1902 Encyclopedia > Canoe


CANOE, a species of boat. In several Eastern languages the word kan means something hollow, with a certain degree of strength. Pliny says some Indian reeds are long enough to form a boat for three men between the joints. The French canot, Spanish canoa, Italian canoe, are derived from the Latin canna; but a canoe is sometimes called in France bateau, b6t, pirogue, caique, chaloupe, navire, nacelle, or perissoir, and the paddle pagaye, and the canoeist pagayeur. The English word " canoe" may be defined as a boat propelled by one or more paddles used without a fixed fulcrum on the boat, and therefore in-variably with the sitter facing towards the bow. The Venetian gondola and the Maltese boats, and many others, are rowed by men who face the bows, but they always have a fixed rest for the rowlock. Canoes are made of various substances. Those of the Esquimaux are of seal-skin stretched over whalebone, and are propelled by the double-bladed paddle, 7 feet long and 6 inches broad, used by one man, whose dress is united with the deck covering, so as to be watertight.
The North American " dug-out " canoe is'made from a tree hollowed by fire, while the bark canoes are formed by birch bark sewn together, according to the size required, until the craft will hold as many as seventy men. Paper canoes have been used in the United States. Cork leather

would probably be a very good material. Canoes of tin and of india-rubber have been used in England, but practi-cally all the best canoes now built in England, America, and France for general travelling are of oak, cedar, or pitch pine. The canoe was popular in England more than twenty years ago at Oxford and Cambridge, but only for short river practice, until in 1865 one was specially designed for a long journey by water in seas, lakes, and rivers, and by carriage on land in railways or carts or on horseback, or by being dragged over rough ground or borne on men's shoulders through woods and over hills.
The general type of this " Rob Roy " canoe is built of oak with a cedar deck. The length is from 12 to 15 feet, and the beam from 26 to 30 inches, the depth 10 to 16 inches. The paddle is 7 feet long with 6 inches of breadth in the blade, and is either double-bladed, or, if it is used with a single blade, a rudder is worked by the foot to counteract the lateral swerving. A backboard swinging with the paddler's motion enables the canoeist to sit in a comfortable position for many hours at a time, and a mast with some light sails completes his equipment, so that a favourable wind eases the muscular exertion. An ordinary travelling canoe when complete weighs about 70 lb. It will float with its paddle and 10 lb of luggage in 5 inches of water. In the Indian canoes of America the single paddle is usually employed, and the men kneel to the work. The canoeists in the Straits of Magellan paddle standing. The peculiar advantages of a canoe may be summed up thus :—
1. The canoeist faces forwards in the direction of his progress, and therefore he can readily steer without turning his head round.
2. His centre of gravity is five or six inches below what would be necessary in a row-boat, and therefore the canoe is more steady, and is very suitable for shooting from. When the action of the paddle stops the canoeist is at once in comfortable rest. In de-scending a rapid where rocks or snags are numerous, the canoeist has much power of seeing and avoiding danger, while he can also get out readily, and can sit on the deck in places where the feet, being in the water, are of service in warding off collisions.
3. The knees of the canoeist press outwards against the sides of the '' well " or opening in the deck, so that in high seas there is ample '' purchase " for counteracting an upset, while the canoeist can use great power with his paddle at a critical moment for lifting the craft over a wave. The alternate action of the arms opens the chest, and the legs are continually exercised by pressure against the stretcher, while the sway of the whole body at each stroke of row-ing is dispensed with.
4. He can instantly hoist sail without leaving his place or shift-ing ballast, and he can fish or shoot conveniently without changing his seat. He can sleep in the canoe when it is properly prepared.
5. The canoe being impelled without rowlocks, by pressure through the legs to the feet resting on the stretcher, and by only one imple-ment (the paddle), the joints of the planks and the nails and fast-enings, are not loosened, as in other boats, by the jerky leverage of rowlocks.
6. The deck covering (not feasible in a row-boat) protects the paddler and his luggage from wind, rain, and sea, and adds to the " stiffness" of his craft, so that it can be dragged on rough ground without injury. A canoe should have a very flat floor and small keel; this secures stability, while it diminishes speed to a very small extent.
7. Ladies and young children can conveniently use the canoe because of its safety and the simplicity of its mode of propulsion. Many double canoes are used in England, and some with four paddlers together.
For actual speed over a short and straight course the ordinary sculling skiff is superior to the canoe, but for long journeys of more than a week's duration, and in strange rivers, or with frequent portage, rough usage, intricate navigation, or unexpected difficulties, the canoe is found to be much more convenient than the rowing boat. Forty miles a day in lakes can be kept up for weeks together in a travelling canoe, unless against a contrary wind. Fast racing canoes are 20 feet long and 18 inches broad, and attain a speed of 8 miles an hour. Canoes for " upset races " (where the canoeist has to jump out, tow his boat while swimming, and then get in) and for the race " over land and water" are specially built for their purpose. Other canoes are built chiefly for sailing, and these carry " drop keels," " rockers," and heavy ballast.
In 1866 the Royal Canoe Club was formed in England, and the Prince of Wales became commodore, while about 500 members have been elected in various parts of the world. After the English canoes were seen in Paris at the Exhibition of 1867, others like them were built in France. Branches and clubs were formed also at the English universities, and in Liverpool, Hull, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and New York. A publication called TJie Canoeist records the more important cruises in canoes in almost every country on the globe. One member of the club crossed the English Channel from Dover to Boulogne in his canoe, another from Boulogne to Dover, and a third crossed the Irish Channel from Scotland to Ireland. Many old and new rivers have been explored for the first time in canoes, among which the most interesting were the hitherto inaccessible parts of the Jordan, the Kishon, and the Abana and the Pharpar at Damascus, as well as the Lake Menzaleh in the Delta of the Nile, and the Lake of Galilee and Waters of Merom in Syria. So far as has been ascer-tained, not one of the members of the Royal Canoe Club has been drowned in any of the numerous long cruises performed.
See Macgregor's A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, The
Rob Roy on the Baltic, and The Rob Roy on the Jordan, Red Sea,
Nile, and Gennesareth, &c; Canoe Travelling, by W. Baden Powell;
Cruise in a Cockle Shell, by A. H. Eeed ; The Canoeist (Koyal Canoe
Club). (J.M'G.)

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