By Paul Gessell
Is there anything more Canadian than a canoe?
Think back: Canoes were the favoured means of transport long before Europeans arrived here. Pauline Johnson’s The Song My Paddle Sings was once the best-known poem in the country. And, of course, there is Pierre Berton’s old saw: A Canadian is someone who can make love in a canoe.
Well, I have not asked Becky Mason what romantic entanglements have occurred in her canoe. But I can tell you she can make her canoe dance, spin, and swoop across the water with all the grace and drive of a ballerina or a figure-skater.
Becky is the daughter of the legendary Bill Mason, the late painter and outdoorsman from Meech Lake country in Chelsea. Like her father, Becky is both an accomplished painter and canoeist. She has just returned from a long European tour with her life partner, Reid McLachlan, another talented artist and canoeist, where she gave canoe lessons to Europeans who really want to be Canadians and explore the wilderness in a canoe.
Becky’s fans in Europe were the first to purchase her newest instructional DVD, Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing. The North American launch of the DVD is being held Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at Glebe Collegiate.
The 43-minute DVD is not just an educational how-to video; it is a work of art, at least based on the trailer. Much of the action was shot underwater by McLachlan. This allows viewers to see exactly how Mason twists or thrusts her paddle to do a quick U-turn, avoid collisions, and attempts other tricky manoeuvres. Most of the above-water action was filmed by former CBC cameraman Neil Carroll. Ken Buck served as director of photography.
The artistry of the video is enhanced by the soundtrack composed and recorded by local musician Ian Tamblyn, who will perform some of that music at the Nov. 29 launch. The camera crew will also be on hand to tell their stories and share outtakes.
Becky was interviewed by email shortly before returning home for the launch. At the time, she was travelling in the United Kingdom, the last stop on a tour that involved The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.
“One thing we have learned is that canoeists, no matter where they live, are the friendliest, funniest, and most generous folks around and lots of fun too,” Mason wrote. “Even when we were teaching paddling lessons in French or, yes, even in Italian, we laughed a lot, learned a lot and managed to get by with no trouble, even with the language differences. I’m sure that all the wine, champagnes, cheeses and patés helped too!”
The video was shot last summer at Lac Vert, near Mont Ste. Marie in the Outaouais.
“Reid shot all of the underwater footage in one day with a borrowed camera. It’s a bit of a long story but it came out really well and we feel really made it a unique canoeing video as we think that it has angles that haven’t been captured before. Of course the spectacular crystal clear waters of Lac Vert made the shots incredible, although the fish got in the way because they loved getting up close to the shiny lens and ruined a lot of the best shots.”
The DVD includes earlier Mason videos and sells for $31 on the website www.redcanoes.ca, where you can watch a trailer of the DVD.
North American launch of Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing. Tuesday, Nov. 29. 7 p.m. Glebe Collegiate Institute, 212 Glebe Ave.