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Salish Sea Sentinel | May 18, 2024

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It’s canoe season

It’s canoe season

Even before the first day of spring, paddlers have been on the waters of the Salish Sea, alone or with their crew, preparing for another season of racing.

Meanwhile, in workshops around the coast, master carvers like Elmer Sampson are building single and pair’s canoes as well as larger ones for six- and eleven-person crews. And sometimes there’s time to carve paddles or even a small canoe, given as treasured mementos at ceremonies and events.

Elmer works from a shop next to his home overlooking Shell Beach on Stz’uminus First Nation near Ladysmith. He and his next-door-neighbour and brother, Manny, both in their 80s, have been building canoes for decades. There have been many changes over those years, not only in the tools used, but also in the red cedar. It has become more difficult to find the large logs ideal for the traditional ‘dugout’ canoe, so cedar-strip canoes have become more common.

Passing on the knowledge of the craft to others is part of the work of a master carver. Marvin often shares the shop, working at his father’s side. Grandkids do some sanding, getting used to working with wood.