The principal point of difference between a canoe and other boats, is the mode of propulsion, the paddle being held and supported by both hands, while in boats the oar or scull a is supported on the boat, and its motion is directed by the hand. The former is the primitive mode, and even to-day the craft used by savage tribes are propelled almost entirely by paddles, the oar being used by civilized nations.
The shape of the paddle differs greatly in various localities, but two forms only are known to modern canoeists, the single blade, shown in the center of the accompanying plate, and the double blade, various forms of which are also shown. The former, derived from the North American Indians, is about 5-1/2 ft. long, with a blade 5 in. wide, and is made of maple, beech, or spruce. The upper end is fashioned so as to fit easily in the hand, the fingers being doubled over the top. The single paddle is used continuously on the same side of the boat, and its motion, in skilled hands, is noiseless.
The double paddle, the one best known in connection with modern canoes from the time of MacGregor, is derived directly from the Esquimau and his kayak. The length varies with the beam of the canoe, from 7 to 9 ft., the former size being the one first used with the small canoes, but a gradual increase in length has been going on for some years, and of late many canoeists have adopted 9 ft. instead of 8, as formerly, for boats of 30 in. beam and over. Various patterns of paddles, as made by different builders, are shown in the plate, half of each paddle only being given. The blades vary in width from 6 to 7 in., and in length from 18 to 20 in.
Paddles of over 7 ft. are usually cut in two and jointed, the joint consisting of two brass tubes, the larger one 51/4 in. long and from 1-5/16 to 1-7/16 outside diameter; the smaller one 2-5/8 in. long, and fitting tightly inside the former. The short piece is sometimes fitted with a small pin, fitting notches in the longer piece, so that when the paddle is set, either with both blades in the same plane, or if paddling against the wind, the blades at right angles, no further motion is permitted in the joint; but this plan is not advisable as when the joint sticks, as it often will, it is necessary to turn the pasts to loosen them, which of course the pin prevents.
Tips of sheet brass or copper are put on the ends to preserve them from injury against stones and logs in pushing off. Pine or spruce are the best materials for paddles of this style. To prevent the water dripping down on the hands, rubber washers are used, or two round rubber bands on each end; about 2 in. apart, will answer the same purpose. One half of the double paddle is sometimes used as a single blade, an extra piece, similar to the head shown on the double blade, being inserted in the ferrule or when sailing, one half, lengthened out by a handle 18 in. long, may be carried on deck, ready for any emergency, the other half being stowed below. The half paddle, in this case, is held with the blade under a cord stretched over the forward deck, the after end being held by a cord looped over a cleat abreast the body. For racing and light paddling, spoon blades are used, the general outline being the same as the straight blades, but the latter are stronger and better for cruising work.