Pierrefonds Community High School Set to Launch its 3rd Canoe
by Peter Oland
“Sir, I don’t think it will float.”
“Well, let’s find out.”
This is how the learning experience of building our first cedar strip canoe in our woodworking class at Riverdale began in 2016. We embarked on the journey of constructing a 15 foot Bear Mountain Prospector Canoe with the necessary tools and materials, and a willingness to fail spectacularly. It was a big risk, but so worth it in the end.
Building a cedar strip canoe is done in 4 phases: building the hull, sealing it with fiberglass and epoxy, installing the fittings and finally varnishing the canoe. We used Western Red Cedar, cut into thin strips, to lay down the hull over the form, which gave us our shape. Once sanded to a smooth finish, we then coated the outside and inside with fiberglass and epoxy to make it waterproof and give it strength. The gunwales, seats, deck and yolk, made from ash and mahogany, were then installed and the entire boat was varnished.
None of us knew how to build a canoe; we were in the same boat, learning by doing. We leveraged all the available resources, such as the quintessential book Canoecraft by Ted Moores and the Youtube channel A Guy Doing Stuff, to serve as our guides. Mistakes were made throughout the building process, so we had to figure out ways to fix our errors. Although it took two years, we launched our first canoe in 2018. The second was launched in 2019. The PCHS Class of 2022 is set to launch the third canoe this spring.
Students were approached to share some of their thoughts about their experiences working this year on the third canoe. Leila said:
First and foremost it has given me an increased level of patience. It’s given me a lot of insight on patience and how to manage my time properly too because of the time allotted to different tasks. I think it has also unlocked a new perspective on creativity and the creative arts because, normally, it’s a very hands-on experience. In other creative arts classes I have taken I see the beauty in things right away. This one, I think, you have to put in more work first before you get to your final product, before you get to the nice things, and I think that it’s that element of patience that is needed to get to the beauty. You start with the rough materials and get to the beauty, and there is the element of patience in between. I think that has been really special to me.
Another student, Christine, reflected on her years in the shop:
This is my third year taking woodworking and every year it’s been fun because we have learned how to use lots of different machines. I guess every year it’s been like having a different type of family in each class, and it’s fun because we all have to work together on the same things and we get to talk and be friends.
We are also looking to expand into the world of entrepreneurship; our third canoe will be for sale. It is important to acknowledge the important role the OSEntreprendre Challenge has played in making this project possible. Their mission is to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship in order to help build a proud, innovative, committed and prosperous Québec. The Quebec Entrepreneurship Challenge has helped solidify our vision of this project by asking us to clarify our process and by supporting us with financial incentives for participating in the contest, for which we are grateful.
If this experience has taught us anything it is that taking risks is worth it, even though we did not know if we would succeed. We have all grown as communicators and collaborators through this project, and, as the first two canoes are collectively owned by all those who had a hand in their construction, we have started to build a community. We are tremendously proud of the students and what they have accomplished.
Should you be interested in purchasing our cedar strip canoe or if you would like to discuss inter-school partnerships please contact Peter Oland at PCHS by email: email@example.com.