Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
bark of the birch tree.
These sheets are stitched together with withes, made by pulling up the long, thin roots of the fir trees and splitting them with a knife.
Withes also make excellent cord for woodsmen.
The joinings of the sheets are then made watertight with “gum,” that is, the resin out of spruce trees melted over a fire and poured on.
This boat is very quickly made by an expert woodsman, and is very light and very buoyant on the water, and will carry a lot of weight, only you cannot do much dancing about in it.
In fact, you have to be very careful indeed in getting into it, and you have to sit tight when you are in it, otherwise it is quite willing to capsize with you at any moment.
That is why it is no use starting out to be a backwoodsman unless you can swim.
A “ninny” (that is, a fellow who cannot swim) would not remain a backwoodsman very long, because he would be drowned within a few days.
I remember on one occasion we nearly had to swim for it.
We were paddling gaily across a lake on which were several small islands, and were thinking of nothing in particular, when “bang! push!” and we ran on to a rock which was just below the surface of the water.
We soon shoved off again, but water began to trickle into the bottom of the canoe, and we found that we had dented the birch bark and knocked a small hole in it.
So we paddled for all we were, worth to one of the rocky islands close by; here we quickly bundled our baggage and ourselves ashore, and drew the canoe up out of the water and turned her upside down.
Then, with our knives, Ben and I scraped little spare bits of “gum” off the seams of the canoe, while Jim lit a small fire of driftwood.
Ben, after flattening the dent and the hole, put a piece of rag over it (taken from his sore finger!) and, with a brand from the fire, melted the “gum” over the rag, and so stuck it over the hole and made it watertight.
It was all done so quickly and neatly that within ten minutes of our having run on the rock we were once more afloat and on our voyage, with our ship as buoyant and watertight as ever.
A backwoodsman is not stopped by such a trifle as a hole in his boat, he quickly invents a way of mending it-that is what we call resourcefulness.
A great part of Canada consists of a network of lakes and streams among dense forests, so that roads are too difficult to make and do not exist.
The only way to get about is with light canoes; with your canoe you can paddle up the rivers and across the lakes, taking your pack of clothing and food, and you then walk through the forest to the next bit of water, carrying your pack and your canoe.
As a rule two, or sometimes three, men travel together, and while one carries the canoe, the others carry the packs through the forests. This part of the travelling is called “portaging,” the ground walked over being called a “portage.”
To carry your canoe, you put it on your head like a big hat!