A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe

A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe

I’ve been looking at the Dixon-Price Publishing catalogue after receiving a nice email from the brains behind the outfit, Kendall Hanson. I think there are two books that probably deserve particular attention – and which I would certainly like to read myself.

The first is A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe, the first groundbreaking book by the father of modern kayaking and canoe camping, John MacGregor.

MacGregor sails and paddles alone in a double-ended canoe on the lakes and rivers of Germany, France, and Switzerland along streams, over waterfalls, past whirlpools, and into the history of the paddling sports. This paperback edition also features an introduction by kayaking historian Brian Kologe.

Boat Building and Boating

The second volume is perhaps less ground-breaking, but for some reason I can’t get enough of old-fashioned little books that explain how to build simple little boats and I know I’m not alone. Boat Building and Boating by Daniel Beard tells us how to build a range of boats from a small canoe to a houseboat, and was written by a man motivated by a strong sense that recreational boating was too expensive for most people and wanted to offer a way around the problem. I’ve got quite a lot of sympathy with that view myself…

4 thoughts on “A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe”

  1. Hi Gavin

    I've got an old edition (no date) of "1000 miles" which I've enjoyed reading a couple of times. I've also read "The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy" a couple of times, but not got on as well with it. There's also a cruise in the Baltic and a cruise in the Middle East which look interesting.

    The simplicity of voyaging in a canoe has appealed to me for most of my life, but is something I've never managed to get round to. I hope to change that soon, and have spent some time in the last couple of months designing a small clinker canoe which is to be completely cnc cut (I have a cnc machine now), and jig built.

    Not sure wether to do the 1000 miles, the Baltic, the Middle East, or the Bossington river…..


  2. John!

    Good to hear from you. At a guess, Bossington might be the easiest.

    I've noticed that anything related to canoes, sailing canoes and canoe yawls is very popular, and I've begun to speculate that along with their elegant shapes, romantic history and associations, low cost, and ease of transportation and storage they have one more special appeal: solitude and the freedom that goes with it.

    But while the appeal may be strong, it's not necessarily easy to fit such an individualistic activity into family life, and maybe that's why people often dream over them for years before taking the plunge.

    I'd really like to see what you've been doing with your cutter some time! Do you maintain a website these days?


  3. I sold my gaff cutter, Hope, at the end of the '03 season. To tie in with the "Tumlaren for sale" comment – niche boats like these are often on the market for years before the right person comes along – a niche person. From start of build to sale I'd owned Hope for 12 years (over a quarter of my life) and it seemed time to move on to new exiting projects.

    Things didn't quite work out like that, but there has been much thought, if little action. As I mentioned in my previous comment, I now have a cnc machine big enough to cut 8×4' sheets of ply. This was acquired as part of my belief that generally things are very difficult to build, and technology should be able to make things easier. It turns out that introducing a cnc machine into the equation complicates things enormously at first – it's a very difficult tool to learn to use. But once learned, as well as having a tool which can cut faster and more accurately than by hand, one is introduced into a whole new way of thinking about designing and building. For instance, with cnc it is often best to cut things exactly to size rather than cutting oversize and trimming to fit; and it's best to design with this in mind.

    The canoe I've designed is an open, clinker 12 footer. I'll let you have image when I put something presentable together, at the moment it's all chaotic 3D CAD stuff. I'd like to put a website together detailing the whole process from idea, through design and build, and finishing with a detailed account of a multi day canoeing trip. The "whole" is important to me, and really it's all one process from back of envelope to back of beyond. Magazines tend to categorize – a new design, a build, a trip – as if they are unrelated.

    As well as always wanting to design, build and do a canoe trip, the reason I chose a canoe was because the design process for completely cutting by cnc is very time consuming, and I wanted to start on something relatively small and simple. The idea is to move onto a dinghy size project next, and a larger open boat, with the goal (at the moment) to design a small sailing cruiser of about 20'; very curvy, very fast to sail, and very fast to build. Exiting times!!

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