Batteaux Plats

In the colonial era, flat-bottomed, double-ended batteaux were built by the hundreds in eastern Canada and upstate New York. 

They are generally depicted as having been slow, crude, awkward craft.  However, in the 1980's, archaeologist Daniel Laroche excavated four very early batteaux on the Quebec City waterfront.  These early French-built craft have the rocker, sheer, flare and sleek lines of whitewater thoroughbreds.  

This project was to take the archaeological drawings of the Quebec City batteaux and quickly replicate the approximate shape at 2/3 scale in stitch & glue plywood construction to get a better sense of the hull form and see how it performs in whitewater.  

Here's how it was done:

Copies of the reports on the excavation of these boats were obtained at the archaeology department of the Ministere de la Culture et des Communications in Quebec City.   The actual remains of the boats themselves were measured, traced and photographed at the Centre de Conservation du Quebec.

The Quebec City batteaux are 34 feet long.  Scale models were made to work out the construction method and determine a workable size for a smaller version.  2/3 scale was settled on, to give a 23 ft x 4 ft boat that would fit four rowing positions and a weeks worth of camping gear.   Informal 'tank-testing' was done to get an idea of the hull's performance and behaviour under various conditions.

The archaeological drawings of one of the four boats was scaled straight off the drawing at 2/3 scale.

The dimensions were plotted onto plywood sheets that had been spliced into 24-foot lengths. the shapes were cut out and stitched together with plastic zip-ties.  a few moulds hold the correct cross-sectional form while the corners are glued with fillets of thickened epoxy resin.

Internal framing was added in a similar configuration to the original batteaux.   Strength was added with heavy gunwales and breasthooks.  Foam-filled floatation chambers were bonded into each end.

Launch day on a frozen Lake Ontario.  Its fast and nimble. Easy to launch on and off of the ice.

Count Frontenac's 1673  journal of the ascent of the first batteaux plats to ascend the St Lawrence River from Montreal to Lake Ontario says that his batteaux were painted blue and red.  

Shortly after the boat was completed, it was featured in two art shows in Kingston.  The publication from the art exhibition is HERE.