Canoeing is an enthralling action which has been passed down to us from ancestors before. Even if your nationality does not originate from Canada many cultures have used the vessel or similar forms throughout history for travel and leisure. Personally, I was not clear just how canoeing ended up in my life until my adoring parents came for a visit to the Museum. While passing though the Museum I felt the urge to boast about some of our very famous items; “Over there is Pierre Trudeau’s actual canoeing jacket, and look over here (Pointing Profusely) all our Royal Canoes like Queen Elizabeth’s, and Prince Andrew’s. Oh and here is Bill Mason’s Canoe!”
Politely my mom waited for my enthusiasm to subside and then explained to me how Bill Mason taught her how to canoe. I looked at her with scrunched eyebrows and a puzzled look as I was surprised that such an iconic man in the Canoeing World had taught my mom.
In the late 60’s, it had been roughly 15 years since my grandparents emigrated from Holland to Canada; within that time they were busy raising three young children. Since my Opa was in the Dutch Air Force back in Haarlem, he was completely intrigued by planes. With that interest he would often take the kids to Mew Lake in Algonquin Park to watch the planes land at what was then an airfield; this was also the perfect area to relax and play at the nearby beach.
It was there that Bill Mason would periodically have free canoeing lessons. In a Cedar Strip Canoe, my mom was taught how to paddle, how to steer and even how to stand on the gunnel and bounce to concur any fears of canoeing.
With a new love for the sport my mom continued the canoeing tradition with me and my two siblings. My first big canoe trip was at the age of two. The family of five piled into our orange voyageur canoe (named Madakee) to start our trip from Rock Lake to Pen Lake and back.
Over the years we also completed the 14 portage trip to the Barron Canyon and the famous Canoe Lake Route. It was fascinating to see the memorial stone of Tom Thomson and camping on the various islands. It was less fascinating to be the youngest/smallest and having to sit in the small crevice between the bow seat and hand hold of the canoe… But all in all they were still inspiring and memorable journeys.
Now in my early twenties I still adore the tranquility of being out on the water and the adventure that comes along with experiencing areas not everyone gets to take advantage of. I only hope that one day I will also be able to pass down the fascinating gift that is canoeing. When did canoeing start in your family? Comment below…