Last Sunday my neighbour Kevin and I packed the canoe onto his pickup and headed to Algonquin Park for the “christening.” We were paranoiacally careful with the tie-down, using thick towels beneath the straps and a foam pads all around. Kevin was generous enough to use his own truck, and a new hitch attachment that now allows him to justify the purchase of a canoe.
When we arrived at Algonquin Park, we went directly to the Portage Store. Our goal was to unstrap the canoe, put it in the water, and see what happens. This would, at the very least, be a quick christening before the canoe is (perhaps brutally) transformed into an installation. We parked at the Portage Store and went to see the manager. She seemed perplexed by our proposal.
Us: “We want to put a cedar and canvas canoe in the water and see if it floats.”
Her: “Ok. Where is your park pass?”
Us: “Well, we’re going to camp, so we plan to get one there. We’re also going to rent a kevlar canoe so that we can tow our cedar one around.”
Her: “Did you pay for parking? You’ll get a ticket.”
Her: “So you boys just want to play around in the water?”
Us: “Time for a team meeting.”
That last humiliating comment was good for a laugh, and is one of the funniest memories of the trip, along with Kevin’s attempts to catch a chipmunk with a stick, a Tupperware container, and a length of rope. We decided to check in at the campground first.
When we returned to Canoe Lake, I asked to speak to the manager again. I gave her my card and explained the project. Maybe I should have tried this approach earlier. She was generous enough to give us a place to store the canoe overnight, and she offered her assistance with navigating the Tom Thomson hotspots in the park.
By this time, the sun was setting, most of the tour buses had cleared out, and the lake was incredibly calm. We eased the canoe off a dock and into the water. No leaks after a few minutes of shooting photos.
With our confidence up, we rented paddles and jackets, and climbed into the vessel. It was an incredible experience to lower myself into the belly of this beast and hear her creaking and moaning. She held up very well. At first. So we set out onto Canoe Lake for a test ride. After only a minute or so of paddling, Kevin noticed a puddle under his seat, and sadly, it couldn’t be blamed on Tim Hortons. Shortly after, I watched as the water started bleeding in through the bow. Time to head back.
We pulled the canoe out of the water and stored her in the parking place reserved for us by the generous manager. Then we rented an ultralight kevlar canoe, a very distant cousin to the cedar and canvas animal we had just ridden moments before. But it got us out onto the lake in safety, and we scoped out the next day’s photo shoot. More about that in the next post.