When I first saw a canoe made by Backcountry Custom Canoes on Instagram at the start of the year, I thought they were the most beautiful canoes I’d ever seen. I knew nothing about them, just that they were gorgeous looking boats. (Photos provided by Backcountry Custom Canoes Instagram page.)
I would see them on instragram every now and then and would love the post and many times comment on how incredibly gorgeous they were, even saying how much I wanted to paddle one.
When I arrived on the beach at the 150 for 150 after helping get everyone registered for the event, I was overwhelmed. It was raining but no one cared. The canoes were all out on the water awaiting the start of the speeches and here I was on land, without a canoe. I had planned all along to stay on shore and assist with anything needed, but I was told there was nothing for me left to do, so now I was able and willing to get on the water, but I was without a canoe to paddle.
I said, “I need a canoe…. I need a canoe”… and out of no where popped Jon from Backcountry Custom Canoes. “Camper Christina… come over here!! I have a canoe for you to use!!!” Wait! What? No way! I went over to Jon and he was busy picking up and carrying a gorgeous solo skin on frame canoe to the water for me, with one hand. OMG, how awesome! I told Jon I didn’t want to take out his canoe for fear I would fall in love and never return it. He said, that wasn’t a problem, I could take it home? What? For real? And that is how our wonderful relationship began.
I had the biggest grin on my face you’d ever seen and I paddled over to the crowd to raft up with the other canoes and sit and listen to the speeches. What an amazing day that was and a fabulous event!
When we all returned to shore, I went over to talk to Jon, do an interview with him on his canoes and talk a bit more about this ‘take the canoe home’ phrase he left me with as I paddled onto Canoe Lake that day. He basically said he didn’t have any space to store the canoe and I’d be doing him a favor by taking it home and possibly testing it out for him. Those few hours changed my entire summer!
After getting some straps from the store at Canoe Lake (I hadn’t brought a boat with me so my straps were also at home) and getting the canoe up on my car, I took it home. I smiled the entire way and was elated. I now had full use of a solo canoe. The planning began.
The first trip I took the canoe on was in the Haliburton Water Trails. Yes, I wanted to do a big portage trip with the canoe, but first I needed to paddle it for a few days, see how I felt in it, if I could carry it on a portage, etc etc. I did just that. I did a day trip on one of the days and took it over 3 portages. As the canoe currently had no yoke, I put a roll of toilet paper in my buff on my head and carried the canoe as such and it was great.
It was so light, almost too light and without gear in it, I lost my balance and easily dumped. Even at the end of the trip leaving the site, I lost my balance and had to jump into the water to avoid dumping the canoe with all my gear in it. I had lots to learn.
After that trip, I was not confident enough in the canoe to take it out on a big portage trip AT ALL. Since speaking at the KW Canoe Symposium in the spring, I had wanted to attempt to redo my very first backcountry trip solo this summer, but I didn’t think I was able to do that in this canoe. It was too tippy for me and in the wind, I just blew away.
I planned a day trip with the guys from Paddling Adventures Radio. We would all bring our own solo canoes and paddle in the QEII Wildlands Provincial Park. I brought the canoe and slowly started to feel more comfortable in it. The true test of that was at the end of the day when we had to cross a very windy lake and I made it out alive. After padding that day without more than a backpack in the canoe, struggling through the winds and not having any further issues, I finally felt confident enough in the canoe to paddle it on a bigger trip. Now the planning began.
I installed a yoke into the canoe using one from an old boat that was no longer needed. It was lashed in and now I would be able to carry the canoe much easier on a portage. I took the canoe out on my biggest solo trip over labor day weekend. Five days, four nights in Algonquin Park. I paddled approx 30kms and crossed 14 portages. I would never have been able to do that trip without this lightweight canoe. What an incredible canoe.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I took the canoe on another big adventure in Killarney Provincial Park. It was also planned as a 5 day, 4 night solo trip, but due to high winds in the forecast, the trip was cut short by one day. I still managed to paddle the 60km’s and complete the 14 portages planned however. I now felt super comfortable in the canoe and had totally grown into it. Unfortunately, it was time to take it back to it’s owner. Fortunately, it’s owner, decided he would make a custom canoe just for me. WOW! What an amazing deal!
I headed to Guelph to visit with Jon, the creator of this awesome canoe and test out a few prototypes he had at his shop. I didn’t think I could love a canoe more than the one I’d had, but I was wrong. The new and improved brookie I tested out was much more stable, a bit more narrow so it was easier to solo paddle with a kayak paddle and a lot faster! It was tested on an extremely windy day and I had no issues controlling this canoe, even without any gear in it, something that was a struggle in the previous canoe.
I spent quite a bit of time talking to Jon during my visit to Backcountry Custom Canoes. He showed me how he makes the canoes, the wood that is used, the material known as ballistic nylon that covers the gorgeous frames he builds and with all of that, I made a video. The video can be seen on my youtube channel being published Thursday, or, for a sneak peek, click here.
I am currently waiting for my new canoe to be created and completed and I am so excited to be able to use it next season. I am incredibly grateful to Jon at Backcountry Custom Canoes for calling me over that day on the beach and offering me the use of his personal solo canoe for the season. Without it, I would not have been able to do the amazing trips that I did this year and I can’t even express how thankful I am for that.
If you have any questions about Jon’s canoes, please visit him at his website www.backcountrycustomcanoes.ca or give him a shout. He loves the boats he makes and is great to talk to. He will be able to assist you in getting one of your very own Backcountry Custom Canoes, made exactly how you’d like it.
For more on my visit with Jon, please check out my youtube video being published on Thursday!