The following speech was delivered at Keewaydin Dunmore’s Sunday Circle during the summer of 2013 by Wiantinaug Director, Johnny Clore.
I have but one piece of advice for you: Go to “Boats Out.” After dinner, after store, head down to the waterfront and get in a canoe. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Almost every day that I’m at camp, I get into a canoe at least three times. Once, in the morning, before the gong, once at activity period, and once during boats out. Each time, I walk down to the racks and walk among the canoes, trying to decide which one feels right for that day and that time. Then it’s off the racks, onto my shoulders and down to the lake. I slide the boat into the water, pull it alongside the Wiantinaug dock, and take my place, kneeling on the cedar of the ribs. I grip my paddle and dig into the water, driving quiet whirlpools towards the stern. But, although each paddle begins in the same way, they are not at all the same.
That morning paddle is a workout. I hope for still waters as I drive the boat through the mist on my way towards the island. My stopwatch is running, and I keep a record of how long it takes me to get there and back. I take 100 strokes on my right side and then switch to my left. I keep a record of my average strokes per minute. I love this time of day, alone on the lake, arms pumping, the water fanning out behind my boat as I break the early morning glass. I arrive back at the dock just in time to hear the gong. I check my time and hope for something under 34 minutes.
A few hours later, I’m back on the water again, this time for activity period. Activity period is goal-oriented also, but the goals are different. It is an assignment, scheduled in advance with the specific purpose of helping campers achieve skill mastery. This is a time for me to teach and for campers to learn. It is a time to pass on the skill of a K-stroke to a camper and then to pass him on his coups. This paddle is about achievement, it is about helping a camper to gain the credentials he needs for his trip or for his coup K. When the OD calls “boats in!” I am always eager to fill out a coup slip and celebrate the tangible progress that this paddle brought.
Then, after dinner, comes my final, and favorite, paddle of the day: “Boats Out.” I love “Boats Out” because it is different from the other two, a departure from goals, schedules, and deadlines. It exists not for the advancement of some certain skill or the achievement of some coup. “Boats Out” exists solely as a time to be content, to enjoy the boat, the water, the mountain. It does not demand the same focus or determination. Sometimes I do a few dock landings, not so much for practice, but instead as a way to affirm my connection to the canoe. And sometimes I just glide, paddle resting on the gunwales, water smooth beneath the canvas.
We live in a fast-paced world. It is a world of schedules and appointments. It is a world that values promptness and sets deadlines. It is a world focused on achievements, skills, and credentials. And in many ways, there’s nothing wrong with these values. Indeed, a boy who is motivated to earn his first coup in canoeing will gain a valuable skill as the fruit of his labor. However, we must often remind ourselves that time outside of such focused, goal-oriented pursuit is not at all wasted.
Too often, we are reminded that there are 24 usable hours in every day and we are told to fill them up with worthy pursuits. In the few moments of down time that we manage, we fear boredom.
But there is also value in peaceful quiet. There is value in those precious moments after dinner and before the frolics, those moments spent not in the pursuit of anything. Cognitive psychologists would tell you that in these moments, your cognition broadens, allowing creativity and synthesis. But even without their science, we know that there is value in these moments spent fully engaged in the present, content in the world, in a wood canvas canoe, on a lake in Vermont, listening to the water, looking at the mountain, and feeling the breeze on your face. There is value in “Boats Out.”
I may not be the first to remind you of the value of these moments. Indeed, such a reminder has become almost cliché: stop and smell the roses. But to me, that’s not quite it; we shouldn’t need to interrupt our lives to enjoy the simple stillness and goodness of the world we live in. Live with the scent of the roses ever in your nose. Live in the moment and be in the place you are. Seek contented stillness in the moments filled with nothing at all. Go to “Boats Out.”
All too soon, we will head home from Keewaydin, back to Boston or Philly or New York. And as we leave we lose that time after dinner on the lake. But the value of “Boats Out” is only greater in a world more hectic and intense. So make “Boats Out” a part of your life throughout the year. It may not be in a canoe. You may find “Boats Out” in a quiet walk or in sitting on the porch alone. Wherever it is, let your mind go to that contented place, unbothered by credentials and to-do lists. And when you’re there, let yourself glide like a canoe on a calm lake on a warm August evening.
It is with great pleasure to announce that Lauren Geiger will be joining the Keewaydin Foundation team as our new Development Director! Many of you already know Lauren from her work with us during the campaign as a consultant with Demont and Associates. Currently, she is a senior development officer at Norwich University.
Lauren officially begins on October 1. I feel very fortunate to have Lauren directing our development operations. She has rich experience, terrific people skills, great instincts, and an abiding appreciation of Keewaydin.
Canoes: The Boat Upon Which We Float Our Philosophy
by Bruce Ingersoll and Dylan Schoelzel
Ask anyone who has attended one of our camps what they remember most, and one of the first things they will tell you about are the canoes and the canoe trips. Founded by A.S. Gregg Clarke, Keewaydin first began leading canoe trips for young boys and men through the north woods of Maine in 1893. The focus of Camp Kah-Kou, as it was known then, was wilderness canoe trips. Clarke believed that on these adventurous expeditions, boys and young men, would grow strong, learn about courage, teamwork, and independence and develop an appreciation for wilderness. That mission remains at the center of the Keewaydin experience and has broadened to include multiple camps and girls and young women. Today, Keewaydin is home to the world’s largest fleet of working wood-and-canvas canoes which continue to be the heart of the Keewaydin experience.
Keewaydin has an enormous fleet of canoes designed to do one thing: carry campers out into the wilderness with hopes and expectation for adventure and then safely return with a newfound sense of the world and themselves. Each canoe may travel anywhere from 200-600 miles a summer all over Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, Manitoba, northern New England and eastern New York. They cross vast lakes through all types of winds and weather. They are paddled and poled upstream to cross heights of land, and they nimbly navigate whitewater. Our canoes hold loads in excess of 700 pounds as they travel downstream on some of the wildest rivers Canada has to offer: the Eastmain, Rupert, George, Koksoak and Great Whale rivers. They even ply the salty waters of Hudson Bay.
The early fleet; pre 1925
No information survives to tell us what types of canoes were used when Keewaydin started in Maine in the 1890’s. They were most likely locally built wood-and-canvas and birch bark canoes.
When the camp moved to Temagami, a more permanent fleet of wide board (rib and batten) canoes, bark canoes, and wood-canvas canoes built by EM White, was established. During the first few years, wide board and bark canoes were bought directly from the Hudson Bay Company. EM White canoes were supplied through Henry McCleod who was the only Maine guide to follow Clarke from Maine to Temagami. McCleod was instrumental in constructing the early camp buildings on Devil’s Island and he was also known as the canoe foreman (caretaker of the canoe fleet). In the off-season McCleod returned to Maine where he was gainfully employed by EM White, the canoe builder who had set up shop in 1885 in the Old Town, Maine area.
The Chestnut era; 1925-1979
By this point in time Keewaydin on Lake Dunmore was firmly established and canoes and canoeing were at the heart of the Temagami and Dunmore camp experiences. In about 1925, McCleod retired from canoe building, and Temagami folks began purchasing canoes from the Chestnut Canoe Company in New Brunswick. This marked the beginning of a relationship that lasted more than 50 years. Keewaydin Dunmore stayed with the EM Whites for a longer period of time, preferring the eighteen-and-a-half foot canoe that was a dream to paddle, but ferociously heavy to portage. But by the early 1950’s both camps were buying almost exclusively from Chestnut.
During the Chestnut era the canoe fleet became standardized with two models; the Chestnut Cruiser and the Chestnut Prospector. One of the more unique features of the Keewaydin canoe during this time period was the wannigan rib. The ribs were created by Keewaydin and installed in their canoes by Chestnut at the factory. These narrower ribs were clinch nailed over the main ribs in the canoe. There are typically 6 of these ribs per canoe, 3 on each side of the center thwart, positioned on every other rib starting with the two center ribs. Their purpose is to add overall strength to the hull, particularly where the wannigans are loaded, and to keep the main ribs from prematurely breaking.
Wannigans, sometimes weighing upwards of 100 pounds each, are almost always loaded two to a canoe, one on each side of the center thwart. The ribs beneath the wannigan are subjected to unusual wear and tear from loading and unloading. Also, wannigans are known to literally hop or bounce up and down in rapids and on windy lakes.
Keewaydin became one of Chestnuts largest retail purchasers with a standing order every year until Chestnut closed their doors for good in 1979. Canoes were shipped from New Brunswick via rail to Vermont and to the town of Temagami. In the town of Temgagami they were loaded onto a large steamer that made deliveries on the lake.
The Chestnut canoe became embedded into the camp as an icon of durability and performance. As the last few years of the Chestnut Canoe Company dwindled along in the late 1970’s the camps had a hard time buying the models they wanted. The last year Chestnut was open Keewaydin purchased the final remaining inventory of Guide Specials (a model built on the cruiser form but constructed with nearly twice the number of ribs as a regular cruiser model). It was all they could buy.
This period, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, was a rough one for canoes and Keewaydin. The traditional vessels were no longer available but the impetus to canoes trip was as strong as it ever was. Camp leadership scrambled to find someone out there to build canoes. Old Town sold wood-and-canvas canoes, with the 18′ Guide model being preferred especially for the Wauramaug Wigwam at Keewaydin Dunmore. But they were very expensive. At the same time plastics were taking hold and ABS presented a durable and inexpensive alternative to wood and canvas. But at what point is durability traded for the grace and flex of a wood-and-canvas craft? More importantly, would the use of synthetics change the way business was done on a Keewaydin canoe trip? Would the essential teachings sacred to Commodore Clarke be diminished? The conversations were very similar at both camps and in the end, the solutions were remarkably the same and preserved the essence of the Keewaydin Experience.
As the supply of wood-and-canvas canoes dried up in Temagami, Fred Reimers, then director, looked around at the world of synthetic canoes and purchased first a set of six early model ABS canoes and then twenty-four Kevlar canoes for use in the youngest boys wigwam: Manitou. The big Kevlar canoes were a better compromise and could carry a big load – ideal for Manitou where each canoe carried a non-paddling mojo. Those canoes remained in service into the ’90’s.
But the rest of the camp still needed canoes and Reimers was able to avoid moving the whole camp to Kevlar when hope presented itself in the form of Donald Fraser of Fredericton, New Brunswick. When the assets of Chestnut were sold off, some of the canoe forms were purchased by Fraser, who was Chesnut’s sales manager at the time. He began working for Chestnut in 1951 and knew that Keewaydin was a steady customer that relied on the Cruiser and Prospector. Fraser chipped away at his retirement endeavor by building his shop in the early 80’s. His first canoe came to Devil’s Island in the summer of 1982. For the next 25 years Fraser continued to keep the Chestnut/Keewaydin relationship alive by supplying the camp with seventeen foot Cruisers and Prospectors.
A new era of builders
A girls’ program was introduced on Temagami in 1999. Around the same time the canoes used in the youngest boys sections, the Manitou wigwam, were old and tired. The camp needed a new fleet of canoes for the girls program and they needed to do something about those in Manitou. Fraser was capable of building only so many canoes a year in his small New Brunswick one man shop. This, coupled with the fact that Fraser would not be able to build canoes forever, set the camp looking for new canoe builders again.
For the girls program, Keewaydin turned to Dylan and Emily Schoelzel of Salmon Falls Canoe in Shelburne, Massachusetts. Both Dylan and Emily had deep backgrounds at Keewaydin. Dylan was a long time camper and member of the staff and Emily, also an veteran tripper and who’s family was no stranger to Keewaydin, was hired to start the girls program in 1999. Both understood Keewaydin and requirements for their canoes. The Schoelzel’s delivered their first canoe, the Chicot (pronounced Shee-koh), to the camp in 2000.
For the younger boys of Manitou the camp turned to Glenn and Dianne Toogood of Garden Island Canoe in Temagami . Both Glen and Diane are longtime residents of Temagami and have a long history with the camp which among other things included rebuilding canoes. Their Mojo model, named after the Ojibway word for a canoe carrying more people than its two paddlers, was a natural fit.
On Lake Dunmore the same debates raged around campfires. The Wilderness Trip was the focal point for the canoe conversation. When the EM Whites were no longer available, the Wilderness Trip used Tremblays, a big sturdy Prospector sized canoe built in St. Felicien Quebec. Tremblays were workhorses and into the 1970’s were accessible to the point that a trip could swing by on their way to Misstissini and pick one up if a canoe was damaged. They were perfect until the shop was abruptly closed in the mid-1970’s leaving the camp without a supplier.
Waboos Hare and Abby Fenn presided over the transition and wound up with two very neat solutions. The first was to begin using ABS canoes. Abby Fenn, in particular, was an experimenter and wanted to give ABS a try. They were able to find nice seventeen foot tripping canoes at Old Town, the Tripper and it was adopted into the fleet to be used on longer river trips where there was more whitewater to be run. In 1977 one ABS canoe went on the Wilderness Trip and the other four were wood-and-canvas, most likely a mix of Chesnuts and Tremblays. In 1978, it was four ABS canoes and one wood-and-canvas and by 1984 the change was complete. The design was perfect and the price was good. But most importantly the canoes were able to continue to serve the mission.
As for the wood-and-canvas fleet, Schylur Thompson stepped into the void much the same way Don Fraser did up in Temagami. A long time trip leader and camper at Dunmore, Thompson became interested in canoe repair in the 70’s and began his apprenticeship with long-time Dunmore maintenance man Chuck Conard. They began by repairing one of the great war canoes and for Thompson the rest was easy. He set up his own business outside of Keewaydin, took on rebuilding the Dunmore fleet and all wood canvas canoes. By the late 1980’s Thompson began to build and supply new canoes for Dunmore and continues to do so today.
Present day; the fleet today and the future outlook:
Keewaydin’s fleet consists of roughly 350 canoes, 232 of which are wood-and-canvas. At Temagami there are not many historical examples as far as age and maker is concerned, since these are hard working canoes. Most are 20-40 years old with the bulk having been built within the past 20. At Dunmore the history comes with the canoes named in honor of staff who served at Keewaydin for 20 years. 10 of these are Chestnuts.
By today’s standards it is easy for the fleet to be viewed as rather unusual. Unlike most camps that have abandoned their wood canvas canoes in favor of synthetic materials, all of Keewaydin Temagami’s trips are done in wood canvas canoes. At Dunmore the Wilderness and the Moosalamoo trips are all done in ABS because they encounter so much white water. The rest of the trips head out in the trusty wood-and-canvas canoe.
Keewaydin keeps the wooden canoe not just for the sake of nostalgia, but because it provides so much of what Keewaydin offers. The wooden canoe teaches
invaluable lessons in taking care of your gear and teaching a set of highly refined paddling skills that no other canoe can teach.
Over the last 120 years canoes at Keewaydin have been bought and sold, traded and lost, buried and burned, left behind so trips could get home on the train or an airplane, and they have all been paddled thousands and thousands of miles. Carrying their passengers through thick and thin, cold and warm, dry and wet, the Keewaydin fleet is capable of telling canoe trip stories that most of us can only dream about. We may never know how many canoes Keewaydin has used over the years, hundreds if not in the thousands, but one thing will always remain true – the wooden canoe is strong and alive and accounts for a large part of what makes the Keewaydin Way so unique and special.
Behind the Scenes of Beau Ties’ Spring Catalog Photo Shoot
When Beau Ties Ltd of Vermont contacted us here at Keewaydin to see if our Camp Directors would model for their Spring 2014 catalog, we were all in. But, when the first photo shoot had to be canceled on March 13 due to 20 inches of snow, it seemed like Spring might just never come. After clearing the road to the Fraser Dining Hall on Songadeewin’s campus, the shoot was rescheduled for March 18. These photos take you behind the scenes of that cold day in March, where our fearless leaders were put in the spot light. Look for Beau Ties’ upcoming catalog to see the final product!
Give a Keewaydin L.L. Bean Flannel to Your Favorite Keewaydinessi!
L.L. Bean’s Scotch Plaid Flannel Shirts are some of the softest, longest wearing, most comfortable flannel shirts you can buy, and now they are complete with Keewaydin’s moose and paddles.
Perfect for staying warm and feeling light in the dark and blustery months ahead.
Visit the Camp Store for that unexpected holiday gift or for one of your very own! https://www.keewaydin.org/parents/camp-store/
A recent article in The Atlantic gives some wonderful advice for parents who
are feeling “homesick” for their child.
A Summer Camp Lesson: Good-bye, and Go Away,
Thank You Very Much
Dropping a kid off for camp can test a parent’s resolve. But standing back to let a child develop autonomy is one of the most important things a parent can do.
By Jessica Lahey
Three years ago, when he was eleven, my son Ben set down a very specific parental code of conduct we’d be expected to follow at summer camp drop-off. We could say our goodbyes at home, but once we arrived at camp, any displays of affection, attempts to make his bed, arrange his things, or force premature familiarity with his cabin mates would be strictly prohibited. We could hang around during registration, watch while they check him for lice, help him lug his bags to his cabin, and shake hands with his counselor, but after that, our parental duties were complete. We were expected to say goodbye, and go away, thank you very much.
My husband was taken aback by Ben’s request, but I was not. I totally understood his yearning for independence. I went to camp as a child, and as much as I adored my parents, I, too, looked forward to the autonomy I found during those glorious summer months away from home. I missed my parents, of course, but in their absence, I passed my swim test, dove off the high dive, ran my first 5k, spent three nights alone in a dark forest, and shared my first kiss.
The fact that Ben is eager to watch me walk away from him is a sign of strength — both of our bond, and of his sense of self. According to psychologist Michael Thompson, childhood requires an endpoint, and it’s a parent’s job to raise children who can leave, children secure enough to turn away from the safety of a parents’ embrace and look toward the adventures and challenges to be found beyond.
…in the final analysis, there are things we cannot do for our children, no matter how much we might want to. In order to successfully accomplish these tasks, to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to do it on their own, and usually away from their parents, sometimes overnight, sometimes for days or weeks or even months.
He goes on to list the eight things parents cannot do for their children, no matter how desperate we are to do so:
1. We cannot make our children happy.
2. We cannot give our children high self-esteem.
3. We cannot make friendships for our children or micro-manage their friendships.
4. We cannot successfully double as our child’s agent, manager, and coach.
5. We cannot create the “second family” for which our child yearns in order to facilitate his or her own growth.
6. It is increasingly apparent that we parents cannot compete with or limit our children’s total immersion in the online, digital, and social media realms.
7. We cannot keep our children perfectly safe, but we can drive them crazy trying.
8. We cannot make our children independent.
Thompson’s list of developmental milestones — critical, essential milestones every child is going to have to navigate — is terrain our children must traverse on their own, and parents who believe they can span those uncomfortable gaps with lovingly made bridges woven of organic hemp and allergen-free twine are kidding themselves. Despite all our parental worries, these gaps are not deep, dark, places of danger where there be dragons and creepy Stephen King clowns; they are places of wonder, filled with adventure, and excitement, and the promise of untold successes. If we allow our children to head out into these uncharted territories on their own, they will get there and back again, and when they return to us, ready to tell their tales of adventure, they will be much more competent and capable human beings.
So when I drove my son to camp today, we did not have to review his rules. He knew I would remember and honor them. We parked, he was checked for lice, I met his counselor, and while the other parents moved about the cabin, making their children’s beds and suggesting where to store their flashlights and extra sunscreen, I quickly took my leave with a wave and a good-bye.
On the way back to the car, my younger son slipped his hand into mine, something he hardly ever does anymore.
“I think I’d like to come to camp next year,” he said.
“Really?” I said, picturing him running around among these hulking adolescents.
“Yep,” he nodded. “I think I’ll be big enough next year.”
And with that, he let go of my hand and ran ahead to gather up a pile of pine needles he’d spotted just off the path. As I watched him attempt to stuff two handfuls of the needles into his pockets, I realized that next year, he’d be almost as old as his brother was the first year he went to camp. So just maybe, if I do my job right, he will be big enough next year. Big enough to want me to say goodbye, and go away, thank you very much.