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From Dream to Reality by Peter Morrison, Nepean, ON Canada

Posted on June 12 2014

By Peter Morrison

My dream of building a Bear Mountain boat started in the mid 1980s when I was in University and I bought a copy of Canoecraft.  I couldn’t believe that someone with average carpentry skills could build such a beautiful and functional canoe.  Twenty-five years later, after I purchased an updated copy of Canoecraft, and after having taken a course from Ted in 2009, I started building my own boat in August of 2009, and launched it in May of 2010.  Since then, I have paddled it in Killarney, Georgian Bay, all up & down the Ottawa & Madawaska Valleys, in Frontenac, Charleston Lake, and Bon Echo provincial parks, and of course, throughout my favourite park, Algonquin.  It has been on solo trips, group trips, as well as Scouting canoe camps.  Everywhere I go, at put-ins, take-outs, and portages, gas stations, and even in stop-and-go traffic, people stop to admire the canoe, and to ask about its construction.

I have canoed extensively all my life with a modern “engineered” canoe, which is functional, but I always yearned for a boat that looked like a traditional canoe; made of wood, with the curved, upswept ends.  To that end, I selected the Champlain model to build myself.  I had a colleague who had built a Redbird and while I really liked that model as well, I couldn’t have built that without extending my garage, which was a larger project that I was willing to entertain.

The construction went very much according to our experience from the course, with very few problems that hadn’t been discussed or encountered in the course.  I would highly recommend taking the course ahead of time, as it boosts your confidence level, and gives you the chance to practice all the skills you will need when you construct your own, without Ted as a mentor beside you.  In addition, the week-long course was just a very nice week spent in a relaxing setting, with seven other boat-builders with the same dream.  I have only average woodworking skills, and was leery about a couple of the steps as outlined in the book, but after working through them in the course, they proceeded much like was described in the book.  When I built my own boat, I did everything myself except for having a bit of help in steaming and bending the stems, and having someone mix the epoxy for me while I applied it.  The building process was exciting, watching your boat come to life, and it certainly put all my woodworking skills to the test, but you don’t need to be a master carpenter to build one of these boats.

It’s an incredible experience to explore Canada’s wilderness in a boat that you have hand-crafted, encountering wildlife up close, and exploring new lakes and rivers.  I highly recommend the experience to any outdoor enthusiast.

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