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"There is nothing-
absolutely nothing-
half so much worth doing
as simply messing
about in boats."
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

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Adirondack Guide Boat Secret Water guide boat lines drawing by Steve Kaulback

An evolution . . .
The development of the Adirondack Guide-Boat began in the early 1800s and evolved from a crude hunting skiff to today's refined design. Typical of most traditional small craft the guide-boat's development was based on necessity. The guides of the Adirondack region of New York required a craft capable of carrying the guide, his sport, their camping and hunting equipment, perhaps a dog or two, and hopefully a deer. The boat needed to handle the wind and waves dished out by mountain lakes, be fast, and be easily handled for many hours by one man. The guide sought a durable boat, able to take the punishment of these conditions. Finally the boat needed to be light enough that the guide could carry it on his back over long portages. The builders of these craft, often the guides themselves, spent the winter months working on this puzzle of requirements and advancing the evolution of the guide-boat.
The essence of the guide-boat was well noted by Henry Van Dyke in his Little Rivers, A Book Of Essays In Profitable Idleness (1895). "A Saranac boat is one of the finest things that the skill of man has ever produced under the inspiration of the wilderness. It is a frail shell, so light that a guide can carry it on his shoulders with ease, but so dexterously fashioned that it rides the heaviest waves like a duck, and slips through the water as if by magic. You can travel in it along the shallowest rivers and across the broadest lakes, and make forty or fifty miles a day, if you have a good guide."
Peculiarities . . .
Nice canoe and why are those paddles so long? These are the two comments most often heard by guide-boat enthusiasts. It's no accident that the guide-boat looks like a canoe, the guides had plenty of experience with canoes and their efficient shape. On the other hand a paddle could never fulfill the demanding requirements of the guides. Consequently, rowing was the chosen means of propulsion with a little help now and then by the sneak paddle. The leverage of long oars produced a powerful rowing stroke and this length combined with the narrow beam of the boats necessitated the adoption of a cross-armed rowing stance. To the uninitiated, cross arm rowing seems awkward at first, however it is easily mastered and the rower is rewarded with a less tiring stance. Another peculiarity of the oars is their use of pinned rowlocks. The oars are in a fixed attitude and are not feathered on the return stroke. Pinning the oars allowed the guide to stop rowing and leave the oars trailing in the water while he tended to his hunting, fishing, or the needs of his client.
Learn more . . .
The entire story of the Adirondack Guide-Boat and it's evolution is far too long to be adequately covered on this web site. In fact it is the subject of several fine reference books and articles. To learn more, explore the pages of this web site and be sure to visit the Links page where you'll find links to articles, books, and other web sites.

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