Like many things associated with the Hide-Away Canoe Club, long-term relationships are important. When we were planning our first big trip, the 55-day, 1,000-mile Journey Across the Barrenlands in 1985, we thought we'd scored a coup. The Hudson's Bay Company's 25-year U-Paddle Service was coming to an end and their boats were available for sale. This was a nice fit as the man we were honouring on that trip inspired the program. We were planning to paddle and officially name a small river that flows into Garry Lake after Eric Morse, Canada's Dean of Wilderness Canoeists, who had come up with the idea of having canoes available to rent between far-flung HBC posts. This was the perfect arrangement since most northern trips ended in some small isolated village that had been serviced by the HBC for generations. We were promised three of the canoes by the HBC's PR person -- who subsequently forgot completely about it and sold every canoe. We were in a panic and several calls to possible sponsors went out.
One call was to Steve Krautkremer of 100-year-old Old Town Canoe in Maine. We had heard good things about their Tripper series of boats and their material -- an ABS laminate made with Royalex® -- was touted as being really tough and wouldn't stick to rocks! Steve immediately said he would help and gave us a great deal and has done so many times over the years, including the three 17-foot red Trippers for Labrador Odyssey
I vividly recall running our first rapids with our new Trippers. It was on the upper Dubawnt River in Nunavut. We had used aluminum canoes for a couple of years previously and when we came upon a relatively small set of shallow, rocky rapids experience taught us to get ready to jump out and pull the canoe over rocks, as aluminum takes to rocks like cat hair on a dark suit. To our great surprise and delight the canoe slithered over those rocks. Welcome to the world of Royalex! Today, we've got Trippers stashed in Yellowknife and George River. It's cheaper to keep them there for possible future use than to bring them back, which, unless you charter, is a very expensive and difficult business.
Whatever material you want in a canoe (from traditional wood and canvas to bullet-proof Kevlar), where you paddle will dictate the shape of canoe and its composition -- there are dozens of hull types, shapes, and materials available. For our uses, paddling northern lakes and whitewater rivers, we need a canoe that can carry a large load and handles well in rapids, which means a broad and flat bottom hull, upturned ends (called rocker) and no keel. These requirements, however, mean trade-offs. For a freighter-like capacity and maneuverability in rapids, we give up the ability to keep the canoe on track (going straight), especially on windy lakes.
For more about the Tripper and other great Old Town canoes, visit www.oldtowncanoe.com
. If you're looking for information about canoes and canoe shapes, invest in Bill Mason's outstanding books, Path of the Paddle and Song of the Paddle
or Gary and Joanie McGuffin's Paddle Your Own Canoe