(No Seriously,) My New Canoe

I suppose I should stop teasing everyone about my new canoe and get on with the big reveal. The Portageur’s New Ride contest has been a blast, with the winner contacted yesterday. So with no more excuses and out of funny ideas, may I present to you, my new canoe:

Proud owner of a new Swift Osprey


First off, congrats to Eric J from Eden Mills who has won the contest. His name was drawn from several others who guessed two elements correctly. What I chose was a Superior Blue/Champagne Swift Osprey, made in Kevlar Fusion. Needless to say, and as you can see by the grinning Portageur above, I’m very happy with my choices.

The Blue/Champagne colour looks great.


But that’s not all. I’ll post a bit more about some of the other features of this canoe a bit later, but I also wanted to make sure to include the Carbon Fiber gunnels. (Quite a few people included this as part of their guess. Each received bonus points. A million in fact, but sadly the draw wasn’t based on these points.) I love this feature. It makes the boat lighter, but at the same time they’re very strong and durable. The best thing about this feature though, is that they are integrated in the canoe’s construction, without the tiny little gap above the hull that you’d get with wood or aluminum. I don’t know why, but every now and then I’ll catch a little piece of my finger on the gunnels, or a nail. Ouch. If you’ve heard a swear word carry over a lake, that might have been me doing this. It happens rarely, and I’m sure if I had strict paddling form – always – this wouldn’t be an issue, but it still surprises me that they don’t put this selling feature in the brochure.

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I Got My New Canoe

Warning, some material and information has been redacted to ensure the fairness of the Portageur’s New Ride Contest.

Proud owner of a new Swift [REDACTED]

So now that the canoe has been picked up, the Portageur’s New Ride contest will be officially over today when I draw the winner’s name. I still have to hide some of the specific details of the new canoe until I contact the winner, but I was just too excited not to share a little something. It’s been a fun contest and I’ve really enjoyed the interaction with everyone. No one has guessed all three elements – model, colour(s) or material – completely, but some came very, very close. What’s been the most fun is how many people didn’t necessarily guess what I bought, so much as told me what I should have chosen. I guess they like me, they were dreaming a little, looking through the available canoes, colours and materials and other options to find the perfect dream canoe of their own. What was also a lot of fun was teasing Fiona from Badger Paddles about not being eligible for the contest – she could have unfairly, and quite easily have found out what I bought. (Of course, if the winning name turns out to be “Jane Doe of Huntville, Ontario”, I’m going to have to cross check the shipping address “Jane” gives me.)

The [REDACTED] colour looks great.

Yesterday I came home with my new canoe. I was looking forward to it for so long, agonizing over the choice of materials and colour and even the model that I wanted to buy. When I finally decided, I could wait to place my order and get it built for me. Almost cruelly, it was ready for me to pick up a few weeks ago, but my trip to Holland forced me to wait a few more weeks to pick it up. Obviously I was distracted by all the fun I had over there, but I have to tell you, as soon as my feet were planted back on Canadian soil, all I could think about was going up to Gravenhurst and picking up my canoe.

Nancy looks great and fits quite comfortably in the [REDACTED]

I decided that I wouldn’t wait any longer to test it out, and that I would turn picking up the canoe into a quick weekend getaway. I’d grab the new boat, strap it on the car and keep heading north, into Algonquin for it’s first ride, its first trip, its christening, really.

Nancy, my hood ornament, is an optional feature of the [REDACTED]

With Nancy unable to come to Holland with me, it was also a good chance to make it up to her by getting her out there – as you can imagine, something that she’s been absolutely dying to do. She of course took to the canoe right away, at her usual bow position.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, I'm read to go

I’m about ready to leave for Europe, just waiting to head out to the airport. I’ll be site-seeing, family visiting and even canoeing over in Holland for the next 10 days, and we’re even going to be camping. The highlight of our trip should be my father taking me to see his old neighbourhood – hopefully by canoe. It should be fun. You may have noticed a new icon on the main page. It will send you to my SPOT webpage so you can keep your eye on my adventures.

I may (read: definitely) be sending some updates here and there via Twitter and Facebook, so you can watch for them there as well.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep your guesses coming in the Portageur’s New Ride Contest. I got a phone call on the weekend saying that my canoe is built and ready to be picked up. Obviously I can’t do that for another week and a half. Needless to say as soon as I’m home I’ll be rushing up to Gravenhurst to pick it up – and find the nearest water for the first test-paddle.

Maybe I’ll have to put in somewhere nice, with some trails. I may have to make up for a lengthy absence to a certain someone.

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Why I Bought a Canoe

The guesses are rolling in the Portageur’s New Ride contest. What’s amazing is how different they’ve all been. While none have been completely right, none have been completely wrong either. To recap, I’m giving away a prize pack to help celebrate my new canoe purchase where I’m asking people to guess what I bought. (Details and rules can be found here.) So far it’s been a lot of fun, but as promised, it’s time I offer up a little hint to make things a bit easier by explaining my decision process. (What’s truly amazing is that Fiona from Badger Paddles hasn’t entered with a pseudonym.)

But first, here’s a reminder of what’s up for grabs:

These are a few of my favourite things

  • Portageur hat – stylish and comfortable
  • Portageur t-shirt – the very one worn by all the cool kids
  • Portageur decal – so far has the highest demand for sales (maybe I should start selling them).
  • GSI Personal Java Press – for better made coffee at camp (review)
  • GSI Javagrind – the back-country barista’s must have item  (review)

To win, simply send an email to contest@portageur.ca with your guess of the Model, Material and Colour(s) I chose for my new boat. Again, more details, rules and such can be found here, but your best resource is checkout out the possible choices over at the Swift Canoe and Kayak website.

As I mentioned, I don’t go around buying canoes all the time. I do dream of a day when I have a rack of them, each with it’s own purpose and one for every need. I’ll get one in every colour too. (Sigh.) Until that time, I need to make the most of my purchase. Normally, I just rent canoes for trips. This is practical for most people who only paddle a few times a year (or like me don’t have a lot of storage space). Specifically for me it also offers a chance to get information on outfitters, as I like to keep in touch with the process of renting canoes and equipment. And I plan to continue to do this for most trips. More often than not, it’s the convenient option because when dealing with a local outfitter you don’t have to transport a canoe very far – or at all. You also have several options available to you, like a bigger boat, 3 seats, a solo canoe or even try out the super-light material that might have made buying a canoe prohibitive. You also get a chance to try out different types of canoes, depending on the outfitter. Many won’t accept specific requests, but each tend to buy various models from different companies, and you’ll get a feel for each type. After a while you’ll get a sense of what you like in a canoe, having tested everything about it including carrying it over portages and travelling longer distances. For example, when I wanted to try out a pack canoe, I reserved one from Algonquin Outfitters. (Tip: Just make sure you reserve one well in advance of your trip, and make it very clear you want a pack canoe.)


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Portageur’s New Ride Contest

I bought a new canoe, and to help you celebrate with me, I’ve decided to run a little contest. I’m excited, so I figured the best way to get people excited for me is to bribe them with some free stuff.

The Prize Package

A few posts ago, I wrote that I had worked with the Swift Canoe and Kayak guys to help me learn a bit more about their canoes, but more importantly, to help me choose a new canoe. Just like most people, I can’t go around buying canoes all the time, so I really had to make my choice count. After agonizing about what model to get, with what features – not to even mention the painfully difficult choice of colour(s) – I’ve finally made my decision. I’m a pretty happy Portageur, let me tell you. (Also happy: the people around me who no longer have to constantly hear about my “agonizing choice”.)

So to help me celebrate, to have a little fun, and keep me preoccupied while I wait for my canoe to be built, I’ll set up a little contest. All you have to do is guess the model, material and colour(s) I’ve chosen.

The Prize:

These are a few of my favourite things

The prize is a package I put together the same way I like to buy gifts: Based on a common interest. People who know me know that I like good coffee at the campfire, not to mention stuff with the Portageur logo, and so the winner will receive one of the following:

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Guelph Lake Spring Sale and Demo with Swift

This weekend I got a chance to help out at the Swift Canoe and Kayak‘s spring demo/sale at Guelph Lake. It was a chance to hang out two full days with people who know just about everything there is to know about canoes and kayaks, and hopefully learn a little from them.  Specifically though, the event was going to be a chance me to help make a big decision, one that I’ve been agonizing over for quite a while now.

Kayaks on display at the Swift Canoe and Kayak Sale/Demo

The spring demo is an annual tradition for Swift – they’ve been coming to Guelph for 20 years now, bringing all kinds of paddlers from far and wide to check out the boat they’ve been thinking about buying, and get out on the water to do a little test drive. As a bonus, this event is a great way to save a little money by either taking advantage of event discount, or you could also get a deal on a demo or used boat. And apparently the event doesn’t just match canoes with their owners, either. It was working at this event that Mike and Fiona of Badger Paddles fell in love years earlier. (So obviously there was a chance I might come home with more than just a new canoe.) I should mention that I do not in any way work for Swift. I just really like their canoes. Which is why I jumped at the chance to volunteer at this event.

Plenty of canoes too

My job was to help people get in and out of the canoes and kayaks. I was told that I would enjoy myself, but warned I’d be tired at the end of the day – and to bring extra clothes in case I had to go into the lake after a spill. It seemed like a perfect job for me. I’d get people set up with paddles and PFDs, help them into the boat and give them a little push to get them on their way. The sales guys would bring people down, we’d make bad jokes – often the same ones over and over again – and get them on their way. We’d chat about canoes, paddling, trips people were going to take, and what model would best suit their needs. The best part about this experience was to be able to try out each model, as the only way to really know how the boats feel is to get out on the water with them. It was very interesting to hear about so many people’s preferences in what made for the best canoe. Tracking, maneuverability,  stability, load capacity were all qualities that varied in importance depending on the individual, but the “feel” of the boat was really the most important to people. For that you can only really know when you get a chance to try out your boat. And boy did they have a bunch of boats to try out. Canoes and Kayaks were laid out practically as far as you see, in a great mix of colours, in all shapes and sizes. You’d be hard pressed not to find a boat that was right for you.

Getting an SUP lesson from BluWave Paddlesports

In fact, if canoes or kayaks weren’t your thing, there were even representatives from BluWave Paddlesports giving demos on their SUPs. I didn’t try this myself, but plenty did, and they all looked like they had a blast. Also there were the guys from Hobie. They sell a line of kayaks, sailing and fishing boats that you can paddle or sail, but also by use of the foot pedals that turn blades similar to how penguins swim, making for a pretty efficient movement (more info here).

This is called the Hobie Mirage Tandem Island - you can sail it, kayak it or pedal it. It's fast.

Of course the other part of my job was to carry the boats around. It would have been interesting to have counted how many boats I carried. For me, this was a great opportunity to test portage all the different types of canoes. Thankfully, they make canoes pretty light today. The boats weighed between 30 and 60 pounds, but most were nice and light. I’m not sure how quickly I’d volunteer to do this for a company that makes heavier canoes, because as I was warned, doing this all day did wind up wearing me down a little. I also confirmed that I’d hate to portage a kayak, especially a heavy one. They’re awkward to carry compared to a canoe. This I knew, but the point was really driven home after carrying a number of them. Some were so light I could just haul them around at the hip, but even then I’m not sure how often I’d want to do that over the tougher/longer carries. Sure, you’d be able to paddle faster, but I guess that just means getting to the portage quicker, which doesn’t sound as appealing. But that’s just my opinion. I’m not kayaker. Which brings me to another point.

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Calling All Outdoor Writers

I had this idea that keeps running through my head. What if a bunch of outdoor writers/bloggers got together, went on a trip, and each wrote about the experience in their own way. It would be a neat experience to see how different people viewed the same trip, and a great chance to exchange some knowledge and see different styles of tripping.

My initial thought would be for the group to all travel together but doing so in their own way, using and packing their own preferred gear. What would be very cool is when we make camp to have some round-table discussions on different topics, perhaps take some videos of it. Once we get back, we’d exchange whatever photos/videos we have then each write up the trip in our own styles.

At this point I have no solid plans made, not even as to where we go, or even when we can do it. Ideally I’d prefer it be a canoe camping trip, but I’m open to other camping options. I think part of this experience will be in the planning – choosing where and when to go, and how we all get there.

If you’re interested, please let me know. All I ask is that you have an active blog or regularly publish articles somewhere, and are willing to travel to (and go camping in) Ontario for this trip. My original intent was to get Outdoor/Camping/Canoeing bloggers for this trip, but at this point I’d be open to other perspectives as well (though if the possible participants list gets too large, we may be forced to exclude the Celebrity Fashion boggers, sorry).

On the fence? I present to you my closing argument: You get to go camping with this pretty lady:

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Kevin Callan’s Wilderness Quest

Does Wilderness still exist? Kevin Callan wants to find out for his new DVD Wilderness Quest – and of course he does it in his own unique way. See below for details on how to view the film or get your own DVD copy.

A Beautiful Film

The movie is part documentary, part philosophy and, as one would expect from Kevin, part slapstick. Filmed beautifully in Quetico Provincial Park, the viewer gets to travel along on one of his trips, from begining to end. Quetico is a good choice for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great spot to go canoeing, and definitely can be described as a wilderness. From paddling down remote rivers, to portaging rough terrain, to weathering storms and dealing with bugs, you get to experience it all. If you’ve never been out in any wilderness, you might wonder why others watching look on wanting to be there. Kevin makes a good point early in the film that it’s the usually the bad stories that we’re always telling when we get back from our trips. I do this all the time. Are we keeping others from the wilderness by telling only the bad stuff? Kevin’s film has much more good than bad. Maybe there should be more films like this. Quetico certainly is a great setting to show how great wilderness can look, and this film sure does have some great views.

What’s also interesting about choosing Quetico though, is that it and the connected Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) over the American border is actually more wild now than it was centuries ago when mining, logging and the fur trade had people running through the area quite a bit. Before that, it was part of a connection of major canoe routes used by the Native Americans, and still contains many sites of both archaeological and spiritual value. It’s also a place where few people visit. Watch for a make-shift infographic on visitors of the park.

If you're a super important blogger like me, you can get your DVD autographed. That or just ask him at one of his shows. Either way.

The Answer

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International Man of Portaging

One of the greatest things about living in Canada sitting down talking to people and hearing about where their family comes from, and in particular, what brought them here. After all, if you go back far enough, most of us are all immigrants. Why I find that so interesting can be traced from my own family’s story.

On my mother’s side, my great-grandfather, stationed in England during the First World War, somehow convinced a lovely young lady to marry him, leave her family and come with him in Canada. I don’t know whether it was the uniform or that he told her he owned several acres of land back home. In England at the time, that much land meant pretty good wealth. When I think of this, I see the trademarked Pelletier wry smile of this young soldier (which they tell me I’ve inherited), who probably knew of her assumption and chose not to correct her. She’d find out the hard way that wasn’t the case. You can imagine what was going through this proper city lady’s mind as they traveled further and further from the comfort of the city, down smaller and smaller roads – then no roads – only to finally get to the huge acreage, but filled with nothing but trees surrounding a small shack. What had she gotten herself into? He must have been one hell of a charming man, because she stayed with him for 62 years.

My father’s family came over in 1956, when my grandfather was given a simple choice of going to live in South Africa, Australia or Canada. He had met his young bride also during a World War, but the second time the Germans had invaded Holland. Afterwards, he joined the printing trade, and at the time there were programs available to skilled workers that promised good jobs abroad. He knew very little about his choice of country, and finally decided on Canada because he had heard good things. Without knowing a word of English, he traveled with his wife and two kids across the Atlantic, first to Montreal and then eventually to Hamilton. Sadly, he found out shortly after this point that he had a skin condition that would force him out of the printing profession, the very reason he had uprooted his life.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like – if I’d exist at all – had these events not occurred exactly the way they did. What if Art had been less handsome or charming? What if Pieter had flipped a coin and found himself in the Outback? Then again, what if either of their brides had said “Nuts to that! Send me a postcard when you get there, buddy.” I knew both these ladies, and believe me, that wouldn’t have been out of character for either of them. We all have these stories somewhere in our family history. It’s less popular than hockey or maple syrup, but all our stories of how we got here are definitely a part of being Canadian.

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The Attack

I had a little fun with a post on facebook, and figured I’d share it here as well. I found this picture and decided to post it, then got a little carried away with the description (below):


Don’t let the stone face expression fool you. If you look closely enough, you can see the fear, however slight, making it’s way from my eyes. When this wild beast came upon me yesterday I had to rely on my experience, knowledge, and most of all, my will to survive.

In only moments, I assessed the identity of this oncoming beast. His piercing teeth, wolf like gait, blond fur extending to his curly tail, not to mention his colouring around the neck – this could be none other than a Polka Dot Collared Blond Forest Hound.

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