Last time I said I would tell about the time I traversed the Marion River Carry. First I need to tell you about the vessel I used to make the trip. It is called an Airolite Canoe and was devised by a fellow named Platt Monfort of Westport, ME. It is basically an assemblage of thin sticks in the shape of a canoe covered with heat-shrinkable Dacron aircraft fabric. I make his Snowshoe 12 model that is 11′ 8″ long and weighs 13 lbs.
Here she is:
An Airolite Ultra-lite Canoe
The impetus behind going lightweight was a canoe trip my son, Stew, and I took over Labor Day of 1987. With nothing but a Coleman “Tupperware” canoe, we set out on the three day trip. The canoe plus our gear probably weighed 90 lbs. This mass had to be carried, dragged, slid, or however transported over some mighty long carries. Both Stew and I remember the blow-downs. Here are some smaller ones. The canoe had to be lifted up and over them. Some of the downed trunks were at eye level.
Blow-downs on a carry.
A succession of these carries will wear you down.
A long day!
Stew reminded me that we often resorted to dragging the canoe by its painters along the carry. We left an orange trail on the rocks in our wake. The Coleman hardly noticed.
I remember one embarrassing incident. Somewhere around Saranac Lake we lost our bearings on a carry. That is not too hard to fathom since we were carrying the boat on our shoulders and our vision was limited. At one point I looked down and saw a manicured pathway. Something was not right so I told Stew that we needed to have a look around. The canoe was let down with a crash. We were left standing, rather dazed, right next to a tee on the Saranac Country Club. Of course, a foursome was just teeing off.
Our trip ended at the Saranac Lakes. The are three of them, Upper, Middle, and Lower, are arranged in a horseshoe fashion. We entered at Upper and spent the night on Norway Island on Middle Saranac Lake. Here is a view of Norway Island.
More on Monfort’s airolite canoes. I have build probably a dozen of them. He makes them easy to build for a novice. That is both good and bad. For example, refrigerator-grade cardboard is used for the molds, or stations. This is to accomodate the stringers, the longitudinal 3/8″ square cross sectional wooden members that are tied to each each rib. The stringers fit into a notch in each station. Once each rib is connected to the stringers to complete the hull framework, the cardboard stations are cut away to free the hull.
This shows the stringers and ribs.
The disadvantage of this scheme is that the cardboard is not very stable but “wanders”. The stringers sometimes come away from the glue holding them to the stations.
I improved upon this scheme by using 1/4″ plywood for the stations and backing them up using heavier stock. The stations are cut in half and then screwed back together on the backing. When it comes time to remove the hull framework, the molds are unscrewed and freed from the notches in the mold.
For backup I used the stations that I used to build the Sairy Gamp. Here is one of them.
The stringers are tied down temporally to the mold using heavy rubber bands wrapped around them and hooked around screws on the mold.
Here are some other modifications that I made:
- Ribs are from 3/16″ X 1/2″ flat sawn ash stock soaked in water for at least a week. When it comes time to attach them to the hull I heat them in hot water until they become like a wet noodle and then clamp them in place. Let them dry for a few days, drill a 1/16″ pilot hole centered on the rib and stringer, and secure them with a clinched copper tack.
- Eliminate the fiberglass roving. In my opinion, it serves no structural purpose and takes time to do.
- Put two thwarts in the hull, one forward and one aft. Otherwise the hull will take on a “pinched” shape. Make sure the thwarts are securely attached to the hull. Since you sit on the bottom of the canoe they provide support for your back. Several times I have had them come loose with a loud crack and I end up sprawled on my back in the bottom of the canoe.
The canoe is covered with aircraft heat-shrinkable Dacron. You can get it from Aircraft Spruce and Specialty. Order the heaviest grade you can which is 2.95 oz.
Covering the hull is a lot easier than I first did it using aircraft fabric adhesive. Yuck, what a mess. Now you use something called Heat n’ Bond, a fabric adhesive that is ironed onto the substrate. Get the heaviest duty you can.
Heat n’ Bond comes in strips 1/2″ wide. You remove the cover sheet on one side and iron it on with an ordinary clothes iron. Here I apply it to the keelson.
You do the same to the inwales and lay the Dacron cloth over the hull.
Next you adhere the cloth around the midships using a iron at medium heat. Pull the cloth down so that it is still a little loose fitting and then glue it along about a 12″ to 18″ area. Do this on both sides. Now shrink the cloth by slowly passing a steam iron an inch or so above the cloth. Take your time. Don’t over shrink the cloth.
Now move down along the hull towards the stems gluing the cloth over about a foot or so to the inwale and shrinking the cloth as you go along.
As you get to the stems you need to apply the Heat n’ Bond to the stem. Here we are doing that and gluing the Dacron.
Once the cloth is secured to the stems you need to go back over the hull and get the cloth uniformly tight.
Now she is ready for two coats of marine spar varnish to render her water tight.
These little boats weigh about 18 lbs. and are easy to carry. Just hoist them onto your shoulder and use a thwart as a handle. They can carry in excess of 200 lbs.
They track well even in a stiff breeze. A surprise was that the hull was translucent so that you can see the wavelets as they pass along the hull,
Now we are ready to make the circuit from Blue Mountain Lake to Long Lake. I’ll tell you about it next time.