Wood and Canvas Canoes
Not long after my St. John trip, I got a call from Alexandra Conover. She’d heard about a couple of 40-year-old
E. M. White “Guide” canoes for sale in Cherryfield, in the barn of a retired game warden. A buddy and I drove up from New Hampshire and bought the pair for $500 apiece. That winter we spent a week working alongside Rollin in his shop. We repaired cracked ribs, touched up planking, thwarts, and gunwales; stretched new canvas over the hulls; and got the boats in shape for another few decades of use.
Thirty-five years after they started, Jerry and Rollin are still at it. Jerry’s shop turns out 30 boats a year, including restorations. Rollin has a two-year backlog of work and a growing business supplying materials and hardware to do-it-yourselfers. Both are grateful for the Internet and their books and their teaching gigs and whatever else it takes. It’s still not a very big market.
I’ve put a lot of water under my E. M. White since I’ve owned it–loaded and empty, in all kinds of water. It’s still marvelously responsive and flexible, the marriage of material, form, and function as timeless and strong as ever. That strikes me as a pretty fair definition of “classic.”
To learn more about wood-and-canvas canoes, or to inquire about owning your own, contact Jerry Stelmok at Island Falls Canoe Co., 207-564-7612, islandfallscanoe.com, or Rollin Thurlow at Northwoods Canoe Co., 207-564-3667, wooden-canoes.com
Read more: The Guide and the Allagash