by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
In Canada, the canoes from the Chestnut Canoe Company set the standard by which all others are measured. Now, thirty-five years after the company went out of business, they are still held up as classic canoe icons. So, how can you identify a canoe as a Chestnut and what makes a Prospector a Prospector?
The Chestnut Canoe Company – William and Harry Chestnut started building wood-canvas canoes in 1897. They bought a canoe in Maine (probably a Gerrish canoe) and made exact copies of it which they then sold out of their father’s furniture business in Fredericton, New Brunswick. They incorporated the canoe business in 1905 which most historians view the birth date of the company. However, the 1972 Chestnut Canoe Company catalogue proudly celebrated 75 years in business. It seems the company viewed its birth as 1897. Be that as it may, the company grew into the largest canoe manufacturer in Canada and, at their height, were producing in excess of 3,000 canoes/year. In 1923, Chestnut Canoe Companyand Peterborough Canoe Company (and later Canadian Canoe Company) amalgomated under an umbrella group called Canadian Watercraft Limited. As a result, the wood-canvas canoes for all three companies were built in Fredericton by Chestnut. The Peterborough Canoe Company ceased operations in 1961 while the Chestnut Canoe Company continued until it closed in 1978.
Chestnut produced over 50 different canoes in a wide variety of models. In this article, I will focus on the most common Chestnut canoes — Ogilvy, Cruiser, Pleasure and Prospector.
The Chestnut Ogilvy – Although never as popular as the others, fishing guides on the salmon rivers of New Brunswick helped create a working canoe that was unmatched for its purpose. They needed a river canoe they could stand up in all day long. They were often poling the canoe upstream through shallow rapids in order to offer the prime fishing spots to wealthy clients. The canoe had to be stable and tough with a shallow draft so as to avoid many (but not all) of the rocks. They came in six models that ranged in length from 16’ to 26’ – real, honest working canoes.
The 16’ model had a 36” beam and 13½” depth at the centre. The ribs were 3” wide, 3/8” thick and had only ½” space between them. This created what amounted to a double-planked hull. The rugged nature of the Ogilvy comes with a price in terms of weight. The 16’ had an average weight of 84 pounds and a carrying capacity of 850 pounds. It had a flat-bottomed hull, straight sides, full entry lines and modest rocker in the ends. This made for a canoe that was slow and steady – exactly what was needed when working shallow, rapid rivers.
The Chestnut Cruiser – This canoe was one of the first canoes that Chestnut developed. It was influenced very heavily by (if not copied directly from) Gerrish, White and Morris canoes built in Maine in the late 1890’s. The lines are sleek, narrow and graceful – designed to handle rivers with speed and efficiency. This narrow canoe had an arched bottom, fine-entry lines and generous rocker at the ends. Therefore, it was not for the novice paddler. However, in the hands of someone who knew what to do, this canoe was a dream to paddle.
Three models were 16’ 17’ and 18’ long. The ribs were 2-3/8” wide, 3/8” thick with 2” spaces between the ribs. The 16’ model had a 34” beam, was 13” deep and weighed 70 pounds. They were also built with ribs 3” wide, 3/8” thick and ½” spaces between the ribs. These heavy-duty models were called the Guide Special. The 16’ model weighed 75 pounds. Both 16’ models had a carrying capacity of 600 pounds.
The Chestnut Bobs Special – This canoe was one of two lightweight pleasure canoes built by Chestnut. Before I talk about the canoe, I’d like to clarify the name. According to Roger MacGregor in his book “When the Chestnut was in Flower”, Harry and Will Chestnut were real history buffs. The telegraph code for the 15’ 50-Lb. Special was BOBS and made reference to Lord Roberts, a major figure during the Boer War in South Africa. Over the years, as this wide, light-weight canoe became more difficult to keep under the weight limit of 50 lbs (the average weight was 58 pounds while the carrying capacity was 700 pounds), they changed the name. I have seen a variety of Chestnut catalogues call it “Bob’s Special”, “Bob Special” and “Bobs Special”. So, feel free to take your pick.
Many outdoor enthusiasts were looking for a lightweight, stable canoe that would allow them to enjoy fly fishing or just a quiet paddle on the lake. With a 37” beam and 12½” depth at the centre, the Bobs Special was very stable — ideal for those who find a regular canoe too ‘tippy’. At the same time, it was surprisingly quick and maneuverable in the water. This was due to the shallow-arch bottom combined with moderate rocker and fine entry lines in the ends. The ribs were 2-3/8” wide and ¼” thick with 1½” spaces between them.
The Chestnut Pleasure Canoes – It is no accident that Bill Mason used a 16′ Chestnut Pal in most of his films. It was stable, yet quick; steady, yet agile. With a 36” beam, 12¾” depth at the centre, weight of 72 pounds and a carrying capacity of 700 pounds, the Pal was as close to being a perfect recreational canoe as you ever hope to get. It was one of the Chestnut Pleasure Canoes which also came in 14’ and 15’ lengths. Until 1958, the 16’ Pleasure Canoe had a 34” beam. Then, the mould was widened. The economy version of the 16’ pleasure canoe had been called the Pal for several years (from about 1954). The pleasure canoes came in both narrow and wide versions until about 1960 when the wider versions were adopted exclusively. Over the years, the ribs of the Pal (as well as the 15’ Chum and the 14’ Playmate) came in two different sizes – either 1½” wide and 3/8” thick with 1½” spaces between ribs or 2-3/8” wide and 3/8” thick with 2” spaces.
The bottom was a shallow-arch hull with tumblehome extending through the entire length of the canoe. The fine entry lines and moderate rocker make it very easy to paddle. In his film, “Path of the Paddle: Solo Whitewater”, Bill Mason demonstrated very well that the Pal was not designed for Class 3 rapids. But, that didn’t stop him from trying. The Pal was a great general-purpose canoe and was the canoe of choice for many generations of canoeists – even if many of them called it a Chestnut Prospector.
The Chestnut Prospector – This was the real deal – often copied, never matched. A quick search on the internet produces at least ten modern canoe companies with a “Prospector” in its catalogue. However, the Chestnut Canoe Company found the winning combination. With high sides, substantial arch in the bottom and lots of rocker in the full ends, it was designed to transport heavy loads quickly through rapid rivers and large, challenging lakes. It was essentially a deeper, wider Cruiser and is still regarded as the ultimate wilderness tripping canoe.
They were made in five lengths from 14’ to 18’. The 16’ model had a 36” beam and a 14½” depth at the centre. The 16’ model weighed 76 pounds and carried 850 pounds. It was a fun canoe to paddle solo, but it really came into its own when loaded for an extended trip. Although there was good tumblehome at the centre, the hull flared about 4’ from the ends in order to throw water away from the canoe while hitting big waves in rapid rivers. The ribs were 2-3/8” wide, 3/8” thick with 2” spaces between them.
April 30, 2013
by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
Wooden canoes are in a league of their own. They are elegant, beautiful and move more gracefully in the water than any other water craft that dares to call itself a canoe. The trouble is that if you want to own one, you have to find an old classic canoe and then have it restored. At Kettle River Canoes, we make these amazing canoes available to you – just pay for the restoration and it is yours.
Of all the classic canoes ever built, few are more sought after than those built by the Chestnut Canoe Company. They produced more than 150,000 canoes in their eighty years in business. Catering to outdoor enthusiasts of every description, Chestnut built canoes ranging from small, light-weight solo craft to large, rugged working canoes capable of handling anything the Canadian wilderness has to offer.
Right now (April 30, 2013), I have four Chestnut canoes available for sale. However, unlike other canoe restorers who restore a canoe and then offer it for sale, we identify a canoe that is currently in need of a good home. The current owner can no longer use it, so they send me some pictures and I ‘put it up for adoption’. Sometimes, some money changes hands in order to transfer ownership to an ‘adopting parent’. Then, we bring the canoe to our shop for a full restoration. This way, the new ‘parent’ has complete control over what happens to ‘their’ canoe.
Note: Although I have posted pictures of the various canoe models available, they are not the actual canoes up for adoption.
Your canoe can be painted any colour you want. If you want a red canoe, that is what you will get. It is entirely up to you. So please, use these pictures as a guide to help you imagine what your canoe will look like. We do not touch (and often do not even see) the canoe until it arrives in the shop. As a result, the ‘adopting parent’ has complete control over the process – and that includes determining the colour of the finished canoe. If you want an original Chestnut colour, we have matched all of the originals.
11’ Chestnut Featherweight Canoe (circa 1960) – This canoe weighs about 35 pounds. Beam – 34”; Depth – 12”; Carrying Capacity – about 350 pounds. One hand-woven cane seat. This is a beautiful solo canoe that can be handled by anyone. One of the old catalogue photos shows a man holding this canoe over his head with one hand. Fully restored – $3,900
15’ Chestnut Twoser/Peterborough Minetta Canoe (circa 1955) – For many years, the canvas canoes for both Chestnut and Peterborough were built in the same factory on the same moulds. Technically, this particular canoe is a Peterborough Minetta, and is exactly the same as the Chestnut Twoser. Beam – 33”; Depth – 12”; Weight – about 65 pounds; Carrying Capacity – 550 pounds. Two hand-woven cane seats. This is a very fast, responsive canoe suited for the experienced paddler (or two). It can handle lakes and rivers with grace and elegance on overnight trips. Fully restored – $4,200
17’ Chestnut Prospector Canoe (circa 1977) – Often copied, never equaled – this is the real deal. Beam – 37”; Depth – 14½”; Weight – 82 pounds; Carrying Capacity – 950 pounds. Two slat seats. This canoe is perfect for extended wilderness trips. It is a large-capacity canoe that dances through Class 3 rapids and keeps you safe on big, storm-tossed lakes. Fully restored – $4,500
18’ Chestnut Prospector Vee-Stern Canoe (circa 1970) – This Prospector is a vee-stern model designed to take a small outboard motor (up to 6HP) without affecting the design features that make the Chestnut Prospector the ultimate wilderness tripping canoe. Beam – 38”; Depth – 15”; Weight – 110 pounds; Carrying Capacity – 1100 pounds. Two slat seats. Fully restored – $4,200
April 21, 2013
by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
A number of canoe builders operated in a small aboriginal community just outside of Quebec City. Names such as Bastien Brothers, Gagnon Brothers, Groslouis, Picard, Faber, Yaho and Big Chief came out of this community now called Wendake (formerly Huron Village or Loretteville). They also produced canoes generically for department stores such as Sears and were referred to as “Huron” canoes. The history of canoe building in the village dates back to the days of the Fur Trade but the more modern wood-canvas canoes were made from the 1920’s until the 1970’s. If you have one of these canoes, it is most likely from the later period – 1960’s or 1970’s.
These canoes were typically of a “rough-and-ready” nature — built quickly with less attention to the fine woodworking “finish” details. As a result they were often referred to ‘in the day’ as “The Poorman’s Chestnut”. This derogitory comment discounted the beautiful lines in these canoes. The hull was flat-bottomed which normally results in a slow-paddling canoe. However, “Huron” canoes also had a ‘soft’ chine. That is to say, the transition from the bottom to the sides of the canoe was very gradual. As a result, when paddling an unloaded ”Huron”, the waterline width was narrow which made for a fast boat. This, combined with substantial rocker in the ends, created a canoe that is quite simply a delight to paddle.
The process of restoring a wood-canvas canoe is very different from that of building one. You use the existing hull to form replacement ribs for any broken ones. As a result, you don’t require the lines for the hull. Most of the dimensions for replacement parts can be taken from existing components. However, depending on the condition of your canoe, you may need the specifications for the odd piece or two. So, here is a restorer’s guide to the “Huron” canoe.
One little note here: I am listing all of the dimensions in inches. I apologize to all of you who are working in metric. The canoes were originally built with imperial measurements, so I find it easier and more accurate to stick with the original measurements.
One more note: The canoes referenced here were built in a period around 1970. Most of them were purchased through the Sears catalogue. They are representative of “Huron” canoes. However, it is not my intention to say that these dimensions will be exactly the same as those in your “Huron”. It will give you a general idea of how these canoes are constructed and how they differ from other major manufacturers. It is my hope that after you read this article, you will be able to differentiate a canoe like this from a Chestnut canoe.
One last note: All of the canoes shown here have been restored for clients. Often they asked me to do things on the canoe that were not in keeping with the original configuration. Therefore, you will see canoes with seats lowered on 6” carriage bolts with hardwood dowel spacers or outfitted with a portage yoke. They are not original, so take note and please excuse the lack of historical accuracy.
Gunwales – “Huron” canoe gunwales consist of three components. The inwale is a rough piece of spruce 7/8” square. For a 15’-6” canoe, the inwales were 14’ long while the 13’-6” canoe had 12’ inwales. The last 6” or so of the inwales at each end are tapered down to ¾” wide to fit into the decks. All of the transverse components (thwarts and seats are attached to the inwales with 10-24 (3/16”) steel machine bolts. All of these attachments are rough looking, so they are covered up with a thin spruce gunwale-cap. The outwales were originally made of spruce as well. I always replace the outwales with hardwood – usually ash or oak. If I am replacing the inwales I use hardwood as well (again ash or oak) and cut them to ¾” wide to reduce the weight of the component while maintaining the overall strength. Consequently, the gunwale cap is also ¾” wide.
Decks – The decks in a “Huron” canoe were built very roughly. They used a slab of birch or maple typically that varied in thickness from ¾” to more than 1”. The stem-top sits flush with the nose of the deck and is held in place with a steel common nail. By the time you start restoring your canoe, the decks are usually rotted along with the stem-top. What is left of the common nail is often sticking out of the rotted nose of the deck. I attach the rebuilt stem-top to the nose of the deck with a 1½” #8 bronze wood screws. The deck extends 18” into the canoe from the end.
Stem-Top – You will rarely if ever have to replace the entire stem. However, I have yet to see an original stem-top that is not partially or completely rotted away. Depending on the amount of wood to be replaced in the stem you may have to pre-bend the wood to fit the original stem-profile.
Keel – If you want to keep the keel as part of the canoe, it is a simple piece to make. Use a piece of hardwood and taper each end roughly to ½” wide. The overall length is about 13’. It will accept the brass stem-band which is ½” wide.
Ribs – The ribs are simple slats 5/16” thick and 1-7/8” wide. The edges are chamfered 10° on both sides with the top cornered rounded off slightly. There are 2” spaces between the ribs.
Planking – Many people worry about the gaps between the planks in a Huron canoe. The original canoe was constructed with ‘green’ wood that subsequently shrunk to create spaces between the planks that can be as much as ¼” wide. This is one of the things that make “Huron” canoes what they are. The spaces do not compromise the overall strength of the canoe, so please maintain the look of the canoe by matching the width of the planking when you replace some of it. Do not try to fill the spaces with anything. It will only result is a mess that some other restorer will have to deal with.
Another aspect of the planking relevant to a restoration is the fact that more than half of the connections between a plank and the ribs were held together with two canoe tacks rather than the three typically used in other canoes such as Peterborough and Chestnut. As a result, the whole canoe tended to flex more. It is common for a restorer to find that most of the tacks in the “Huron” hull have either snapped or worked loose. I routinely take the time to tack every plank to every rib with three canoe tacks and replace all of the loose tacks. It takes a long time to drive 2,500 tacks into the hull with a clobber’s hammer and a clinching iron. However, it creates a very strong hull that is better than the original.
Seats – The seat frames are made of ¾” birch that is 1-3/8” wide. The stern seat is attached directly under the inwales while the bow seat is suspended below the inwale using a spacer on either side. The height of the spacer varies from 1” to 1½”. The forward edge of the bow seat is 49½” from the bow-end of the canoe while the forward edge of the stern seat is 35½” from the stern-end of the canoe. The seat frames are laced with rawhide (also called “babiche”).
Thwarts – The thwarts are made of ¾” birch that is 2¼” wide. They taper from the centre to create handle grips on either side that are 1-3/8” wide. They are attached directly under the inwales with steel 10-24 machine screws. I replace the machine screws in the seats and thwarts with bronze carriage bolts. The stern-quarter thwart is positioned 59” from the stern-end of the canoe while the centre thwart is positioned 93” from both ends.
April 14, 2013
by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
If you are preparing to restore your wood-canvas canoe – especially in Canada – you are often looking at a canoe built by the Chestnut Canoe Company based in New Brunswick from 1897 to 1978. Of the many models produced over the years, the 16′ Pleasure Canoe was one of their best sellers. It had a variety of names and the hull shape changed as well over the course of eighty years. However, this canoe is most commonly referred to as the Chestnut Pal.
The dimensions of the components that make up the Pal are often the same as those found in many other Chestnut (and Peterborough) canoe models – including the famous Chestnut Prospector. As a result, if you have these dimensions, you can use them to restore about thirty different canoe models. So, here is a restorer’s guide to the Chestnut Pal.
This Chestnut pleasure canoe is from around 1952. The telegraph code was Ajax. It was 16′ LOA and had a 34″ beam.
The 16’ Pleasure Canoe from the Chestnut Canoe Company had a number of incarnations over the years. From the early 1900’s until 1953 it had a 34” beam, its ribs were 1.5” wide and was called the Ajax. Then the beam was widened to 36” and it was called either the Pal (1954 – 1978) or the Deer (1965 – 1978). Through the later years, the ribs were either 1.5” wide or 2-3/8” wide.
One little note here: I am listing all of the dimensions in inches. I apologize to all of you who are working in metric. The canoes were built with imperial measurements originally, so I find it easier and more accurate to stick with this measurement scale.
Inwales –The inwale is a length of ash 15/16” high. It is fashioned to fit the tumblehome present on most Chestnut canoes. Therefore, the top surface is ¾” wide while the bottom width is 7/8”. The last 15” or so at each end is tapered down to about 5/8” wide along the sides of the decks. All of the transverse components (thwarts and seats are attached to the inwales with 10-24 (3/16”) galvanized steel carriage bolts. I replace these with 10-24 silicon-bronze carriage bolts.
Outwales – The outwales are also made of ash. Depending on when the canoe was built, the outwales may have a chamfered edge on the bottom of the outside surface. Water often gets trapped under the outwales and results in rot on the inside surface. Therefore, I usually end up replacing this component. The sheer-line of Chestnut and Peterborough Pleasure Canoes turns up sharply about 18” from the end. As a result, it is necessary to soak, heat and pre-bent new inwales and outwales over custom-built forms to make the ash fit without breaking.
It is also worth noting that both the inwales and outwales were very often made by joining two pieces together with a 9″ scarf joint to create the full length Ash required. Apparently, it was difficult to get full length Ash even in the 1960′s.
Decks – The decks were made of hardwood – usually maple, ash or oak. By the time you start restoring your canoe, the decks are often rotted along with the stem-tops and inwale-ends. They are attached to the inwales with six 2” #8 bronze wood screws. The deck extends about 15” into the canoe from the end.
Stem-Top – You will rarely if ever have to replace the entire stem. However, I rarely see an original stem-top that is not partially or completely rotted away. Because the top 6” or so of the stem is straight, you can usually make the repair without having to pre-bend the wood to fit the original stem-profile.
Keel – If you want to keep the shoe keel as part of the canoe, it is a simple piece to make. Use a piece of hardwood (the original was ash) and taper each end to 3/8” wide. The overall length is about 14’. It will accept the brass stem-band which is 3/8” wide.
Ribs – There were typically two styles of ribs used in Chestnut Pleasure Canoes. Depending on the age and model, the ribs were either “narrow” slats 3/8” thick and 1½” wide or so-called “regular” ribs that were 3/8” thick and 2-3/8” wide.
The edges of the narrow ribs are chamfered 18° on both sides with the top corners rounded off slightly. The edge of the regular rib closest to the centre of the canoe has tapered ends (11° chamfer) while the edge closest to one end of the canoe is chamfered 30°. There are 2” spaces between the regular ribs and 1½″ spaces between the narrow ribs.
Planking – The planking in Chestnut Canoes was made of either Eastern White Cedar or Western Red Cedar.
Seats – The seat frames are made of ¾” hardwood (ash, oak or maple) 1½” wide and hand-caned seats. Both seats are suspended under the inwales with 10-24 carriage bolts and held in position with 5/8” hardwood dowel. The rear stern seat dowels are 1¾” long while the front dowels are ¾” long. All of the bow seat dowels are ¾” long. The forward edge of the bow seat is 58” from the bow-end of the canoe while the forward edge of the stern seat is 38½” from the stern-end of the canoe.
Thwarts – The thwarts are made of ¾” hardwood (ash, oak or maple) that is 2½” wide. They taper from the centre to create handle grips on either side that are 2” wide. They were attached directly under the inwales with galvanized steel 10-24 carriage bolts. The stern-quarter thwart is positioned 67” from the stern-end of the canoe while the centre thwart is positioned 96” from both ends.
March 3, 2013
by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
Unless you live in British Columbia, you have probably never heard of Bill Greenwood and his wood-canvas canoes. And if you want to start a fight amongst wood-canvas canoe enthusiasts, just ask them to name the prettiest canoes ever made. In Maine, you would hear names like Morris, Gerrish and White. In Ontario, Peterborough canoes are top of the list. But in British Columbia, people speak about Greenwood canoes in hushed tones and bow down to Bill Greenwood’s exquisite water craft.
There is very little information available about Bill or his canoes. Whatever I have collected is from people who bought their canoes directly from the builder at his shop as well as some antecdotes from Jim Kinzell, who worked with Bill as an apprentice from 1969 to 1975. Apparently, there was also a small biography produced in 1972 but I have yet to see it in person. My information is incomplete to say the least and is probably full of errors and omissions. That said, Bill Greenwood and Greenwood Canoes deserve recognition in the world of wood-canvas canoes.
From what I can gather, Bill started building canoes in 1934 as part of his rehabilitation from a stroke he suffered at the age of 24. He boarded a train in Vancouver, BC and made his way to Old Town, Maine. He hung around the Old Town Canoe Company shop and absorbed everything he could about canoe building until they realized what he was doing and kicked “the spy” out. Bill spent some time at other canoe factories including the Peterborough Canoe Company in Ontario before returning to British Columbia and setting up Greenwood Water Craft Company. The shop location changed a number of times over the years until he estabished a large shop complex on Mitchell Island in Richmond, BC in the late 1960′s.
Not surprisingly, the lines and details of Greenwood Canoes borrow heavily from the “Maine Guide” canoes of Old Town and other builders in Maine. They all sport wide, flat bottoms and have very little rocker. The stem profile is heavily recurved and the hulls all contain a lot of tumblehome. Bill’s 16’ (4.9 meter) canoes did not have a centre thwart, but instead had both bow- and stern-quarter thwarts as was typical of Maine Guide canoes. And Bill absolutely refused to make a canoe without a keel. In fact, one of my clients asked Bill to leave the keel off the canoe he was ordering. Apparently, Bill said something like, “My canoes have keels.” When my client told Bill that many Chestnut Canoes paddled very well without a keel, Bill said, “If you want a Chestnut Canoe, then buy a Chestnut Canoe.” My client told me that story while I was preparing the restoration work order on his 17’ (5.2 meter) Chestnut Cruiser.
The workmanship in Greenwood canoes is outstanding. He used “aircraft quality” Sitka Spruce for the double-tapered ribs. The wide planking was made of old-growth Western Red Cedar (edge grain). The stems were White Oak while the rest of the canoe was trimmed in Philippine Mahogany (Luan). All of the woodwork was flawless – tight planking, graceful lines and elegant detailing. The one drawback in many Greenwood canoes built in the early 1970’s is the fact that he used steel screws to attach the mahogany outwales. Apparently, Bill was feuding with one of his suppliers. He wanted 1.5” (37 mm) #8 brass wood screws in lots of 1,000 while the supplier insisted on selling lots of 10,000. Bill ordered steel screws from another supplier in lots of 1,000. I have had to cut that beautiful mahogany into hundreds of tiny pieces because the steel screws had corroded to the point of being fused into the wood. I’m sure Bill thought he had won the war with his supplier, but it has made the restorer’s job much more difficult 40 years later.
The quality of the workmanship is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Bill worked almost entirely with one hand. The stroke he suffered at age 24 affected his left side. Consequently, his left hand was crippled to the point that he had very limited use of it. My understanding is that he used jigs for almost every step of production. That and a few very good assistants in the shop (including George Fletcher and Jim Kinzell) made it all work beautifully.
Greenwood Canoes came in lengths from 15’ (4.6 meter) to 18’ (5.5 meter). He had two basic models – the Pleasure Model (12” – 30 cm – deep) and the large volume Prospector Model (14” – 36 cm – deep). He built a full range of lengths in both models (as well as a 12′ car-top boat) until 1970. One client of mine has a beautiful home in North Vancouver overlooking the entire Lower Mainland. He had ordered a canoe from Bill in 1970 and was expecting a call any day to say that the canoe was ready. Then, he heard a news report of a large fire on Mitchell Island in Richmond. He looked out over the valley from his home and saw a big cloud of smoke. The Greenwood Water Craft shop was engulfed in flames. The next day, my client went to the site and saw Bill kicking through the ashes that used to be his shop. He said, “I only had time to grab two canoes – That’s yours over there.”
Bill rebuilt the business with a limited number of moulds and continued building canoes until he sold the business in 1975. According to Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe and Paddle, the moulds ended up in Cranberry Portage (a small community in Northern Manitoba east of Flin Flon). Apparently, they were never used again and are now in very poor condition. Bill died in 1979. His contribution to the world of wood-canvas canoes is significant here in British Columbia. People bow their heads in reverence to these stunning works of art.