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Bill Halliday

March 19, 2000

I'll try to describe, in brief, a canoe which has become an important part of my life.

After over fifty years of paddling and portaging, I began to fulfill my golden years' dream of paddling, in a series of short trips, from Grand Portage in the St. Lawrence watershed, to Methy Portage, which leads over the second height of land on the historical Voyageur Route into the MacKenzie Basin. Before reaching Rainy Lake, I had turned my lifetime intellectual pursuit of "the ideal canoe" into a reality with a cross-continent search, testing out almost everything from birchbark to space technology. In particular, I needed a canoe in which I would feel secure when storms blew up on the big lakes I would encounter as I travelled westward.

I finally settled on Fletcher's "Bill Mason 'Heavy Duty' Special."

With an extra seat, it comfortably takes three paddlers, and yet handles with ease when I go solo. It manoeuvres with grace among the "white horses" but also tracks well on flat water. Under sail, it even tacks into the wind without a keel or rudder. Using an extra thwart (the one which holds my mast, which in turn doubles as a pole) and a custom yoke made by another Atikokan craftsman, I can swing my "Fletcher" up onto my shoulders singlehandedly and portage comfortably even at my 64 years of age. Being over seventeen feet long, it handles well by pole both upstream and down. When required, it effortlessly covers the miles with a 2 h.p. Evinrude on a side bracket.

The ultimate test came on our first day out on Rainy Lake, with a storm brewing. We had no portages on that leg of our journey, and I had a short-lived fear that I had packed too much gear for the three of us aboard. When the wind and rain hit, my last doubts vanished. Feeling my "Fletcher's" stability, I knew I had the right canoe and that its carrying capacity was, as promised, equal to "a bull moose and two big men."

On the next leg of my pilgrimage, paddling alone across Lake of the Woods, I found the stormy days the most enjoyable, watching and feeling my canoe become one with myself and the Lake. The more it tossed and pitched, the more secure I felt.

Sometimes now, I enjoy just sitting by the fire, or in my tent in the rain, savouring the asthetics of my canoe as it sits up on the beach, or upturned on a rocky shore. At other times, I thrill at watching others paddle while its strong, graceful lines interact with the waves, becoming one with the Universe.

Thanks, Randy and Thelma, for your hours of painstaking craftsmanship and loving care, and thanks, Paul, for keeping Canadian tradition alive, blended with modern technology as it is in the "Fletcher."

Bill Halliday, MD
Comox, B.C.