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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. SWEETWATER

    SWEETWATER LOVES Wooden Canoes

    how come no mention of the kronje', a great tripping chestnut that is lighter and faster than the prospector
     
  2. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    The Cronje is a lovely craft but not what I am looking for at the present moment.

    Also, I am not concerned about fine detail and mirror finishes. I'm looking for tripping canoes that will be knocked around with big loads in hard conditions. They will see a fair amount of white water and just general hard use. My primary concern is good solid construction and a good tripping hull design.

    I'll keep my eyes open. I understand your comments about the forms getting old and useless. Seems like someone should preserve them. They are a part of the Canadian heritage. Here is a shot of the Fort that is being constructed for me right now.

    Headwaters 2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  3. Mark Z.

    Mark Z. LOVES Wooden Canoes

    According to Ken Solway's book, the 17 foot Prospector (Garry) form was bought by Don Fraser, which you already know. There were other 17 foot forms for the Garry but he does not list any buyers. His own brochure, however, does list a 17 foot Garry (available '99) and claims "Only our canoes are true Chestnuts, still built on the original Prospector forms!" lending one to believe that he had acquired an original Garry form. Of course, Ken having passed away is not building any now and I am not aware of anyone having acquired his forms.
    However, there is a website for Great Spirit Canoes (http://www.greatspiritcanoes.com/html/canoes.htm) in Oromocto, New Brunswick, which appears to be a native canoe venture which claims to build both 16 and 17 foot Prospectors. Informational details on their website are few but an direct inquiry might elicit information on the source of their forms, especially if one were an potential buyer. Good luck and I would be interested if you find out that they do have original Chestnut forms.
    I might add that I once owned a 17 foot Garry built in the 1960's. It was a crudely built canoe but paddled beautifully. The problem was that it weighed 92 pounds dry and after a trip was a challenge for an old fat guy to pick up and load onto my vehicle. I sold it to a young, strong blacksmith with much stronger muscles! and built a 17.5 foot Atkinson Traveler (78 lbs.) which I love.
    I would recommend that if you have Headwaters build your Garry, you ask them to build a lightweight version.
    We will be interested in hearing the rest of your story. Happy Paddling.
    Mark Z.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    This Headwaters Fort will be built for tripping - ie not light - but the canvas will be No. 10 and filler will be Butyrate so I am told to expect it to weigh in at around 70 Lbs. I decided to try the Butyrate after good reports from others. It is not cheap - but like most I am not getting any younger. 70 Lbs. should be fine. To some extent I think it is the weight of WC that gives it the feel that I enjoy so much when paddling. Its a love/hate thing. I have owned light kevlar prospector knock offs and I must say they do not do it for me.

    Butyrate with no. 10 canvas is billed as being both lighter and significantly more rugged than no. 8 canvas with traditional filler. I mulled this over quite a bit before deciding to spend the money. Still going back and forth. One downside is that you cannot simply slap a coat of paint on it. You have to apply a "rejuvenator" and then apply a fresh coat of pigmented butyrate. Not hard to do I am told but certainly more trouble and expense than a simple recoat with marine enamel.

    The Headwaters folks list their version of the Garry at 82 Lbs. That could be reduced quite a bit if you were to go with Butyrate filler. Maybe 75Lbs?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  5. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Have you considered a shellacked bottom? That's what I did with mine and it sure is easy to take care of, for a canoe whose bottom is scraped up a lot. Maybe no help on weight reduction though.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Yes. But I have made the decision to go with Butyrate and light canvas and at this point there is no going back on that. I don't think shellack is necessary with Butyrate. Might not even stick - I'm not sure. I hope I don't regret this decision. We'll see. Here is a more recent photo of my Fort - Should be ready for a spring trip.

    Headwaters 16.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  7. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    It might be useful for someone to look into and publish in Wooden Canoe a fresh take on the Prospector and the Chestnut legacy, post the company’s closing. After all that is what the WCHA is for. I took a shot at this in 2000, with an article published in the Boundary Waters Journal (a short version is available at the WCHA main page http://wcha.org/legacypages/literature/prospector/prospector.html). I’m not keen to dig into it myself again. But that was before Ken Solway (and his Chestnut Canoe Company) passed away.

    Certainly the Prospector as a brand has a reputation and resiliency that’s pretty durable and unique. In the Norumbega chapter the canoe is pretty highly ranked. But it would be helpful to check into who is building them and why, and who is not and why not. Its sort of the canoe that won't go away.
     
  8. walt

    walt Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    You will not regret your decision rpg...from everything you've said the Headwaters Fort is the boat for you and the weight saved with butyrate is worth it. They make great canoes, after all they use them all the time, and use them hard. You may find you won't need the Garry but it sure would be nice to have...can't have too many canoes now can you?
    As an aside, Ken Solway considered the Prospector a "dangerous canoe" after his infamous incident with his Garry on the Petawawa. He actively discouraged people from buying them which may be why he wouldn't build you one Giiwedin.
     
  9. Mark Z.

    Mark Z. LOVES Wooden Canoes

    rpg51,
    This has been a very interesting thread. Will you be bringing your new Fort to the Assembly this summer? I would be interested in seeing it with the butyrate filler.
    Mark Z.
     
  10. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    To me, it all boils down to the fact that, because Chestnut closed (and made some pretty poor quality canoes for a time), the authenticity link is broken or dubious. The clones and knock-offs make people fearful they are not getting the real thing. And even Solway, who set out to preserve the integrity of the Chestnut “trademark,” was not too keen to crank out Prospectors for novice paddlers. “Original” forms are one (possibly dubious) connection to authenticity. Let’s face it. Any competent canoe builder can build a perfectly accurate Prospector form.

    So the Prospector buyer these days has to be an educated consumer. There are lots of Indian Girl models and general purpose recreational canoes to choose from, but only one Prospector. That's why I think a new article on who is building them these days would be useful: there's no other way to keep the legacy honest.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I do not have any knowledge or experience about forms and building forms etc. The only thing I have done with WC canoes is to do a "nose job" and recanvas on an old town about 20 years ago. I loved that canoe and it taught me a thing or two. I also learned that I really prefer to paddle WC. The problem was that the model I repaired is not well suited to my style of paddling which is 90% tripping. So I sold it. Now I am hearing the clock ticking big time and I realize that I only have so many trips left in me. I know I want to do them in wood canvas and I have the resources so that is what I am going to do - by hook or by crook.

    My desire to have the canoe built on an original form may well be based on a naive and incorrect assumption that the original form will ensure that I get an exact reproduction - only better built. I don't know. I do accept that Chestnut had a period of time at the end when the construction quality dropped off. But I had not previously understood that the design of those canoes dropped off in the later years because of form deterioration. I must say it seems to me that if you know you have an original form then you are more likely to end up with an accurate reproduction so long as you building skills are high and the builders aim is to build a true reproduction. But again, that may be naive of me. I'm not a builder and I don't claim to know. I can see how the concept of "original" may be an illusion if the design changed over the years as forms deteriorated and new forms were built with varying degrees of success and care.

    Also, I want to be clear that I do not mean to imply that the only high quality hull is one that is an accurate reproduction of the original. I believe in progress and certainly there may be ways to improve the Prospector hull design. But my choice right now is to try to find an accurate reproduction. So my thoughts about the Garry are that if I do have one built I want to do everything I can to find a good builder who can recreate the original. Whether it is done with an original form or not is not important to me. Accuracy of the reproduction is important to me.

    As to the suggestion that the Garry is dangerous - frankly I think that is a ridiculous notion. That model has safely carried thousands of people on lengthy trips all over the far north for generations, including teenagers in camps on Temagami. I will say this - the kevlar Fort reproduction that I previously owned was not a boat for an inexperienced paddler looking to tool around the local quiet waters. It was excellent in white water with a load. Otherwise it was a tough boat and not something that I would recommend to anyone, experienced or otherwise. I have paddled WC Forts and that kevlar boat I had did not perform in the same way as the WC Fort, not even close. The WC Fort I paddled was delightful to paddle even in quiet water without a load. I wonder if the problem with the kevlar version might have been that it was just too light for the design. It might be that with the Prospector hull design a light weight (meaning 40 to 50 lbs.) just doesn't work well. Just a thought.

    Sorry for the long posts. I'll do better in the future! This is a great organization and I appreciate the input from all of you. I was a member twenty years ago and then I let my membership lapse. I sill have my old WCHA journals in a box in the storage room.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  12. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Interesting to me that you found the prospector form in Kevlar a completely different beast than in w/c. I have no experience of it, but common sense tells me that would be true. Both weight and hull rigidity would be so different. Weight in a canoe equals momentum. You can’t get past that. I have never paddled an ultra-lite, but it doesn’t even sound like that would be fun to me.

    Re design improvements, one thing Jerry Stelmok does that I think would be a modest enough improvement is that he extends the outwale past the tip, then bends a brass fitting (v-shaped) binding both outwales together at their tips. I like that feature.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I like the brass cap feature also. I'm not sure how Jerry does it exactly. Old Town uses a brass cap on its wood trimmed royalex boats - like the Ranger, which I own. My experience is that the design on my Ranger is very pretty and functional as far as holding things together, but it contributes to the development of rot in the ends because it holds water, especially when the boat is stored upside down. Again, I'm not sure what Jerry does in this regard - maybe his design is better at allowing water to drain. Sounds like he just folds a piece of brass around the end? Do you have a picture of it by any chance?
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  14. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    It appears that Jerry does just fold a piece of non-ferrous metal around the end as shown at http://webservices.phdcon.com/inven...427_52471.jpg&width=310&height=475&crop=false and http://webservices.phdcon.com/inven...57_164401.jpg&width=640&height=424&crop=false on his web site. The Old Town style is shown at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/covers/large-85.gif and could trap some water when inverted although a small hole could be drilled to reduce this problem.

    Benson
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  15. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Rollin does the same sort of thing. It's one of the "working canoe" nuances added by these Maine builders.
    Here you can see the holes being drilled to install the plate on my sons Traveler . Once it's tacked on it is shaped to form. The caps protect the ends from bruising when you roll the boat up on it's side and while it bounces off the ground every now and then while you are carrying.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Larry Meyer

    Larry Meyer Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Standard chestnut outwales end at the stem band – too short, in other words, for this feature. Their ends are usually beveled back even. So you would have to get your outwales cut longer, a custom job. The stem band bends back over the deck usually, which I am not crazy about. Jerry’s method is better for tip protection and looks more finished, I think.
     
  17. Mark Z.

    Mark Z. LOVES Wooden Canoes

    To see why Ken Solway felt that the Prospector design was "dangerous" one should read the account in his book about the incident that he experienced. And, then decide for oneself whether he is correct. In my opinion, the incident did not justify the epithet "dangerous" for the canoe, but an example of poor judgement of the canoeist. Bill Mason said that in a high wind the deep Prospector was more difficult to control but being windbound was not necessarily a bad thing.
    The brass and copper gunwale caps that Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow affix to their canoes are closely formed to the shape of the gunwales and bedded in Dolfinite to prevent water accumulation. After building canoes for 30 years, I am sure Jerry and Rollin have some experience with the condition of the gunwale tips of canoes they built many years ago and have come back to the shop for repair. I have not asked them that specific question but I suspect if there were a problem they would not still be doing it.
     
  18. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I suppose you could argue a canoe with low sides is dangerous because in heavy waves it fills up and sinks. I have not read the account - but I am very skeptical. We are responsible for ourselves and our crew. We must know the reasonable limits of our craft, anticipate danger, and avoid it. I agree with Bill - if its unsafe take a layover and relax a little bit. What the heck is the rush anyway?

    As far as the copper/brass end plate. I agree that is looks very nice and that it probably affords some protection from bumps etc. I also agree those two builders know what they are doing and I am sure they would not be using that method if it induced rot. The old town caps do induce rot in my personal experience. But these are very different. There is more to their approach then just the metal end plate. The inner gunwales are tapered quite a bit. That gives a nice look that I have always preferred. Also, the decks are often raised a bit which is a very pretty touch. They are building really nice canoes with beautiful details and finish and their fees are commensurate with the quality of their work, as they should be.

    Personally, I like the idea of a working canoe. Well built and tough. Maybe a little rough around the edges. A knot here and there. My canoes are going to get beat up and a lot of the time and effort (and money) that goes into fine finish work is wasted on me because in two years the finish work on the canoe is going to be all banged up. I take the view that my tripping canoes are like old pick up trucks. That goes for wood canvas as well. So the extra money for beautiful finish work is not something I am willing to part with.
     
  19. walt

    walt Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Although it is true that many fine cedar-canvas canoe reproductions are being built on new forms I can understand rpg's desire to find an original. Many of us WC owners wax on about the romance of the wood canoe and the story and history that comes with each boat. I would extend those feelings and attachments to the forms on which they were and are built. Many a time I have stared slack-jawed at Hugh Stewart's old Kruger form (that must be at least 80 years old now) and wondered just how many canoes has it given birth to, and how much I would like the next one to be mine. Sigh...maybe one day.

    Finally, as another aside, it must be said that most of the composite "prospectors" out there that I have paddled have very little in common with the canoe whose name they take other than, well, the name. Although their designers will certainly tell (sell?) you a different story. Caveat emptor :)
     
  20. OP
    OP
    rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Yea, I guess being honest there is something about the fact that my Fort is being built on an original Chestnut form that does gives me sort of a psychic connection with paddlers from another era who traveled the rivers of the north in the very same craft. Perhaps it is an illusion - I don't know - but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

    Here it is coming off the form - Headwaters 13.jpg
     

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