Monday, June 24, 2013

North House Folk School Wooden Boat Show

I have been volunteering at Urban Boatbuilders ( for the past few months. UBB works with urban youth to build academic, social and leadership skills through the process of boat building. I have found the time to be very rewarding and fun.

This past weekend, we attended the wooden boat show at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Grand Marais is located near the tip of the Arrowhead of Minnesota on Lake Superior. It is where the Gunflint Trail starts as it winds its way through the Superior National Forest to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Canadian border.

Urban Boatbuilders was showing 3 canoes- 2 restored Old Town canoes and a skin-on-frame wee lassie (the first boat I worked on there). North House is a non-profit organization that teaches traditional crafts of northern peoples. ( The boat show is an annual event that celebrates the summer solstice and celebrates the craft of wooden boat building. All of the boats are handmade- some by people who do it for a living, and some by people who do it for themselves.

We camped in the municipal campground in Grand Marais and walked to the event at North House, which is located right on the harbor in downtown Grand Marais. The site that the school sits on was a project of the Trust for Public Land while I worked there. TPL donated the land to the city. It was fun to see what has become of that donation.

Events of the weekend included a wooden boat parade, a barbeque, a chowder feed, contra dancing, a solstice pageant and a Sunday brunch. We paddled a 1923 Old Town restored by Urban Boat Builders in the parade. It was 23 feet long and paddled like a dream. In addition to the boats on display, a variety of crafts were demonstrated. I was fortunate to take a ride Lake Superior on the Hjordis, a traditional two-masted schooner owned and operated by North House.

The weather was cool, foggy with intermittent rain- not ideal but we were well prepared and enjoyed ourselves.

On Sunday after brunch, Kathy and I drove to the end of the Gunflint Trail to visit the Chik-Wauk Museum, which tells the cultural and natural history of the Gunflint Trail. The museum is located in the historic Chik-Wauk Lodge, one of the first resorts in the area, built in 1934. Along the way, we stopped to check on the growth of trees we helped to plant five years ago after the 2007 Ham Lake fire, which burned 75,000 acres of forest and destroyed many homes and cabins. The fire caused dramatic changes to the landscape but the area is green with new growth. We are happy to report the trees are doing very well. A highlight of the drive was seeing a cow moose and two calves along the trail. They were nonchalant and treated us to an extended viewing until Mom decided to take them into the woods.

Here are some photos from the weekend (click on a photo to see a larger version):

A view of the St. Louis River Valley

Lunch at the Scenic Cafe with Lake Superior shrouded in fog

Awning and bug shelter worked well.

The Wooden Boat Show

It's a big boat.

That's a small boat.

The wee lassie.

More UBB boats.

Restored Old Towns

Lots of cool boats- all handmade.

A coracle- traditional Welsh boat.

Many other crafts were shown.

A foggy ride on the Hjordis.

A two-masted schooner.

Returning to the harbor.


Solstice celebration at North House Folk School.

Moose- cow and calves.

Chik-Wauk Lodge, now museum.

Evidence of fire still apparent at Lake Saganaga


  1. What a great weekend on so many levels! Thanks for sharing and your community involvement. Little things make a big difference in all our lives. Wonderful!

  2. Oh, to be in a position to serve like this! Keep on; I'll try to catch up...

  3. Thanks for the trip.Nice canoes.Like your bug screen,great idea.

  4. Really interesting! What a great way to volunteer! Enjoyed seeing the coracle.

  5. Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

  6. Great report. We celebrated the solstice with witches in Salem, MA. Probably not quite the same! ;-) glad the screening still worked well too.

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