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Paddleing The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Ezra Smith, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. Ezra Smith

    Ezra Smith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    This summer I completed a self-propelled thru paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. It took me 43 days, and most of it was done alone in the Atkinson Traveler that I made last year. I even ran into a familiar face, Tim Smith of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School. He wrote a blog post about my trip as well.


    It was truly a trip of a lifetime, and was a great chance to get acquainted with the waterways of New England, and to put my spirit and gear to the test. I am so glad that I committed to doing it, and am already missing it. Thank you all for your help with the boat and all of the questions that you have cleared up for me, I could not have done it without you!

    In this video I review what I brought and how it worked.

    The canoe was pretty much perfect for the trip, and preformed very well in all the conditions that it was thrown into. If I had my balance there was no way for ANY water to get in the boat, even going parallel to 3ft waves on Churchill Lake on the Allagash! My review of the canoe gear is here.

    I hope to do a presentation about it this fall and post a video of that, I will keep you posted.

    There was some wear and tear on the boat which is to be expected, but there are some things about the construction process that only reared their heads after extended use:

    1. The inside of the boat got wet (duh) but once it was really soaked and had a chance to dry out for a day in the HOT sun I noticed these bubbles that formed under the varnish.


    I peeled one off and it was raw wood underneath (many are larger than the picture). All that I can figure is that is an adhesion problem with the shellac flakes that I applied prior to using the Epifanes varnish (3 or 4 coats). BTW I had to reapply some varnish before the trip because areas of the planking by the seats seemed to have lost the varnish on them. Any ideas from all of the shellac people out there?

    2. When the canvas had to get pulled of scrapped over rocks it seemed like there were areas when the shellac and the filler fell off leaving bare canvas. Some of this I patched with Ambroid Cement (which is the white in the picture).


    There are many places where this did not happen and it just glanced off the shellac, but this suggests to me that the filler had some problem with really working into the canvas. Thoughts?

    3. My boat has somehow gotten noticeable rounder on the bottom than the original plans call for, and this was frustrating on the shallower streams. When I got back I decided to go against forum advice and try some boiling water anyway. I weighted it down right side up on my porch and poured boiling water over the places where the ribs bend the most. I did this several days in a row and left it weighted for about a week and a half. It definitely flattened out, though I am expecting a lot of rebound over time. It was 4 days ago that I took the weight off, and no big spring back yet! The water may have made the bubbles worse, but it is hard to tell, and as far as I can see the canvas did not have an adverse reaction to it.
  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Congratulations on that's a good one. I once met someone (at Chesuncook) that ended up completing in 23 (I can't exactly recall, it was the solo record at the time) days...he was ripping it up in a Kevlar boat...Mud Pond nearly broke him though and my son and I helped him with his gear...
    I have been touting the Traveler as the perfect boat for these trips and it is a fact that it can handle almost any condition that you might encounter.
    It's interesting to hear about these issues...ours has not suffered any of these afflictions...but it has never been in the water for that many days...three weeks is the longest run...but without issues.
    I never use shellac as a first coat unless I am working on a Rushton..and then only because it was his habit. Thinned good quality spar varnish is the ideal first coat followed by four or five more coats. I have never had varnish pull up or bubble even when the hull is very water logged.
    The shape of the hull changing...we all have heard stories about Chestnuts used with Wanigans shape shifting...a wet hull, heavy load in a specific can happen. It has never happened to any of my canoes but it is very possible, albeit not too desirable. It's likely that the hull will not hold the shape after you re-shape it.
    The canvas and hull issues are odd and again, not something I have seen on ours. I have had to touch up the shellac and I've used ambroid on a few deep digs but there has never been a filler issue like the one that you report. What sort of filler was used, how long did it cure, how many coats etc? How much shellac was on the hull...did the shellac fade away on the trip???? Lot's of questions come to mind as I look at that hull.....
  3. OP
    Ezra Smith

    Ezra Smith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for your reply! I should be more clear about the hull shape, when the hull first came off the form the form I noticed that it was rounder than I expected. There may have been some warping over time, but most of it was already there. For the filler I used the OT unleading filler recipe. I applied it during a cold winter (in an unheated barn), and it dried until late April. It seemed as solid as cement when I used by fingernail before I painted it. I am self taught when it comes to all of this, and I could see that I my technique with filling the weave did not allow enough pressure to work it in, but as far as I could tell it was done. I guess that I did 3 coats, but honestly the canvas really did not want to accept any more after a second coat. I constantly mixed the filler every time we put some on the boat. I did not filter the shellac before I applied. Next time for the inside I am certainly going with just varnish.

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