Building The Flat Bottom Canoe


Why A Flat Bottom Canoe ???


I thought I would share with you an exert from a book called Dangerous River, written by a R.M. Patterson. He was not a canoeist first. He was an Adventurer/Trapper/Prospector, working in Nahanni NWT, where cars and airplanes had not been. It was the summer of 1927, and the only means of transportation was a canoe. These men needed a good solid stable craft, that could glide through still waters effortlessly, AND, run the most treacherous riffs and rapids known anywhere in the world.


The Lower Canyon must be about fourteen miles long and it took me two days to get through it. The place that nearly stuck me was not far above that first camp: there is an island in the river there; and an island well out into the stream usually means trouble since the current, splitting on the point of it, is thrown hard against the cliffs on either shore. The result is that each side is sheer and deep, affording no tracking beach and no poling bottom. This island was no exception to the rule; in fact, it was worse than most of these obstructions: the river raced past it in a fast riffle and each bank was a sheer rock wall. There was only one thing to do (at the upper end, after portaging through the middle of the island) — wade the canoe upstream from the upper point of the island until the last possible inch had been gained and the canoe floated level with the breast pockets of one's shirt. Then spring in off the river bottom, grab the paddle and let drive with it, all out, and try to catch the tail end of a sandy beach on the right shore before being swept backwards down the riffle.

Twice I was whirled down close under the canyon wall, and the third time I made it — just. The hardest thing in making one of these crossings off an island is to balance the canoe at exactly the right angle before jumping in. An inch or two off centre and the canoe will sheer as you jump — and you might as well make a fresh start. The nose of the canoe must split the current exactly, with the very slightest bias towards the shore you are making for. When you have it that way, jump and put all you know into it!
And why doesn't the canoe upset when you jump in? And what about the load? You must fetch in two or three quarts of water every time you try this stunt — surely the whole outfit must get completely soaked by the end of the day?
Well, for one thing you're not using a round-bottomed, tippy pleasure canoe: you're using a work canoe. I had a sixteen-foot Chestnut, Prospector Model, thirty-six inches wide and fourteen inches deep — a canoe with beautiful lines but fairly flat-bottomed: load three or four hundred pounds of outfit into that and you've got a pretty stable canoe — something you won't upset at all easily. You can stand up and pole in it, you can crawl about over the load in it and pull yourself upstream by handholds in the canyon wall, and you can put all your weight onto the gunwale on one side of it and still it won't upset from that cause alone.
Faille had an eighteen-foot freight canoe — also a Chestnut. His canoe was forty-six inches wide and eighteen inches deep, and when that was loaded down solid you could go for a stroll over the load and it would barely alter the trim. Faille was using a 3½hp outboard, and he had it out on a home-made bracket, not off to one side as one sometimes sees them, but where it should be — directly behind the stern of the canoe. He had no use for a square-ended canoe, specially shaped to take an outboard, and, after running one down the Cache Rapid two years ago, neither have I.

R.M. Patterson

The Dangerous River


Imagine the complete joy in building an awesome canoe.

Imagine shooting a river with your buddies, and they are in their own canoe that they bought, and when you land on a nice sandy shore, someone walks up and says "Nice canoe" you can respond first, with "Thank you" because you know they are looking at your awesome homebuilt canoe.



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Building The Flat Bottom Canoe