric Altfather

    Ric Altfather WCHA #4035

    High Tech - High Touch!

    Max stated that the Cleveland Boat Show hosted a group of 6 hand made boats ranging from a kayak to a 15' weekend sail boat. We were there for 10 days and thanks to the WCHA and Al Bratton, I received a supply of WCHA brochures...available to everyone! The great thing was when people grew tired of seeing plastic, they came to our display to see "real boats". We have done this for 35 years, we cut out kids boat kits and help the children build them with the parents. We receive the booth space (10' x 40') free. There has to be similar arrangements around the country to do the same thing. Our boatbuilding club is wood only and recently became a Traditional Small Craft Association a WCHA chapter.

    I had the kayak and proudly displayed a board about the WCHA along with the brochures. I had a photo album showing past completions and current projects of WC canoes. Without fail, we had 1-2 people/day come by and mention that they had an old canoe that needed repair but were reluctant to try the repair because they had no time or experience. Here on the "Northcoast" we have 40,000 registered hand powered craft...not sure what the mix is on wood versus plastic but that is a bunch.

    We have monthly meetings during the winter with guest speakers and in the warm months, we are on the water...again all wood boats. I carry the photo album with me on every outing because we always attract attention. I always promote the WCHA at every function because we have a common bond with other wooden hand/sail powered craft.

    Use the resources we have, get out to the people...they won't come to you and talk it up.

    Check out our local club that has been around for 40 years:

    Ric Altfather
  12. john hupfield

    john hupfield fire starter/wood burner

    I get a lot of people who want to restore Dads Old Canoe.
    I also get a lot of people that can appreciate the quality and value of a hand built boat.
    I get some clients that just like wood.
    The best are the ones that just like canoes.
    Blame Pam Wedd for my involvement.
    Maestro of Lost in the Woods Boatworks and proponent of spreading the word all ways.
  13. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.


    "It has also occurred to me that this organization may be on the wrong end of a declining demographic. The total population of people who have fond memories of growing up with wooden canoes is small and likely to continue shrinking over time. What is the long term future for an organization like the WCHA?"

    Have been thinking about this since it was posted. Sure, a lot of my posts strive for humour, and some border on foolish, but this statement caused me to reflect on the possibility of interest in wooden canoes fading altogether; not a nice thought. However, the WCHA reminds me very much of other groups I have been a member of, including but not limited to Norton motorcycle owners groups, a Model T Ford club and a WWII military vehicle preservation group. 2 things come to mind: none of them has seen a new vehicle produced for decades, and like myself a large contingent of members had no direct experience with the objects firsthand when they were current. Moreover, all had flourished with the internet as dedicated enthusiasts flocked to websites which drew owners and interested parties together.

    "I get a lot of people who want to restore Dads Old Canoe.
    I also get a lot of people that can appreciate the quality and value of a hand built boat.
    I get some clients that just like wood.
    The best are the ones that just like canoes."

    I think it follows that these 4 people will form the basis of ongoing interest, provided they can find a resource that assists them and encourages membership, use, and offers the wealth of information that the WCHA currently does. While wooden canoes will increasingly occupy a niche role for outdoor enthusiasts, I've practiced traditional archery for years and its ironic that the height of modern technology ( the web) is utilized by people who build primitive weapons of wood, sinew and bone. Now that its possible to attract people performing only casual web searches, I think that the web more so than print or word of mouth, will continue to attract membership that will form the lifeblood of the organization. Incidentally, the Peterborough canoe company went belly up 8 years before I was even born.
    I'll get off my soapbox now, my head hurts.....
  14. OP
    Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I would like to thank everyone who has responded here and in the poll. My original message came out a bit more strongly than I intended. This is not an an immediate crisis and there will always be people who appreciate wooden canoes for a variety of reasons. The trick is finding ways to let them know about the rest of us and the WCHA. Several people have offered some very good marketing suggestions in this thread. It is also important to remember that only a small percentage of the membership uses the web site, attends the Assembly or belongs to a local chapter. We don't want to forget the majority of the membership whose only connection is through the Journal. This is a good dicsussion and I hope that it continues.

  15. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    The Website

    I learned about WCHA via the website. I inherited my mother-in-law's canoe and wanted to learn about it. So I Googled "Wooden Canoe" or something to that effect and - VOILA!! - the world of wooden canoes was right here on the web.

    We just had the Norumbega Chapter Annual Winter Meeting. There were a few new faces, but by in large the old guard came to the meeting. From the old guard, a handful or less make the informal monthly outings and less frequent shop sessions. The topic of how to generate interest and new members in the chapter came up. Unfortunately, no magic bullet came out of the discussion. Participation in shows, some minor advertising in boat oriented periodicals and more visibility on the web were some suggestions. Steve already sends a chapter invite to any southern New England members listed in the New Member section of the Journal. It was suggested that folks these days get stretched too thin by all there is to do in their busy schedules, which I'm sure is part of the problem. Other organizations suffer the same thing.

    I try and spread the word on the web too. If old canoe questions come up on other boards that I frequent, I try and send the folks here for more information. I suspect we've gained a few members this way.

    Finally, spread the word at the Landing. Get out and use your canoe. Just about every time I put in or take out at a public landing I get some question from other boat fanatics. The world is ripe with Kayakers that are tired of cramming themselves into a plastic bleach bottle!! I usually have to spend some time dispelling the Myths of Wood and Canvas Canoes, "no that is canvas not fiberglass, they aren't much heavier than most plastic boats, the canvas can take a beating, yes I use them tripping, etc. etc."

    Send interested parties this way.
  16. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist


    I haven't been to an Assembly yet, but some year will start making it there. It's just scheduled in conflict with my daughter's softball season...

    Scheduling it closely with the Adirondack Freestyle Symposium would work well, too, at least for me... makes it easier for me to not break my cardinal rule of paddling: "For any given trip, make sure you spend more time paddling than driving."
  17. robin

    robin LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I looked through a few old magazines I have laying around and in 1989 midseason edition of Canoe Sport Journal I found a add with the heading- Traditional Canoe Enthusiasts...join the Wooden Canoe Heritage association...

    I was still paddling the old Grumman, work and family took all my time and finaces, and my first wood canoe was sitting in someone elses barn far away, but I dreamed of the day I might own one and when I did, I would join WCHA.

    Too bad the CSJ ended, it was a great canoe magazine, and too bad Canoe magazine became Canoe and Kayak, but for me the internet has filled the void.
  18. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    I mirror robin's sentiment.
    and it is "canoe & KAYAK MAGAZINE". I expect the lower case word, canoe to be dropped any day now. the mainstream seems to be kayaks.
    that's why i dropped my subscription to canoe and kayak.

    Never the less. Advertizing is effective. An ad placed in a National magazine may be fruitful? just a guess. Perhaps our board has considered this as a means of increasing membership already. Or maybe even tried it and evaulated its efficacy.

    I think I found wcha on the nternet.

    Nice poll Benson.
  19. Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    Word of mouth

    I was on a trip through Maine when I saw an old wood canvas canoe sticking out from a garage as I drove on a small local road.

    I stopped at the house and met the owner. After a conversation about my youth and wood canvas canoes, I drove off with his canoe. He was the person who mentioned that there was a web site where a group of Canoe Nuts could provide any thing you wanted to know about wood canvas canoes. I took down the address and the rest is history.

    The web site is a great asset, and it appears that a number of members first experience with the WCHA was via the net.

    People to people contact is still a great way to do it. I have exhibited at the Michigan Maritime museum in South Haven and many people talk about their youth and fond memories of canoes. I think those people who may have the memories jogged by such an event are more likely to search out the web site than those who simply surf the web without any direction.

    In any sales situation, a direct referral is the most valuable contact a company has with a potential customer.

    I think I'll try harder to get to Madison on the 9th.

  20. Woodchuck

    Woodchuck Woodworker

    Check out the March/April 2007 issue of WoodenBoat and see where they are coming out with a new annual publication called Small Boats... If we omitted the powered stuff and stuck with the dingys, dories, small sail, skiffs, row boats, etc. that lend themselves to refurbising and home construction, it could be a new market for us... WoodenBoat is facing the same type of natural obsolesence that we are and they too have a delcining niche market. IMHO

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