Bear Mountain Boats is a distinguished name in Canadian canoe-manufacture. In this profile of WEST SYSTEM® epoxy suppliers, co-owner Joan Barrett tells us how a little cedar canoe sparked a business venture that changed canoe building in Canada forever.
Bear Mountain Boats came to life in the early 1970s, when my partner Ted Moores, searching for new career that would allow him a peaceful life in the Canadian wilderness, rented a cedar canoe from a shop in Trout Creek, Ontario. After studying it, he determined to build something better.
“This passion to build a better canoe continues to grow after all these years.”
He’d never been a canoeist, and had little knowledge of boats or woodworking. But having grown up in a pioneering family, Ted was used to inventing things for himself. This passion to build a better canoe continues to grow after all these years and recently Bear Mountain celebrated 40 years in business. Throughout we have been building custom canoes and boats, carrying out restorations on some of Canada’s historic wooden runabouts, teaching classes and writing books for home builders.
One of our greatest privileges is supplying C4 and C15 sprint racing canoes to racing clubs across Canada. Sprint racing, a small niche sport, is one of the oldest organized sports in Canada. Many of our Olympic canoeists and kayakers got their start in one of our boats while competing nationally at the club level. The wood strip epoxy hulls we build are low maintenance, strong and light especially in comparison to the older rib and plank canoes used in the past. The construction technique allows club volunteers to maintain their own boats so they can get years of use from them.
Ted and I have been fans of WEST SYSTEM epoxy the whole time we’ve been in business. We experimented with polyester resin but it doesn’t bond effectively with wood.
“We have tried different brands of epoxy but when we found WEST SYSTEM epoxy… we knew we had a product we could trust.”
We have tried different brands of epoxy but when we found WEST SYSTEM epoxy in the late 1970s we knew we had a product we could trust. Ted has carried out tests using different brands of epoxies using them as home-builders would. He believes that the woodstrip/epoxy system when used with WEST SYSTEM epoxy is the perfect engineering material because the flexibility in the resin is a perfect match for wood. The resin and the wood work together to make a strong component which complements wood.
A few years ago we built a 30ft solar electric fantail launch using multiple layers of fibreglass cloth and West System epoxy and a variety of Canadian hardwoods. The staff at Gougeon Brothers were really helpful in carrying out strength and impact testing for us.
Another of Ted’s passions is sharing our wealth of knowledge by writing books and teaching people how to build canoes for themselves. He has written three books, Canoecraft, Kayakcraft and Kayaks You Can Build which have become definitive works on their subjects. Canoecraft alone has sold 400,000 copies worldwide. This is a great part of what we do as we believe that helping home builders is really what keeps wooden boat building alive.
From our workshop in Peterborough, Ontario, Ted teaches week long classes in canoe and kayak building attended by students from all over the world. A big part of my work is supplying builders with plans, kits and materials including the full range of WEST SYSTEM products. I also devote time to providing technical support to first-time builders. Just this morning I received an email from a man who was sanding his canoe outside when a heavy gust of wind blew the whole thing over and cracked the hull. I’ve consulted with Ted and I’ll email instructions over later on how to fix it. We usually know how to help people; we’ve made – and subsequently had to repair – many mistakes ourselves over the years! But when we’re not sure, WEST SYSTEM product technical support staff are always there for us.
Helping people is really our ethos. There’s a saying on the home page of our website: “Boats are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made”. Helping people to realise their dreams? Ted and I think that’s a wonderful purpose to embrace.
For more information about Bear Mountain Boats, its services and its products, visit www.bearmountainboats.com.
To read the stories of some of the people around the world who have used Canoecraft to build their canoes, visit http://www.bearmountainboats.ca/blogs/my-canoecraft.
To discover the products which have supported Ted and Joan for over 40 years, visit www.westsysteminternational.com/en.