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Adirondack Explorer

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sneak Paddle Can Be Useful On Adirondack Streams

As mentioned in a prior post, I encountered hellacious alder thickets on Negro Brook near Onchiota this month. However I maneuvered my double-bladed paddle, it got tangled up. I ended up grabbing branches to pull myself through.

Sneak paddles made by John Homer.

At the time, I wished I had a short paddle to get through the jungle. A few days later, I learned, quite by accident (literally), about something called the sneak paddle.

I had been paddling a Hornbeck Blackjack, a carbon-fiber boat that weighs just twelve pounds. It’s great for small streams like Negro Brook, but it’s not built for rapids. And it turns out Negro Brook has a number of rapids.

To make a long story short, the boat sustained a crack when it got pinned against a boulder. That weekend I dropped the boat off for repairs at Hornbeck’s boat shop in Olmstedville.

By chance, I ran into John Homer at Hornbeck’s. John recently opened a shop in North Creek—called Adirondack Rowboats, Paddle & Oar—where he makes a variety of products, such as guideboat oars, canoe paddles, kayak paddles, cane seats, and marine upholstery. His plan is to make historical guideboats, rowboats, and skiffs.

And then there is the sneak paddle. I had never seen one before John showed me his wares in the Hornbeck store. His sneak paddle, well carved from wood, is only a few feet long. John said sneak paddles are used by anglers and hunters to furtively approach fish or game.

The Guideboat Company website further explains: “Adirondack Guideboats are rowed, not paddled, yet many a fishing or hunting guide stowed a small paddle on board, switching from rowing to the almost silent quietude of paddling in order to ‘sneak up’ on fish, fowl, deer or bear.”

They also would come in handy if you’re paddling Negro Brook.


Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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