Sailing and Lake Superior are two things that go hand in hand, and have done for centuries. Wooden boats have been sailing on Lake Superior since the 1800s with the early maritime travellers here using wooden canoes. These days, the history of boating on the lake is commemorated in the annual Wooden Boat Show which is one of the top events held around the lake during the year.
The History Of Wooden Boats On Lake Superior
Like the other 4 Great Lakes, Lake Superior too had its fair share of tall masted, wooden hulled ships sailing its waters, even before the Sault Ste Marie locks were created in 1855. The Montreal canoes were the biggest canoes to sail these waters in the early days, reaching up to 40 feet in length, however by 1840 wooden boats had grown in size. The Algonquin schooner was taken in 1840 into Lake Superior around the St Marys rapids and it spent the remainder of its lifespan on the lake. Interestingly, the first decked vessel to be built on the Lake was actually constructed years earlier in 1735. The Otter was a sloop weighing 75 tons and was built at Point au Pins for use in the fur trade by the North West Company.
The unique challenges presented by Lake Superior, including its lack of shelter, led to the development of steel-hulled vessels which began to take over from the wooden boats during the late 1890s. The last commercial wooden ships were constructed in 1905 however today, modern wooden boats are still built by hand by enthusiasts who are keen to replicate the traditions of the past.
What Does The Wooden Boat Show Involve?
The Wooden Boat Show involves unique hand-made wooden watercraft exhibited along the lake together with a boat parade. However there is much more to the celebration than just boats. There are also fun craft demonstrations for all the family as well as a square dance in the evening. There are often auctions of tools and boats as well as delicious food offerings. There’s something for every member of the family. There are courses and workshops for adults as well as storytelling, with tales of sailors, travellers and boat builders who plied their trade and visited this unique part of the world. Held during the summer months, there’s no better time or way to enjoy the beauty of the lake and its traditional sailing past.
Who Arranges the Wooden Boat Show?
Although the Wooden Boat Show is an annual event it is only possible due to the support of countless local volunteers who have a tireless passion for the lake and the boats themselves. It’s a fun community-based festival and it involves people from all over the region who come to display crafts and to show off their workmanship on their own wooden boats. There are also speakers who come to talk about their own experiences or those from the past. These cover a range of fascinating subjects from canoeing to folk songs and rowing rhythms! As it is a community event, there are also lots of family-friendly activities during the day and evening to enjoy including campfire picnics, music circles, family dances and live music performances. There is even an opportunity to go out on the harbor for a sail on a traditional schooner.
Making Your Own Boat
Part of the joy of the Wooden Boat Show is to make your own boat to display. There are all kinds of boats here which have been made by all kinds of people from across the region, and anyone can join in the fun. You can take your inspiration from anywhere and as long as you’re using wood as your building material, you’re free to do anything you like. All you’ll need is a little DIY experience, some quality materials, a great table saw and plenty of creativity and you’ll be flying! Well, sailing maybe 🙂
Whether you love boats, crafts or simple the beautiful Lake Superior itself, you should make time to head down to the Wooden Boat Festival this year. You’re sure to have an amazing time at this event which truly captures the essence of the lake and its people.