Volunteer Alan Weaver (foreground) and curator Peter Ord of the Penticton Museum and Archives do some prep work on one of several war canoes which are being restored and will hopefully be able to be used on the water again by next spring.

Racing canoes find new home in Penticton

Art project dubbed The Penticton Smith Works will play host to 11-metre boats while they undergo restoration work

Four racing canoes under the care of the Penticton Museum have finally found a home.

“These are war canoes that were built in the 1930s. They are sort of a hybrid design from First Nation war canoes, from the coast, together with Eastern Canadian cedar strip canoes,” said Peter Ord, museum curator. “They are really designed to be fast, not for the paddlers to sit in them, but actually to kneel in them. They have a very shallow draft, so they slide through the water.”

The museum obtained the canoes over the course of the last five years, but because of their size — 11-metres long and seating 14 paddlers — it has been hard to find a spot to store them, let alone restore them to lake-worthy condition.

“The present building where the museum is located is just inappropriate for doing all the kinds of restoration work that require old machines and materials, like working on these huge 35-foot war canoes, ” said Ord. “I have been having to move them every five or six months. We’ve been hopscotching around but finally we can say they have a home.”

That new home and restoration area is courtesy of Jennifer and Nicholas Vincent, who founded CoWork Penticton.

Their latest project, Art House Penticton, is a co-operative work space for artists and artisans at a workshop site in the industrial area.

“We were thrilled to be able to use the space for nearly all our workshop needs,” said Ord.

“So much so, we are now developing some public programming around the use of traditional artisan and craft practice and promoting our new project, The Penticton Smith Works.”

First on the list will be the restoration of the war canoes, which Ord hopes will be back in racing shape by next spring.

“Our goal is to have them in the water in May and getting teams signed up from the community to start racing them,” said Ord, noting that the museum has photos of similar canoes being raced on the lake as early as 1907.

“They were very popular in the 1910s here in Penticton,” he said. “Penticton, Peachland, Summerland and Kelowna would race against each other through a regatta series over each summer for special bragging rights and to win the Robinson cup.”

Restoration work will be handled by Shuan Boo of Peachland, who jumped at the chance when he found out the museum was interested in restoring the four war canoes.

“War canoes not only provide a great starting point for youth to get involved in competitive paddling, but it also introduces them to a valuable part of Canadian heritage,” said Boo.

“We now have a site where we could work covered through the winter, which means no more toques or cold hands.”

The Vincents are happy to be hosting the Smith Works Project, which began on Nov. 9 with a course on antique wood restoration by local antique specialist Ted Senior.

“We see Art House as a place for creative collaboration and innovation” said Jennifer Vincent. “We’re building Art House to support this kind of cross-pollination. The Smith Works brings a valuable set of skills into the building and we’re excited to see what happens when everyone is working there together.”

For more information on upcoming programs and projects related to the Smith Works, contact the Penticton Museum at 250-490-2454 or museum@city.penticton.bc.ca.


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