Tiphys on canoeing

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Tiphys frontispiece

‘One day paddling among the lilies perhaps in a stream too narrow for oars; on another spreading white sails to the sea breeze, and safely contending with the wave; now carried over obstacles, now housed in boat-house or shed, in a room of the inn, or in fact anywhere that there is room to swing the traditional cat; and again at anchor in the tide or hauled up on beach or grass, she is herself the nightly home of her crew.’

Practical Canoeing is an entertaining and thoughtful little book, and it’s great that it is available online, thanks to Craig O’Donnell.

Tiphys’ advice on dress is particularly good:

‘The dress worn afloat will naturally depend on the locality, and the nature of the work to be expected. On the Thames, etc., an ordinary boating jacket, “sweater,” and scarf, with flannel trousers or knickerbockers and a cap or straw hat, according to wind and weather will be the most appropriate, and is perhaps the most comfortable dress possible.

‘Knickerbockers are better than trousers, both on board and for wading; they should be double-seated and made without buckles, an elastic cord half-way round being used at the knee instead.

‘At sea, this dress would be conspicuous, because unusual, and ordinary yachting costume is more appropriate. If the canoeist is a “seaman” it is rather an advantage that his dress should declare the fact. Suppose, for example, one is asking for any information from local pilots or fishermen, if they take one for a “landsman” they will probably attempt to translate their remarks into “shore” language, at the total sacrifice of intelligibility. Again, in a harbour, if you have to cross the decks of any vessel to reach your craft, your appearance will excite surprise if in landsman’s attire; while, as a sailor, no one thinks anything of it.

‘The “landsman’s” dress leads to one’s receiving all sorts of unnecessary offers of assistance; one is warned and cautioned! against this and that till one is almost frightened; and one is regarded by extortionate “boatmen” as a prey specially delivered into their teeth.’


‘A duplicate working suit, with the exception perhaps of the coat, should be carried, also a shore suit carefully packed by itself in a bag or large handkerchief. If made of blue cloth or serge, it may be made to act two parts, when topped by a yachting cap it ‘has a sufficiently nautical appearance, while under an ordinary hat it does for going “inland.”‘

Speaking of canoeing, I’m reminded that I’ve been enjoying boat designer Michael Storer’s weblog about his current visit to the USA, which has included some boating through the fabulous scenery of the Colarado River. Take a look – you won’t regret it.

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