I have a vision for this boat. She will find herself.

To start, she will be made from basswood, but not ordinary basswood. The tree is spalted in places. Black on white. And there’s an artist I know of who does rural graffiti; of cows and sheep and cool other stuff. The wood and the cows, they are her beginning – the start of her story. You and I will follow along.

This will be a long thread, by-the-way, once it’s done. Fair warning.

Here’s where she starts, a stack of basswood from a tree harvested in Brodhagen, and milled by Royce Riehl in Gadshill.

The mill was built in South West Ontario by a Mennonite family. The carriage runs on its track like silk; it hardly takes a finger. She can take a 22 foot log and cut it down to a whisper.

I walked into the Woodshop on Thursday. There were treasures beneath the dust. They gave themselves up with each opened drawer and cleared table. Much has been created here and I feel a bit more than humbled by its potential.

Charles has been producing fluid trance like music this fall. Sometimes it feels like I’ve stumbled into a peyote dream. It makes me think that the routes to the transcendent are as myriad as there are people on the planet.

In any event, by mid December the shop had become cleaner …

It should come as no surprise that she would be a canoe.

And then came this, perhaps the first most satisfying moment … when she came off the page and her lines took form. Is it hubris to call something of your own creation beautiful?

Here, before their becoming – cedar and basswood stripped and stacked. The basswood, I’m afraid, was unruly and would remain bound; not for this boat.

Two weeks after, I would admit to impatience. I could see her shape and her colour, but like all creative endeavours, she remained far from revealing her final self.

When the time came, the boat slid off the forms with not so much as a grunt. She showed an easy personality, and gave no complaint.

Winter deepens as I spent an afternoon playing with found items. The bleached antlers came from Nares Inlet, probably 12 or more years ago. They were lying in a tangle of blueberry bushes just as if somebody had placed them there.

The darker ones, the ones in the bottom of the boat came from the same spot but maybe 2 or three years later. They’d been in the sun for many years … yet I swear, of the hundreds of times the kids and I had walked that path out to Hello Point, we never saw them; not until that spring.

becoming a boat

maybe there's something unexpected

I remember the night my first play was performed and it was oh so different than what I’d ever imagined. Everybody who touched the words brought new meaning and a new narrative to the thing. The director made it better. The actors made it richer. It gave light to the truth that we own nothing and control nothing. Maybe that’s the why of this boat: she will be her own from beginning to end. She will tell her own story as she grows; the people who touch her will change her. The sun that warms her belly will wake her tannins. The mood in the morning will mold her thwarts and her cleats. Like a child who at birth is a universe of potential beings, she will begin to find herself in all the myriad of possibilities and become herself.

This project began on November 25th on a still and chilly morning in Gadshill. It will complete itself in March in the woodshop at Factory 163. If all goes as planned now (as I sit on a Sunday morning at my dining room table) she will on display in April and May at Revel Cafe. Along the way she will be touched by many … a photographer, an artist, a blacksmith (yup), millers, and everybody who swings by with a hot coffee or warm whiskey.  There is much in my head about what might happen. I’ll be very curious to see what it is. Perhaps others might be curious too …

This page will document her birth and becoming. Should the fancy find you, check back from time to time and follow along.






Spring came late with gentle breezes, warm water, and slow current. The boat and river merged as air turned to summer.