Report and pictures by Ken Kelly, Water Wonderland Chapter.

This canoe, named “F – A – S” (Initials painted midships in the design – photo below) is a high quality “courting” canoe from an unknown Charles River builder, circa 1920-30. She is in exceptionally good condition suggesting that it didn’t get used much. It has 42″ long mahogany decks and all the typical premium features of canoes build in this area for courting purposes. This canoe has a few mysterious characteristics that are fun to consider as you try to understand its history.

I was very happy to find it with its red and blue color scheme. There is some checking in that paint that exposed other colors and a stripe that had been painted over.

Wanting to know what it looked like originally led to some careful sanding of the top coat of paint. It revealed a fantastic original design, typical of canoes of this premium grade. The original paint is the maroon and black with gold leaf stripe work. Why that expensive fancy work was painted over with bright red and blue is a mystery.

Renting canoes on the Charles River was a competitive business with many different options for visitors. Each livery had unique colors and designs for their group of canoes that help “brand” their operation and make it easy to know which canoes were from their boathouse.

My idea is that this canoe was in the process of being repainted to match that particular livery’s colors for their canoe fleet. That would have been more important to them then to keep the maroon and black fancy paint this canoe started with. There is a small amount of paint spilled or dripped inside the canoe. This accident may have led to this canoe being put aside as a future clean-up project (that they never got back to doing). That could explain why it shows so little signs of use or any wear (It is in virtually unused condition). It may also explain why the bright red and blue re-paint scheme was not finished with the normal pinstripe design work separating the two colors…they would not have wanted to invest in that additional expense until the canoe was needed and otherwise ready to put into use. 

My approach has been to leave this canoe with one side of it sanded to reveal the original maroon and black “F – A – S” paint design…the other side left red and blue as I found it. I’ll probably leave this canoe unrestored. The canvas and woodwork are in very good condition. It is a unique and interesting canoe as is. 

Thank you, Ken Kelly, for sharing this story of rescuing and preserving a beautiful piece of history.

 If you have a boat story to share with our viewers, please email it with pictures to

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