As a boy, I have fond memories of canoeing polypropylene canoes down the Kenduskeag, Machias and Moose Rivers but these adventures pale in comparison, to the day I took my first ride in a Grand Lake canoe. I remember cringing, as I set a small tentative gravel covered foot on the heavily varnished wood ribbed hull, fearful to scratch what appeared more an artists sculpture then the floor of a boat. After considerable prodding, by my patient Uncle, I finally settled into the handcrafted caned bow seat and laid my tiny hands on the finely crafted gunnels. Speeding up West Grand toward Pocumcus Lake, powered along by a comparatively small 9 hp Johnson outboard, I was amazed by our ability to out distance larger watercraft boasting twice the output of the Johnson. As we effortlessly sliced through the chop, the cool September wind whipped through my hair and I silently promised that one day I would own one of these majestic watercraft.
Perfectly adapted, to its intended environment, the original design has undergone few perceptible changes since the canoe was first birthed sometime in the 1920’s. Still ribbed and planked with local cedar, trimmed with fine hardwoods and boasting a stern typically constructed from a single piece of strong dense mahogany, the craft appears more work of art then workhorse. Do not be fooled however by its intrinsic beauty, for the craft is powerful and capable in the water. While many others have borrowed from the original forms and managed to replicate the canoe, few have managed to duplicate. Novice craftsmen, who make sacrifices in the quality of materials or fail to build with loving devotion toward the craft, are simply building a big canoe and not a vessel worthy of the name Grand Laker.
Some argue it is the pilots of these venerable craft, whom are the most critical and important component of their design, for it is their experience knowing how to accurately predict the weather, avoid the rocky shoals and innate connection to the canoe that creates such an impressively capable watercraft. Captained by a registered Maine guide, the Grand Lake canoe or simply “Grand Laker”, in the native tongue, is a notably handsome means of conveyance, with strength and size striking a perfect balance with its grace and agility in navigating often challenging bodies of water.
In its most recent form, the twenty foot Grand Laker is capable of transporting three adults and gear comfortably and with its fine tracking in rough water and ability to draft less than 7 inches, it is perfect for everything from trolling for salmon to casting for small mouth bass. Its narrow profile and wooden hull make it maneuverable and light enough to get into boulder strewn fishing hot spots, unable to be navigated by heavy aluminum boats. Though quick and nimble, its wide berth still provides a stable platform for an angler to stand while casting or fly-fishing. Able to be outfitted in a variety of styles and configurations, it is not uncommon to see canoes rigged with fish finders, downriggers, rod holders and a number of other fishing implements. Lastly, no adventure in a Grand Laker would be complete, should it not contain packed neatly into its bow, all of the elements necessary to enjoy the infamous shore lunch.
The boat will effectively manage engine sizes from 8-10 hp. Thinking of the specific needs and scenarios when/where it will be typically operated, the 9 hp engine seems the most popular selection and is a great fit. Some canoes are even fitted with an additional electric trolling motor, increasing the crafts maneuverability in close quarters. Due to its weight (averaging an empty weight of around 160 pounds) and size, the 20 foot Grand Laker is typically transported using a small boat trailer. Though light weight in comparison to the large aluminum v-hulls it would be impractical to expect to be easily loaded into the back of a pick-up truck or onto a roof top carrier. Trailers also have the added the benefit of allowing the canoes to remain loaded with equipment, gas tanks and motors easing deployment another day or at a different fishing location.
With trailer and motor the current price tag of a Grand Laker is just under $10,000, with some used models available for half that price. Still, owning one of these fine craft may not be an option for every outdoorsman. Watercraft produced by Oldtown canoe, offer sportsmen a less expensive option but will never compare to the beauty of the handcrafted Grand Laker. Better to save your pennies and go with the classic!
Story by Registered Maine Guide Steve Vose
Steve- Great post. You gave credit where it was due.ReplyDelete
My family were priviliged to have owned 3 for 30 years. Dad was a Maine guide, and us kids were blessed to have had the time and experience of the heritage of these wonderful GLS canoes MGDelete
Marvelous post Steve. I've had the honor and great pleasure of fishing out of both yours and your brother's Grand Lakers and look forward to another trip on West Grand!ReplyDelete
PBM, You meant to say you have had the honor of fishing out of both my Dad's and My Uncles Grand Lakers! LOL! I don't own a Grand Laker . . . YET! Look for this post to appear in a future edition of the Maine Sportsman!Delete
Yes that is what I mean't Rabid..just another Senior Moment!Delete
PBM, LOL! No worries! SOmetime sI forget what it is I wanted to forget about. :)Delete
Great post about a true classic...Sounds more stable than my Whaler...Very cool watercraft...PhilReplyDelete
ESO, A Grand Laker has been on my want list for a very long time. They are both a function and beautiful watercraft. Someday I keep telling myself, someday! Thanks for commenting!ReplyDelete
Hey Rabid..any idea on when ice out will be for WG?ReplyDelete
I saw a picture the other day that showed the landing is ice free but the upper lake still ice. I would be surprised if it wasn't all open water by the end of the month. You planning an expedition?Delete
I am..can't wait to get back up there early this season. How about it? Will you and your Dad be free in early April to "hook up"? I think The Unofficial Mayor of GLS should be ready for some company by then?Delete
PBM, We typically try and get up to Grand Lake for the Patriots day long weekend. Will likely have to see how that eventually works out on the calendar. I think the "Mayor" is likely to want someone to visit him now.Delete
Steve, such a great read and thank you for truly doing justice, (in my opinion) to such a genuine icon of our north woods lore. In some of my earliest fishing memories I can recall having a very similar surreal experience just watching a laker move past me at close range, in a very cliche like "love at first site" slow motion moment...whispering to myself the epic promise that someday she'll be mine and together we'll own the water together. I think that Grand Lakers really speak to the soul of those who were only ever meant to breath northern Maine lake air in the morning.ReplyDelete
Dusty, Thank you very much for your kind words. This blog is a labor of love and payment is rendered when I manage to write something that people enjoy reading. I appreciate that you took the time to express that you liked the post.ReplyDelete
Though I still have yet to own my own Grand Lake canoe, it is my hope that perhaps someday I will be part of the select brethren!
Hi, Great article on the Grand Laker canoe! I was curious if OLD TOWN used to manufacture ash/cane folding chairs for these canoe's? I found one at a local sale here in Maine, the gentleman referred to it as a vintage "GRAND LAKER" Chair. There is a spot on it where the label wore-off, looks like it could have been an OLD TOWN Canoe label. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Mike in Belfast
Mike, Thanks! I just ran an internet search on the ash/cane Old Town Canoe seat and didn't see anything immediately come up. It wouldn't surprise me if it was Old Town or even LL Bean! I do know that a few companies still make theses seats (for example: Harmony Folding Ash Cane Canoe Chair) and you also might be able to find a few "vintage" ones at a antique shop. Drop me a line if you find out more info on this mystery!Delete
Excellent article. Spent many summer days at Cobb's Pierce Pond Camps growing up and our guide Greg could navigate these through fast moving rough waters I wouldn't have dreamed possible with such precision, it was like a smooth paddle across a glass top lake.ReplyDelete
Does anyone do repairs? Owned one for over 30 years and needs a little work Now? email@example.comReplyDelete
I appreciate any help.
Henry Wallace Clark introduced me to Grand Lake and its canoes back in the 60s and 70s.From the landing, we'd ride in his GL canoe to Norway Point, where he had built a cabin. Sometimes, it was rough going, but I always felt safe in that canoe. We even took it out on the ocean to the Isles of Shoals! "Uncle" Wallace built 3 Grand Lake Stream canoes in his garage. He painted one in the traditional green, one fire-engine red and one blue. One of the canoes was on display L.L. Bean's showroom for many years. Eventually it ended up in L.L. Bean's Museum warehouse. We drove down there in hopes of seeing it, but the warehouse/museum isn't open to the public.ReplyDelete
Great article, I had many days of my childhood years in a Grand Laker in the Allagash with my father. I hope to get a few more since I recently retired from the military and my father is 90. I better get to work on it.ReplyDelete
Thanks for commenting! Always been a dream of mine to canoe the Allagash, beautiful country. Congrats on your retirement!