Canoeing the Athabasca River

After my decision to join the guys for the canoe trip down the Athabasca for the Canada Day long weekend I began to call around the city for a Canoe rental for my buddy Derek and I to team up and join the trip. Unfortunately there is a problem, everywhere in the city that rents canoes has rented everything they have. Now what??

Well good thing my roommate Alex has an old crappy canoe that is dismantled and in terrible condition, not at all water ready. So after some research and discussion Alex and I decided that we would rebuild the canoe in time for the trip! This is what the canoe looked like to start with:

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It has cracks and openings along the bottom, a hole in the side and is missing the fibrelgass on the ends where the canoe ends have been filled with foam. So step one is to re-foam the ends of the canoe and trim them into a new shape to support the fibreglass.

 

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After the foaming was done we laid the new fibreglass mesh and then matt in two plies with the resin compound that will be the structure of the repair. We also patched the holes and cracks at this stage for repair as well. and reinforced the chair supports.

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After the fibreglass was laid into place we bagan the bondo stage, first reinforced with fibreglass hairs, then a couple of finishing coats to smooth everything out. I then traced, marked, cut, sanded and stained the new oak seats, thwarts and portage bar.

Sand the bondo, clean everything, power brush the aluminum rails, paint the inside and the outside of the canoe. We installed new carry handles and bolted everything into place. This is our finished canoe, ready for the trip in less than 3 days!

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We head out for Whitecourt in a three vehicle convoy, dropping one vehicle in Fort Assinaboin for the return trip. Stocked with beer, whiskey, food and our camping gear we ready the canoes at a boat launch near whitecourt.

Naturally being Canada day I felt that an over-sized Canadian flag was required for our new canoe.

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We are taking our time on the 100km run over 2.5 days to relax and canoe leisurely towards Fort Ass. The river was beautiful and the six of us had a great day the first Friday afternoon until we hit a rocky beach about 45km in and set up camp for our Canada Day celebration. This included the consumption of most of our alcohol for the trip, knowing that tomorrow would be the greater part of the day on the water to make for a short Sunday trip out.

We set up camp that evening on the shore, as soon as the camp was set I fixed our flag to a large log and hoisted the flag up with great pride! A tarp setup near the trees for the coming storm and we were ready for the night!

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That Saturday morning was greeted by a lovely headache and slight hangover, we packed camp and set forward for the river towards the end. We canoed in the sunshine all day, another 55km leaving around 8km for the Sunday morning. And though a few of us have canoed longer trips, a couple of the guys were a little less experienced with canoeing in the summer heat along the Alberta plains.

Justin’s legs got a little burnt:

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Sunday morning was to be a quick 2 or 3 hour canoe back to the Fort Ass, but something unusual happened on our last leg to the end. A morning storm. Around 11 AM we were hit mid canoe by a massive storm, the wind howling and the rain started to pour down on us like a never ending water bucket challenge. We were all instantly soaked.

Then the lightning started, right on top of us. Flash, then within seconds a thundering clap. We decided safest to get off the river right away, but with the new winds and the mass amount of the rain the river picked up speed quickly. According to my GPS I had running we reached nearly 18km/hr when Alex and I smashed into the nearest shore attempting to get the hell off of the river. We rammed the shore hard and I hoped we would be far up enough to be stable. We were not. And so the canoe went sideways and the strong current began to tip us. Alex took one for the team and dived out into the river to stop the canoe tipping and we quickly pulled the canoe up onto the shore.

Then Chad and Mark slammed into the shore next to us, again the same thing happened, not fast enough and tide took them sideways. There canoe unfortunately completely tipped dumping their gear. ALex and I already in the river helped gather everything we could. Then Justin and Dereks canoe slammed again into the shore, tipping the way the first two had. The six of us scrambled to get the gear and canoes ashore.

Then we sat and had a soggy cigarette  in the cold rain and waited the storm out for over an hour.

And just as the storm slammed into us and us into the shore, it was gone and the sun came back out to dry us out. By the time we arrived to Fort Assinaboine we were dry.

All in all, one hell of a trip!

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