Tuesday, October 9, 2007
On our trip to Voyageurs National Park a week ago I inaugurated my new Greenland stick. I had taken a paddle carving course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN last spring with my buddy from Madison, TheCommish. The wood we used was basswood, which was harvested and dried locally in paddle sized boards. My first attempt, the Norwegian War Club, was heavy but very serviceable. RonO made the comment that I wasn't going to break that one while I tried to learn the reverse sweep roll. When GalwayGuy was learning to roll his Sitka spruce greenland stick snapped and shortly after going to the War Club he hit his first sweep roll.
In any event the wood is strong and supple and I wanted to carve another sleeker and lighter paddle. I stopped by the school and invested in a basswood board with every intention of carving a paddle and having it done by mid summer. Which of course had no chance of happening. Enter RonS of Novorca paddles. He offered to run it though his CNC machine to rough shape it and let me carve on it with my trusty Mora knife. This was just the head start I needed and the deal was done. After a bit of reshaping and carving I started the coats of tung oil. The one thing I like about the carving method is the total lack of sandpaper. When I built my Chesapeake LT 17 the biggest pain in the ass was the endless sanding that was needed. As Mark Hanson at North House said, "You think the Inuit had sandpaper!?". My kinda guy. The paddle works great.
RonS suggested longer and narrower which would give a bit more thrust and less resistance in the water. He was right and the paddle feels perfect! I can pick up the tempo with a minimal increase in energy expended. My only problem was that the tung oil seemed to dissolve in the water! I weighed the paddle when I got back and then 5 days later. It lost 3 ounces! RonO recommended Formby's oil but I think I'll go with the old tried and true Watco oil, the same stuff I've used on wooden canoe gunwales. Four or five coats and I'll be in bidness again. I guess I might as well play a bit more in Gitchee Gumee between stints in the tree stand. Maybe the paddle season is not over yet!