CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING
by Perry D Frazer
The fishing tackle must be light and strong. Buy only
first-class goods. If a rod breaks when one is far from repair shops,
it will go far toward making an otherwise pleasant trip a failure. It
is not necessary to pay the highest price, but select only well made
goods. A fish when hooked may dart under the canoe, before it is well
in hand, and often skillful handling will not prevent tip or line from
being snapped, but good tackle will not be easily broken. Buy the best
you can afford, and try to avoid mishaps.
One rod will be enough, unless one's fishing is to be with
both bait and fly. Even then one rod can be used for both. If a bait
rod, see that it is well made and fitted. A rod 8 or 8-1/2 feet long
should not be too stiff, nor yet too flexible near the butt. The spring
should scarcely be noticeable near the butt. Split bamboo rods are
good, but a first-class one will cost more than an excellent rod made
of lancewood, snakewood, greenheart, or other woods. Jointed steel rods
are excellent for canoeists. They are light, flexible, durable, and
less likely to be broken in stowing.
A fly rod should not be longer than 9-1/2 feet. A long rod
will be in constant danger of being broken if carried rigged for use
when one is paddling from place to place. A rod of medium weight will
last longest for general use. In material, split bamboo is best, if of
good quality; other woods are not so reliable.
A rod with reversible hand-grasp may be had, to be used
either as fly or bait rod, and a first-class one may be most
satisfactory. A four joint trunk rod, with extra tip, will stow in
small space, but will not be so strong as a three joint rod. An extra
tip should be taken with any rod.
With the bait rod have a small aluminum multiplying reel.
For fly fishing a small click reel will answer. A double multiplying
reel will do for both.
Take two 50-yard braided oiled silk lines, in case one
should be broken or lost. For general casting use an F line, or a G
line for fly fishing. In fly casting use a 6-foot leader. Longer ones
cannot be readily handled in the canoe. Have a number of 3 and 6-foot
leaders. Soak them before using, to render them pliable and prevent
breakage. Take at least a dozen snelled hooks. Shapes and sizes will
depend on locality. Limerick, Carlisle, Sproat, O'Shaughnessy, are all
good shapes for certain uses. In sizes, be guided by the dealer. Snells
may be single, double, or treble gut.
In selecting flies, see that they are well tied, and have no
varnish on the shell at the head of the fly; varnish on the gut may
cause it to snap, as it keeps out water. Flies are not expensive, but
avoid cheap and gaudy flies. Quite an assortment should be taken, for
fish are hard to please at times. For trolling, only a few of the best
lures are needed.
64 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 65
Fishing with minnows is often perplexing. In some states one
must use minnows, for all game fish will not rise to the fly or take
artificial lures. It is often extremely difficult to secure minnows
when they are wanted. Unless a minnow bucket is taken one cannot keep
them alive, and even a small bucket will be heavy.
A minnow net 5x8 feet will be large enough. Cut off the wood
floats, which are unnecessary, and the net may be stowed in a small
space. Of course it is easier for two to catch minnows, but in small
creeks one can catch them alone by making a stick fast to each end of
the net, which is pushed along in front as one wades. A two-gallon
minnow bucket will be large enough. The minnow tray, usually made of
fine wire, with air compartment, should be kept in shallow, running
water, secured with a cord. If placed in swift water, the minnows will
be forced against the side and killed.
A landing net or gaff will not be necessary, but either will
be useful. A spool of fine silk, a bit of beeswax, and some shellac
varnish will be useful in repairing damaged tackle. Fly books, tackle
boxes, etc., may be supplanted by a pocketbook about 4x7 inches in
size, having several pockets.
It is scarcely necessary to say a camera should form a part
of the outfit on every cruise. Cameras may be had at moderate prices,
and the canoeist should take one on all cruises. It will be a constant
source of pleasure and satisfaction, in making exposures, in afterward
looking back over pleasant cruises, or in entertaining your friends.
The logs of many cruises are flat and uninteresting, because the
authors do not possess the happy faculty of writing in attractive
style; jolly cruising anecdotes may be dull and commonplace for the
same reason. Descriptions of exciting adventures, when told at that
most pleasant place, the cruisers' campfire, will not always prevent
one from dozing if narrated in halfhearted fashion.
On the other hand, when looking over a collection of
photographs which -- with the short, crisp, descriptive notes on margin
or back -- tell the story of a cruise, how interesting it is; the
scenes need little explanation. To a lover of woods and water such
collections of photographs are intensely charming. It is very pleasant,
during long winter evenings, to look over a package of photographs
taken during a
66 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 67
cruise, and see details faithfully portrayed that would
otherwise have been forgotten. The camp, the tent beneath the trees, a
cloudless sky above, blue water in the foreground; the smoke from the
fire distinctly outlined against the dark shadows under the forest
trees; the coffeepot, pans, ax -- all there, and in their midst that
officer-of-the-day, the cook, preparing a meal, the memory of which
still lingers. Hanging near the tent is a buck, a wild turkey, a nice
string of bass, trout, or perhaps a few squirrels -- what matters it,
for each and all were welcome then. Handsomest of all, there at the
landing lie the canoes, and it is easy to imagine they are moving in
the waves that gently wash up on the gravelly beach or mossy bank. How
real and businesslike seem the paddles, lying in the sand near by, and
the rifles leaning against a tree with the fly or bass rods.
Details are vivid and real. It is pleasant to show such
views to less fortunate friends, with the certainty they will never for
an instant question your veracity about the big trout or buck you were
so proud of having secured, when the picture, which cannot prevaricate,
is before them.
When one becomes interested in the art be will enjoy outings
a great deal more, and find new pleasure in admiring the beauties of
forest and water.
It is extremely difficult to recommend certain things to be
taken, as tastes differ widely. It will, however, be well to provide
for making a large number of exposures. Suppose you wish to have
material for fifty exposures. Dry plates will be heavy. Films have many
good qualities for such use, and some cameras will hold film for a
large number of exposures, requiring no changing in a dark room. If
plates are taken, they may be received and returned by express, when it
is possible; otherwise, limit the number or provide for the extra
If dry plates are taken, before starting open the boxes in
the dark room; take out the plates and replace them, each with film
side up, in the box. When it is desired to refill the plateholders, do
so at night if convenient. Lie down in the canoe cockpit, cover it
closely with rubber and other blankets to the exclusion of all light.
Have an empty plate box at hand; take out the plateholder slides and
lay them together with outsides up; put the exposed plates in the box
and close it; then open a fresh box and refill the holders. If not
turned over they will rest in the holders film side up. Mark each box
of plates plainly, to prevent confusion, and make a note of the
conditions of each exposure. I have often followed this method of
changing plates, and it is practical, even in sunlight. The deck, being
watertight, will admit no light; no ruby lamp is needed.
A camera for 4x5 plates will be a good size. It should have
several stops, as a small one will be needed for exposures in the
bright sun on the water, and larger stops for other work. Time
exposures from the canoe will be unsatisfactory.
Many persons suppose a camera and films or dry plates are
easily ruined. This is not the case when some care is exercised. If
kept in a waterproof bag where they will not be exposed more than is
necessary to hard knocks and moisture, no difficulty need be
68 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 69
In purchasing a canoe, the first thing to be considered is
the particular use to which it is to be put. Like rifles or fishing
rods, it will be best for one kind of use. Veteran canoeist J.H.
Rushton once said to me, "You may combine two things in one as a canoe
for both sailing and paddling -- but you cannot have in that
combination the very best paddler and the very best sailer."
A canoe which will be a moderately fast sailer, stanch and
dry, safe and comfortable, cannot be paddled so easily or speedily as a
light Canadian canoe; the types are widely different. If it is to be
paddled, and correctly built for that use, it cannot be satisfactorily
sailed, because its lines will be full, its draft light, and, unless a
centerboard is used in sailing, it will only sail speedily when before
the wind. Accept the advice of a reliable builder. Tell him the nature
of the water you intend to cruise on; whether you wish to depend most
on paddle or sail, giving the weight of yourself, your companion, and
the outfit-if tandem cruising is intended-or of yourself and outfit if
you are to cruise alone. You will receive good advice, and you need
only tell him the sum you can afford to pay. His experience will guide
him in supplying you with a canoe suitable to your needs.
In canoes weighing from thirty to seventy pounds, the draft
will be approximately as follows, when carrying the weights named:
On four-inch draft, 175 pounds; six-inch draft, 350
pounds; eight-inch draft, 500 pounds. Nearly any canoe will float 800
to 1000 pounds without shipping water.
It may be best to name a few canoes and their fittings, to
describe more fully what constitute first-class equipments.
For a decked cruising canoe, single and tandem:
Length, 15-1/2 feet; beam, 30 inches; depth amidships,
10/2 inches; deadrise, 1 inch; cockpit, 6 feet long; built of white or
Spanish cedar; two air tanks; watertight bulkhead forward with deck
hatch; folding centerboard; foot steering gear; tiller and drop rudder;
Mohican or Bailey rig, 60 and 40, or 40 and 25 square feet area;
hoisting and reefing halliards; cork cushions; 9-1/2-foot double blade
paddle; cockpit tent. Weight, excluding fittings, 90 to 100 pounds.
A decked cruising canoe, tandem or single:
Length, 14 feet; beam, 28 inches; cockpit, 6 feet; no air
tanks or hatches; hoisting lateen sails, 25 and 15, or 17 and 13 square
feet area; wood rudder and foot-steering gear; 9-foot double blade
paddle; cork cushions; cockpit tent. Weight, without fittings, 60 to 75
For single use, a canoe 12x28 with 3-1/2 -foot cockpit,
tent for the latter, and very small sails, will weigh fifty or sixty
pounds, and will be an easy paddler. A canoe, fitted in like manner,
but 10-1/2x26, will weigh about fifty pounds, and will be very
There is a large variety of suitable canoe sails.
70 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 71
Among the best are the Mohican, Bailey, and Batswing, which
have reef lines from batten to boom, and leading to the cockpit; by
easing off the halliard and hauling on the reef line the sail area may
be greatly reduced.
Sails of large area may be carried for light winds, to be
reefed if the wind strengthens too much. For a stormsail the dandy may
be stepped forward, and the mainsail taken in.
It may sometimes be advisable to use a very small storm
sail; in any event the sails should be made to interchange.
Sails rigged to reef require additional halliards and
blocks, and are consequently more intricate. One should not attempt
sailing . with them until thoroughly familiar with handling the canoe
under paddle and more simple rigs.
Any canoe 14x28 or larger will carry sails of 50 square feet
safely when the wind is steady, but in gusts and puffs it is not always
safe to carry full sail. You can usually see a strong puff coming by
the water becoming rough, or by whitecaps forming in the distance.
If your canoe has no rudder, the paddle may be used to steer
when sailing. Even with the rudder the paddle is often used to
advantage in going about.
When starting on a cruise, launch the canoe first. Never
drop it or let it be put down carelessly. It is not always possible to
have assistance; therefore, practice carrying until you find it an easy
matter. Stand with canoe at your right hand; stoop over it, place the
right hand on the gunwale nearest, the left hand on the one opposite;
lift it over your head, then let it rest on the left shoulder, with
your head in the cockpit, changing to the other if the weight becomes
tiresome. When the water is reached, stand facing it; lower one end
gently, push the canoe into the water and tie the painter.
If you intend a camping cruise, stow the outfit where it
cannot shift or move, and distribute it so that when you are seated the
stern will be slightly lower in the water than the bow. Cast off the
painter, leaving it neatly coiled within reach, but where it may not
become tangled underfoot. Push the canoe off shore, that the bottom may
not scrape as you enter. Place a hand on each gunwale, put the foot
nearest the canoe in the center; shift the weight of the body over the
hands, lift the other foot quickly and place it beside the first; then
sit down. Always keep the paddle in hand. Grasp the paddle with each
hand about fifteen inches from the joint. The stroke is at once
understood, for it is as natural as walking. Stroke fast or slow, as
you think best; both strokes are at times used by all. Keep the paddle
low, to prevent water dripping off the blades. When paddling against a
head wind, turn the blades at right angles to each other; in this
manner each blade in recovering presents its edge to the wind. To turn
the canoe, stroke forward on one side and backward on the other. As
canoes are long and narrow, they are not quickly turned. To stop
headway, a number of quick, strong reverse strokes will give the craft
In making a landing, grasp each gunwale, place both feet
well under the body, raise to a stooping position, and place the
nearest foot on shore; shift
72 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 73
the weight of the body to that foot, still holding the
gunwales; then step out. Do not attempt standing when getting in or
out. After becoming used to its whims, do not think you have become too
expert to be spilled. A canoe has a narrow bearing on the water; its
exposed body is greater than its immersed body; thus its great buoyancy
renders it cranky when the weight is transferred from below to above
the waterline. While it cannot be easily overturned, one may lose his
balance and go overboard when attempting to stand erect, while the
canoe itself will right without shipping any water. When one is seated
low, it will be as steady as any other craft, even in very rough water.
There is a popular impression among those ignorant of the
subject that a canoe will turn over at the least motion; this is
unreasonable. Very narrow canoes are steady if one exercises ordinary
care. I have cruised in small canoes where, in ascending swift and
shallow streams, it was necessary often to jump out or in while the
canoe was in motion capsizes were very few, indeed.
If your canoe is rigged to sail, take it out when the water
is smooth and the wind light. If unfamiliar with sailing, take someone
with you who is. Become familiar with the handling of each sheet and
halliard. In an emergency make up your mind instantly to do a thing,
and do it; if wrong, the knowledge will benefit you at other times.
Suppose yours is the simplest of rigs -- the hoisting Cincinnati lateen
-- the canoe a decked cruiser:
Learn to steer with the rudder when paddling; note
its effect in turning, when moving forward or backward. Step the
mizzenmast forward, attach the dandy to the mast, lead the halliard and
sheet back to the cockpit, and haul the sail on deck. Get in and paddle
out where you will not run afoul of anything. Point the bow into the
wind, stow the paddle near at hand, and lower the centerboard. Hoist
the sail, taking a turn with the halliard over a cleat; with sheet in
hand, let the canoe come about until the sail fills, then trim it close
and keep on a straight course. Raise the centerboard and ease off the
sheet if you put the canoe before the wind, but never let the sail get
forward of a point at right angles to the keel. In sailing to windward,
trim the sail close to get the full force of the wind; then let the
sail jibe as you go about on the opposite tack. If you sail with the
wind slightly forward of the beam, it is called reaching; with the sail
close-hauled and pointing close, it is beating; sailing before the wind
is running free.
When you have become familiar with the sail, lines, and
rudder, start out with full rig, and, after hoisting the dandy, hoist
the mainsail also, but only attempt this when the breeze is very light;
otherwise you may come to grief, and the result may make you
overcautious and timid. The main and mizzen sheets and halliards lead
in different directions; do not mistake one for the other. In a squall,
luff; that is, head into the wind; if too strong, haul in the sheets,
castoff the halliards, make everything snug, and paddle back, to start
again under more favorable conditions. Always point the bow into the
wind when you hoist or lower sail.
When both sails have been hoisted, and the dandy sheet
cleated, take the mainsheet in one hand, the
74 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 75
other on the tiller, and let the sails fill. When the canoe
heels over slightly, shift your weight to windward. When reaching or
beating, both sails will remain on the same side of the canoe, but in
running it is often an advantage to have a sail on either side,
wing-and-wing, as it is called.
In reaching sit on the windward side of the cockpit -- on
deck-leaning your body as far out as the strength of the wind may
require to keep the canoe up. Do not attempt any canoe gymnastics when
fully dressed; in a bathing in it, if you go over, you will feel safe
in the water. Practice capsizing; it will be useful knowledge.
Never let sheets and halliards become entangled in the feet,
and do not tie or cleat lines in such manner that they may not be
instantly cast off.
If the canoe capsizes when under sail fall out to windward,
that no lines may become tangled round your arms or legs; cast off all
lines, pull the masts out, clear away the sails, and raise the
Keep cool; if the current or tide is strong hold on to the
canoe, that you may not be carried away from it.
See that the paddle has not floated away. Climb up on the
bow, and by lying flat, with both feet in the water, wriggle into the
cockpit, bale out, and then pick up the floating objects. You may climb
in over the side, but it is not so easy.
If you have an anchor stowed loosely, in a capsize it may go
overboard and hold the canoe. If carried away by current or tide your
chances of returning will be few. Cases of drowning have been due to
leaving anchors loose. Should a line catch in your rifle or any heavy
object, the result may be similar.
Select a paddle of white spruce which has a perfect straight
grain. It will be exposed to a great deal of straining at times. As the
arms support and lift it with every stroke, a heavy paddle will quickly
tire one, and if the round is too large, the fingers will cramp.
In ascending rapids, where it is necessary to lead the
canoe, join the bow and stern painters when you have made a landing;
hold the line near the center, push the bow off, and walk near the
water's edge. The canoe will travel at faster speed than you will care
to go. If it shows an inclination to run ashore, shift your hold
further aft; if it swerves offshore, move your hold forward. In rapid
water little more than the weight of the arm is required to lead it,
and one will at first be surprised to see how easily a hard stretch of
water can be got over without making a long carry or encountering
difficult work with the paddle. Where shores are strewn with large
rocks, or where banks are high, this plan cannot be followed, but with
long painters one can lead the canoe up many rapids that must otherwise
be carried over.
In descending rapids keep in the main channel, paddling
enough to give the canoe headway; otherwise should the bow be turned
quickly to avoid an obstruction, it will have a tendency to drift
In nearly all streams where pools alternate with shoals or
rapids, below the first downward glide the water runs from all sides
toward the center or lowest place; beginning there the waves run higher
than the adjacent water. One may think the waves
76 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 77
are caused by large rocks or snags on the bottom, but this
is not always the case. If the waves break at some point and seem to
drop and glide for a few feet, be careful, for at that point there may
be a rock just beneath the surface. The rough waves in the channel are
caused by the pressure of water toward the deepest part, and as there
is less friction there, the water runs much more rapidly.
In rapids which describe sharp curves, or run under high
banks, the bank may be littered with rocks, snags, and treetops, below
which are eddies and whirlpools. Again, do not attempt, in shooting
from the pool above, to run close to the inside of the curve, for there
the shore may be shelving and shoal, and if the bow grounds on a reef
the stern may quickly swing round with the current and leave you facing
upstream. In an emergency of that kind, turn about and face the stern.
Then, if there is more bad water ahead, you will be prepared for it. If
the canoe grounds in descending a shoal, jump out; wet feet should be
preferred to smashing a hole in the canoe or scraping the planking
In paddling up a swift shoal the canoe may catch a sudden
current from above and swing off her course. One cannot paddle strong
enough to bring her back in the shallow water; losing headway, she will
swing broadside on. Jump out and hold the stern until she swings bow
down, then wade the rapid or go ashore; it will not be easy to reenter
in the rapid. Never jump out below the canoe its momentum may take you
off your feet, and your chances of regaining them in time to save the
canoe from wreck will be few.
When I first began with a single paddle, I learned to paddle
on the port side. Afterward when paddling tandem, if we changed sides
to rest our arms, the shift to starboard was never satisfactory,
although practiced constantly. I have noticed many canoeists paddle on
one side by preference, though it is as often on one side as the other.
This is a serious fault; in tandem paddling, if both prefer one side,
each may undergo unnecessary fatigue. Again, one may strain his wrist,
or blister his hand and constant paddling on the same side maybe
painful; or one may stroke stronger on one side and thus overbalance
his companion's work. The learner should become, if possible, equally
expert in paddling on either side, that changes may be often made to
rest the arms; one will also find relief in shifting from kneeling to
sitting position, or vice versa. The tendency of the paddle to wobble
and get under the canoe is soon overcome. Do not lift the paddle out of
the water at any time while stroking. It is much easier to push it
through the water.
Suppose A is kneeling or sitting in the stern and B in the
bow; A paddles on the port or left, and B on the starboard or right
side. The paddles are used with long, swinging strokes. Placing the
paddle in the water near the bow, B strokes, describing a slight curve
outward, ending the stroke near the center of the canoe. With his left
hand grasping the knob on the top of the paddle he turns the blade and
slides it, with the inner edge forward, through the water toward the
bow, still describing a curve outward, stroking alike each time. A
strokes at the same time as B, but also steers the craft. In the
78 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 79
bow stroke the inner edge of the blade is turned forward in
recovering, but A turns the inner edge backward near the end of the
stroke, giving, the blade a quick twist outward; then, turning it over,
he recovers in the same manner as B.
After the stroke is mastered it becomes easy to paddle long
distances without fatigue. The muscles of the arms, shoulders, back,
legs, chest, and abdomen, are all brought into play. and at first one
will experience a slight soreness in the muscles of the abdomen. In few
exercises are so many muscles brought into play.
Using single blades, two persons may paddle noiselessly and
make scarcely a ripple in the water in their wake. In stillhunting or
fishing this is an advantage possessed by no other craft; the bow man
may sit with rifle ready for a shot; or troll or cast his fly, while
his companion in the stern paddles without noise. Both are always
facing the bow. and can see everything ahead, be it in the water, on
land, or in the air.
It is often claimed the single blade paddle is better for
speed; many times in the American Canoe Association races the double
blade has been defeated by the single. However, the average canoeist
will paddle further and faster with a double blade.
In smooth water more care must be taken than one might
suppose would be necessary. Close to the shore, in descending a stream,
you will find eddies and back currents instead of the steady flow as in
the channel; these eddies are difficult to paddle through, and often
dangerous. When entering a creek or bayou, you will see dead water,
so-called, held by the force of the current which passes it at a high
rate of speed. The bow, on entering, will be held as in a vise, while
the current outside. catching the stern, will twist and swing it so
quickly you can with great difficulty keep your balance. Keep in the
current, bow upstream, float into the eddy slowly, then paddle boldly
up the creek or bayou. Where there are whirlpools, avoid them
The general rules observed by pilots apply to canoeists; but
it will make little difference how well you know rules or laws bearing
on the matter, for a steamer or sailing vessel will seldom change its
course for your canoe, unless you are carrying a light at night. Only
attempt crossing the bows of a vessel at a safe distance. If a boat
approaches you from ahead, and the pilot blows his whistle once, turn
to starboard; if astern, turn to port. If blown twice the opposite will
apply, and if the whistle is blown repeatedly, notice the course of the
boat, and get out of the way in the opposite direction.
Remember the wash of a steamer has way on. Turn the bow, or
stern, and cross the wash in any direction but beam on.
Carry a white light at your masthead after dark. This is the
law for all boats in navigable waters. Some canoeists carry lanterns
with side lights-red to port, and green to starboard-but as a canoe is
so low, these lights can not be readily seen from the pilothouse or
bridge of vessels. It is not wise to carry sail at night.
One of the errors in regard to canoes is that it is
dangerous to shoot from them with shotguns, but with reasonable care it
is perfectly safe, and no
80 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 81
other craft is more convenient for hunting, and particularly
waterfowl shooting. Bunches of leaves or grass may be used to conceal
the canoe when afloat or ashore; in it one may lie and watch for game,
and from a distance it will not be seen distinctly.
The lover of stillhunting finds in the noiseless paddling
canoe with single blade a sure method of finding game, for all animals
-- from the tiny squirrel to the lordly moose -- frequent the shores of
rivers and lakes of the country they inhabit. Not only do they come to
the water's edge to slake their thirst, but, like man, they have great
appreciation of the cool, shaded banks, and the sound of the murmuring
waves, and are loath to leave places at all times beautiful and
inviting. Furthermore, vegetation is always luxuriant there.
In rough water it is not an easy matter to shoot with
certainty, but on inland lakes and small streams, during the morning
and evening hours -- and what sportsman selects the noon hours for
hunting game? --the water is usually quiet and smooth.
If two persons are in a canoe, one in the bow with rifle
ready for a shot, and his companion in the stern with single blade in
hand, their chances of seeing game are many. The canoe is paddled with
slow, careful strokes, and kept as near the shore line as possible, in
order that it may be beached instantly if it becomes necessary for the
rifleman to get out for a shot; or the bow may be run ashore to render
the shot steady and certain.
In shooting while afloat, draw the feet close up to the
body, rest the upper arms around the knees, with left hand extended to
near the end of the forestock; sit still a moment -- to stop the motion
of the canoe -- take as careful aim as time will permit, and fire. Do
not rest elbows on knees; let them extend outside the knees, and clasp
the legs loosely but steadily, the feet placed apart slightly. Endeavor
to shoot over a point slightly to the port side of the bow. The motion
of the canoe will not affect the aim quite so much by doing this. In
snap shooting sit erect and shoot offhand. When cruising along a shore
which is on your right hand, you may lose shots by being unable to
twist your body enough to take steady aim. Learn to shoot equally well
from either shoulder.
In catching minnows, put only the largest in fresh water in
the bucket. Game fish seldom take small minnows. In placing a minnow on
the hook different methods are employed; some anglers hook them through
the lips from below; others just back of the dorsal fin, taking care
that the spine, is not broken. In any event, when on the hook the
minnow should present a lifelike appearance, and be lively. An old
anglers' saying in the south should be remembered. It is that a large,
lively minnow will swim round with the hook, and "hunt up a fish." It
will not always be best to cast from the canoe, either in bait or fly
fishing; but in trolling, especially when two persons are together, one
may paddle while the other trolls, or both may troll; one can go places
he cannot reach in any other manner, and for fishing in either still
water or rapids, it will be excellent. In using the canoe, the absence
of noise will count greatly in your favor in trolling, and in minnow or
82 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 83
It seems superfluous to tell of the uses of the canoe in
hunting and fishing, when all know in some parts of America hunters,
anglers, trappers, voyageurs, and explorers never consider other
methods of following their inclinations, whether for business or
pleasure. From Maine to Oregon and Washington -- that great expanse of
land which is everywhere dotted with lakes and rivers -- the canoe is a
staple article, as necessary as is the cow pony to the western man, or
the camel to the traveler in the Sahara desert. The canoe, the single
blade paddle, the camp ax, the frying pan and coffeepot, the rifle and
rod, are congenial companions. With them one's enjoyment of outdoor
life is only handicapped by time or opportunity.
It takes a practiced eye to choose a desirable campsite,
even for one night's use, possessing, as it should, certain qualities.
The first things to be considered are water and wood, in the order
named. Camp should be located near a spring, a stream of pure water, or
some farmhouse where water may be had. If taken from the river or lake,
first examine the surroundings and see that no dead animal or refuse
pollutes the water. If you camp below and near some community, water
from the river should not be used. In low or swampy country avoid other
than clear running water, or that near which mosquitoes swarm. Malaria
or worse may result. It is a wise plan to carry a few lemons; then, if
it becomes necessary to drink warm water, a little lemon juice added
will quench thirst and stop the craving for cold water. In cruising on
salt water bays or estuaries, one or two two-gallon wicker-covered
demijohns are much used; for small quantities take an army canteen,
which may be had of sportsmen's goods dealers for about 35 cents.
If you intend to sleep afloat, anchor in deep water out of
the course of vessels, and hoist a lantern at the masthead. Do not
anchor above or below the mouth of a creek, where you would be in
danger should a sudden rise send out logs and debris, and form eddies
and whirlpools. Sleep at anchor only when you cannot find a suitable
place ashore. It is best to seek a place early, prepare for the night,
cook supper, and then try for game or fish for breakfast. If left over
night to cool, meat is delicious. Turn in early and get a long sleep
and rest; turn out at daybreak, begin the day's cruise while it is cool
and delightful, and pass the noon hours in the shade. By waiting too
long, one may often paddle part of the night to find a suitable spot to
When sleeping in the canoe on shore, it will matter little
what the surroundings are; but select a dry, level place for a tent,
where it will not be under a hill or unpleasant in a hard rain. If on
sloping ground, cut trenches above the tent. If in heavy timber, see
that no trees or limbs are in condition to fall in a storm. Very tall
trees, or those standing alone, often attract lightning. In autumn, if
leaves or grass are thick, rake off a clear space round camp or burn
the leaves nearby. Forest fires are easily started and dangerous. Build
the evening campfire before the tent, but not too close. Keep the canoe
away from reach of sparks or burning leaves. Its varnished planking
would burn like paper.
84 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 85
When making camp, take all the duffle out, and carry or draw
the canoe to a level place above the high water line, and where it will
rest on soft earth, some of which, pushed under the sides, will keep it
from rocking. The cockpit tent is fastened by lines made fast to the
masts and by grommets fitting over screwheads under the gunwales. It is
always safe to make the painter fast to a tree or large stone.
Tents with ridge ropes should be pitched between trees or
the ropes stretched over forked poles. Drive the front and rear stakes
first, then the corner stakes. Stretch the canvas very tight.
Collect enough wood to last over night. Stand the sticks on
end, that rain will not saturate them. It is wise to put some dry wood
under cover. Some old campers never learn to build a fire. Begin with a
piece of dry wood. Split it with the ax, then cut off a handful of
shavings with a knife. Shave other sticks, leaving the shavings on.
Light the fine shavings and put on the splintered sticks; add small
stuff, leaving open places for air. Then build up in pyramid form with
larger sticks, with ends only in the blaze. Never lay sticks flat on
the fire. By starting the fire correctly, it will burn without trouble.
Drive a forked stake on each side of the fire, place over
them a long stick, and hang the coffeepot and kettles on it where they
will be in the blaze or over the hot coals. If you wish to fry meat,
etc., the kettles will not interfere. Many prefer rice to potatoes; it
contains much more nutriment in proportion to bulk, and is easily
cooked. After it has been boiled it may be fried it cake form, when it
is delicious. Cracked wheat is nice, too, and either can be added to
It will not always be possible to buy bread, and few learn
to cook well enough to bake wheat bread or biscuits. Pancakes, or
flapjacks, are made as follows, for two persons:
In a pail put six tablespoonfuls of corn meal,
three of flour, and a teaspoonful of each, baking powder, salt, and
sugar. An egg will add richness. Pour in a little water and stir
thoroughly, adding water until about right. Heat a frying pan and
grease it with a little bacon or lard, then put in a tablespoonful of
batter and place on the coals until browned. turned, and then put in a
plate, covered, near the fire. Corn bread may be made of the same
batter by greasing pan well, then fill with batter, cover with a pan
and place over a slow fire until well done. Wheat or buckwheat cakes
may be made with two-thirds the quantity mentioned above.
For strong coffee, add one tablespoonful of good coffee to
each pint of boiling water; boil three or four minutes, then set aside
and add a little cold water to clear it.
In frying small game use plenty of butter or bacon, cover
with a pan and watch carefully to prevent burning until the meat is
tender. Stewed game, with rice or cracked wheat added, is nice. Fish or
small game may be rolled in meal before frying.
Potatoes may be baked in ashes under the fire, and squashes
peeled, sliced, and fried like potatoes. Evaporated or dried fruits are
not bulky and are nice stewed. Cocoa is quickly made and takes the
place of coffee. If canned fruit is taken, never permit it
86 CANOE CRUISING AND CAMPING. 87
to remain in the can or other tin vessel exposed to the air,
as it will then be poisonous. Avoid canned goods as much as possible.
Take pride in cleanliness. Two yards of sheeting will be
needed for dish cloths, and two bars of soap. A large Turkish towel,
toothbrush, comb, and 10 cent mirror are needed. A large sponge should
be kept in the canoe. An hour here and there should be devoted to
general cleaning. clothes included, and to sewing on buttons and
repairing any defects in canoe or duffle.
On your first cruise decide on a place for every article
taken, and keep it there. In camp everything should be in its place,
and if away which a rain comes on, yon will know camp is snug. Every
line on the canoe should have its proper cleat; then it can be handled
at night as well as day. If you are slovenly, the canoe will be a
dangerous mess of tangled halliards and duffle. If camp and canoe are
kept in shipshape, should it be necessary, you could get under way in a
few moments' notice, even if you must break camp ill the darkest night.
A bicycle lamp makes a good headlight. The bracket maybe
attached to the main mast. A small oil or candle lantern will be
reliable; the latter will be cleaner if wax candles are used.
Carry the rifle cleaning rod with the fishing rod, unless
the former is jointed.
In a small bag should be kept a tool handle with awls,
screwdriver, etc., some copper planking tacks, brass screws, copper
thread wire, extra lines to replace a broken painter or halliard, small
cord, wax, needles, buttons, linen thread.
Keep blankets dry at all hazards, and endeavor to sleep warm
and comfortable. A good night's rest will add more to strength than a
After a cruise rub the deck down with pumice stone and give
it one coat of best spar varnish. Never let the canoe lie in the hot
sun unless covered with a blanket or the sails.
Do not tie knots in ropes' ends; whip them with waxed linen
thread. Never tie a halliard or sheet and never make knots in any
lines, to become tangled at the wrong time. Extra pieces of cord, large
and small, will be useful. Experience will prove how valuable at times.
Here is an instance:
With a companion I was ascending a swift rapid one
morning. In a treacherous place he struck a rock with his double-blade
paddle, and it split from the blade to the joint. With the sound blade
he paddled ashore far below and we held a council of war. It was far
from railroads and towns and our outing seemed at an end, but with the
ax and sharp knife a small hickory tree was cut and long, thin splints
shaved out, four in number. My companion had several fish lines, and
after the broken pieces had been held together and the splints laid
along the round, we began winding the cord over it, using our combined
strength to whip it tightly. It was a long and tedious operation, but
when finished it was strong and gave no more trouble on the cruise.
Keep a log of every cruise, with notes of value to yourself
or others about the best routes to take, the Springs, camping places,
fish, game, dangerous waters, etc. It will be pleasant matter to muse
over in later days.
© 2000 Craig O'Donnell
May not be reproduced without my permission.