Canoe Travelling: Log of a Cruise on the
And Practical Hints on Building and Fitting Canoes.
By Warington Baden-Powell, London, 1871.
THE upper portions of the Thames, with a light boat and fine weather, may be satisfactory enough to one man, whilst to another the conditions of recreation will be better fulfilled by roaming through distant countries, with somewhat of danger and difficulty to overcome. A stiff breeze, wild scenery, freedom of dress and action, with the perplexities of a strange language, may be preferred to being guided by a tourists' handbook from a first-class Swiss railway carriage to the comfortable monster hotel, with its obsequious English-speaking waiters.
Freedom of action, a good canoe, and plenty of water, was certainly my idea of the best heading to a chapter on “summer cruising.”
Freedom of action would commence as soon as ever I took my seat in the canoe and shoved off. Next comes the canoe. She was of the Rob Roy type, fourteen feet long, two feet two inches beam, and one foot deep from deck to keel, built of oak below, the deck and topstreak being of cedar.
I had found the standing lug rig awkward to handle in sudden squalls; without a mast-traveller, on letting go the halliards, it was apt to bag out to leeward, then bang about in a most disorderly manner, and finally fall into the water; and with a traveller it would often refuse the duty of coming down at all. Of course these little eccentricities could nearly always be “nipped in the bud,” but still it was not quite the style of rig for a long cruise.
The sliding-gunter appeared to me the best rig to try, only that it had to be altered in most of its details, so as to adapt it to so small and light a boat. This was accomplished by degrees, till at last a handy, as well as good-looking, rig was fitted to her.
Then the ship's instruments and stores had to be collected and stowed-a compass, aneroid thermometer, charts, lamp, knives, clothes, as well as sleeping, cooking, fishing, carpenter's and artist's gear- stores of preserved soup, tea, coffee, sugar, &c. Boatswain's stores of spare blocks, lines, sails, &c.: carpenter's, of nails, red-lead, varnish, wire, &c. Then followed a two-days' trial, of all the new fittings, on the Thames, and most satisfactorily they performed their various duties.
The difficult question then arose, of “where to go?” One can scarcely tell by merely looking at maps, how far a country may offer really enjoyable water-travelling: for instance, on a map, the banks of the Thames, below London Bridge, look just as pleasant as those above Kingston.
Books of European travels are generally confined to the description of towns, roads, and railways: they rarely mention the forest-surrounded lakes and rivers, which form the backbone of a canoe tour.
After due consideration of Europe in general, Sweden appeared to us the most promising water-country. My friend H. and I, therefore, planned to go in our canoes right across Sweden, from Gothenburg on the west coast to Stockholm on the east coast. In round numbers this would give us nearly 300 miles of various lakes, rivers, and bays, besides 50 of the Gotha Canal, and another 50 of the Baltic Sea. We proposed to go by steamboat from London to Gothenburg, and after some 400 miles of canoeing, to steam home again via Copenhagen and Hamburg.
The evening of July 17, 1869, closed upon us as we dropped down the Thames, having our canoes, the Nautilus “ We did, however, paddle eighty-eight miles on the Baltic. and the Isis, safely slung to the beams on the betweendecks of the S.S. Mary. With the exception of fouling a brig in Gravesend Reach, the voyage was accomplished without any noteworthy incident, and on the 10th we arrived at Gothenburg, a cheerful-looking thriving town. We paddled along some of its numerous. canals, only succeeding after some delay in finding the Gotha Kalary Hotel, for which we had been inquiring, under English pronunciation of its letters, whereas the Swedish pronunciation is Yota Chillery, g and j before a vowel answering to our y: and k being generally sounded as Ch soft.
The town is built chiefly of stone; broad streets at right angles to one another, a canal running down the centre of each, with a wide road and lumpy pavement on either side of it. All heavy traffic goes on the canals, carriages and light carts only being allowed on the road. There is nothing ancient to be seen; but Gustavus Adolphus judged wisely that such a harbour would soon attract an immense commerce, and great has been the boon to succeeding generations, constantly numerically increasing, who have thriven and prospered on the results of his foresight. Vessels were here from all parts of the world.
Whilst paddling about we came to the swimming-baths, a portion of the harbour being railed off, with dressing boxes built on the top of the railing. Thus there is a square of dressing-rooms supported two or three feet above the water, the entrance door being on the land side. We looked about to find any way of getting withinside these railings, and spied out one portion whence some bars had been removed to allow the swimmers access to the river. We put the boats through this opening and managed, by bending down, to glide on under the rails, and thus surprised the bathers by the sudden appearance of two canoes in the centre of their swimming-bath.