Building an Adirondack Guideboat-Paddles and Changes at the Museum

This summer the Adirondack Museum celebrates its 60th year of being a vast reservoir of Adirondack history.  Many have told me what a fine Museum it is, one of the best they have ever visited.

It is fitting that the Museum is changing in response to our ever changing world.  The Adirondack Museum will no longer go by that name but will now be called “the Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake.  Coincident with the change in name is a new exhibition entitled Life in the Adirondacks.  As explained in the press release, this exhibition will feature “wonderful artifacts, media and digital technology, hands-on interactive experiences, and stories of work, life, and play in the Adirondacks.”  Planning for the exhibition has been underway for several years.  Last year the Roads and Rails building was closed while the new exhibition was created in 19,000 square-feet of space.

It is an exciting time for the Museum and I am honored to play a small part in the official opening of the new exhibition on Saturday, July 1st.  I have been asked to display my collection of guideboat paddles along with their history while I demonstrate guideboat paddle making.  With our departure for the North Country coming right up I started to scurry about to finish long forgotten projects.  I discovered two reproductions of Caleb Chase guideboat paddles done last summer that needed varnishing.  Here they are:

Chase paddles being varnished.

Here they are being varnished.  I lay them flat and do one side at a time to avoid runs.  It takes longer but avoids the hassle of having to rework paddles wherever the varnish has run.  Here are the finished paddles.

Finished guideboat paddles.
Close up of two Chase guideboat paddles.

The paddle on the left is a steering paddle and is made of figured cherry.  The one on the right is a hunting paddle and is made of Spanish cedar.  Both exhibit chatoyancy, or the “cats eye” effect found in gem stones and certain species of wood.

You can see the original steering paddle being used at Great Camp Santanoni somewhere around 1895 in the photo below,  The women are out for guideboat ride.  The oarsman is being assisted by her friend who is using the original of the paddle above.

A Chase steering paddle in use at Great Camp Santanoni.

Hunting paddles were used when a guideboat was used to hunt deer at night.  The guide would propel the boat from the stern using a paddle like the one above.  The so-called “sport” would be in the bow with a rifle and candle lantern.  The guide would silently glide the boat along the lake shoreline.  Upon the sound of a feeding deer the sport would quietly light the lantern and take a shot at the dazed deer.  Jacking deer was outlawed in 1905 in New York State.

If you are in the Blue Mountain Lake area on July 1st drop in and say hi.  The paddles will be for sale as well as one of my guideboats.

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