By Meade Gougeon
As a life long sailor, I have always had some mystical attraction to the canoe. As
a young man, I read the exploits of my French Canadian ancestors who plied our
beautiful Great Lakes for over two centuries in their birchbark canoes in
pursuit of the fur trade. More recently, I followed the adventures of Verlen
Kruger as he traveled by kayak from Alaska to South America. I fantasized that
someday I could embark on a similar adventure that would follow some of the
historical routes of the "voyageurs"on the Great Lakes.
the years, I had tried various types of canoes and kayaks and, while I enjoyed
the paddling and the healthy exercise it demanded, I quickly discovered that I
was never going to be like the voyageurs who could make 60 miles in their
12-14 hour day of paddling. Even with lots of training, 20 miles seemed like a
stretch, especially if one had to repeat the feat day after day as Verlen Kruger
has done. Many times, I dreamed of some type of small sail that could relieve
the drudgery of continuous paddling. I assumed, however, that there was no
possibility of a happy marriage between a serious paddling canoe and an
efficient sailing craft.
view changed on August 26, 1998, when I attended a small boat symposium near
Saginaw, Michigan. On a small man-made lake next to the expressway, I watched an
impressive sailing canoe go through its paces. The wind was light, perhaps 6-8
knots, and this canoe was moving smartly for what seemed an unusually small
amount of sail area. What was most intriguing was how well it was performing to
weather, easily tacking within 90 degrees to me the measure of a true sailboat. Its
other attractive feature was that it wasn't an open canoe nor a confining
kayak, but a decked canoe with an open cockpit and molded seat. It showed
comfort and seaworthiness could be mutually compatible goals.
was impressed: this craft had been carefully conceived to offer the best
possible combination of paddling and sailing. I waited on the beach to meet its
creator, Hugh Horton, who told me that this canoe was just the latest evolution
of a historic movement that started over 130 years ago. For the next several
weeks, I could hardly get the concept out of my mind.
soon traveled down to Horton's Boat Works, trying to buy his sailing canoe, Puffin.
Hugh wasn't about to sell his beloved Puffin, but he did offer to build me a new
sailing canoe which would incorporate his latest thinking in what Hugh calls "the 50/50 cruising
took delivery of Serendipity last
summer. Even on the first sail she proved to be everything I had hoped for. She
paddled and sailed beautifully. But the best part was that she was without
question the most comfortable boat I had ever been - in a greater priority in
one's 60's than in one's 20's! This was a craft I could enjoy well into
my senior years.
began my education in canoe cruising in the fall of 1999 with a 20 mile trip up
the Saginaw River that was more fun than I ever imagined small boat cruising
could be. Now I was really hooked and we completed three more cruises on the
Saginaw and its tributary rivers before the late fall cold weather set in. This
year we followed some of the routes of my voyageur ancestors though the North
Channel on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. And I'm dreaming now of an
extended voyage in the future that could take us all the way back to Montreal
via the old fur trading routes.
Epoxyworks 16 / Fall 2000
Copyright © 2002, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, is expressly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. EPOXYWORKS, Gougeon Brothers, WEST SYSTEM, Episize, Scarffer and Microlight as used throughout this publication, are trademarks of Gougeon Brothers, Inc., Bay City, Michigan, USA.