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Who has the Chestnut form for the 17' Prospector?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by rpg51, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I read that Don Fraser (NB) bought one from Chestnut in late 70s early 80s. Is he still building? If not, is someone else building on an original form for the Prospector 17?
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2014
  2. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Forms went in many directions, including but not limited to Ken Solway, and http://headwaterscanoes.ca/canoes/history/
    When i last spoke to Don, he let me know that his forms will end up at Camp Keewaydin, who he of course supplied for many years. Dont know who would be building on a 17' though.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Do you know if he is still building canoes?
     
  4. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    I believe he's done. If you have a chance to get one of his boats, get one. They are very well made - much better than Chestnut had put out in decades.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I'm looking to have one built - searching for a good builder with an original form for the Prospector 17. Authenticity is important to me. Also quality building is obviously very important, even more so. I'm of an age where I don't really have the time to wait for a good used boat to pop up. I am looking for a canoe to trip with and it will get rough treatment so not looking for "pretty" so much as "rugged". I don't want to use a restored Chestnut because I feel they are basically antiques and I would not feel right beating it up on long trips. Life is short and its time to spend the last 10 years or so that I will likely be able to continue tripping paddling the boats I have always wanted. I need to find someone in the Northeast US, Quebec or Ontario. I know a builder in Quebec that has an original form for the Fort (16) and what I believe is a very good reproduction of the original form for the 17 and I might end up going with that. I'm having a Fort built now for this spring. I will do the 17 next year.
     
  6. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    In case it might bear on your selection, I favor the view that a 16 foot prospector, as a tripping canoe, is the equal of a 17 foot (and maybe larger) anything else. For load carrying capacity or whatever. I have 17 footer. Steve Lapey builds them on a 16 foot form and is perfectly content with a 16-footer on his trips. I think ditto Fitz. I recall, from reading, that Sigurd Olsen was content with a 16 foot Prospector.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I do have some experience with this as well and I think there are times for a 16 and there are times for a 17. I paddle solo quite a bit but not exclusively and so I am starting with the Fort. I'll use my royalex trippers when I want a bigger hull for now. But I want to have a Prospector 17 as well if I can possibly swing the money. I'm done with plastic (well maybe not 100% done). Paddling tandem in a Fort with a couple of weeks of supplies is certainly doable but in my opinion it is not ideal with old out of shape and overweight men, especially if there are rough lakes and whitewater involved as there always seems to be! I do like the weight savings with the Fort v. Gary on portages. I just think as I said that there are times when a 17 is better. But I do know what you mean. That Fort is a very big hull and will take you though tough spots. There is a lot of truth to what you are saying. The other thing is that the extra foot in the middle of the hull helps you keep the load low and under the gunwales which is a good thing.

    I suppose its possible that after paddling this Fort this year I may conclude I don't need a 17. We'll see.
     
  8. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Good. Just so you’re aware of it. There are a lot of 16 footers that are not up to the load hauling you need for tripping. I am content with a 17 footer and, being the way I am, if I had to choose which to take on a trip, I know there would always be times when I would spoil things by thinking I should have taken the other!
     
  9. paddler123

    paddler123 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I own a Headwaters 17' Prospector. It's not off of an original form, but it is well built and a delight to paddle even with a heavy load. It's pretty heavy though, since it was built for summer camp use.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Good to hear that endorsement. Headwaters is building a Fort for me as we speak.
     
  11. Giiwedin

    Giiwedin Gouvernail

    If you are taking a serious canoe trip (say three weeks or more, without reprovisioning), you will want the Garry (17'). It is carries quite a bit more than a 16'. I paddled the 17' over 3,000 miles across much of Canada. The quality of Chestnut building at the time was quite poor, but the design was first rate. It's not light, but very tough and seaworthy. It's probably the best tripping canoe I've paddled. Get a well-made one of the original design (there are many Prospector copies on the market that depart from the original), and you'll have a great boat.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  12. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Even a measly two week trip could be enhanced by a Gary. But your post begs the the original question - where to get a new Gary built on an original Chestnut form?

    I assume you are speaking of tandem paddling. The Fort is ideal for solo paddling on a "serious" trip, don't you think?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  13. Giiwedin

    Giiwedin Gouvernail

    Right, I don't think you'd want to solo a 17' on a long wilderness trip. Too much to handle.

    Ken Solway had a Garry form back in the late 90s, but I don't know what happened to it. I wouldn't shy away from taking a vintage 17' on a long trip. As long as it isn't decrepit, there's nothing preventing it from performing now as well as it did when new. You'd want to be sure, of course, about the canvas, seat/thwart/yoke integrity, etc., but it is still a workhorse. I still take my 1965 out on two week trips into the Quetico every other year and it performs perfectly.

    It's pictured above.
     
  14. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Stewart River Boat Works is the only builder listed at the WCHA directory who seems to be offering a 17 footer.
    http://www.stewartriver.com/canoes/prospector.html
    His discussion of the “original forms” issue is persuasive to me. Ken Solway passed away suddenly in 2010.
    Numerous folks offer models “based on” Prospectors. Some have renamed their prospector clones. The Chicot offered by Salmon Falls sounds a lot like a prospector.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Yes, there are good builders building approximations of the Gary model. Hugh Stewart's Headwaters Canoe builds a Gary on a modern form he built with lines taken from a Gary and with the idea to duplicate the original exactly. Seems that Stewart River does the same. So that may end up being the way to go, unless a good condition vintage canoe drops in my lap in the year. I will keep my eye's open for that.

    It is surprising to me that despite the fact that there are original Chestnut forms for the Gary out there no one is building canoes on them. The Gary is widely regarding as one of the finest tandem tripping canoes ever designed. Perhaps the owners of these forms should consider passing them on to other quality builders who will build on them and maintain them.
     
  16. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    One reason that the original forms are not being used is that they may have worn out or changed shape. My understanding is that Jerry Stelmok still has an original White form that he doesn't actually use any more since it has a slight twist which makes it very hard to straighten the canoe out once it comes off the form. A detailed look at the Old Town Canoe company's build records and form inventories at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=24296&d=1360243338 indicates that they were regularly replacing forms that were no longer worth repairing. You will probably have a much easier time finding a nice old canoe or a reasonable copy than an original form that can still be used to build a high quality canoe. Good luck,

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  17. robin

    robin LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have a 17' Prospector I just restored, not yet painted that I would be willing to sell. I'm in northwest Connecticut, sounds like you live in the Northeast.
    I have 5 Chestnuts and should probably consider downsizing, so it's available if your interested.

    It's the canoe on the left in both pictures. I replaced 7 ribs and some plank, otherwise the hull was in very good condition.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I’m not sure that there is an original – as in going back to when Chestnut first produced the Prospector – form out there. The evolution of forms and modification of them is well known. Plus forms wore out and were replaced with new forms. Forms available for distribution when Chestnut closed the factory, and original forms, may have some differences. Certainly there are likely differences between w/c Prospectors built on forms and clones in Kevlar or what have you.
    You seem to have very high standards and, alongside authenticity, the quality of the builder is just as important. A lousy canoe can be built off a good form. Chestnut built a lot of poor quality canoes off its forms – and it’s amazing how many wilderness paddlers still say they were the best!
    Chestnut seemed to take the view that many of its canoes were going to get used so hard, they’d get worn out. They weren’t building heirlooms. They’d scant varnish quality and seats and trim, etc. Maybe the analogy is to Sherman tanks, not the best tank in WWII, but so cheap to build that quantity could overcome quality in construction. You wrecked one and it was easy enough to get a replacement.
     
  19. Giiwedin

    Giiwedin Gouvernail

    Why is no one building Garrys (the name has 2 r's)? I'd guess it's a combination of: (1) form loss after Chestnut cratered in the mid-1970s (the forms were probably in pretty bad shape at the time, like most of Chestnut); and (2) lack of interest in a big wood tripper when kevlar/S-glass/plastic are the material of choice for wilderness canoes.

    Ken Solway acquired a Garry mold at one point but, try as I might, I was never able to get him to build me one. His business, it seemed, was mostly recreational Chestnuts. I don't know that he ever built a Garry.

    No great wonder. It is a pretty specialized boat. Like all Prospector models, the Garry was designed for large loads in the woods. It is very deep (close to 15"). It's also very heavy. Even with #10 canvas (mine was originally supplied with #6), it's north of 85 lb after a week of paddling. That's a lot of canoe if you don't really need it. I suspect few people today want a boat that is poorly suited to general recreational paddling (unloaded, it's a sail in quarter and beam winds), and big/heavy to boot. I like mine fine for trips but, given a choice, I'll take a smaller or sleeker boat out for the afternoon spin.

    Here's my answer to the original post: find a good Prospector from the 1950s or early 1960s, refurbish it and use with good cheer. Failing that, convince Rollin Thurlow to take the lines off a good model and expand his catalog into the world of Chestnut.

    BTW, similar to Sherman Tanks, my Chestnut was pretty cheap. I bought it in 1965 for $250.
     
  20. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Just to chime in, I have a 17 foot Prospector too. It was built in the late 1960's and I believe originally covered in Verolite. I have rehabbed it twice and it has No. 8 canvas on it now. I have a bunch of canoes, but this one gets used the most. It is a great tripping canoe.

    Fitz.
     

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