Number 143 / April 2003

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Book Review - A Family Canoe Trip (CarolD)

An account by Florence Walters Snedeker of a major canoeing event held 100 years ago, reviewed by CarolD.

Among the three hundred or so enthusiasts who gathered at Willsborough Point on Lake Champlain in August 1891 for the American Canoe Association's national meet was Florence Walters Snedeker. The meet extended through a three-week period, the main racing events being staged in the middle week, and ACA members travelled to it from all parts of the U.S. and Canada by railroad and waterway. Florence, her husband and their "little boy" decided to take a leisurely six week vacation travelling along the canal and river system from their home south of Albany in 'Gemegross', a Rob Roy style canoe which comfortably accommodated the family and their twelve assorted bags of camping and other necessities. They had no fixed itinerary other than the intention to attend the ACA meet, which, from Florence's published description, proved the highlight of a thoroughly delightful trip.

The meet was Florence's first experience of canoeists en masse. It seems her husband was a newly enrolled ACA member; a Snedeker of Poughkeepsie appears on a list published in the October 1891 issue of Sail & Paddle magazine recording those who had joined "since the August issue". In that year the Eastern Division of the ACA was responsible for the organisation of the national meet; the following year (1892) it would be the turn of Central Division to run the event, also at Willsborough Point. Previously the national meet had been held at various venues, but the magazine editorials suggest there was a strong element in favour of a permanent site for this major event in the canoeing calendar.

Rather less than half of the 137 pages in Florence Snedeker's 'A Family Canoe Trip' concern the ACA meet but the slant of her whimsical writing style makes the book a useful source for fleshing out other, more prosaic, accounts of such gatherings. Taken in conjunction with the Sail & Paddle editor's somewhat barbed comments on the difficulties (and triumphs) of organising a large scale, formal canoe meet, Florence's account gives a minor participant's view, unclouded by the responsibilities of Committee Membership or the upholding of Club honour round the race marks. Her reported chats with neighbours at the Ladies Camp on "Squaw Point" (the unmarried men had a separately designated "bachelors camp") concerning the choice of furnishings for their tents are as lively and interesting as the conversations among the spectators as they watch ''J'' sail over the line to take the Trophy.

At a mere 4 inches by 5.5 inches the book looks insignificant on a library shelf but as well as being reckoned the first non-fictional account of a recreational canoe trip penned by a woman, it is also well illustrated. In the photographs, unlike several other canoe trip accounts of that era that record the scenery but not the boats, the Snedekers often featured 'Gemegross' and other canoes in their shots. Florence also included a number of excellent sketches in her book. The accuracy of the boat details in these is of a fairly high order by comparison with the photographs, and they perhaps give the best record of the canoe meet: a well-set rig; "dreadfully earnest consultation" around a shapely hull; a quiet comer in which to snatch a hour with a book away from the group activities.

The rest of the Snedekers' vacation is equally vividly portrayed by Florence. In her initial chapter they start their trip by hitching an overnight ride on one of the barges making up a "tow" of forty canal-boats. Her observations about the bargees' way of life, and her keen interest in both her surroundings and the people she meets as the trip unfolds must have inspired some of her non-canoeing readers to try the sport for themselves. In the addenda Florence gives tips and recommendations on the camping gear needed for such a trip, briefly also mentioning clothing ("all of flannel"), medicines and provisions. Something of an anomaly is her suggestion that a Peterborough canoe might be chosen as "A suitable canoe is of the highest importance." Perhaps this was just a hint to hubby that a new boat would be a good investment! [See also... - Ed.]


More On Sponsons (JohnS)

So far we've covered some of the merits of sponsons, now it's a matter of where to obtain them. Unfortunately I don't know of any suppliers! Please let me know if you are aware of any. However I wrote an article in Gossip around 6 years ago on how to make them, which I will update somewhat.

I've made my sponsors 5" in diameter and 5 feet (1.5m) long; this length being the standard width of the nylon reinforced polyurethane material I use. It is available via "Yellow Pages" under Tarpaulin Manufacturers and is used for lorry sides, market stall covers etc and it costs around 6 per sq metre.

The only successful adhesive I have used is P.T.A. (Polyurethane Thermal Adhesive). Mine is made by F. Ball & Co of Leek in Staffs (Tel No 01538 361 633) and I obtain it from a local shoe repairer's supplier at around 5 per litre; possibly your local friendly cobbler will sell you some. Make sure it's P.T.A. though, as polyurethane adhesive does not bond properly and peels off under pressure.

To make the tubes:
Cut your material to a width that gives you the desired diameter of tube plus one inch to allow for

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