The Inconvenience of a Wood Canvas Canoe

The Inconvenience of a Wood Canvas Canoe by Ben Jacoff ’96

Wood canvas canoes are not convenient. Drag one across a small stone and that sacred green paint and fabric will offer little resistance to the stone’s sharp edges. There is no forgiveness in their planks, no second chance in a cracked rib.

Paddle a wood canvas canoe and you may notice that with each stroke, should you not correct with a well honed “k,” your boat will start to slip off on its own secret path. Travel by canoe is not efficient. There are quicker, easier ways to get from one region to another, or even from one lake to another. A canoe trip is an exercise in persistence, repetition, and planning. But not convenience. And yet, year after year, generation after generation, we load our wood canvas canoes onto iron trees, tie them down with synthetic ropes, and drag them behind gas powered behemoths to waters beyond the reach of our cell phone networks and the shadows of our apartment buildings. We carry those wood canvas canoes with tender hands and careful steps and, when we finally slide them from the safety of our arms into a cool, flat pond or a rippling clear river, we delight in the way the weight transfers from our arms to the water. Wood canvas canoes are not convenient, but they are a way of life. And like everything  worth anything in life, they take time, patience, and thought to truly understand. We choose to trip in wood canvas canoes precisely because they are made of wood and canvas – because they are inconvenient. Doing so offers us a model for dealing with the challenges we encounter. Bowman so heavy that your bow keeps flooding when you go down rapids? Just turn around in your seats and take the next set backwards – in a wood canvas canoe, like in life, there is no forwards or backwards. There is only the direction that you are going and the experiences you’ve had. Worried that running a rapid will harm your boat? Take the time to do the hard thing. The hard thing is almost always the right thing to do anyway. Wood canvas canoes teach us lessons about patience, and being mindful. They remind us to take care with our hands, with our feet, and with our choices. That if you truly care about something, you treat it with respect and reverence. They remind us too that we campers and staff, like our wood canvas brothers, need to be treated carefully at times. That we can easily be hurt by an errant stone, or a moment of inattention.

Imagine a trip in a tin canoe, or an evening at boats out in a motorboat. Where would we be without our wood canvas canoes? On screens? On a couch? Waiting for a video to load or a commercial to end? Our lives are so full of convenience, of easy ways out, of distractions, of anything to make our lives a little more smooth, a little more convenient. But when we choose to come to this place, to Keewaydin, to paddle and trip in wood canvas canoes, we say to ourselves that there is something to be gained in experiencing a challenge. That we live for that moment when we slip away from shore, our knees resting between the ribs below us, our hands sliding a paddle along the side of our boat. That wooden hulk that we laid gently against a tree at each campsite, protected from rocks and branches, lugged over beaver dams and sandbars, carried on our shoulders around waterfalls and through forests. We say to ourselves that we welcome the inconvenience of a wood canvas canoe.


The Relationship Between Nature, Humans and Keewaydin

From the Director: Bruce Ingersoll ‘76

At the prompting of his daughter Amelia ’09, Keewaydin Temagami’s Director was pressed to reflect on the relationship between nature and humans and Keewaydin.

My daughter Amelia is a senior this year so I am enjoying the final days of being able to peer over her shoulder as she completes her homework. Right now, she is reading The Yosemite by John Muir which chronicles his seasons in California’s Yosemite Valley. As an activist, Muir was a pioneer in articulating the cause for preservation of wild places with evocative prose descriptions. Muir insisted the human spirit needs the wilderness and wildness to survive.

Amelia had projects associated with the reading, one of which involved digging a little deeper into the relationship between nature and humans and asking me about Keewaydin and what we thought about it. To be honest, I was a bit stumped at first, swirling around in that place of “isn’t that obvious?” Then I had to answer the question.

My first thought is about the slowing of time. While we joke about “Temagami Time,” it is real and the clock out there just ticks a little slower, opening the door for reflection. Whether it is accompanied by the rhythmic thumping of paddles on the gunwhales of a canoe as you and your boat partner traverse a lake, or just sitting by the shore, the slowness invites reflection and chastises impatience. The forest is redolent with the smell of cycles of birth and rebirth and death; and the spruce and birch and lady slippers busting out of the fertile soil insist you acknowledge it and deeply consider it.

The absence of electronics is crucial. It is mighty liberating to put the cell phone down and walk away from the texts, the Facebook, the Twitter and the Instagram and the judgements attached.

In the wilderness all sorts of sh#%$$# happens. Before a trip you make careful plans that drill down to counting the smallest contour line and the metric distance of portages, but, out there, the wind starts to blow hard and won’t stop for three days. Everything changes. Patience is rewarded, impatience is a risk. So, you deal. You figure out how to live with the new plan and work to discover what this natural force has just taught you.

Finally, there is a divine presence (you can call it what you will) in nature and three, six or seven weeks immersed in nature, reflecting upon it, smelling it and breathing it brings you closer to that presence.

The studies are out there about nature and happiness, I will admit I used my “Googler” to read up. There is lots to discover about trees and urban planning and physical health. Lots to know about how extended time in the wilderness enhances creativity, mental health, and reduces depression. For me, on a canoe trip it seems simple, you are connected to the earth, there is time for reflection/meditation, there are moments that teach and there is a small group of people around you who share your highs and lows and whom you trust absolutely. Out there you remember who you truly are.

This is the magic of a Keewaydin summer. It is right in front of us and I am eager for June, but I will be patient while I wait for it.

NYC Alumni Reception

You are cordially invited to attend

The 2017 Keewaydin Alumni Reception

 Highlighted by Presentation of the Keewaydin Service Award to

Brian Back  ’76  In Absentia

Michael Vorenberg ’72

 Monday, October 23, 2017, 6:00 -8:00 p.m.
Cocktails, Hors d’oeuvres and Keewaydin Cheer

The Roger Smith Hotel
501 Lexington Ave (Lexington and 47th St.)
New York, NY 10017

Attire: Business Casual

 RSVP to Keewaydin before October 18
[email protected] or 802.352.4247


Ooohing and Ahhhing My Way Down the Winisk

Ooohing and Ahhhing My Way Down the Winisk River

By: Joe McClean

I first heard about Keewaydin in 2010 when my wife and I were looking for a summer camp for our eldest daughter.  Fast forward to the beginning of this year, my wife and three daughters had accumulated 16 years of Keewaydin canoe trips between them. My three daughters were looking forward to their Keewaydin summers, one as a first-time staff member and the other two their Bay and Section 3 trips.  My wife was also looking forward to a reunion weekend with her section mates that she had been tripping with for the past two summers on the Missinaibi River.  As for me, I was looking forward to another few days at Ojibway at Endseason.  With this and my only real claim to canoeing fame being a trip with my mother-in-law along a portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, I always felt left out of the family Keewaydin conversations.  I even felt a bit of a spare wheel at the Keewaydin recruiting events we had hosted over the years at our home.

So it was with this background and the enthusiastic encouragement of my wife and three daughters that I got the last spot on the Men’s Adult Trip of 2016.  Once Bruce gave me the OK I eagerly waited for the trip details to be finalized and very quickly started to bombard my wife and daughters with questions about all things Keewaydin and canoe tripping.  Much to their amusement, it became evident very quickly that all the talk I had heard over the years about tumps, rolling, wannigans, Dickies, trip/dry clothing etc. had gone over my head.

After promising my daughters that I would not embarrass them by questioning the Keewaydin Way (and a wry smile from my wife) I headed to North Bay to meet my section mates. From there we flew to the First Nation Settlement of Webequie where we put in on the Winisk River and paddled for two weeks, covering approximately 250 miles, ending up in Peawanuk, a few miles short of Hudson Bay.

My section mates were a diverse group with ages ranging from the late teens to early 70s.  I was privileged to be with them and experience “the majestic, mysterious, mystical, magical Winisk River.”  Together we all welcomed the outstanding weather, marveled at the array of birds, oooohed and ahhhhhed at the polar bear with her cubs, the list could go on and on. We all jumped in with both feet (metaphorically and literally) and immersed ourselves in the spectacular beauty and wilderness of Ontario.  For two weeks we lived and for the most part loved the Keewaydin Way.  (Some folks had questions about pot black and the wisdom of pot scrubbing after every meal.) Memories of these shared experiences will stay with me for a long time and I hope the friendships I made during these two weeks will last even longer.

Selfishly, I hold my own personal thoughts, memories, and experiences most dear.

Each night I would think about my three daughters who were, like me, at that same moment in time coming to the end of their day of paddling.  It was beautiful to think I was somehow sharing the same moment with them. (Personal note to Anna, Kyra & Sadie: Telepathy works!).

Having completed my first and hopefully not last Keewaydin canoe trip I finally have a sense of why my daughters’ have wanted to do this for weeks on end, (rather than days like me), year in, year out since before they were teenagers.  As a parent, being able to glimpse into my children’s world is a real gift. More precious is the sense of indescribable pride I have for my daughters now that I know what is involved in a Keewaydin wilderness canoe trip.

Thank you Keewaydin.

For more information about Adult Trips, please contact Bruce Ingersoll at [email protected] or 802-352-4247. 

Camp Directors On The Road

Join Camp Directors As They Hit the Road!

Prospective campers and their parents, alumni, and families are invited to join the Camp Directors to hear stories and see photos of camp. Don’t see the Directors coming to a city near you? Give us a shout!

Keewaydin Dunmore & Songadeewin Gatherings

Roger Smith Hotel, NYC, NY – October 25

Larchmont Yacht Club, Larchmont, NY – October 26

Home of Dan & Jenna Adler, Los Angeles, CA – November 13

Boston, MA – (Details TBD)

Home of Kristin Kuehl & David Steinberg, Washington, D.C. – December (Details TBD)

Home of David & Laurice Arroyo, Brooklyn, NY – January 12

Home of Stacy Rainey & Cort Boulanger, Middlebury, VT – January 21

Philadelphia, PA – February (Details TBD)

San Francisco, CA – Details TBD

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Daria Carden. 
[email protected] or 802-352-4247

Keewaydin Temagami Gatherings

Look for more information on gatherings in:

Greenwich, CT

Chicago, IL

Austin, TX

Bethesda, MD

Jackson, MS

Charlotte, NC

Seattle, WA

Middlebury, VT

Philadelphia, PA

For more information or to host a gathering, please contact Annette Franklin. 
[email protected] or 802-352-4709

NYC Alumni Reception

You are cordially invited to attend

The 2016 Keewaydin Alumni Reception

 Highlighted by Presentation of the Keewaydin Service Award to

John Hammock ’53

 Monday, October 24, 2016, 6:00 -8:00 p.m.
Cocktails, Hors d’oeuvres and Keewaydin Cheer

The Roger Smith Hotel
501 Lexington Ave (Lexington and 47th St.)
New York, NY 10017

Attire: Business Casual

 RSVP to Keewaydin before October 17
[email protected] or 802.352.4247

A camper and staff in the 1950s and 60s, John was instrumental in the formation of the Keewaydin Foundation in 1982. After a September 1978 meeting, during which the formation of the Keewaydin Foundation was first addressed, John stepped forward to lead the effort to raise the funds needed to pay Waboos and Abby for the Camp.  Over the next four years, he worked tirelessly and enthusiastically with only the most nominal of support, calling on Keewaydin’s far-flung alumni base to ensure the perpetuation of the Camp through their contributions.  His efforts reached fruition with the closing of the purchase of Keewaydin by the Foundation in December 1982.  There are a number of people who have been responsible for the continuation of Keewaydin and its traditions over the past 120 years; John Hammock is among the foremost and that is why we are thanking him with the Service Award. 


NYC Alumni Reception

Join Keewaydin at the 2015 NYC Alumni Reception!

Highlights include a presentation of the Keewaydin Service Award to Stuart Fraser, as well as, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and Keewaydin cheer.

Monday, October 26, 2015 6-8 p.m.

The Roger Smith Hotel
501 Lexington Ave (Lexington and 47th St.)
New York, NY 10017

Attire: Business Casual

Please RSVP to [email protected] or 802-352-4247 prior to October 16, 2015.

Join Camp Directors at Open Houses

Keewaydin Dunmore and Songadeewin Open House Gatherings

Fall 2014

 Prospective campers and their parents, alumni, and families are invited to
join camp Directors to hear stories and see photos of camp!

Sunday, October 26 (1:00 – 3:00) – Philadelphia, PA 
Tuesday, October 28 (5:30 – 7:00) – NYC, NY 
Wednesday, October 29 (5:30 – 7:00) – Darien, CT 
Saturday, November 8 (6:00 – 7:30) – Waban, MA
Sunday, November 16 (4:00 – 5:30) – Los Angeles, CA 
Friday, November 21 (5:30 – 7:00) – Chicago, IL 
Thursday, December 4 (6:00 – 7:30) – Washington D.C.

For more information or to RSVP please contact Daria Carden
[email protected] or 802-352-4770

2014 NYC Alumni Reception

You are cordially invited to attend

The 2014 Keewaydin Alumni Reception

 Highlighted by Presentation of the Keewaydin Service Award to 

~ Anne Adler ~

Monday, October 27, 2014 6-8 p.m.

Cocktails, Hors d’oeuvres and Keewaydin Cheer

The Roger Smith Hotel
501 Lexington Ave (Lexington and 47th St.)
New York, NY 10017

Attire: Business Casual

Please RSVP to Keewaydin prior to October 17th.
[email protected] or 802.352.4247