We’ve been asked many a time, “Cool adventure, but why a voyageur canoe?”
Critics will say a voyageur canoe is a heavy burdensome beast of a vessel.
What the voyageur canoe lacks in a lightweight carbon frame fully makes up for in history and community.
The History: Voyageurs typically used two sizes of canoes to conduct their business; The Montreal Canoe for the Great Lakes and Ottawa River, and the North Canoe for west of Lake Superior.
The Montreal Canoe, or 'Canot de Maître', was the heavy freight canoe used to deliver supplies from Lachine to Fort William . It was about 36 feet (11 m) long and six feet wide and weighed about 600 pounds and carried 3 tons of cargo or 65 90-pound standard packs called pièces. Crew numbered 6-12 with 8-10 being the average. On a portage they were usually carried inverted by four men, two in front and two in the rear, using shoulder pads. When running rapids they were steered by the avant standing in front and the gouvernail standing in the rear.
The North Canoe, or 'Canot du Nord', was used by the wintering partners paddling from the interior heading to Fort Willam bringing the furs collected over the winter to Fort William. It was about 25 feet (7.6 m) long and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide with about 18 inches of draft when fully loaded and weighed about 300 pounds. Its cargo was half or less of a Montreal canoe, about 25-30 pièces. Crew numbered 4-8 with 5-6 being the average. It was carried upright by two men.
PACT is paddling a 25’ Selkirk model from North Woods Canoe, a modern day version of the Canot du Nord.
The Community: There is a certain type of camaraderie that can only be achieved when travelling in a single voyageur canoe. Unlike in a group of tandem boats, a singular voyageur canoe experiences the exact same circumstances at the same moment. There is no lead canoe, no trail canoe. No strong canoe, no weak canoe. There is no gear pack canoe, no food barrel canoe. There is no brave canoe to test the rapids for the group, there is no lilly-dipping canoe lounging down the river. As a single canoe crew we are all of those. We will have to work as a team to overcome obstacles as a single unit. In a sense, we are amplifying the team building mechanisms of a regular canoe trip. We will be able to share stories, sing songs, eat and rest as a group.
We are very much enjoying the experience of a voyageur canoe!