The Urban Oarsman rows (and sails!) to the top of Pitt Lake with the Hollyburn Sailing Club 2019 May Long Weekend Paddle.

The Urban Oarsman rows (and sails!) to the top of Pitt Lake with the Hollyburn Sailing Club 2019 May Long Weekend Paddle.Pitt Lake Trip, May long weekend 2019

The Urban Oarsman, and three paddlers leave the rain of Vancouver and paddle & row into the sunshine of Pitt Lake

Leaving the rain behind.

Heather and I arrive at the Grant Narrows boat launch. It is $15 for me to launch Gwragedd Annwn and free for car-topped kayaks. Paddlers get all the breaks. I also pay $20 for parking until Monday. The rain is just easing up.

Gwragedd Annwn at the dock, ready to depart. I have made a sailing rig for her. The mast is stepped and I am ready for any wind. There is none, so I row.

We will paddle on the East side of the lake for the trip up, West side for the trip down.

Departing the dock.

I am packed and ready to go. After stepping the mast, I row Gwragedd Annwn up river to Pitt Lake. Heather is still packing her Coop Kayak.

As Heather in her Coop Kayak is much faster than I, I head out while she is still packing. She will catch up with me and pass me soon.

The rain has stopped. The clouds are getting lighter to the South. Maciej and Sharron arrive as Heather departs Grant Narrows.

The clouds still look pretty dark up the lake.

Raven Creek campground is about 10km uplake from Grant Narrows.

There are pilings along the South End of the lake. Old log booming grounds.

The South shore of the lake has a number of old log boom pilings. Three of them have been put to good use by Ospreys. Several of the pilings have nesting platforms on top of them.

Osprey on the nest with chicks. Note the landing bar.

The South end of Pitt Lake has the largest negatively accreting delta in the world, and Pitt Lake is the second largest fresh water tidal lake in the world. We will have to make sure to bring the kayaks above the high tide line. There is a dredged channel leading along the South shore and then up into the lake. With the high water and our shallow draft, we can Row & Paddle anywhere.

Cruising along, between the pilings and the dyke, leaving the dark and damp behind.

The rain has stopped completely. There is no wind. Ideal conditions for paddling.

Heather passes another Osprey nest…and me.

Whenever you begin a paddle, things always get better….

Sunshine breaking through.

Good weather is on the way!

The beginning of a sunny long weekend!

Heather and I make it to the Raven Creek campground…Meanwhile…

HSC Kayak Captain Maciej and SKABC member, Sharron paddle along the dyke after leaving from Grant Narrows.

Heather and I do not see Maciej and Sharron. The Raven Creek delta blocks our view of the South shore of the lake.

Maciej and Sharron arrive at Raven Creek. We are happy to see them.

Maciej arrives at Raven Creek.
Sharron arrives at Raven Creek.
Happy to be here.
We do not pull Gwragedd Annwn up the beach, she is anchored at the shore.

We are all secure for the night. The kayaks pulled up and Gwragedd Annwn moored securely.

Supper time on the beach. Maciej is making “dessert”, a mulled wine digestif.
You can see the high tide line behind us.

We make camp and make supper. The sun has dried everything out.

Interesting Polypores (Bracket fungi) at the campsite.

We have a modest campfire on the beach below the high tide line.

When the rising tide puts out the campfire, it is time for happy, tired paddlers to go to sleep.

The tide does rise quite high. The evening tide is the “low” high and the morning tide is the “high” high. We have about 12″ or so to go before our camp floods.

Impromptu bear cache.

The full moon tomorrow night will be the “Blue” moon and the tide will be at its highest then.

Saturday morning launch. We are going to Vickers Creek campground.

The tide is higher in the morning than it was last night.

The plan for Saturday is to paddle to Vickers Creek Campground, another 17km or so uplake (27km from the Grant Narrows launch).

Looks like some pictographs. This may be the pictograph shown on a map by Chris Arnett, Department of Anthropology, UBC, in his work “Rock Art of the Lower Fraser River Region”.
Pictograph of the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake!?!

For a moment, I think that I see a clue to the Giant Salamander mystery.

A seal checks us out

Perhaps another clue to the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake mystery…a miss-identified seal sighting.

With the recent rain, the Pitt Lake waterfalls are flowing.

As afternoon arrives, a slight breeze picks up. I decide to try sailing.

This is the idea…too windy to row, Sail. Not enough wind to sail, Row.

Gwragedd Annwn running under sail.

I put my rudder on, drop the leeboards and hoist my 104 square foot balanced lug sail for a downwind run.


We meet mid-lake. Heather, Maciej and Sharron are much faster in the kayaks and have checked out the Vickers Creek campsite. They say the beach is too jammed with drift logs for a landing.

Making plans to check out Pitt River delta for a campsite

They have also checked out Ashby Creek and have come to the same conclusion. We decide to check out the north end of Pitt Lake for a campsite.

Sailing to the North end of Pitt Lake, where the Pitt River enters.

The kayakers are so quick that they can check out the sites and have a break and meet me before I arrive at the North end of the lake.

Pitt River delta in the distance.

Even under sail, the kayaks are still faster than Gwragedd Annwn. They will paddle up and scout for a campsite. If they do not find anything, they will return and we will try Vickers or Ashby…..

Going up Pitt River, looking for a campsite.

In his book “The Vancouver Paddler”, Glen Stedham says that there are sandy beaches near the mouth of Red Slough, on the Eastern shore suitable for camping. With Pitt Lake water level so high, will the beaches are under water?

The kayakers arrive at a gravel bar upriver.

Maciej decides to explore the Pitt River delta area for a campsite.

This is as far up as I can get…The current is too strong and the water too shallow to row up any further. I beach Gwragedd Annwn, tie her up and on my way upriver to tell the kayakers, I discover a good, high and sandy campsite on the bank behind the willows.

The camp is sandy, with willows sprouting. The tops of the willows have been eaten by Moose…In the sand, we see their hoof prints and their scat.

Maciej at the Pitt River camp. Even he is tired from paddling against the river current.

We hope that we do not get stepped on by browsing moose in the night.

Suppertime at the Pitt River willow camp.

I am using my wife’s Trangia stove, still going strong after all these years. This methyl alcohol stove burns silently, boils AND simmers well. Great stove. Lightweight…quiet as the wilderness itself.

We have solved the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake mystery. There are not giant salamanders, but giant toads!

There were hundreds of Western Toad (Bufo boreas) toadlets hopping around at the campsite.

This one seems to be eyeing up Maciej.

Evening falls on our camp.

Tonight is the night of the Blue Moon. Heather wakes up to see it.

Gwragedd Annwn tied up for the night with Golden Ears in the background.

The moon is scenic through the clouds. Sadly, no photos turned out.

In the morning, Heather and Sharron break camp.

We have discussed where to spend our last night. With both Vickers and Ashby Creek campsites being log-jammed, we decide to return to Raven Creek.

Rowing, this time with the current, down Pitt River for Raven Creek campsite.

The kayakers paddle down river too.

Departing the Pitt River Delta for Raven Creek.
Yet, again, the kayakers pass me. Maciej’s picture.

The kayakers will go to Ashby Creek and try to intercept our one night campers. We do not have any cell phone or internet service here to communicate with them.

My picture of Maciej.

Kayakers having a rest stop.

Kayaker rest stop.
Some beaches are very difficult, even for kayaks, to land at.

For Gwragedd Annwn and I, the wind picks up and I try sailing again. With inflow wind speeds of up to and sometimes over 8 kts, I get over 5.5 kts, most of the time in the right direction. I hope the wind holds!!!

I sail right past Ashby Creek and do not see any kayakers.

Coming up to Cozen Point. Note the lack of movement of the smoke on the far shore. (sigh!) Barely a ripple in the water…wind is fading fast.

No wind.

At Cozen Point, the wind drops to no wind and Pitt Lake is a flat as glass. Goose Island is to the right of centre in this photo.

I furl the sail and begin to row. Perfect rowing (or paddling) conditions. However, with no air movement whatsoever, brilliant sunshine, I am cooking. I have about an 8km row to Raven Creek beach. 3+hrs at the thwart?

In this heat, I row for about ten minutes, stop, wipe my forehead and neck with a wet bandanna, have a drink of water and row on…then repeat…and row on…repeat…and row on…and repeat and row on.

Back at Raven Creek campsite.

After three and a quarter hours of rowing and three litres of water later, I am at Raven Creek.

Gwragedd Annwn on the beach, with Goose Island to the left and Little Goose Island to the right. Cozen point just left of centre.

Maciej receives an email sent to him this morning that the two Sunday kayakers have left the Grant Narrows launch…We have missed them. We hope that they will have a good paddle and a good night.

Campfire on the beach again.

In the photo above, you can see the high tide line behind Sharron and Maciej, at the bow of Maciej’s kayak.

Many great stories are told.

Sunday evening sunset. It will be warmer tonight with the cloud cover.

As night falls, the clouds move in. Rain is predicted for Monday…

We are all prepared for a rainy Monday morning….

Early Monday morning…actually TOO early Monday morning…no rain yet. I get going while the going is good!

At 5:30 in the morning there is no rain and no wind. Because Gwragedd Annwn is so slow, I decide to leave earlier than planned. Do not want to row in the rain.

No stowaways allowed!!!

Expecting a wet morning, I prepacked and I am almost ready. I pack up my swag tent and remaining gear and leave. (I do, however, make enough noise, like a boy scout troop apparently, to wake everyone else up!)

No rain, no wind, high clouds…we may be lucky on the paddle home.

Being a true leader without knowing it, I have inspired the kayakers to leave too.

The kayakers pack-up before the rain too.

Hummmm…Seems as if we are paddling back to the rain we left on Friday!

As Maciej passes me, it begins to spit.

The rain eases up and hopefully we will be on the hard, packed up and away before it begins to rain hard.

Almost at Grant Narrows and the rain has stopped.

We all arrive at Grant Narrows and load up the kayaks and I put Gwragedd Annwn on her trailer. We pack-up all of our gear.

We go for breakfast.

A good end to a great trip!!!
My GPS track of the trip on Google Earth. The squiggly bit at the top is where I was sailing.

Distances, with a little sightseeing:

Day one, to Raven Creek campground 9.12km.

Day two, Raven Creek to Pitt River delta, 22.34km.

Day three, Pitt River delta to Raven Creek 21.17km

Day four, Raven Creek campground to Grant Narrows 10.14km.

Total: 62.77km.

There is no water level gauge on Pitt Lake that I know of. The nearest one is the Fenton Gauge.

Water Levels at the Fenton Gauge, May long weekend 2019.
This is the closest gauge to Pitt Lake. The tides going up the river to the lake arrive later, depending on how far up the lake you are.

May 17th, 5am. 1.0568m Low Low

May 18th, 8pm. 1.4628m Low High

May 18th, 3am. 1.36m High Low

May 18th, 8am. 1.75m High High

May 18th, 5pm. 0.94m Low Low

May 18th, 11pm. 1.66m Low High

May 19th, 3am. 1.59m High Low

May 19th, 9am. 1.79m High High

May 19th, 5pm. 0.96m Low Low

May 20th, Midnight. 1.69m Low High

May 20th, 5am. 1.68m High Low

May 20th, 8am. 1.7874m High High

The gauge is located on the river near Sheridan Hill, South of Addington Point.

We sighted Ospreys, Canada Geese, Eagles, Mergansers, Humming Birds, Ducks, Seals, Beavers, Western Spotted Toads, Loons, Ravens, Downy Woodpeckers, Crows and saw Moose sign.

Sharron has forgotten her keens at the Pitt River willow camp.

I found a great (well after it is cleaned) camping spoon.

Pitt Lake is a great row…Enjoy!

Good Rowing to you,


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Bee’s Wax or Snow Guard on Oar Leathers?

I decided to do a test to see which penetrated my oar leather better…Bee’s Wax or Snow Guard.

Using scrap pieces of leather, I put a dab of Snow Guard is on the Left and a piece of Bee’s Wax is on the right.

Bee’s wax can be pretty expensive…Mountain Equipment Co-Op sells a 60 gram bee’s wax candle for $3.50. I bought a piece of “raw” bee’s wax from a store called Wicks & Wax, in Burnaby, B.C. for about $11.00/lbs.

Melting the Snow Guard.

Using a heat gun, I melt the Snow Guard and it soaks into the leather. Not much heat is required. I keep adding Snow Guard an allowing it to soak into the leather.

Melting the Bee’s Wax.

Melting the Bee’s Wax into the leather. More heat is needed to melt the wax compared to the Snow Guard. I am careful not to scorch the leather.

Both the Snow Guard and the Bee’s Wax must be molten to soak into the leather. The leather must be warm enough to keep them molten.

Liquid Snow Guard soaking into the leather.
Liquid Bee’s Wax soaking into the leather.
I let the two treatments cool.
Both the Snow Guard and the Bee’s Wax have soaked through the leather

I turn the two pieces of leather over and view the results.

I cut a cross-section though the leather to see how the Snow Guard (top piece) and the Bee’s Wax (bottom piece) have penetrated the leather. The Bee’s Wax is the darker layer.

So which is better for treating your Oar Leathers? The Snow Guard is easier to apply, it needs far less heat to penetrate the leather. You can rub the Snow Guard on the leathers and leave them in a warm place or in the sun and the Snow Guard will soak into the leather.

The Bee’s Wax seems to fill the leather more fully but needs a lot more heat to melt and soak into the leather.

I have treated a new set of oars with Bee’s Wax and will try them out and see how well the Bee’s Wax performs.

Melting the Bee’s Wax to “paint” the wax onto the Oar Leathers.

The first step is to melt the wax. I use a tuna tin, my heat gun and a plant-pot heater to melt the wax.

Bee’s Wax painted onto the Oar Leathers.

Using a paint brush, I coat the Oar Leathers with the wax. It solidifies almost immediately. I paint on several layers.

Using a heat gun to melt the Bee’s Wax into the Oar Leathers.

I use my heat gun to melt the wax into the leather. Experience is showing me that many thin layers are better than a few thick ones.

I keep moving the heat gun to melt the wax.

I get the leather hot enough to melt the Bee’s Wax, and keep applying it until it no longer soaks into the leather.

The Bee’s Wax soaks into the leather evenly. Paint brush applicator in upper right.

When the leather is saturated, I move to the next oar.

All waxed up, letting cool.

When the leather is saturated, I wipe off the excess wax. The wax does not soak into the leather where the glue is.

With the Oar Leathers Bee’s Waxed, I will try them out and see if I like the “feel” while rowing.

….Feeling the stroke…


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Leathering Oars.

Gwragedd Annwn’s Oars with their leathers and buttons.

For the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society, I am teaching a how to make Oars workshop at our new site, formerly the Old Coal House building, now the Wooden Boat Centre at 60 East Columbia Street in New Westminster, BC.

This is how to leather the Oars you make (or buy). I first like to get between 3 to 6 coats of varnish on the oars (not the grips). The oar should be varnished under the leathers. I like to get the leathers on while the varnish is dry but still soft. Subsequent coats of varnish will help “lock” the leathers in place.

To leather my oars, I used:

Oar Leathering material and tools.

A piece of Double shoulder special 7/9oz Veg-tanned leather from Tandy Leather, four pieces of 8½” by 11” paper for patterns, a ruler, Scissors, a pencil, leather punch, big sewing needles, scotch tape, waxed twine, a 33 cm. by 38.1 cm. Ziploc bag and Snow Guard.

The Sailmaker’s Twine I used for the leathers. I bought it at Martin Marine (The greatest marine store in the Lower Mainland) in North Vancouver. 604-985-0911.

How thick should your leather be? The guiding factor I use is the max diameter plus double the thickness of your leather is less than the inside diameter of your preferred oarlock. In my case, max inside diameter of my oarlocks is 2  5/16″.  The diameter of the oar at the leather is 1 7/8″ plus two times the thickness of the  leather (1/8″) is 1/4″.  This gives me a diameter at the leather of 2 1/8″. I will have 3/16″ of “wiggle room” at the oarlock.

Oar Leather plan.

Step One: you measure your oars to determine where your leathers should go. The measurement you begin with is the distance between your oarlocks. There are many oar placement formulas out there. I use the Phil Bolger’s recommended method. Bolger wanted his oars to just clear each other at the boat centreline with the oars horizontal and eight twenty-fifths of the oar length inboard of the oarlock. I usually like to leave a little less so I never smash my thumbs together (I have a bit of a bad habit of locking my thumbs over the end of the handle of the oar while rowing). I want my oars to be at the 8/25th from the grip (or 17/25th mark from the tip of the blade) mark on the oar. This is where I put my button. This means that when I push my oars down to the button, I am at the 17/25 gearing spot. I can bring my oars inboard to reduce gearing, but I cannot put my oars further out to increase gearing…I can only make it easier to row. I am fine with that. I am not very good at holding my oars in the oarlock at the right spot …that is why I put my button where I want my oars to sit.

The Key Factor is to put your buttons wherever you want, as long as the rowing feels good to you. The rowing gods will not send lightning to strike you dead if your buttons are not exactly at 8/25ths of the length of the oar! These are Your Oars, so do what works best and feels best for you.

If you are good enough at rowing to be able to hold your oars where you want them at the oarlocks, you can may not need a button at all and you should centre your leathers on the 8/25th mark, so you can gear up or down as you row.

Now in all honesty, I never change my gearing. My leathers could be only slightly longer that the width of the oarlock “horns” or “arms”. To protect the oar the leathers would only need to be an inch or two long, but, that does not look right. If you are going to change your gearing while rowing, you need a leather that is long enough to do so, so no matter what your gearing is, as long as you are rowing on the leather on your oar. Bolger shows his leathers as being 6″ long (Small Boats, International Marine, 1973, pg 30 & 31) …Some other authors go a long as 14″. As long as your leathers protect your oars from wear at the oarlock, the length is an aesthetic decision you must make. Whatever looks good to you. I am an 11″ leathers man myself.

The longer the leather, the less likely the leather is to slip on the oar.

Oar Leathers

Step Two: I am Using a 8½” by 11” piece of paper for a pattern, so my leathers are 11″ tall by the circumference of the oar. The circumference measurement is dependent on how much your leather shrinks or expands when wet-out. Take a test piece of leather (say 6″ by 6″) let it soak overnight and remeasure it to see how your leather changes when wet-out. If the leather expands when wet, deduct the extra so you end up with a ⅛” to ¼” gap. If the leather shrinks when wet, add to your measurement so that you still get a ⅛” to ¼” gap. On your paper pattern, mark where the button will be. Tape it to the oar with the button mark ½” past the 8/25th mark (where you want your oarlock to be). Mark on your paper pattern where the paper overlaps. Mark where the paper ends on the blade side, so you know where your leathers will go.

Another trick you can try is to use a strip of your leather (say the ½” by 18” strip for the button) to determine the around the oar measurement. This will allow for the thickness of the leather.

Pattern marked where it overlaps.

Remove the paper, draw a line to connect the two marks. Draw another line, ⅛” to ¼” further in from the first line. You want your soaked piece of leather to be ⅛” to ¼” smaller so you will have a gap that you will later pull tight. ( ⅛” to ¼”? how stretchy is your leather when wet?) Cut out the pattern. For my flat blade spoons this is 11″ by 5¼”. My button will be a strip of leather that goes twice around the oar, about 11″ long. A word or two about buttons. I use my button to help hold the oar at the correct (for me) spot at the oarlock. Two wraps of leather is fine for this. If you want your button to keep your oarlocks on your oars, say with Scotty strongbacks or any round oarlock designed to stay on the oars, you must make sure that the button stands proud enough to keep the oarlocks from falling off of the oars at the grip. Your button may have to do two jobs, oar placement and oarlock retention.

Oar leather plan after wetting out test piece to see what happens to the leather I have.

Make a paper pattern for all of the oars you are going to leather. Transfer the pattern to the leather. With my leather, I draw a line 11″ from the bottom of the piece. using the paper patterns, I mark on the leather where to cut.

Transferring the patterns to the leather.

I have four ½” strips at the beginning and four 11″ by the circumference of the oar less ⅛” (I am not going to stretch my leather much).

Cutting out the button strips. It is difficult to cut leather…You may want to try using a X-acto knife.

Using a pair of heavy-duty scissors, I cut the patterns out.

Cutting the four pieces out.

I find that it is too hard to just sew through the leather so I punch holes to sew through.

Collars cut out and marked for the lacing holes.

Step Three: On the rough side of the leather, I draw a line at least a ¼” in from the edge and mark the lacing holes every ¼” . You can use whatever measurement you want, just end up with an odd number of holes. Every 10cm would work just as well. I would not go any closer than ¼” as when wet, the leather is soft…do not want it to tear.

Punching out the lacing holes.

Punch out the holes…obviously, the longer the leather is the more holes to punch. I have never tried drilling them out. If you do not have a punch, I suggest that you buy one when you buy your leather…Talk to the sales clerks, and tell them what project you are working on. They may have some good suggestions for you.

Punching an odd number (43) of holes.

Step Four: Having punched all of the holes, I put the leathers and button strips into a large (33 cm. by 38.1 cm Ziploc bag and add water…

Soaking the leathers.

I will let the leather soak overnight (however, an hour will do). I use room temperature water NOT hot water! Hot or boiling water will make the leather hard and unworkable.

A couple of extra tools may be helpful. A pair of pliers, a corkscrew and two small diameter wooden blocks (I used the cut-off grip ends of my oars from when I cut them to size).

Oar leather soaked, with the holes marked, and cut to size. Time to punch out the holes.

When completely saturated, my leather went from 1/8″ to 3/16″ in thickness!

Another way of cutting your leathers to size is to cut the leathers Oversize, say 11″ by the circumference plus ¼” (bigger than your oar circumference!). Mark the holes ¼” on a line ⅜” from the edge. Do not punch the holes, soak the leather first. When the leather is saturated, remeasure the oar and then cut the leather to fit. If you have to cut the leather on the long edge to fit the circumference with a ⅛” gap, use a sharp knife and a ruler (on a breadboard). Now punch the holes on the ¼” marks, ¼” from the edge. I found wet leather easier to cut and punch than the dry leather.

A thick rubber band at each end of the leather helps keep the leather in the right spot.
First stitch at the Blade end of the leather.

Step Five: With the leathers thoroughly soaked, I begin to sew them on. I have the 8/25th point (where the oarlocks will be on the oar while rowing). I put the leather there and start sewing from the Blade end up to the grip end. This way I will finish at the button end of the leather and the button will cover where I tie the threads together.

Gwragedd Annwn’s 1500+ Nautical Mile Oars. The “stubby” leathers are because the oars were too “loose”. Another leather filled out the oarlock. Chafe against the oarlock has worn the stitching into the leather. All of Gwragedd Annwn’s oar leathers have had the stitching “worn-in” by the oarlock horns. You can really see where the oarlocks sit, the worn area just under the button. No problems so far.

Now the big question! Stitches Up? Down? on the front side? on the back side? I think that this is mainly an aesthetic consideration. Gwragedd Annwn’s spoon oars (with over 1500 nautical miles on them) have the stitching resting against the oarlock. The oarlock “wears” on them with every stroke. No issues so far. I use fairly thick ⅛”+ leather and perhaps the stitches settle deep enough into the leather so the stitching does not wear.

Stitching oar side up. The side at the bottom of the picture will rest against the oarlock during each stroke. Forward is bottom of the picture, Aft is at the top.

For the flat spoons I have made, I am putting the stitching “Up”, where they should wear the least against the oarlock. I will be able to see the stitching with every stroke. I will see how it looks and if I like the look.

Rolling out the leather on the flat spoons with the stitching on the top of the oar.

After I have leathered the oars, I take a rolling pin and roll out the leather. This helps the leather to fit tight to the oar and helps seat the stitching.

Pulling the stitching tight with a corkscrew.

If the stitching is a little loose, I use a corkscrew (on my Swiss Army Knife) to pull it tight.

The rubber band helps keep the edges of the leather together.

For the flat blades, I will put the stitching on the bottom (power face) side of the oars.

Saving your hands by using blocks.

If you need to get more tension, wrap the lacing around a block and pull. If you are having trouble with pulling/pushing the needles through the holes, use a pair of pliers to pull the needles with.

Secret message under the oar leather.

Step Six: Buttons, Buttons, where do the buttons go?

Since Gwragedd Annwn is at home, I took my newly leathered oars out and put them into the oarlocks, sat in the boat and made sure that my thumbs had clearance. I marked where the buttons should go. I had measured right.

I took the 18″ by ½” strips of soaked leather and cut bevels in the ends with a sharp knife. I patted them dry with paper towel. I gave them a tug to stretch them. If you are using your button to keep “Captive” oarlocks on the oar, make sure that you have a long enough piece that when wrapped around the oar stops the oarlock from coming off of the oar….Oh, and now is the time to put the oarlock on! If you are using Scotty Strongbacks, make sure that the flat side of the “P” will be on the forward side of the oar. You want to be rowing against the pin. If you are using symmetrical captive oarlocks, any way will do.

Button tools…Thick rubber bands, the widest hose clamps you can find and a nut driver.

I laid the strip next to the oar and spread a line of Titebond II glue down the centre of the strip.

Wrapping the button strip around the oar leather, covering the lacing knot.

I then wrapped the strip around the leather at the end with the end knot.

I twist the button around until the two ends, inside and outside line up.

I secured the wound strip with a thick rubber band. I turned the button until the beginning end and the ending end were opposite each other.

Applying the hose clamp. I left the rubber band on so the hose clamp will not leave marks. This is the time to insure that your button wraps are aligned.

I then took a hose clamp and used it to clamp the button loosely . Make sure that the layers are on top of each other. Tighten. If your button shape distorts, undo the clamp and re-align. The blade side of the button should be the straightest.

I tighten the hose clamp…I find that Titebond II likes a lot of clamping pressure. If your button shape distorts, undo the clamp and re-align.

Step Seven: Wipe off excess glue and put aside and let dry.

Oars set aside to let the glue dry.

If your hose clamps are not wide enough and leave a mark on the button that looks like this (and you do not like the look):

Mark left by hose clamp.

There is a fix for this…it uses a piece of 1″ by 12″ sheet metal flashing. I bought mine at the hardware store. You could also use a piece of cut-up 1 litre pop bottle. You need one strip for every button.

Two 1″ by 12″ strips of flashing.

The method is to use the hose clamp to “clamp” the button, squeezing out all of the excess glue/water then take off the hose clamp, wrap the button with the flashing strip and re-apply the clamp. Tighten.

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The end of the flashing strip should be not be curved down into the button.

The Oar Leather Buttons clamped…set aside to dry.

I do the same for all of the oars. The leather will shrink as it dries.

Snow Guard is on the top two oars. Snow Guard does darken the leather.

Step Eight: When the leather is thoroughly dry and warm, I rub Snow Guard into them to seal, waterproof and protect the leather. Put the oars somewhere warm (in the sun) for the Snow Guard to soak into the leather. In cold weather, I have heated the leathers with a Hair-Dryer to melt the Snow Guard into the leather or left them by the fireplace.

More coats of varnish after Leathering.

After the Leathering is done, I put some more (to total at least 12) coats of varnish on the oars. The additional coats will help “glue” the leathers in place.

Varnish right up to the leathers…varnish seeping under the leathers, locking them in place.

Step Nine: Go Rowing!!!

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Gwragedd Annwn’s Cupped Spoon Oars.

The rowing journey begins

Gwragedd Annwn has “D” section red cedar cupped spoon oars. They are 8’6″ in length and have a blade area of ≈125 square inches. I have two sets, sized for the fore and aft rowing positions. The fore pair weigh 4lbs. 13oz. and 4lbs. 13.6oz.; the after pair weigh 4lbs. 9.10z. and 4lbs. 8.2oz. They all have lead weights in the grips for balance. They have performed very well for me. After several thousand nautical miles of rowing, I have made some modifications to Gwragedd Annwn’s cupped spoon oars.

Oars with spline on the right, spline removed on the left.

I felt that I had overbuilt the oars. I felt that they were heavy in the blade.

The first step is to rip off the splines from the 9′ cedar 2″ by 6″ (my oars will finish at 8′ 6″). The splines are the two opposite edges of the 2″ by 6″. The rounded edges will mean less wood to shave off later. The next step is to set the saw blade to 10° and rip the rest of the 2″ by 6″ into two trapezoid shafts.

The building of Gwragedd Annwn’s oars. The trapezoid shafts and the splines.

The wide base of the trapezoid will rest against the oarlock, i.e., faces forward, the narrow top of the trapezoid (the powerface of the oar blade) faces aft.

I use a blade profile pattern to make the spoon shape.
Spoon profile marked out on a blade blank.

After marking the blade shape profile on the blade blank, I carefully cut the spoon blade out.

A spoon oar blade blank cut out.

After you cut the spoon oar blade blanks, mark the blade shape onto the blank.

Gwragedd Annwn’s Oars

After you mark the spoon oar blade blanks, you cut them in half, down the middle to make two “wings” to fit onto your trapezoid shaft.

Four “wings” to make a pair of oars.

I use the spoon wing blanks to mark out the cutting line on the trapezoid shafts.
Do not bother to glue on the blade tip protectors as I did here…when you cut the blanks into two, you have to redo the blade tips to cover the shaft tip as well!
Cutting the shafts for the spoon “wings”. The jig saw is set to:
Jigsaw “eyeballed” to the correct angle for the blade “keel”, the ridge that will be down the power face of the blade.
One side of the Trapezoid shaft cut for the “wings”. The powerface of the blade faces down in this picture.
The trapezoid shaft cut for both of the “wings”. The powerface of the blade faces down in this picture.
I am using epoxy thickened with cedar sawdust to glue the “wings” on. Epoxy does not require clamping pressure. If I had to use clamps, the “wings” might drift under the pressure.
End view showing the dihedral angle of the “wings”.
Yes, those are just thick rubber bands from the stationary store.

I have not cut the blade shapes yet. I will use my jigsaw to cut them out later.

OOPS!!! cut out the blade shapes and did not take pictures of the process. Powerface is up in this picture, showing the “keel” structure running down the centre of the blade.
dryfit of the splines.
Glueing on the tip protectors and the “spline”. There are two sets of oars in this photo, one with the blades out and one with the blades in. The Oak tip protectors are “clamped” on with packing tape.
Everything glued up and ready for final shaping.

I used a ¼” round-over bit in my router to shape the narrow top of the trapezoid and a ¾” round-over bit for the wide base of the trapezoid shaft.

I set up the router in a router table and carefully ran all of the edges through it. I finished off the rounding-over with a 5″ random orbit hand sander. I then sanded with the grain to remove the sanding marks. Sadly no photos of the sanding process.

Full varnish mode….This is the set-up I used to varnish the oars. Ten coats in one week!

Now I know that I am some sort of varnish heathen…but let me explain. I have a cedar deck railing on my house that is varnished. I have refinished it twice in 30 years, most recently two years ago. For the railing, in the heat of the summer, I take a can of varnish and keep applying it until the can is empty. Coat after coat, as soon as the previous coat is dry to the touch. I do not worry about insects, dust, pollen etc. The varnish is for protection!
No varnish failure on the deck yet. I am sorry to say that I treat my oars in the same way. Lots of coats. In the winter it takes a long time for the varnish to dry “hard”, in the summer not as long.

My other heathenistic varnishing thing is: I like my varnish to be warm when I apply it. Seems to “flow” easier, go on smoother, cover better, and result in less “drips”. In the winter, I warm it up by putting it onto my “plant-pot” heater. In the summer, not really a problem.

Start from the blade end. I am re-lacing the leathers, as I broke the twine midway and had to start over. The lacing does “settle-in” into the wet leather.

I am leathering the Oars. I determine where 8/25th of the oar is. This is the accepted spot for the oarlocks. I take a piece of leather, about 12″ long and wide enough to go around the oar less ⅛”. ¼” from the edge, I punch holes along the edge every ¼”. I soak the leather in room-temperature water (in a baggie) overnight. Do not use hot water…it will ruin the leather. I use some waxed Sailmaker’s twine and baseball stitch the sides of the leather together. Two needles at the same time. Do not pull the leather together so tightly that you rip the leather…it will be pretty soft. If you are worried about the leather shifting after it has dried, there are a couple of things to try. I put some more coats of varnish on my oars after leathering. Varnishing right up to the leathers allows some varnish to seep under the leathers, glueing them in place when the varnish dries. Two or three coats of varnish will stick the leathers in place. You could also try smearing the oar under the leather with Titebond II glue before you sew them on. When you are happy with where your oars sit on the oar-collar, you can put on the buttons.

Rubber bands and hose clamps until the Titebond II dries.

My leathers are stitched to the oars and I am going to fix the buttons. I like to have my buttons at the maximum gearing that I intend to use. In this set-up, I can always “gear-down”. I cut about a ½” strip of leather, soak it overnight and use Titebond II to glue it onto the leathers. Hose clamps provide the clamping pressure. I do not nail the leathers to the oars.

When the leathers are thoroughly dry, I rub them with “Snow Guard”, a leather waterproofing treatment. (I bought mine at Marks Workwear House) I leave the oars in the sun to warm the leather so the Snow Guard really soaks in. I keep a jar of Snow Guard in the boat and coat the leathers at the beginning of each row so the oars move easily during the stroke.

For a full article on leathering oars, see “Leathering Oars”.

A bit of decoration varnished on.

The decoration is printed on “Onion Skin” tracing paper. I cut the decoration out, and put a coat of varnish onto the oar. While the varnish is still wet, I put the decoration on…and varnish over it.

I cast some lead rod to counter-balance the oars. Melted-up tire weights poured into ½” copper pipe molds set into cold ground.

The procedure for balancing the oars is to get into the boat, dip the oar into the water, use a scale to determine how much weight to put into the grip so the oar just floats with the blade below the surface. This does not have to be done in the field, I did it by putting a big cooler full of water beside Gwragedd Annwn, placing the oar into the oarlock and floating the blade in the cooler. I used fishing weights to determine how much lead rod to put into the oar grips. The weight was similar but different for each oar.

Epoxy plug for the lead rod weight insert.
Gwragedd Annwn’s Oars.

So that is how I made Gwragedd Annwn’s Cupped Spoon Oars. The additional small leather collars towards the blade are to hold them in position when using the transom sculling notch. I also use my oars to determine the water depth. See my post “How deep is the water”

See you out on the water!


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Making a birdsmouth hollow mast for Gwragedd Annwn part VI.

The epoxy glueing the Masthead Sheave plug to the Masthead is now cured.

I quickly sand off the excess epoxy from the joint.  I will re-varnish this spot.  It will be covered by reflective tape later.

Excess epoxy sanded off with 80 Grit…I will finish with 350 Grit.

I going to make up a plug for the mast base.  Because I reinforced the exterior of the mast with epoxy & cloth, I do not need as long a reinforcing plug on the inside as I had planned.  I stuff more aluminum foil into the hollow mast.  I leave just enough room for the plug stem.  I use a plug of aluminum foil to make a “dam” to keep the epoxy from flowing down the mast into the “crumpled for radar reflection” aluminum foil.

I was using these for belaying pins.

I start with an oak hand shovel handle I bought from Princess Auto.

Not needed bits.

  It is almost an exact fit.  I sand off the finish so the epoxy will soak into the wood.  I cut off the rounded top and the excess on the bottom.

Making the mast base plug.

I make up an oak disk, just over 2½” in diameter with a 1″ hole in the centre.   I use my Shopsmith disk sander to round down the shaft of the handle.  (I then sand the bottom of the mast to bare wood)  The disk will fit against the bottom of the mast.

Dry fit of the mast plug.  Grain aligned fore and aft to the Masthead Sheave.

I mix up the epoxy…Two hundred stirs.

I coat all the bare wood with epoxy, including the mast base inside.

After I have coated all the bare wood, I mix wood dust with the epoxy and get ready to glue it all together.

I angle the mast so the base is up and pour the thickened epoxy into it.  The Aluminum foil “dam” keeps the epoxy from going into the “crumpled for radar reflection” Aluminum foil while I get the plug glued in. 

I then wrap the joint with the packing tape to keep the epoxy from leaking out.  I stand the mast upright in the garage with the heat lamp on it.

The paper towel is for a bit of insulation from the cold floor and if there are any leaks.

Now all of the epoxy will flow down around the plug for a good glue-up.

The following morning, the epoxy has cured and I remove the packing tape and sand the joint smooth using 80 grit and finish with the wet/dry 350 grit sand paper (using it dry).
First coat of varnish.  I varnish to the end of the epoxy/cloth reinforcing. 

I now turn to the other (Masthead) end.

Masthead end ready for varnish touch-ups

I give the Masthead end a light sanding with the 350 wet/dry sandpaper and touch up the varnish.

A couple of coats of varnish and I will be done!

Final stats:

The mast is 17″1″ long and 16′ 10¼” to the centre of the sheave.  It is 2½” in diameter at the base, tapering to 2¼” at the masthead.   There is 1½ pounds of (radar reflective!!) aluminum foil in the mast.  The mast weight is (using my luggage scale) 14lbs.

The finished mast…just some varnish drying to do…Then a coat of paste wax.

Three photos of the finished mast in Gwragedd Annwn:

Side view of the mast. Note the reflective strip at the joint, top of the mast.
The mast fits quite well. I will have to adjust the mast step and mast partner for a perfect fit.

When the rains stop, I will rig Gwragedd Annwn with her new lugsail. I believe that I will have to move her mast-step and the mast partner to balance her for sailing…a little trial and error is in my future.

Good rowing to you,


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Making a birdsmouth hollow mast for Gwragedd Annwn part V

The epoxy has cured on the base of the mast reinforcing.  I used 6oz. cloth, left over from Paul’s Canoe build.

Mast outside ready for wet sanding…again, rain was predicted for today, but no rain.

I get out the wet/dry 350 grit sandpaper & bucket of warm water with a little soap again.  I sand smooth the joint where the cloth meets and where I did a little filling.

Not to get too boring, I sand the mast smooth, dry, take inside of the garage and begin to varnish

The varnishing consists of: a coat of varnish, rotating the mast every 30 minutes for two hours to minimise drips, let dry, repeat.  It is the same method I used to epoxy coat the mast, just more coats of varnish (8!)

Masthead Sheave plug assembly dry fit.

I take the Masthead Sheave plug assembly into the house to fit the sheave, washers and pin.  The pin is 3/16″ brass rod.  I got the brass washers from Roy.  

I take the assembly into the garage to cut the brass pin.
Nothing high-tech here.  Mark the pin, push it out a little.  Cut.

After I cut the pin to size, I file the edges smooth.  Ready to epoxy the plug into place.

I sand off any varnish on the base of the plug, so, the epoxy will soak into the wood.
Same with the mast head.

Both the plug and the masthead are sanded down to bare wood.  I set up the mast stand and then mix-up the epoxy.  Two hundred stirs.

Final dry fit.
Dry fitting the bamboo Masthead sheave plug pin.

All is good.

I coat the Masthead sheave plug shaft and the inside of the mast with the un-thickened epoxy.
I make sure to epoxy the bamboo pin and its hole.

After I have coated all the bare wood with the straight epoxy, I add wood dust to thicken the epoxy.  I put the base of the mast on the floor, angling the mast up towards the top so the epoxy will, if anything, run down into the mast.  I fill the mast head with the thickened epoxy mixture.

I insert the Masthead Sheave plug, the bamboo pin and then wrap the joint  and pin ends with packing tape to prevent the epoxy from leaking out.

It is hard to see from this angle, but the mast does angle down to the right.

To have all of the epoxy settle around the Masthead Sheave plug, I place the mast upside down in the centre of my garage.  Gravity will make the epoxy flow down and around the plug stem.  

Mast upside down, joints sealed with packing tape.
The mast is resting on an old sail in a sail bag so the varnish will not be scratched.  A
Heat lamp is shining on the joint.  I rotate the mast every 30 minutes so the epoxy will settle evenly.  

The distance to the inside peak of my roof is just a little over 17″.  The mast barely fits!!!

Gwragedd Annwn’s mast reaches to the peak. Paul’s Canoe in the background. 

Next step is to make the mast base plug.  I have a piece that I will fit into the base.  Tomorrow’s job….the mast is almost finished!

Another view.  That is the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society’s Douglas rowboat being stored.

Good rowing to you,


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Making a birdsmouth hollow mast for Gwragedd Annwn part IV

We have had over 20cms (almost 8″) of rain at the house.  It has been very rainy and more rain is predicted.  I decide to wet sand the mast tomorrow.  Well, it is now tomorrow and it is supposed to rain all day today.  I was all set up to wet sand the Mast and Masthead plug in the rain.  Would you not know it…no rain today, but the temperature is just over 13° C.

Wet sanding the mast in the not raining.  I am using 350 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

I have a margarine container with some hot water with a little dish soap.  I really want the varnish to stick to the mast, so I am making sure that the mast has a good bonding surface…the soap will wash off any “anime Blush” that there may be on the mast.  

While sanding, I find a seam that still needs to be filled.

Well, there is a change of plans.  I am going to fill a few minor flaws that I have found while sanding.  I will live to varnish another day.

I mix up a small amount of epoxy and a touch of sanding dust and go around the mast, filling the few flaws that I have found.  To keep the epoxy in place, I put a piece of packing tape over the epoxy.  Sort of like a band-aid.

Fixing a few minor flaws.

Well, this is a change of plans.  I decide that since I cannot varnish the mast until the epoxy cures, I might as well go all the way with my other “idea”.  Generally, the base of free-standing masts are reinforced on the inside, as there is a lot of stress placed on the mast base while sailing.  I am going to wrap my mast base with epoxy & cloth to reinforce it.  This will also keep the mast from being damaged where it goes through the mast partners (the thwart).  I will still leather the mast at thwart level. (about 16″ up) to reduce chafing.

A layer of cloth for the base of the mast.

I used 6oz. cloth left over from “Paul’s Canoe build”.  I am putting epoxy & cloth from the mast base to about 27″ up.  

Cloth epoxy saturated.  As before, I am rotating the mast every 30 minutes or so.  No epoxy drips yet!  I have brought my shop “plant-pot” heater over to keep the epoxy a little warmer to speed curing.  
Just for fun, I throw a coat of varnish on to the Masthead sheave plug.

I intend to wrap the Mast/Masthead plug joint with silver reflective tape when I am done.  Hopefully I can wet sand the mast base, the filled minor flaws and start to varnish tomorrow.

Good rowing to you,


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Making a birdsmouth hollow mast for Gwragedd Annwn part III

Fitting & shaping the Masthead Sheave Plug.

The glue has dried enough for me to work on the masthead sheave plug.
Side view, top rounded with the bandsaw
I rough cut the shaft, giving it eight sides,  I fine-tune the fit using my Shopsmith 12″ sanding disk.
Back and forth from the mast to the sanding disk until I get a good fit,  Part of the problem is that the mast, due to the taper, is actually gets bigger on the inside as you go down.  

To solve the increasing inside diameter issue, when I epoxy the masthead plug in, I will stand the mast on its head, the epoxy will flow down around the masthead plug shaft, filling any gaps.

The procedure will be to push an “epoxy plug” into the mast, (remember, the mast is filled with crumpled aluminum foil) pour in epoxy & wood dust mixture, tape around the joint, stand the mast on its head, The epoxy & wood dust will flow down around the masthead plug.   I have 17″ of height to the peak of my garage roof, so my mast will just fit.

Snug fit for the masthead plug shaft.
I start shaping the masthead plug
Next  I will cut off the corners to make the plug 8 sided
Before I get too far, I will drill the plug  for the masthead sheave…using one of the flat surfaces.
The drill bit is the same diameter as the sheave axle hole.
Test fitting of the masthead sheave.  The final install will have stainless steel (maybe copper) washers to hold the sheave in the middle of the slot.
I would like to use a copper rivet  to hold the sheave in.
Sanding the mast smooth.

When I made the mast, I used a belt-sanding jig to round the mast.  The result was a round mast, but there are lots of cross-grain sanding marks.  I am going to now re-sand the mast, with the grain, to end up with a smooth finish.

I mark the mast with a pencil circle…I will sand each stave and the marks will tell me which stave I have sanded

⅓ sheet random orbit sander with 80 grit sandpaper.
The lump in the upper right of the above photo after sanding.

This part is where I “sand-off” an afternoon…the procedure is to move up and down the mast, sanding as I go…Each stave takes maybe 10 passes of the sander to sand off the cross-grain marks.

Pinning the Masthead plug.

After I have sanded the mast with 80 and then 150 grit, I pin the masthead plug to the top of the mast and sand it flush with the mast.

Masthead plug faired and sanded.  

I now brush off the sanding dust and vacuum the mast & masthead plug.

‘poxy time!   Cold Cure resin.

I take out the Masthead sheave plug to epoxy separately.  I re-arrange my mast supports, one on each end.  I use a metal bar, inserted into the top and bottom of the mast to hold the mast in the brackets.  This way I can rotate the mast and epoxy all its sides.

Masthead sheave plug ready
Plug ‘poxied.

I clamp the Masthead Sheave plug in a vise to give the top part a coating of epoxy.  I will not epoxy the shaft and the bottom of the plug.  When I epoxy the mast and the plug together, I want the epoxy to soak into the wood on both pieces.

Epoxy coating the mast

I am epoxy coating the mast for two reasons.  One: While sanding the mast I had noticed that some of the joints were not filled…the was sanding dust in the joint.  To insure that all of the mast stave joints are epoxy filled, and Two: to seal the wood so no water will be absorbed.

The mast is coated with epoxy resin.

The screwdriver is used to help turn the mast 180°.  Why do this?  Gravity makes the epoxy flows around the mast and settle on the bottom

Epoxy drips on the bottom of the mast

My solution to drips is to rotate the mast 180° and then brush the drips out.  I rotate the mast every 30 minutes until the epoxy is too set for the drips to form.

I also brush off the drips that have formed on the Masthead sheave plug.

A Note:  after turning my mast a few times, I decide to epoxy coat my Traditional Small Craft Association membership card…I just got it in the mail today.  The epoxy is now a little stiff, and does not flow over the card evenly, but now the card will last forever.

TSCA is a great association, you should join too.

After the epoxy cures, the next step is to give the mast and masthead plug a light sanding, then varnish them.  It will be easier to varnish the plug and the mast in the rotating rig separately.  I will glue them together after a few (too many) coats of varnish have been applied…probably one a day for a week or so.

Good rowing to you…and always know where you are.


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Making a birdsmouth hollow mast for Gwragedd Annwn part II

Yesterday I filled in the small flaws in the birdsmouth mast.  Today the epoxy is still too soft to sand.  Today I am going to start work on the Masthead plug with the sheave.

Masthead plan.  I am making it out of some white oak I have left over from the leeboards.
Three pieces for the masthead plug.  The centre blank is ⅝” thick, the two outside pieces are ⅞” thick for a total of  2⅜”.  I will work the plug down to the 2½” masthead diameter.
The sheave is in the upper right of the photo.
I am using Titebond II to glue up the masthead plug.
Masthead plug clamped up…I set aside to dry.

I have read a lot on the internet about stuffing your hollow mast/spars with crumpled aluminum foil so your small boat will show up on radar.

What the heck??, I buy four boxes of heavy-duty aluminum foil at the dollar store.  

75 square feet of crumpled foil goes into the mast.

Crumple, crumple, crumple.

I use a left-over piece of aluminum pipe to stuff the foil into the hollow of the mast.  I will need to leave room for the Masthead plug tail and the plug for the bottom of the mast.  About 18″ for the masthead, about 24″ for the mast base.  I stuff from both ends of the mast.  I use a broom handle to gauge how far the foil is stuffed in.

Stuffing the bottom of the mast.
Stuffing the masthead end.
The painters tape marks the “how far to stuff the aluminum foil in” line.

Well, I now have ≈ 75 square feet of crumpled aluminum foil in the centre of my birdsmouth mast.  I wonder if it will work, and give Gwragedd Annwn a good radar reflection.

I am so enthused with this idea that I will take my yardarm, hollow out the middle, stuff with aluminum foil and re-glue.  Probably I will only be able to get 35 square feet or so of crumpled aluminum foil in the yardarm…but, hey, the more foil the better!  Tomorrow’s project.

Good rowing to you,


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Squamish to HSC II – by Kayak and Rowboat

Google Earth map of the trip:

Squamish to HSC II

For the second time, the Urban Oarsman rowed from Squamish to the Hollyburn Sailing Club.  This time, the write-up for “The Spreader”, the Club newsletter was written by fellow paddler, Ken Parr.  This is Ken’s account of the trip.  I added a few “additions” in italics.

Squamish to West Vancouver –by

Kayak and Rowboat by Ken Parr

On the Labour Day long weekend, a group of HSC adventure seekers
put into action a plan to spend some quality time abusing our bodies
over a number of days, on the water of course, from Squamish to HSC
world headquarters in West Van. The plan was simple…  Leave

Load up the kayaks Friday night and then pick everyone up Saturday morning.  I will tow Gwragedd Annwn to Squamish on her trailer.  Steve, Rueben and Maciej loading the double.

Squamish in the early AM, and paddle hard, with 2 nights of camping
along the way. Our route going south was to go West around Gambier
Island, and would eventually, over 3 days, be about 82 kilometres.

Paddling out the Mamquam Blind Channel at the head of Howe Sound.

Our equipment for this adventure was safe and robust. We had GPS
and ample safety gear, maps and backup systems. Mike of course was
Captain of his “battleship”… the tested and sturdy “Gwragedd Annwn”,

Gwragedd Annwn with her electric trolling motor and bow solar panel.

complete with steel (actually bronze) keel to do battle with the barnacles. The rest of the crew had kayaks… plastic and fiberglass. Meals were simple: Maciej and Rueben were great chefs for communal feasts;  drink was adequate; comradery was high; laughter and smiles were abundant.
The weather was fortunately warm and mostly sunny.  There was a Strong Wind Warning for the Northern Howe Sound (for both Saturday and Sunday) and the winds were as expected and predicted.  The winds were forecast to build in the late morning until reaching their peak in the afternoon. Mike got hit by the outflow (actually inflow, into Howe Sound between Bowen and Keats Islands) winds on the morning of the third day.  At times the waves were sometimes about 4 foot. 
On Saturday Sept 1st we left Vancouver about 6AM, and drove to
Squamish (in two cars, my FJ and Steve’s minivan.  I arrived first and offloaded the two single kayaks and launched Gwragedd Annwn at the Squamish boat ramp.  Gwragedd  Annwn was fully loaded, so, I left right away.  The kayaks are twice as fast as I am and they will catch up and pass me shortly)  with the help of kind family members, we off loaded our gear
at the public boat ramp. After stuffing things away in all the nooks in
our boats, Maciej, Rueben, Steve, and Ken set out going South.

We caught up to Mike in his row boat at Watts Point on the east
side of Howe Sound.

Watts Point rendezvous. 

We then paddled to the west side across choppy (and windy, the wind was so strong that I could not make headway against it.  I took shelter along the west shore of the sound)  seas to Zorro Bay, arriving about lunch time. This proved to be a delightful bay, sheltered, pretty, with a pebble beach, and part of the Sea to Sky Marine Trail. (I arrived much later, using Gwragedd Annwn’s electric trolling motor to make headway against the strong inflow winds)
After a relaxing lunch and Maciej’s tasty sausages,

Mike caught up with us after battling against the head winds. We
waited a few hours for the wind to die down some before we left on the next leg to Islet View, a small campsite overlooking Anvil Island.

Bernd, the contra explorer, joined us while we were resting at Zorro Bay, en route North, to our delight! He left West Van early on Saturday, and rendezvoused with us, on his way to Squamish, all in one day!

Bernd stops in Zorro Bay on route to Squamish.

After a brief chat and some group photos he continued north and
arrived in Squamish at 6pm.  Bernd made us feel that our achievement of mastering choppy seas going South was a little more than a warm up for him traveling about 60+ km hugging the coast… all in one day!

Steve and Ken at Islet View campground with “The Islet” in the background

We had paddled about 20 km on Saturday, our shortest leg. We had a lovely pasta dinner made efficiently by Chef Maciej, and nestled into the camping
spots for some well-earned sleep.

Ken hits the rocks (hay).

Mike, one of the ‘Ol Men in the Sea’, anchored and slept on the water.

Setting up my “Skydome” tent on Gwragedd Annwn’s deck.

The Otters or seals seemed to want to play in the night, and we occasionally woke up to splashes … or maybe some curses that the bloody anchor had dragged with the tide!

Dawn, day two.
Sunday sunrise.
I set out at dawn, trying to row during the calm of the morning…I forget my lifejacket on shore and have to row back for it, much to the amusement of the kayakers.  They will catch up to and pass me soon

On Sunday (after Mike had rowed away) we had a hearty breakfast, complete with Maciej’s delicious camp coffee, and then set out for
Sir Thomas J Lipton park on Gambier Island. Surprisingly,
we had very flat seas for the first part of the day. It was like paddling on a lake.

The Kayakers catch up to me and pass me just North of Gambier, Due West of Ekins Point.

The final half of the 31 km leg was through choppy water around the Western side of Gambier. We lunched at a comfortable beach on an island at the South Western tip of Gambier, and then made our way North
into the bay where a lumber carrier built in 1919 – named after Sir Thomas J. Lipton of Tea Clipper fame – rested, her remaining hull still poking out of
the water to welcome us.

Historical sign at the Sir Thomas Lipton campsite.

The campsite across from the Lipton was spacious and comfortable.

Mike rowing in.

Rueben made a lovely dinner and we finished with lively conversation and bottles of wine and spirits to complete a wonderful day with smiles.

Sir Thomas Lipton campsite supper.  Note that Rueben is using a TRANGIA stove, probably the best camping stove ever made.  The one I use is over 40 years old and going strong!
Going to pack it in for the night.  I will anchor Gwragedd Annwn and then pitch the “Skydome” tent.

Monday Sept 3rd was Labour day… and labour we did. Another 31 km was recorded.
Maciej left early to get home in time for a pre-planned family event.

Maciej packing up early to make a family event. 

Mike left early to begin his long row home. Both encountered kinda gales at 7 AM – along with an Orca pod sighting leaving Gambier.

A pod of Orcas swam under Gwragedd Annwn.  New Brighton Beach is in the background.

The rest of us had a more relaxing start at 8 AM and by then the wind had subsided and paddling was easy.  

Avoiding BC Ferry

We managed to avoid the Ferries and then stopped off at Whytecliff Park for a light lunch.

Whytecliff park lunch
Getting passed by kayakers again!

The kayakers caught up with Mike near Lighthouse Park

Kayaks, a “passing” fad.

and shared stories of Mike greeting Orcas earlier swimming a few feet from his boat. Seas then became a little rougher and large 4 foot rolling waves provided some excitement with tired muscles trying to stay above water on the home stretch.

Rough seas near Lighthouse Park (Point Atkinson light)

Kayakers arrived by 2 in the afternoon and Mike amazingly was not far behind.

Gwragedd Annwn lands at the public boat launch, it is a little more sheltered than the HSC Dock.

We all had smiles on our faces (and water in our boots)

Wet landing.  Emptying the water out of my boots.

that we had indeed succeeded and could then stop the bloody paddling in favor of relaxing to heal our aching arms and blisters on our hands! What a trip! Along the way we saw some great views… beautiful scenery, historic spots, seals, orcas, and lots of other sea life. A big highlight was getting to know each other much better, and to sharing some very magical time.

On the hard at the Sailing Club.

Tide Tables for the Squamish to HSC row:

With the tide table, I can figure out the rise or fall of the tide when Gwragedd Annwn is anchored.  I can then anchor her in enough water so she will not ground when I sleep.
for example, if I go to sleep at 9pm on Sept 1st and sleep for nine hours, the change in depth is a drop of (max) 2.3 meters or about 7’6″.  If I anchor in 3 metres or 10′ I will still have almost 2½’ or 70cm of water beneath Gwragedd Annwn’s hull

A few notes on the wrecks in West Bay, Gambier Island. 

In West Bay is the wreck of the Sir Thomas J Lipton of Tea Clipper fame. The name plate was gone, but there was no mistaking the rotting remnants of this piece of nautical history. If you are interested, look at the very end of West Bay.

Remains of the Sir Thomas J, Lipton

The Sir Thomas J. Lipton was built at Brunswick, Georgia in 1919 as a lumber carrier in anticipation of a post World War I building boon in Europe which failed to materialize.  She was 209 feet in length with a breadth of 42 feet and was schooner rigged with four masts.  She had a yard for a large Square sail on the foremast. 

By 1924 the lumber trade had vanished and she was laid up at Astoria, Oregon where she remained until 1940 when she was acquired by Island Tug and Barge Co. of Victoria.  She was then converted to carry hog fuel which was used to heat the boilers in pulp mills.  Most of her deck planking was removed and bulkheads at least ten feet high were built all around the opening. 

In 1941 or 1942 she was beached in West Bay (Gambier Island) to keep the log booms from going aground on the shallow beach where her remains now lie.  Her wreckage can be observed at low tide, with her port side uppermost and her bow pointing North.  The words “Island Tug”, which had been painted on the above mentioned bulkheads, could be seen from far out in Howe Sound. (not visible when we camped there)

Another source lists the Sir Thomas J, Lipton, 1358 tons,schooner, 1918, 217405, LPHM.  Apex Navigation.

Sir Thomas J. Lipton (schooner)

The 1,588 ton four-masted schooner Sir Thomas J. Lipton built at Brunswick, Georgia in 1919 and transferred to Honolulu in 1921 for the Northwest Lumber trade, was acquired by the Island Tug & Barge Co. of Victoria and transferred to Canadian registry as a barge. The vessel had been laid up at Astoria since 1924. Gordon Newell, Maritime Events of 1940, H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.

Citation: Tacoma Public Library

The big steam tug Lorne, built in 1889, may be located in West Bay, Gambier Island.

There are two historic period sites, both located in West Bay, Gambier Island, containing five heritage wrecks,  Site Di Ru-066 is the wreck of the Thomas J.Lipton, a four-masted lumber schooner of about 201ft. (64 m) length, 1205 net tons, built in 1919 in Georgia, Alabama, and converted for use on this coast as a wood chip barge (Stone 2007).  The wooden hull was driven ashore and abandoned sometime after 1940, and remains a conspicuous, partially submerged, structure lying along the shore in West Bay.  Site Di Ru-069 consists of four unidentified wooden wrecks some of which are exposed at low tide, down to 7 mbsl to the shallowest wreck component. The wrecks are described as two scows, a vessel (62m by 15m) one mistakenly thought to be the Lorne, but now thought to be a deep-sea barge, and a smaller vessel (Stone 2007).

Additional photos courtesy of  Steve Britten, Ken Parr, Rueben Schultz and Maciej Sobczyk

Squamish to the Hollyburn

Sailing Club.  A great trip

Good rowing to you.


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