The headline was blazing across the monitor and the photo made me realize the heartbreak the owner would feel to have lost such a beautiful canoe. It later became evident it was not just the owner, but the builder, who had put his own time, thought, care , and effort into building such a quality vessel. Well, thanks God, to the media, and we go from a share of the canoe notice to, “Hey, think you can help”, to “I’d love to have you paddle one!”
The good news is that the canoe has been recovered, and the better news is that we took Stephan up on his invitation and did a small trek out to Bell’s Lake, Grey County, to test out this years’ new launch for the Claxton Canoe Company. The first attempt to hit the lake yielded a Provincial Police “Road Closed” barrier and so off through the woods we went. We finally got to the launch area and even Izzy was shaking his head. First impressions are usually the ones to last and there was virtually no parking so we knew were in the right spot. The canoes in the water just demanded the attention they were due with light and dark contrast stripping and a striking contrast to the Temagami styled brush along the shore line.
The very first impression I got of Steve was his immediate, “Dave?” and the offering of his vice-like handshake. This is a man who pays attention to his craft and is more than willing to share his experience, all the while, standing before his art. Each of the three canoes bears a somewhat different line, either in the line of the gunwales or the tumblehome, or the upsweep of the decks, but each one, is the one!
We talked of the two canoes in the water and then focus went to the one ashore with the unique seating arrangement in the bow station. Steve told me he has worked on an adaptation for the bow seat for wheel chair access. His system provides a wheel knock-off so the frame of the chair can slide into a set of rails and the wheels can sit behind the chair. From the water this would look like nothing more than a comfy chair but think of the worlds it could open to other people who would like to try canoeing.
How could this not say “Freedom?”
Well, The Claxton Canoe Company has just shifted to a new home in Meaford so things may be a bit hectic over the next few weeks, but I’m confident this will be a canoe building concern, with industry innovations, for years to come. On the plus side, this is a Company that re-works wood, and that’s a good thing.
The canoe I paddled was taken from a 1929 Peterborough and she was just a hair over the 14′ mark. While I didn’t tape measure, I’d say the beam at the gunwales was 35″ and a depth of 14 1/2″. The wood was to cry for and this canoe just danced under a soft J-stroke. While she did have a full keel, it was evident she would track very well. By lowering your hand on the paddle you could lift the bow right out of the water and with a twist of the paddle in tight quarters, she’d turn in her own length.
So thanks Stephan, Christina Brodie, for pointing me in the right direction and good luck with your future endeavours.