In the 19th century a version of this lightweight marvel once plied the waters around Paul Smith's College, home of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's annual assembly. Master boatbuilder Geoffrey Burke of Chocorua Boatworks has recreated this famous Rushton design and donated it to Paul Smith's College. Your winning bid supports the College of the Adirondacks!
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About the Canoe (by Geoffrey Burke, Boatbuilder, Chocorua Boatworks)
In 1883, John Henry Rushton, the well-known boat builder of Canton, NY, received a request to build the “lightest boat possible” for a diminutive (110 lbs.) cobbler, George Washington Sears, aka Nessmuk, who was an avid canoeist, woodsman and writer. Rushton proceeded to build a lapstrake canoe out of local cedar and oak that was unprecedented for its lightness and ability. At 9 feet long, and weighing 10-1⁄2 pounds, the Sairy Gamp was a phenomenon of its time and the ultimate in lightweight canoe travel. Nessmuk took the Sairy Gamp on a 300-mile cruise through the Adirondacks, starting at Brown’s Track and finishing at Lower St. Regis Lake at Paul Smiths Hotel. One guide quipped as he helped Nessmuk with a carry, “It don’t weigh more than a stove pipe hat!”
Nessmuk sent to Rushton an account of his trip that Rushton shrewdly forwarded to the widely read sporting journal of the day, Forest & Stream. Overnight, cruising with a lightweight double-paddle 10-1⁄2 foot canoe (sized for an average adult), became the rage. Rushton received many orders for what was to later become known as the Wee Lassie class of canoe.
Almost 35 years ago I read the account of Nessmuk’s celebrated cruise in the Adirondacks in Rushton’s famous canoe. In a moment of epiphany, I realized that my life work and profession would be to recreate these small craft using the same wonderful materials — cedar, cherry, oak and tamarack — that Rushton used. My understanding and appreciation of these woods and Rushton’s work profoundly deepened as I came to realize that the genius of the designs and the extraordinary qualities of these local materials could be wrought into a truly world-class product both then and now. After building more than 150 boats and canoes, all crafted with the superb Adirondack woods and watertight skill of hand, the magic is still there for me; the magic of how, as Nessmuk said, “10 pounds of well-made cedar ought to carry 100 pounds of man.”
As a practical size for today’s canoeists and fully capable of carrying an average size adult and a light camp outfit, a stretched 12-1⁄2-foot-long Rushton Wee Lassie lapstrake canoe (dubbed the Burly Laddie) is to be gifted to Paul Smiths College. It is being donated to the college as an inspiration and celebration of the gifts of our forest, of the boat builders and craftspeople of the Adirondacks, and as a symbol of friendship between Paul Smiths College and the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association.
The image is a canoe built by Geoffrey Burke but it is not the exact item. Auction item ordering may not have been finalized and is subject to change.
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