Kayaks, canoes and a raft

Cambridge District Scout Archive

Kayaks and Canoes are well known activities for Scouts.  Building canoes, initially from wood and canvas and in the 1960’s and 70’s from fibreglass, were activities for a Troop or single Scout. I did so myself, hiring the mould and requisitioning the garage.

Many groups own or have owned canoes.  They were not counted then or now.  The availability of fiberglass moulds in the 1960’s and 1970’s extended the availability of canoes although HQ felt the need to alert Scouts to the danger of glass fiber catalyst in the eye.

Cambridge Archives

The following reports are from the earlier days of canoeing by Cambridge Scouts.

1932  2nd Cambridge

2nd Cambridge
12th Cambridge from the Cambridgeshire Collection pre WW2

1935 Canoes were dispalayed under Handicraft at the District display ‘A Mixed Bag’, which suggests that they had been made by Scouts.

1935    1st Harston (at the cusp of moving between Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Districts, previously a patrol of the 56th Cambridge) decided to ‘Hire canoes on the river if a scout could swim 50 yards in clothing’.

12th Cambridge from the Cambridgeshire Collection: this proved less than stable. Pre WW2
From the same series of photographs

1940 60th Cambridge (Leys school) purchased two canoes which they pitched and varnished.

Post WW2 12th Cambridge

1947 12th Cambridge Hike report. Canoed to Baits Bite lock and hiked to camp site. Returned to pick up canoes from lock keepers garden and canoed back.

1948    ’It is not easy to buy enough wood for more kayaks so we acquired at low cost a number of auxiliary petrol tanks used on aircraft during the war.  Very reliable rafts can be easily constructed to take 4 or 6 scouts each‘.            60th Cambridge The Scouter July

c 1950 12th Cambridge ‘Adventurer’ carried Canadian Canoes on occasions. Terry Shaw of the 12th recalls making a canoe in a tent at Cambridge Festival (possibly Royal Show, 1951).

1963    54th participating in Bedford Canoe Race

1960s   Senior Scouts from the 54th canoed from Trier to Koblenz along the River Mosel.  This group designed canoe storage in an uncompleted rebuild twenty years later.

4th/17th Corrie Road HQ in 2019 Similar canoes were owned by the 11th/9th in the 1970’s

1964    54th      Wood for five double canoes ₤42/0/4

1967    54th      Fiberglass for canoe   ₤5

1970’s  Grantchester to Waterbeach long distance (kayak) races were held.  Punts were the principle hazard ‘although judging from the report that a punt was sunk by one of our competing doubles ‘hazard’ may not be the correct word to use’. 

1975 11/9th Registered five canoes with the Cam River Board.

1979 An East and West Cambridge canoe regatta was arranged at St Ives. Total participating Troops are unknown but only one attended from East Cambridgeshire. The events included canoe, raft, sprint and long distance races. The ‘raft’ was two manned canoes held together by the occupants while a third stood with one leg in each canoe and paddled.


Gino Watkins

One of the ‘names’ given to Senior Scout patrols he was an arctic explorer.  Members of his parties learnt to roll their canoes in the Cam in the 1930’s.  This was ‘a very difficult skill, previously known only to the Eskimos’.  If not the first European to master this skill he was one of the first.

JWR Archivist May 2019