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Camping out with the British Canoe Association : with chapters on camping, canoeing, and amateur photography online

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British <2Eano




Mersey Canoe Clttb, Rear-Commodore, B.C. A.















THIS little book owes its origin to notes made by the
writer for a lantern exhibition of views taken by him
at two Meets of the British Canoe Association. These
descriptions proved of such interest to boating friends
as to encourage their arrangement in the present
form. At first the intention was to limit the issue to
private circulation ; but the extent to which the original
notes have developed has led to the decision to put a
few copies on sale. For such a humble production,
however, no frenzied public demand is anticipated.

The illustrations are, with one or two exceptions,
from photographs taken by the author, or from sketches
made by him. He takes this opportunity of thanking
a lady friend [M. W.] and Mr. A. Fownes for help
with the preparation of the sketches.

The humble origin of this effusion, and the proofs
it contains of hurried preparation, will, the author
trusts, secure it from the standard of criticism, to which
a more pretentious production might justly be sub-
mitted. Like the craft with which it chiefly deals,

vi. Preface.

this book has but little depth, carries no valuable
cargo, makes little spread, and requires fair wind and
fine weather; like them it prudently attempts no
ambitious voyage :

" Larger craft may venture more,
But little ships must keep near shore. "

If, however, these rough notes recall past joys to
boating friends, and interest others in our glorious
sport, the writer's main object will have been accom-

That the members of the B.C.A. will consider this
publication as an attempt on his part to further the
cause of that body is the hope of their friend,

Liverpool, 1891.











" We're out on a tear to get fresh air,

And keep our livers healthy ;
We rise ere breakfast every morn,

To make us wise and wealthy.
We wear old clothes, and know no woes

Of irksome civilization ;
We carry a grease spot on our pants,

As a badge of emancipation.

Chorus : Then shake old pard, our palms are hard,

Our faces and hands are brown ;
We don't look gay in our camp array,
But we're mashers when in town.

Now you who dress in fine array,
And board at big hotels,

Who eat off china every day,
And pose as howling swells,

Camping Out.

And never have an appetite

That's not produced by bitters
Just gaze on us and gnash your teeth,

You miserable critters !

Chorus : Then shake old pard, our palms are hard,

Our faces and hands are brown ;
We don't look gay in our camp array,
But we're mashers when in town."

Camping Song.

/ DAMPING, as the canoeist understands the
\~s term, includes sleeping in tents pitched on
shore, or erected on the canoes when dragged
ashore or moored afloat. A ' fixed ' camp is one
in which the tents are left erected in one place for
some days ; under these circumstances, of course,
greater luxury is possible than with the 'movable'
camp, where the tents are struck and re-erected
in a fresh place every day or two, in which case
as light a tent and as few impedimenta as possible
are taken. Various patterns of tent are in use,
such as the Mersey, the Clyde, the Bell, the
Marquee, etc. ; each having some advantage un-
der varying circumstances. The little tents,
with their ground sheets, poles, flys, and so forth,
pack up into remarkably little space ; a tent

Camping Out. 3

with plenty of room and comfort for two can be
readily stowed away in a small canoe.

A large amount of quite uncalled for sympathy
is expended upon campers out, who are supposed
to be suffering great exposure and hardship. On
the contrary, however, camp life is most com-
fortable. The little tents, if properly pitched,
are dry inside, however it may rain, and when
shut up become warm and cosy even on frosty
nights. Nobody catches colds or sore throats
when camping. It is really remarkable how
slight susceptibility to colds there is during
camping, even with individuals who are martyrs
to these torments in civilized life ; and it is
equally notorious that a cold taken to the camp
vanishes with a rapidity such as coddling and
gruel at home could never insure. In the tents
campers sleep, cook, and feed during their cruises ;
although, when the weather is fine, much of the
cooking and eating takes place out of doors.
The science of camping requires study and prac-
tice ; the beginner loads himself up with un-
necessary things,and always forgets indispensable
articles ; the old campaigner learns and invents
dodges for economising room and weight he

4 Camping Out.

never forgets the salt or his toothbrush. To
camp satisfactorily, it is well to think over, some
time beforehand, the things that may be required,
and to make a list of everything that can be done
with : a day or two before the cruise this list
should be examined, and everything crossed out
that can be done without.

In America, where there is more firewood and
freedom than in this country, the cooking is
generally done over camp fires of wood ; here,
ingenious little spirit cuisines are used, those in
most request being the Mersey, the Irene, and
the Boddington.

Life in camp, when several choice spirits are
gathered together, is a round of interest and
pleasure, from the early breakfast to the sing-
song last thing at night, and is thoroughly
health-giving from the morning plunge and swim
to the soothing pipe round the camp-fire before
turning in. And one's appetite in camp it is
enormous ! Certainly such an appetite is often
required, when one reflects that the cooking is
done entirely by the men themselves ; and won-
derful results some of them turn out. However,
hunger is the best sauce, and practice enables sur-

Camping Out. 5

prisingly good dishes to be prepared. The man
who spoiled the simple kipper on the Monday,
and whose attempt at a stew resulted in a nasty
mess, may turn out a creditable five-course din-
ner before the end of the week. Tin meats are
a great boon to the camper ; eggs, bacon, and
steaks are comparatively simple to prepare ; but
some articles are a delusion and a snare to the
inexperienced. Onions do shrivel up so alarm-
ingly during the frying process ; whereas rice, on
the other hand, is so aggressive in its expansion,
that there may not be enough pans in camp to
hold what seemed only a handful or two when
put into the pot. All the same, no stalled ox
however toothsome a stalled ox may be could
taste so good as those camp stews, presided over
by an old hand, and to which each man con-
tributes whatever he has to spare. The stews
are constructed on the " tutti frutti " principle,
and it were invidious to inquire what there is in,
and easier perhaps to enumerate what there is
not. The camper-out has no regular meal times ;
he eats when he can get anything to eat, and
when he feels hungry, which is pretty well all
the time. A camper-out who has had nothing

Camping Out.

Camping Out. 7

to eat for four hours, is a ravenous animal, and
dangerous to meet. We have known a canoeist
to take his pug dog camping out with him, and
thoughtlessly leave it behind one scarce day : he
barely returned in time to keep "jugged puppy"
out of the bill of fare. " Snark's broth " is a
mixture we have never heard so termed except
in camp. It consists of milk and a raw egg
beaten up together, with a suspicion of Scotch
whiskey added thereto. Snark's broth is very
acceptable in the early morning, when the sing-
song was a little too long and boisterous the
night before, or a pipeful too much was smoked
before turning in. It also strengthens the courage
for the early dip, and has a reputation as a pick-
me-up after a fatiguing day or some extra exer-
tion or exposure. For sustenance during labour,
however, it cannot in our opinion compare with
tea, hot if possible ; if not, cold with a dash of
lemon juice added.

There is always plenty to do in camp, and the
time, when one is not sailing, is thoroughly em-
ployed with cooking, feeding, tidying up the tent
and canoe, drying things, and washing up. When
two men occupy a tent together, the duties are

8 Camping Out.

usually divided : one is the best cook, the other
attends to the tent, to foraging, and to the un-
popular duty of washing up.

During camping is a good time to grow the
beards and moustaches one cannot start at home,
on account of the ridicule their early stages

It is difficult to relinquish the free gipsy life
when the time comes to return to the office, the
shop, the pulpit, or the " bar and its moaning."
Collars and leather boots are the necessities of
city life which are perhaps the most irksome to
renew ; but the top hat and the razor run them
close in unpopularity. For the costume in camp
is peculiar. Old clothes are worn out, and men,
of irreproachable exteriors at home, often re-
semble brigands or scarecrows in camp.

There are many popular camping grounds
where, in summer, tents and campers-out may
generallybe found all through the season. Several
such exist on the Thames ; and for the Mersey
and its neighbourhood, a very popular resort for
this purpose is Hilbre Island, at the mouth of the
estuary of the Dee. As this is a favourite camp-
ing place for the second canoe club of Great

Camping Out.

IO Camping Out.

Britain the Mersey Canoe Club we will devote
a little attention to it. Hilbre, although somewhat
difficult of access, is an admirable boating station,
and compares in this respect favourably with
Hoylake, which is silting up year by year, and
only allows of three or four hours' sailing on the
tide. Hilbre is only an island part of the time ;
for a considerable portion of each day the tide
leaves a waste of sand between Hilbre and the
Cheshire shore, and permits one to walk or ride
over from West Kirby or Hoylake. However,
there is always water at the north end of the
island to permit of sailing in the Hilbre Swash.
The island was formerly a coast-guard station ;
but for this purpose it was given up by the Ad-
miralty, who sold it to the Mersey Dock Board.
This Association keeps a look-out, a life-boat,
and a telegraph station on the island, and has
other buildings in which buoys and other marine
appliances used to be stored. Some years ago
Mr. Brandreth, the philanthropist who benefits
mankind with pills and plasters, rented some of
these buildings, and used to reside there with
his family. He kept boats, so that communi-
cation with shops and civilization was pos-

Camping Out.

1 1

sible whether the tide was up or not ; and, in
general, he behaved like a small king a sort of
Robinson Crusoe, with the solitude modified by
a wife and children ; and monarch of all he sur-
veyed so long as he kept to the south end of
the island, and did not interfere with the Dock
Board officials and their preserves. One of his
boats is still at the island, and goes by the name
of the Pill-box, out of compliment to its former
owner, under whom, however, it had a more
nautical title. After some time Mr. Brandreth
had a difference with his landlords, the Dock
Board, and during the negotiations a few boating


12 Camping Out.

men who had coveted the house as a boating
station secured it,and founded the Hilbre Island
Club, consisting of about a dozen bachelors.
When a member commits the crime of matri-
mony it is tantamount to resignation ; as far as the
Hilbre Island Club is concerned, he might just as
well go away and die, except that after the former
calamity he may be welcome as a visitor, which
would scarcely be the case in the latter even-
tuality. The Mersey Canoe Club rent a large
shed, originally used for the storage of buoys ;
this shed has been fitted up with conveniences
for camp-life ship's bunks have been put up,
and hammocks are slung from the beams from
which other buoys have hung before. There is a
good cooking stove, and plates, knives, forks,
spoons, dishes, etc., are to hand ; so that the
club has a flourishing camping station. Many
canoeists spend bank holidays and week-ends
at the island, and some keep their boats here
altogether, for the tide is not here such a terror
as in the Mersey ; while smoke, dust, and soot
do not soil sails and gear, and ferry boats trouble
not. Camping-out at Hilbre has locally the title
of " Firking " applied to it, and the Hilbre Island

Camping Out. 13

Club are respected far and wide as the " Firkers."
The origin of the term I know not.

Camping-out is not, as some have suggested,
merely another term for loafing ; hard work is
often necessary to its enjoyment, and the idler
who shirks his share of the duties, while taking
advantage of the results, is soon detected and
admonished. Camping-out does include some
loafing ; it would not be the holiday it is other-
wise. Camping may be defined as an out-door
sport, consisting of living on one's own resources
in the open air, away from centres of civilization.
The flavour of camping may be more prominently
gipsy or nautical. The sport is pursued in un-
conventional attire ; there is no uniform proper
thereto, but the clothes are generally old and
shabby. Camping-out includes some idling and
smoking ; some wandering about the country ;
some cooking, tent-pitching, foraging, chopping
firewood ; some exploring and sight-seeing, and
a good deal of eating and healthy out-of-
doors existence. Common, but not necessary,
factors are rowing, sailing, fishing, shrimping,
botanizing, photography, tennis, cricket and
other games; carpentering at boats or furniture,

14 Camping Out.

banjo -playing, singing and other music, and
so on.

Camping requires a healthy constitution to
thoroughly enjoy it ; but the bilious, the sickly,
or the over-worked cannot spend many hours,
in fine weather, engaged in the less laborious
branches of the art, without becoming sounder
and better men and enthusiastic campers. Once
a camper always a camper ; once catch the
disease and other forms of sport lose their charms.
Business or family cares may prevent indulgence
in the life, but the longing will be there. Some-
times when the boys are holding a few days
camp, a stouter and more bald-headed one than
the rest will turn up one day among them, and
it is whispered from one to the other that this
was a gallant camper in the brave days of old.
He is less active than he used to be, he perspires
over what he does more than in the past; but
the spirit is willing, however weak the flesh.
Perhaps he has told the wife he was going to
spend the day with a sick friend, or some similar
evasion, for he is more careful of his clothes than
he used to be, and before dark he has gone. 'Tis
the camper of old, re-visiting the scenes of a sport

Camping Out. 15

he is no longer able to indulge in. As a letter
from home to the exile, or the sound of cow-bells
to the Swiss peasant in a foreign land, so is the
sight of his cooking cuisine, or of old clothes
which he cannot wear out, to the camper who
cannot " get off."

The married man, at any rate for a few years
after the catastrophe, is ruined as a canoeist and
camper-out, unless he has fortunately happened
upon a mate of similar tastes. " Canoeing and
camping are both so very dangerous," says the
bride, " all my friends say so, and dear mamma
said she was sure you would give them up now."
Many a good canoeist have we known to brave
the breeze in safety, but to go down before the
curtain lecture. However, thanks be ! many of
them return to us anon ! If the young husband
be allowed to come to camp at all, it is in a half-
bred manner. A few wives there are who camp
out with their worse halves, or insist on them
spending a large part of their time in camp ; but
most married couples go to hotels or apartments
and visit the camp occasionally, being rowed over
in a barge, or driven across in a growler. A
canoeist of our acquaintance had been married a

1 6 Camping Onf.

short time previous to one of our meets. On
former occasions, when going for a holiday, he
had been accustomed to take his luggage and
blankets in a rubber bag, and his bed and lodg-
ings in a tin box ; he generally forgot his tooth-
brush, and had to run back for it, and bring it in
his vest pocket along with some postcards and
a pipe. On this occasion he had to pack days
before, and write for rooms, and send a deposit,
and give references, and all that sort of thing.
Happening to call on him, we found him in the
porch, contemplating in speechless misery the
amount of luggage a married man requires. We
took a detective photograph of him at this
moment as a warning to other campers, and to
be issued to the various Canoe Clubs in leaflet
form for distribution, with underneath Punch's
advice to those about to marry " don't."

Men who have camped together become very
attached to one another. In the camp all classes
and ages amalgamate ; to be a canoeist and a
gentleman is all the qualification required. The
liveliest and best of campers are not always the
younger men, and the most popular may hold the
lowest social position elsewhere. The freedom

Camping Out. 17

from artificial restraints, the mutual help required
and given, the rough gipsy existence, remove all
distinctions of age and rank. The enthusiastic
camper is always young and jolly. Oliver
Wendell Holmes voices the condition of affairs
when he writes :

" Has there any old fellow got mixed with the boys ?
If there has, take him out without making a noise !
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite !
Old Time is a liar ! We're twenty to-night !
We're twenty ! We're twenty ! Who says we are more ?
He's tipsy young Jackanapes ! Show him the door !
" Grey temples at twenty " ? Yes ! W/ute, if we please ;
Where the snow-flakes fall thickest, there's nothing can

freeze !

We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
Of talking (in public) as if we were old ;
That boy we call " Doctor," and this we call "Judge ;"
It's a neat little fiction of course its all fudge.
That fellow's the " Speaker " the one on the right ;
" Mr. Mayor," my young one, how are you to-night?
That's our " Member of Congress," we say when we chaff ;
There's the " Reverend " What's his name ? Don't make

me laugh !

* -;.-'* * * * * * *

Yes, we're boys always playing with tongue or with pen,
And I sometimes have asked, shall we ever be men ?
Shall we always be youthful and laughing and gay,
Till the last dear companion drops smiling away ;
Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its grey !
The stars of its Winter, the dews of its May !
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,
Dear Father, take care of Thy children, the Boys."



" On the great streams the ships may go
About men's business to and fro ;
But I, the egg-shell pinnace, sleep
On crystal waters, ankle deep.
I, whose diminutive design
Of sweeter cedar, pithier pine,
Is fashioned on so frail a mould,
A hand may launch ; a hand withhold ;
I, the unnamed, inviolate
Green rustic rivers navigate ;
My dipping paddle scarcely shakes
The berry in the bramble-brakes.
Still forth on my green way I wend ;
Beside the cottage garden end :
And by the nested angler fare,
And take the Covers unaware.
By willow, wood, and water-wheel
Speedily fleets my touching keel ;
By all retired and shady spots
Where prosper dim forget-me-nots. : '


Camping Out. 19

To give an unexceptionable dictionary defini-
tion of a canoe is, now-a-days, no easy task. To
hear large boats, yacht-rigged, heavily ballasted,
and able to carry 5, 6, or more passengers, called
canoes might lead one to imagine that anything
in the way of a boat, and sharp at both ends, may
be rightly so termed. The possession of a canoe
stern, as it is called, does not of itself constitute
a boat a canoe. The term " Canoe Yawl " has
lately been introduced to include the larger boats
which somewhat resemble canoes ; but even this
is not entirely satisfactory, for the boats are not
canoes, and very many of them are not yawls.

The chief canoe club in this country, the Royal
Canoe Club, thus classifies canoes. A first-class
canoe must not exceed 16 feet in length, with a
maximum beam of 30 inches for that length ;
the beam may be increased ^j-inch for every
inch of length decreased ; but the length may
not be decreased below 1 2 feet, nor the beam be-
low 28 inches. Second-class canoes may not
have less beam than 26 inches. There are also
regulations as to ballast, centre-plates, and sail
area, while out-board deck seats are forbidden.
These measurements, however, only refer to

2O Camping Out.

canoes for the club races, and not as to what is
and what is not a canoe. Dixon Kemp defines
a canoe as " a vessel propelled with a paddle or
with sail, by a person or persons facing forward ;
she is a vessel capable of navigating shallow
water as well as open rough water ; and she is a
vessel not too large or heavy for land portage by
two men when her ballast and stores have been
removed." With regard to this it may be ob-
served that, now-a-days, oars and folding row-
locks have become very common, even in small
canoes, and the deck-seat position for sailing is
general, therefore the canoeist does not face for-
ward during either method of progression.
Again, " shallow " and " portage " require defini-
tion themselves. How shallow ? For a Norfolk
wherry would fit this part of the definition.
What is portage ? Does it mean merely lifting,
as would seem from the next sentence in
Mr. Kemp's book ? Even if so, the Vital Sparks
and the other boats he calls Mersey Sailing
Canoes must be re-named ; while if the word
means carry round a rapid, or past a lock, they
need be two strong men who portage some of
the canoes of to-day.

Camping Out. 21

British canoes are decked over, and are classed
according to various types, named after the first
boats constructed on the different designs. The
chief models are : the Rob Roy, a light, short
boat, with no sheer, and chiefly suited for pad-
dling; the Nautilus, a wider boat, with rising floor,
much sheer, and a rockered keel, adapted for
sailing ; the Ringleader, longer than the Rob
Roy ; and the Pearl, with a flatter floor than the
Nautilus. Perhaps a better classification is that
of Dixon Kemp's, into paddling and sailing
canoes ; the latter again being divided into
paddleable-sailing and sailable-paddling.

Next to Mr. John Macgregor (Rob Roy),
Messrs. Baden Powell (Nautilus) and Tredwen
(Pearl) have done most towards the evolution of
the modern British canoe. These two gentlemen,
not only by the designs, rigs, and fittings they
have developed, but also by their skill in the
practical handling of their boats, have done much
to popularize and improve the sport in this

The R.C.C. and the Mersey C.C. recognize a
class for Canoe Yawls, which they define thus:
length over all not exceeding 20 feet ; beam not

22 Camping Out.

less than 3 feet ; depth from upper side of deck
to under side of keel, measured at any point, not
exceeding 3 feet ; rating not to exceed 0*5

.-length X saiUrea-l nQ b a H ast OUtSlde Or beloW the

L oooo J '

garboards, excepting centre-plate or drop keels ;
no transom or counter-stern. This would include
the Mersey Sailing Canoes a large class of sail-
ing boats which may reach 20 feet in length,
5 feet 6 inches in beam, and 2 feet 6 inches in
depth, with 8 cwt. or more ballast, and consider-
able passenger accommodation; although it is
to be observed that the Vital Sparks are ex-
cluded, as they have lead keels. The larger class
of boats is becoming very popular in this country,
especially on the Mersey and Humber. Very
handy and comfortable boats they are, but it is
to be hoped their popularity will not diminish

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