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Identification Help: What Old Town W/FG Canoe Am I Paddling?

Glenn MacGrady

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This is my first attempt to scan an old photo into digital.

This is me in March 1982 on an unknown lake in northern California. I'm paddling either my second canoe, a 16' Old Town w/fg Guide, which I bought new for $900 from a backyard dealer going out of business, or it's my third canoe, a 17' Old Town w/fg OTCA, which I got new from the Berkeley, California, REI store by trading them the Guide plus $400. I believe the canoe is the OTCA because of the upsweep of the ends, but I'd appreciate it if anyone can help confirm which canoe it is.

GJM March 82 OTCA 17 edt.jpg

I'm sporting an Old Town PFD, an Old Town 57" beavertail paddle, and a new Akubra fur felt Aussie slouch hat from David Morgan in Seattle. I'm kneeling amidships on three PFD cushions to trim the canoe properly. Everything I just mentioned cost me less than $1,200 brand new if the canoe is the Guide and less than $1,600 if the canoe is the OTCA.

The OTCA eventually "disappeared" around 2005 in the custody of a canoe restorer.
 
My guess would be an Otca based on the height of the ends. See the 1982 catalog page and first link below for a comparison. The 1983 catalog at the second link below shows an $1800 list price for a 17 foot Otca and $1750 for the 16 foot Guide. The natural finish was $62 extra, the painter rings were $19, a spruce paddle was $38, and the Omega life jacket was $46.50. Dealers commonly sold things for less than the list prices.

Benson


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The identification would be easy if the canoe were in profile, but the foreshortening of the head-on shot makes it more difficult. I'm pretty sure it's the OTCA and am very happy that I now have one photo of it.

I liked the Guide, which I bought in 1981, but really wanted a Molitor. I found out that a fellow named Johnny Carson (not THE Johnny Carson), who owned a marina on Lake Tahoe, had a Molitor. I drove from San Jose, where I lived for three years, to Lake Tahoe with the Guide on my old, hailstone-damaged Mazda RX to try to talk him into some sort of swap. He absolutely refused and walked away from me.

So, I spent the night in Carson City and played some blackjack.

The next day I stopped in Berkeley REI on my way home and saw this stunning 17' OTCA on a display platform. I lusted after it. Finding the manager, I managed to negotiate a trade for my Guide, which I had maintained in new-looking condition, plus $400.

Yes, my recollection is that the OT wood canoes were retailing for about $1,800 then. The literal backyard dealer I bought the Guide from was desparate to sell off his small inventory. Canoes were not that popular in California. So, I got the Guide for a bargain $900 and effectively paid $1,300 for the OTCA.
 
The build record below may be for your canoe. I didn't find any record for a 17 foot Otca that shipped directly to REI in Berkeley but this seems to match the canoe in your picture, including the painter ring.

Benson


OTC-236382.jpg
 
The build record below may be for your canoe. I didn't find any record for a 17 foot Otca that shipped directly to REI in Berkeley but this seems to match the canoe in your picture, including the painter ring.

Thanks very much, Benson. I believe you are right that it's likely the same canoe. It would make sense for REI to have boats delivered to their (then) headquarters and move them around the west coast on their own trucks.

Whitewater kayaking was big in 1980 California and at REI. But not flatwater canoeing because there are so few lakes in gigantic California, most of which are reservoirs. So, I doubt many other w/fg OTCA's with painter rings were sold by REI during that period.

Wish that canoe hadn't "disappeared" on me.
 
In 1968 my dad bought a new OTCA 17 for around $400, saying he had always wanted to own a wood and canvas canoe. He liked the traditional look of the upswept ends on the OTCA. IIRC, we drove from Sacramento to San Francisco to pick it up from a dealer there. We didn't end up paddling it all that much. With 2 parents, 3 kids and one canoe it didn't really work well for a family outing since we had to take turns paddling (although one time we did go for a short paddle with all 5 of us in the OTCA - and very little freeboard). I remember that we went to Lake Natoma (a reservoir just downstream of Folsom) several times and also paddled it on a couple of alpine lakes along hwy 88.

My dad later told me that he had wanted a red canoe but there was no red OTCA 17 available in the area so he settled on white and had bought a can of red paint but never got around to painting it red. I'm happy with the white - it is now a living room canoe at my house and red would be difficult to coordinate with living room decor.
 
I may be able to share the build record for this canoe if you can provide the serial number. The information at the link below may help if you aren't sure where to look.

Benson


 
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I may be able to share the build record for this canoe if you can provide the serial number. The information at the link below may help if you aren't sure where to look.

Benson
It is #180086. I would love to see the build record for my family's canoe if you have it - thank you!

OTCA serial number.jpg
 
The Old Town canoe with serial number 180086 is 17 foot long Otca model with a keel and a stem band along the full length of the keel. It was built between February and March, 1968. The original exterior paint color was white. It shipped on March 25th, 1968 to San Francisco, California. A scan of this build record can be found below.

This scan and several hundred thousand more were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/records/ if you want more details. I hope that you will donate, join, or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See https://www.woodencanoe.org/about to learn more about the WCHA and https://www.woodencanoe.org/shop to donate or join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Canoes with a family connection are always extra special. The list price of this canoe was $360 as shown in the 1968 catalog page below. The full length stem band was an additional $10. The link at the bottom of this page has the full 1967 catalog if you want more details. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.

Benson


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Thank you for that record Benson! The information definitely fits the family canoe I have and also my memory of us going to San Francisco to get it. I think my dad had checked with several Old Town dealers in northern California to find one that had a 17 ft OTCA in stock rather than placing an order and waiting.
 
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