Outdoor Journal
Episode #: 
Adirondack Guideboats

When you first see an Adirondack guideboat, your eyes might trick you into thinking it's a big, wide canoe with extra-long paddles. While it is a double-ended rowing boat, the similarities end there. Adirondack guideboats were the creation of 19th-century guides in the Adirondack lake region who needed a watercraft that could hold passengers, all their camping and hunting gear, a dog and maybe the bounties of their hunting and fishing endeavors. Because the water was not always easily accessible back then, the boat had to be light enough to portage from lake to lake, meaning the guide had to be able to carry the craft on his back, sometimes for long distances. The boats had to not only be light, they had to be adaptable to changing conditions in the wild including waves, wind and rough landing areas. Standard rowboats were not suited to this travel task and the Adirondack guideboat was born, being refined over many years by the guides themselves, which produced a watercraft of remarkable stability, maneuverability and light weight. These boats became the choice of guides throughout the Adirondack lake region. By the latter part of the 19th century, when visitors from cities such as Boston and New York were drawn from the Adirondacks to the Catskills, these North Country watercraft were no longer in high demand. But thanks to its durable design, which makes it easy to row and big enough to carry lots of gear, the guideboats remained a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts, often being passed down through generations. Today, early guideboats are sought-after museum pieces and a whole new generation has discovered the advantages of these graceful craft. Steve Kaulback can be credited with assisting the return of interest in Adirondack guideboats. Coming from a fine arts background, he became interested in the aesthetics of the boat. "And then I got in one for the first time," he says, "and [I] realized that the adage 'form follows function' is just so true ... not only was it a beautiful boat, but it was one of the finest performing boats I had ever been in." His interest led him to create Adirondack Guideboat Inc. in Charlotte, Vermont. Steve not only builds both wooden and fiberglass Adirondack guideboats but also offers a kit to anyone interested in building their own cedar model. In this segment, host Marianne Eaton takes to the water in an Adirondack, and joins Steve Kaulback in the shop at Adirondack Guideboat to lend a hand in building one of these amazing, historical boats.


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