Date: 7 February 2015.
Guest author Douglas G. Pollard Sr. aboard S/V Sea Legs.
To date, our most prolific author
The Writer's Block
is Douglas Pollard, Sr. His latest entry is about restoring an Old
Town Canoe. I suspect all of us have regrets about choices made when
younger and this tale touches on that. Mostly though it's about a
fixer-upper named Tern.
In the spring of my eleventh year I was shown a canoe hanging
in a shed at a farm near home by a schoolmate. He wanted to buy it
wanted me to go half-ers with him. Well my half was five dollars and
had my half from mowing lawns.
A couple weeks went by and he still
didn't have his half. I dug a ditch, got ten dollars for the job,
canoe and lost a friend. I have never gotten over feeling guilty
She was an eighteen foot Old Town
Canoe with *sponson sides.
She looked pretty bad with all her varnish peeling, her thin
rotted in places and both tips had rotted out and needless to say
her canvas was shot. She had been hanging upside down in a leaky old shed
A sponson is an attachment
that keeps your canoe from tipping over. It adds floatation at
the *gunnels. I've created something similar on Algae. The
fenders add stability, much like a sponson would.
*Gunnels are the top edge
of the hull. "Over the gunnels" is a bad thing as you
getting water in your boat.
The sponson is generally one
long tube placed on each side of the canoe. J.
Thinking back I probably got robbed at ten dollars in those
think the year was 1945 and ten dollars was hard to come by.
We had a basement I could work in.
By myself under my father's directions I stripped her down by removing her sponsons, canvas
and mahogany trim. I replaced the rotted sections of planking with
orange crate wood that was about 1/8" thick, perfect for the job and
the advantage of being free.
Her frames were still in good shape
for the tops of them up high in her ends.
[Improper storage often causes a lot of problems. Proper
restoration is not easy. J.]
We took her outside and I
scrubbed her down with lye and hot water. She was varnished inside
had several coats of paint. It was blistered and peeling. The lye
things up one coat at a time.
We had some old window frames behind a
shed and I broke pieces of glass out of them to use as scrapers.
worked pretty good. I could score them with a piece of tool bit from
fathers lathe and break them pretty much to the shape I wanted. I
them rounded to fit the curvature of the inside of the hull.
is sharp on all edges so I cut myself several times everyday. One of
older friends, a buddy of mine said I was saving her by way of
Airplane dope was bought at the local airport really cheap because it was gunmetal blue, mixed by accident and so was nearly
worthless. Many boys in the neighborhood including myself built model
airplanes so airplane dope and its ability to tighten cloth was
The canvas to cover the hull was paid for by mixing mortar with
a hoe in two separate mixing boxes for a neighbor who was building a
cement block home.
I will never forget the shouts at me by the cigar
chewing old Italian brick layer. Too wet, too dry, more mortar, too
keep up boy or I'll get me a wop to mix my mortar.
I have never done
anything harder in my life.
On Monday I had been replaced by a
black fellow nearly grown with shoulders too wide to go through the
The old brick layer called me puny. I guess he was right but I
got paid enough to buy my canvas and I was too excited over that to
Rebuilding the tips of the canoe was a pay grade above my know-how so my older brother who was a really good woodworker and
worked part time for Owens yacht Company rebuilt the tips for me using mahogany.
By late fall the boat was covered and painted. She was powder blue
with white on top the sponsons. Her interior
and trim were varnished.
This photo of a similar canoe is
courtesy of Charlie:
Find more about this wonderful canoe at:
The lye had bleached the wood and it really
was pretty. The mahogany trim was stained and set out dark against
really light colored interior. The contrast was a real eye popper.
I was somewhat of an artist for my age so I named her Tern and
painted a flying tern, white with yellow feet and bill on each side
For Christmas I was given a really beautiful set of rather expensive paddles for her. My father painted them blue with the varnished
wood going down in a 'v' almost to the bottom of the blade. They
had a narrow
white band around the top of the shaft and a half inch stripe up and
down the vee with the rest of the blade natural with several coats
I was more proud of those paddles than any thing I have
ever been given by anyone.
Bear Creek is off the
Patapsco River. That's in the northern part of the Chesapeake.
We had a warm week in January and my
father and I went canoeing. And I learned to properly paddle a canoe.
We boys paddled that canoe all over Bear Creek and every other
nearby piece of water that summer.
G. Pollard Sr. aboard S/V Sea Legs.
The canoe photograph is from
is used with his permission. See more at:
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