We The Kids

Alaska

Our northern-most state and lauded by some as among the most beautiful.
Our friend Bill Miller, from Canada, just went to Alaska to deliver a canoe he made this summer. He took the pictures while in Alaska.

Miller Canoes was started by Bill’s grandfather, William Victor Miller, in 1925.

The pictured canoe was a 19 foot canoe with a 36 inch beam and very flat bottom. It was an ideal canoe to pole upstream back in the days before motors!
Bill returned home in the fall of 1972 to help his dad in the shop. Bill is the third generation Miller to make canoes!

Bill Miller:

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my grandfather’s  farm In Nictau, NB  Nictau was a  busy place in those  days. It had a hotel, a store, school, post office, an airport and  a canoe  factory! Today Nictau just  has 11 people, no store, no hotel, no post office, no airport, just  the  canoe  shop!  My grandfather  started  building  canoes  here in 1925.  I came up here to help him with the faming and on rainy days we  built  canoes.   In the  early days  my job was  to keep the  shop cleaned up, as I got older I got  to help with making  paddles, then caining  canoe  seats then when I was 15, I started making  canoes too.  It is hard  to describe the feelings of building  a canoe  from scratch. the smell of  the  cedar  shavings mixed with varnish and  paint, linseed oil all made for great ambiance.  Nothing  compared  with canoeing  itself  though gliding over  the  water, waiting  for  a large salmon to take my fly, the sound of  rippling  waters, the large splash of a salmon rising out of  the  water.  Having  an occasional deer, moose or  bear swim the river was like icing on the cake!

Hand  crafted  wooden canoes  are made  from mostly white cedar ribs and planking, eastern white spruce for  the gunwhales, various hardwoods  like  ash, oak or maple  for  the  decks, thwarts and  seats.  the  canoe is covered with either  canvas or  fiberglass. It then has  three  coats or more of  marine  spar  varnish, and a final coat of  green paint.  The  early canoes  my grandfather  built are still in use, so we  do not know  how long  they will last!  My first canoe is now  52 years old  and  is still in great  shape!  How many plastic canes out there still in use  after  50 years ???

I have my own portable  sawmill  to make all the parts I need  to build  canoes, and  the  farm is large enough to supply most of  the trees I need.  My grandfather  also was an outfitter,  guiding sportsmen who came  hunting and fishing. Those  early canoes  were needed  to take  the sportsmen up river to where the big  game  was.  They were impressed with my grandfathers  canoes  and often bought  one to take home with them.  Having  satisfied  customers was  the  best  way to advertise, and  soon it was  full time  canoe  building  and  less outfitting.  When my grandfather  died in 1963, his youngest  son Jamie took over  the outfitting and  canoe  building.  He died  in 1971, and I returned  home  to carry on the  tradition.  I was working on Cape Cod for the Woods Hole steamboat authority, doing  marine  electrical engineering  work on 4 ferry boats.

Here are a few of  the  canoes  I make.

This is my first  canoe. built when I was  15.  It is  still in use.

Check out Bill Miller’s website – www.millercanoes.com

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