Big Canoe Program
VCKC’s Big Canoe Program includes a wide range of community-related paddling activities. It is a program where all members of the club, new and experienced, take part in group paddles on lakes, rivers, and ocean. The Big Canoe program also serves as a primary outreach program for the club by offering public service to the community and to charities.
Our main Voyageur event is the annual Paddle for the Kids in support of Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan. It has taken place each year for the past 34 years and forms a significant part of the Club’s efforts in providing community service. The 2015 PFTK event raised $22,000 for the charity, with 64 club paddlers involved. Practice for Paddle for the Kids includes seven Sunday training days when boats are taken to various locations around the lower island. Both the practices and the main Paddle take place in February and March. The Voyageur program produced more than 8,000 paddler-kilometres in 2015.
The club currently has four Big Canoes of
various ages. The Shawnigan is an early model voyageur canoe built by Clipper Canoes. It was paddled on the marathon David Thompson Voyageur Brigade in 2008, from Rocky Mountain House in Alberta to Thunder Bay in Ontario – over 3000kms. The Club bought the Kawa in 2009 after the Thompson Brigade, thanks to the generosity of Club member Harold Nishikawara and the persistence of Don Munroe, long-time Voyageur Program director. A 2015 addition to the VCKC fleet of Voyageurs is the Tillicum, a red Hellman canoe designed and built in Nelson, BC. To transport these big boats, the Club has two trailers, and a portage cart designed for them.
Sterning these boats takes practice to develop some special skills, not only because of the size and style of a voyageur canoe, but also because the sterner is in charge of the team and has to be able to direct and balance the energy of the crew in his voyageur, taking into account wind and water conditions. The stern and bow are usually the most skilled paddlers in the boat and therefore jointly manage the speed and direction of travel, relying on the other paddlers for propulsion and coordinated response to commands.
Watch these fascinating National Film Board of Canada productions for a quick, painless history lesson about the unique role and importance of the Voyageurs, both the canoes and the men: