Uncle Kunkel’s Chestnut

The first step to get this project off the ground was to find a canoe. As I mentioned in the previous post, Tom had a very unique canoe (Chestnut Cruiser, probably) that is no longer manufactured. And he painted it himself with an odd concoction. Kijiji to the rescue. I spent about a week searching for a Chestnut cedar and canvas canoe online. I found quite a few, mostly in the range of $2000 – $5000. A little out of my budget. Then I came across this ad:

A little small to read here, but it says, “This Prospector Canoe by the Chestnut Canoe Company is the same make & model used by Group of Seven artist Tom Thompson.” There are 3 inaccuracies in that description, but let’s not be snobbish about it. This was THE canoe. It had to be. So early Sunday morning, I woke up Blake, packed him in a rented pickup truck, and headed to the Port Perry Yacht Club to meet the owner.

I think the members of the “Yacht Club” must have a good sense of humour. When we arrived, I had the sense of being in a trailer park on the edge of a marsh. No captain’s hats, white pants, blue blazers, or ascots here. We were greeted immediately by a rugged looking fellow who emerged from his trailer ready to give a crushing handshake. He went right for Blake.

“Hey Buddy, I’m your Uncle Kunkel!”

Uncle Kunkel. Photo by Blake, using a Nintendo DSi. Nice shot, bud.

I knew right then that we had come to the right place. Todd Kunkel was the owner of the canoe, and a proud owner he was. I carefully explained the project to him, trying not to sound like too much of a fruitcake, and I assured him that the canoe would not be harmed in making of the project. We talked about Tom Thomson, and I told him about the research I had done on the identity of Tom’s canoe, based mostly on the fine work of canoe expert Mike Ormsby, who will appear often in this blog.

Blake's perspective of the canoe.

After a gentle round of haggling, I strapped the canoe to the roof with the help of a friendly neighbour named Nick. Then we hit the 401 for a harrowing journey back to Kitchener.

"Dad, do you think it will fly off on the highway?"

Who hired this photographer?

The next step, even more harrowing, is to paint the canoe. Let the paranoia begin.

Chestnut Prospector awaiting paint job in driveway.

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