Updated: Mar 21
Bringing the Sportspal Solo into the 21st century with a web seat!
A while back I acquired an old Sportspal canoe. This is the 12-foot "double-pointed" model - in other words, the basic solo canoe.
I had been wanting one of these unique canoes for a while. The brand has a legacy dated back over 75 years. From the Sportspal website I copied this description: (Sportspal was the original tradename, and Radisson was later added for the U.S. market).
"In 1947 in North Bay, Ontario, Cedric Summers, an ex WWII RCAF Air Frame Engineer and avid fisherman couldn’t find a canoe that suited his needs so he decided to build one. Having worked with lightweight aluminum in his profession of building airplanes for the air force, there was only one material to use - Lightweight Aluminum.
This was the beginning of the journey for the now legendary Sportspal Canoe. The light weight Sportsmen’s Canoe has gone on to be used around the world by thousands of enthusiasts. Originally built in 12’ and 14’ Pointed models in two colours, there are now 8 models with five colour options.
Sportspal canoes are hand crafted from light gauge marine aluminum which withstands the normal use and abuse by Sportsmen but is still easy for Grandpa to load onto his vehicle. With a 38” beam and a 13” depth the 12’ Pointed weighing in at 34 lbs. is a great canoe for fishing, hunting or cruising the shoreline of your favourite lake or stream. Built to last decades the Sportspal Canoe will really become one of your best pals when you take to the water no matter what you use it for."
In my case, I wanted a canoe that I could carry into remote water for trapping and hunting, then lock to a tree until my next trip. The unique dimensions and super-light weight made the 12-foot Sportspal my prized choice for backwoods paddling.
The other unique feature found on this canoe is that it came equipped with oar locks. Near silent row trolling is an excellent way to fish for finicky walleyes here in northern Wisconsin, particularly after dark when the ski boats leave the prime lakes. So when I found an old (over 30-years old?) canoe in like new condition, including never-used oars, I snapped it up!
But Sportspal canoes have one major flaw - they aren't supplied with seats! Removable block foam seats are an option. My choice was to install a web seat that provided the correct position for solo paddling (with either a canoe paddle or extralong kayak paddle) as well as the solid seat for rowing.
My canoe only had a single center thwart. Drilling out the pop rivets made removing this a fast process. The center thwart then provided the mounting location for the front of the web seat. The seat needed to be cut to fit the width of the canoe. I then cut the hanging spacers down to just 3-inches to provide the optimum seat height.
If you attempt a similar installation (regardless of the canoe brand), follow my advice to proceed slowly, then measure twice and cut ONCE. You only get ONE chance to do it right!
Finally, I cut the center thwart down to the correct length to fit behind the seat. This may not have been necessary in such a short boat, but it will take any strain off the seat if/when I bounce the canoe on the ground when loading and unloading. You will notice from the photo that I had to create a flat area on the gunnel to reattach the thwart. One of the attributes of Sportspal canoes is that they are constructed of extra light gauge aluminum. If not for the ethafoam liner, these canoes would be too fragile - compared to the heavy gauge Grumman alternatives. This makes bending and shaping the gunnels easy with only a pliers.
With a small investment, I have transformed this "vintage" canoe into a sleek rowing machine that is also ready for paddling remote ponds and small streams clogged with beaver dams and blowdowns. I'm sure it will outlast me and provide the same utility to my grandchildren! This superlight canoe would make Nessmuk proud.
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