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Secondary Stability in Birch Bark Canoe

Discussion in 'Birchbarks, Dugouts and Indigenous Craft' started by gate9797, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    In that case, check 1973, because I'm probably in there.
  2. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    :eek: No kidding, I did my best to get in for 2003 as well.
  3. Denis M. Kallery

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

    Gee, Todd the swelled head persona just doesn't seem to fit you!
  4. peter osberg

    peter osberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Luckily I just watched this thread with amusement.... for a while. I have made 4 reproductions from Adney and Chapelles book and agreed with Todds comments (despite our dacron dustup). However when a friends white water paddler visitor tried out one of the very tippy designs, and declared it his favorite, I realized the operator could have a lot to do with the paddling and performance (and my performance by implication may had something to do with the perception of (primary or secondary) stability). No big surprise!
  5. Becky Mason

    Becky Mason Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Geee, I guess I miss all the fireworks by not dropping in here very often.
    But the thread did bring up an interesting query: how were canoes paddled before Europeans got hold of the sport? I would think that, like all people, the natives had good, bad and down right ugly paddlers depending on how much they used the canoe and for what purposes. An interesting book posted on this site gives a glimpse into canoeing technique from around 1914 VI
    A couple of relevant quotes from the book:
    "The correct manner in which to paddle a canoe alone, either with or without a load, is from the center. This is the method employed by the Indians, and it has been adopted by the most efficient white canoemen, those who live in the north country."
    "It is advisable for the beginner to kneel directly over the keel until he has begun to master his stroke. Once he is part of his canoe, he can begin to move out toward the gunwale. When he is a skilled center paddler his side will be against the gunwale, and his canoe will be tipping at a seemingly dangerous angle. However, it will run better on its side, and the position nearer the gunwale permits more power being put into the stroke and better control over the canoe."

    Though it's a big leap to attribute paddling a heeled canoe to natives from this one text it does illustrate that it's been around a while. And as those of you familiar with barks canoes can attest, the myriad of radically different designs that the natives had (see Adney and Chapelle) may very well indicate a wide variety of paddling styles. It's just too bad they didn't all get recorded, remembered and passed along...or did they?
  6. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    basic discussion topic

    Pursuing Todd's notion that the basic discussion topic here is an interesting one --

    As I said above, I have had the opportunity to paddle a recently-built birchbark based on a Native American design, and it did have limited secondary stability. It also had limited primary stability. Plainly and simply, with a very round bottom, it was a very tender, tippy boat.

    I also had the opportunity to watch the same boat handled by someone else who was familiar with the canoe, and whose skills generally are much greater than mine. It was apparent watching him that skill had a much greater role than did the design of the boat -- watching him handle the birchbark, an observer would never guess that the boat was so tender.

    By way of analogy, bicycles have virtually no primary stability, and have absolutely no secondary stability, but nonetheless can be ridden. Some perform better than others in general use; some are better for specific tasks, but useless for general purposes (a sprint bike with no brakes is not what you want on a road race or a ride around town); some can be recovered from an awkward move by the rider more easily than others; and most importantly, some riders can make almost any given bike perform better than almost any another rider undertaking the same task with the same kind of bike, e.g., Lance Armstrong on the Tour de France.

    As Peter notes above, the operator has a lot to do with how a canoe performs, and that birchbark performed wonderfully IF the paddler could deal with the tenderness -- read primary "instability." It was fast for its size and responsive, even when not tipped on its side. And while I leaned the birchbark over purposely only a couple of times, it did not suffer from being so used, and it certainly did not go terminally unstable -- read "get swamped" -- just by because it was leaned over, either purposely or because I sometimes let it tip a bit more than I intended. But just like riding a bike, using any canoe really effectively and efficiently does require some experience and the willingness to work at developing the required skill. I expect that Becky Mason would have no problem using that birchbark.
  7. thirsty

    thirsty #8111

    Dan, thank you for taking action. I really enjoy "lurking" here and look forward to logging on. I'm learning a great deal, particularly about the addictive aspect.

    Someone please educate me. I always thought primary stability was how stable my canoe felt while we were sitting in the water before getting underway, (when most canoes accidents happen, while getting in & out), and secondary stability was how stable it became or felt while underway.

    Gate9797's original question was "whether any of their canoes possessed secondary stability?" Applying my understanding of primary/secondary, the only canoes that didn't possess secondary stability were the ones they didn't use. All canoes that leave the shoreline have secondary stability, it is just a matter of degree. I understood what he meant, but after seeing how he responded to feedback, I decided to just 'lurk'. What am I missing about the concept?

    Would someone please respond to the 'War Canoe Floor Rack' thread, we'd like to put one in ours.

    Again, thank you all for the education. Great group of folks!

    Dave & Peggy
  8. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Hi D&P,

    This isn't quite right. Primary stability is essentially how "tippy" a canoe feels when you are in it with the canoe floating level on its waterlines. A flat-bottomed canoe has higher primary stability than a round bottom canoe. Secondary stability is the a measure of how a canoe resists swamping as it is heeled. Canoes that can be heeled to their rails without flipping (or rather maintaining their tendancy to return to the upright position) would be said to have high secondary stability.

    Usually there is a trade-off between initial and secondary stability. A flat-bottomed canoe with tumblehome will have high initial stability, but will swamp more easily when heeled than a rounded or greater deadrise bottom with flared sides. The latter will feel more tender when level, but stability will increase as it is heeled.
  9. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Secondary stability is wear it's at in the paddling world!! I have been paddling bark canoes in wilderness areas since 1979 and haven't flipped one yet! Bark canoes in general are very responsive and I love how they handle. It takes a whole lot of confidence and considerable skill to paddle them in adverse conditions wear your life is within a waterproof skin of "tree bark" sewn together with tree roots. It doesn't get any better. :cool: Ferdy

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  10. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    paddling styles

    Re paddling styles, Becky asked, "It's just too bad they didn't all get recorded, remembered and passed along...or did they?"

    So I decided to look around the internet. Edward Curtis documented some indigenous paddling on film, but it may only be the Northwest Coast tribe in something akin to a war canoe. Probably it is a genuine war canoe. It's one of the more haunting and fascinating pieces of film I have ever seen. I could only find a still on line, but I saw it originally as part of the PBS series "The Tribal Eye" with David Attenborough, which is probably decades old by now but maybe in some library or *on ebay* (heh another thing to check!). Anyway, the indiginous persons in this film are wearing those very cool raven and bear costumes (as I recall--- it has been at least 20 years) and are dancing on the prows of the canoes. It has an almost supernatural quality. But I suppose it says nothing about paddling and that crabby guy who was banned would say I was "off topic".

    Whether Curtis or any other film-maker documented paddling birch barks is a possibility, though. Lots of stills do exist, however.

    So I poked around the archives of the state I used to inhabit, and found some pictures which probably don't say much about paddling but they are cool, and if I am successful at posting them, it makes me feel powerful. These are from the Minnesota Historical Society-- and the type of canoe is Ojibway-- Northern Minnesota. When I was a kid, I used to watch the people harvest wild rice, but I had no camera.


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  11. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Here are some other vintage images from the past during the glory days of wilderness travel. Back then the original people depended on their canoes and paddling skills for survival.:cool: Ferdy

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  12. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    the canoe in the last pic looks interesting, any idea what it was used for?

  13. Denis M. Kallery

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

    The same photo is in the book " The Canoe a Living Tradition" by John Jennings published by Firefly books. The photo appears on page 57. The information is that these are called "Crooked Canoes" made by the Cree and used for river use and would not have been made to carry heavy loads but could turn on a dime in a rapids. This is a very interesting and informative book! Denis
  14. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Edwin Tappan Adney has a model of a Nascapee Crooked Canoe -- see picture at:

    And I believe that Adney also discussed the crooked canoe in The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, but I don't have my copy handy to check.

    According to Henri Vailancourt, rockered bottom canoes are particularly well suited to rough water , both white water and the large waves of windy lakes, and he says that the ocean going canoes of the Passamaquoddy feature a similar strong rocker to handle rough coastal waters. See Henri's site, which has the same picture:
  15. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Little Crooked Canoe

    Thanks Denis and Greg for the info and links. I have not built a full sized crooked canoe yet but did complete a 1/4 scale model a few years back. :cool: Ferdy

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  16. Denis M. Kallery

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

    Very cool! It is very similar to Adney's as shown in color in another of John Jennings' books "Bark Canoes -The Art and Obsession of Tappen Adney" also by Firefly. The photo is on page 71 and is captioned " Naskapi Birchbark Crooked Canoe" and gives the measurements as L:39" W:6" D:9". This is another great book! Denis
  17. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I've always wondered just how much of the crooked canoe's design was for function and how much was some sort of regional or tribal cosmetic building style. Having owned a whole herd of whitewater slalom canoes and kayaks over the years, C-2's, C-1's and K-1's, decked and open, some built to racing rules and others just playboats, I can't see any practical reason for that much rocker. With one-third of the amount shown on most crooked canoes, you can have a boat that will spin 180 degrees or more with a single stroke of the paddle and stop spinning almost instantly when you stick the paddle back in. Raising the ends higher than that, when they're already out of the water, doesn't seem to do much other than catch more wind. I used a little Mad River Royalex play boat for a while with something like six or eight inches of rocker. It would climb over just about any wave and spin on a dime. Increasing the rocker on the ends even more wouldn't have made it a better boat or added anything to the package.

    I suppose if you were used to paddling bull boats (round, kind of like a coracle) a crooked canoe might seem like an improvement, but finding a practical use or need for them pretty much stumps me. I also wondered if some Native Americans were just better boat designers than others. Perhaps every culture has it's own Coleman Canoe... or Dolphin Chief.

    If Ferdy would get busy and build one, I'm up that way all the time and could maybe satisfy my curiosity......hint, hint.
  18. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Those old photos are interesting, not only for what they show about the canoes, but also for what they show about the paddlers.

    With one exception (or perhpas two), none of the paddlers shown are gripping their paddle the way most modern paddlers would -- with one hand over the top of the upper end of the paddle. They are gripping their upper hands around the shaft.

    The minority of modern paddlers who use the north woods (or Canadian) stroke also grip around the upper end of the paddle shaft, rather than over the top end of the shaft. But the paddlers in the old photo are gripping with their upper hands palm-up (opening their grip, their palm would be open upwards or toward their bodies), whereas when doing the north woods stroke, the upper hand is palm-down (opening the grip, the palm of the upper hand will be palm-down or away from the body).

    But in one of the stereo pictures posted by Kathy, the bow paddler seems to be holding his paddle as most modern paddlers would (over the top of the shaft end), and the stern paddler is gripping his paddle with his upper hadn around the shaft, but in the opposit direction from most of the old-timers in the pictures, as though he is using the north woods stroke.

    So what kind of stroke are those other old-time paddlers doing with their grip?
  19. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Todd,, I do commision work and special orders so let me know when you are ready for one. Ferdy
  20. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    "Stability & Paddling"

    Back in 1998 I built my one and only trade canoe. What a project that was!!My friend Walt is paddling this 22ft. Fur-trade canoe and having the time of his life! Paddling styles vary with individuals. Keep in mind the original people of our continent have been paddling these waters a lot longer than we have so maybe we should give some of their methods a try eh. :cool: :cool: Ferdy

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