The first canoe you ever PADDLED and the circumstances

Glenn MacGrady

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This topic is not about the first canoe you were ever in as a passenger nor the first canoe you ever owned. Rather, it's what is the first canoe you ever paddled and what were the circumstances of that occasion.

For old folks like me, I suspect the answer will often be a Grumman.

Circumstances: After retiring a baker in 1947, my maternal grandfather bought a summer camp on North Pond in Woodstock, Maine. It had no heat, no telephone, no television, and only one radio station, but a front porch with a great view of Mt. Abram (before ski slopes scarred its pristine grandeur).

Maine House View.JPG

Beginning in 1949, I, as the oldest grandchild, was sent to live with my grandparents there all summer for three months from age 5 to 16. When my twin uncles returned from the army after the Korean War in about 1952, they ordered a 16' Grumman and had it shipped by train to the station in tiny Locke's Mills, and I distinctly remember accompanying them to pick it up.

I spent every summer thereafter paddling that canoe by myself all around the lake. I experimented sitting on the stern seat, the bow seat backwards, and on our 3hp motorboat's float cushions stacked in the middle. I mainly self-taught myself the goon stroke, but also tried holding both paddles in my small hands as a double blade.

My father won a photography contest with a picture of me paddling that canoe between two birch trees, off to the left of the picture above, when I was about 12. I would love to find that picture of among his thousands of slides, but motivation dims with age.

I've lived in 21 different residences in my life, but will always consider the Maine house where I grew up every summer to be "home". The picture above has been my computer's desktop wallpaper for years.
 
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Colrain MA
18' Yellow Old Town w/c canoe that my father and I restored. We took it up to Highland Lake NH paddling with my 2 sisters and our Springer Spaniel.
 
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Northern NH
After retiring a baker in 1947, my maternal grandfather bought a summer camp on North Pond in Woodstock, Maine. It had no heat, no telephone, no television, and only one radio station, but a front porch with a great view of Mt. Abram (before ski slopes scarred its pristine grandeur).
Spent my early childhood during the same time span at Bryant Pond, but not until high school did I first paddle a friend's old WC canoe.
 
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Preeceville, Saskatchewan Canada
This image was taken at the Boy Scouts Camp Harvey West, in California. I don’t remember the year, but I was probably around 12 years old, so maybe 1959. This was the first canoe I ever ”paddled.” I am in the stern, and apparently doing some kind of stroke that remains unknown. I have no idea what the canoe is, but if someone knows, I would love to be educated!

8C13D58A-C8E5-439E-AF3E-4486F20529C4.jpeg
 
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Pickwick, MN
Mine was an aluminum rental from Ely,MN in 1965 to paddle into the BWCA with my Dad, which was before it was a designated wilderness. At that time they were still logging, most of what is now the BWCA was logged off.
 
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1964 Boy Scout Camp ( Prairie Gold ). West Lake Okoboji, Iowa.
17' Grumman. There was a canal, that was near impossible to turn around in, even if I knew how ! Ha !
I was Hooked !
 
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Appleton, Maine
I've posted this picture before. 1955, Cobden,Ontario, I'm in the bow with my two brothers, Peter and Paul behind me. The canoe is a molded plywood canoe, a "Plycraft" made in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Years later I traded a Grumman canoe for this and another canoe. Sadly, it was beyond repair when I tried to restore it but I saved the bow and stern sections, maybe someday I'll make bookcases out of these sections.
Plycraft.jpg
 
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Anchorage Alaska / Pocono Mts.
My first experience in a canoe was back in the mid sixties when I was about 7 or 8. My father stopped to visit a friend who lived on a lake and had a WC canoe tied up to their dock. They let me paddle around as far as I could go while being tied to a rope so I wouldn't float away.

My next experience was in high school paddling my friends what I now know was an EM White. We paddled it tandem and I remember it being tippy.
 
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Funny that I am not far from Locke Mills, Glenn. We will be paddling next week as the colors start to explode. My first paddling experience was in canoe class in college. You had to take phys ed and the choices were golf or canoe. I was teamed with this guy who had been following me around campus.
Yes it was a Grumman. On the Little and Grasse River in Canton NY.
The canoe went to a friend. 58 years later we are still together.
Glenn your grandmother must have had a crank phone.. That area had them until 1985
 
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Southwest Quebec
I guess I'm a bit of a late bloomer given my first canoe experience was at the age of 14.

As a child of the 70's, I've never known a Quebec that wasn't mired in language-based politics. As an anglophone Quebecer, there are certain names of politicians that can raise ire and draw dirty looks - chief among them being René Lévesque. However, there is no denying that Mr. Lévesque loved his province and he, in my eyes, did at least one great thing: ridding the public lands of private hunting clubs. These clubs dotted Quebec's boreal forests and were typically made up of one base camp with several, smaller outpost cabins. At the time of abolishment, hunt club members were given the opportunity to purchase these cabins and to lease 1 acre of the land on which each of these cabins stood.

It had been about 13 years since then and one of the cabin owners was selling. A good friend of ours already managed to secure a similar cabin a few years prior. We were invited up for a combined fishing trip / survey. We flew into the lake where the friend's cabin was located (Lac Moyre - known locally as "Fou"). We fished for a day or 2 and then made the hike to the cabin that was for sale - a good hour's walk through the woods.

Link to the old cabin

Mother Nature is particularly efficient in the north - that camp hadn't been used in a couple of years and it was showing. The scratches from bear claws showed up very well against the dark, creosoted plywood that made up the siding. *Side note - the smell of that creosote is permanently etched into my brain. Whenever there's a big roof job or some other project with boiling tar, my thoughts always return to that cabin.* There were a couple of canoes stored on some cross-members attached to 4 black spruce trees - one red fibreglass, the other a green WC. We took down the green one and set it in the lake at the end of the decrepit dock. My dad had brought his Daiwa Mini-Spin setup and he threw on a yellow beetle-spin and we set off for a tour of the lake. It wasn't too long into our trip when we hooked into a pike that outclassed our tackle by more than a sight. We chased it around the lake, taking turns fighting it and paddling the canoe. We landed it, but being on a day trip we sent it back to its inky-black home.

It was a magical day for me - not having been in the "deep" wilderness before. Not only had we flown to a remote camp, we walked an additional hour to another lake where there were no other cabins. We were completely alone and I felt it. And it's a feeling I have longed for since.

Here's a pick of the old beast:

can9-jpg.98860
 
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Living near a lake and new homes being built nearby my first boating experience was with boats (rafts) we made out of "borrowed" wood. Probably around 7 or 8 years old - no helicopter parents back then so we took them out on the middle of the lake and sank them pulled them to land and proceeded to do it over again. First real boat I owned was an Old Town row boat with a 10 HP motor on Great South Bay (Long Island) at around 10 or 11 years old that I bought with paper route money. Didn't get into a canoe until Boy Scout camp and as you'd expect it was a Grumman.
 
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Very young, no interest in paddling yet but friends and I took an aluminum canoe out just far enough to flip it over and play around coming up underneath where there was air. Yelled like crazy just to hear the sound trapped inside that metal cave. Then we progressed to gunnel pumping…anything for fun on the water in those days. Wasn’t til I became an adult that I really got interested in paddling for it’s own sake, and then it was a replacement for backpacking as it dawned on me that letting a canoe carry the load downhill was preferable to me carrying it uphill.
 
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South of Buffalo near the Stadium
My Grandfather had a summer cottage (now mine) on a small lake in Susquehanna county in northeastern PA. He purchased a 17 foot OTCA in 1931. That canoe was the first for me.
I spent summers there from the time I was 5 until 16. It is still one of my favorite places. Now, my grandkids enjoy the cottage, and the canoe.
 
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My GodFather had a camp in the early fifties, on a cypress lake in North Louisiana, and never said no when I asked if I could go paddling. My folks arrived late one day to find their 5 year old paddling alone in and out of the cypress trees. It was a narrow cypress board boat, homemade, and fell somewhere between a pirogue and a canoe. Similar construction to a cedar strip, but with 3-4" wide boards. Double ended with lower freeboard than a canoe, a simple board seat, and no thwarts. About 14' and mostly flat bottomed with zero rocker. Never had a drop of paint.

Waterlogged and heavy, they never worried about me from then on, as it was a bear to paddle, and they thought I couldn't get very far in it. Wrong.

I could run a paddle or skull before I could ride a bike. Paddling to where I wanted to fish, and skulling through the cypress trees, drowning worms or crickets, was my childhood. That graduated to frogging and duck hunting, all done with a paddle.

Some of you may think that this boat wasn't an official canoe. Granted it was more pirogue than a production canoe. But if a dugout can be considered a canoe, then I am going to claim this to be the first canoe for me.

Wish I had a picture of it. Somewhere in boxes there are some old 8mm black and white home movies my father took.

Bill
 
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First time I can recall was at a summer camp in Maine. I was maybe 12 years old, in the mid sixties. They took us on an overnight (maybe two nights) on a quiet river.Vaguely recall some practice on the camp lake to get us acquainted beforehand.I loved it. I don't remember the boat; I'd guess an aluminum.
 
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Ontario Canada
The first canoe I remember paddling looked like this.

sportspal.jpg

A neighbour had bought a brand spanking new Sportspal complete with fake birch bark paint job and foam sponsons. They ask/told me to haul it down to a nearby lake a mile away to test it out. My paddling partner would be their daughter. It was not the first time I had a sneaking suspicion they were playing matchmaker but canoeing for the day was too hard to pass up, and she was lovely company, so off we went. We were both in our early teens, young and fit. Despite that, or maybe because of it, that canoe felt impossibly heavy on the long portage thru fields and down to the lake. The lake in question was pleasant, having been made by a farmer who in the 50's decided to build an earthen dam to flood a winding creek through several acres of woodlot. He then had set up a seasonal RV park complete with concessions, full facilities, canoe rentals, and a sand beach. Although smack dab in the middle of southern Ontario farm country it was easy to forget that most days, what with a bottle of coke and a small fries laying on the beach looking down the lake. But on this day we were strictly canoeing. We explored shoreline and ventured up a winding creek before eventually turning for home. It was a first fun day of paddling leading to many more.
 
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Scituate, RI
My first paddling experience wasn't in a Grumman, but it might as well have been. I recall vividly stepping into the bow of a Michicraft aluminum canoe when I was 12, on an up-and-downriver canoe trip with my Scout troop on the Wood River in southern RI. I was hooked. My scouting experience accounted for all of my first canoe trips, both day trips and overnight weekend trips, since my family had no interest in buying a family canoe. One of my first purchases on my own after graduating college was my own canoe. That canoe is long gone, but I have 5 more in the barn, and none of them are/were aluminum.
 
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Michigammee River in Michigan's UP.

Flowing out of Lake Michigamme is the Michigamme River. I spent thousands of hours fishing this river over 50 years.

Not too far below the outflow is a serious of rapids, and depending in water levels they can be a bit spicy. My grandfather and I would drive up to fish below the rapids. Anyway, one trip there were 2 guys that wrapped their Grumman in these rapids. Gears was mostly gone. Gave them a ride to town - they had no interest in the canoe at this point. Went back in his '47 Dodge Powerwagon with a big old winch on the front and dragged the canoe out. (Learned how to drive stick in this ride at 9) My grandfather (born the same year the Titanic sunk) used to be a blacksmith. Did quite a bit of work on that canoe and while it wasn't laser straight, he made it a hell of a lot better then it was. Paddled that thing right through HS till he moved to AZ. Same guy who got me hooked on the Missinaibi River via National Geographic. Primary reason I bought my Rockstar was for this trip. Either this spring or the next I plan to go and it will be a tribute to him.
 
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