Wednesday, July 12, 2017

War Canoe Steering Workshop At Sebago, 7/8/2017

Going a little out of order, here's Part 1 of my big trifecta Sebago weekend. Part 2 was, of course, that spectacular full moon paddle, but before that, I participated in a War Canoe Steering Workshop, run by canoe committee chair Dan Olson. 

Sebago has two of these classic Old Town 25' wood and canvas war canoes. We don't use them very often these days, but they do get brought out on days when we're likely to have families with children who are too young for kayaks coming out for a paddle, events like Sunday's Family Day (more on that later) and this coming Saturday's City of Water Day (come out and play, things are going on all over the waterfront!). For this purpose, they're perfect - with a knowledgeable paddler in the bow and stern, you can take out at least 8 novice paddlers - more if there are some extra-little ones. It's a big, stable boat, they can go over but it's unusual for that to happen as long as everybody in the boat is more or less behaving themself. They were also traditionally used for racing at the club; as they got older, that lost popularity, but one's now been beautifully refurbished and if we end up doing the other one, too, that could be a fun tradition to reinstate.

I'd been the bow person in one of these boats once, back in 2015. I had no idea how to do it properly, but we had a family show up to City of Water Day late; we were already putting boats away, but the war canoe was still in the water, and commodore emeritus John W., who is a very experienced canoeist, was willing to take the stern if anybody was up for taking the bow. I volunteered, I didn't know the proper way to do it but I know the basic strokes, and the person in the stern calls the shots, so with John giving me good directions, we were able to take the latecomers out for a nice spin on the basin.

When Dan announced the workshop, I thought it would be fun to learn how to do it right - and besides, this was the first official outing of the war canoe that the club had had restored this year! That was pretty exciting - we've had these canoes for a long time, and they've been cared for, but not with much skill. They were terribly heavy, somebody had told me that at some point somebody had fiberglassed them, which turned out not to be true, but apparently there were many coats of polyurethane to be stripped. Click here for an excellent writeup of the history and restoration of Sebago War Canoe #1, by boatbuilding chair Jim Luton.

The workshop was good fun! I always enjoy learning a new boating skill, and Dan was a good instructor. It was a little bit breezy, which actually wasn't a bad thing, it was nice to actually have something to work against while practicing, and this was a good time to do it (better than learning on a calm day and then having things kick up on City of Water Day with less experienced paddlers). We all got to take turns at both bow and stern if we wanted to; I did both, it was nice to get some pointers on how to do the bow steering with proper technique, as opposed to just muddling through as I did that one time with John. It was also really interesting being in the stern and suddenly having so many paddles to co-ordinate - that was very definitely something new and different! I put my clubmates through their paces trying all kinds of different stuff, and then Dan also had me just let them paddle forward and see how much control I had over the boat by myself from back there. It was a fun day out in a handsome old boat, and I do hope I get to practice some during City of Water Day!

Here are a few pictures from the day. Click on any photo for a slideshow view, or click here to see more in Flickr.


jkmccoy said...

How much fun! I remember at last year's interclub racing, a bunch of Inwood Turtles got to paddle either Sebago's or Yonkers' war canoe. I was ruddering in the stern, and I remember being able to lean my entire body out over the water, everything from the waist up, beforeming basically a drawing rudder. These long boats really crank up the seahorse power! Mad fun.

bonnie said...

I got to race in Sebago's war canoe at Inwood, I wasn't steering though!

I did actually steer for one of our City of Water Day trips, that was pretty cool. I was happy I got the shiny boat back to the dock unscratched!