La Cale 2 l'Île
La Cale 2 l'Île

A La Cale 2 L'île paper canoe

       ... named N. BISHOP

This canoe was named N. BISHOP, but let me telle you ... how it was built

Hereafter the history of my making of ...

A fairy tale for children and ... adults

                           ... a tribute towards builders

At last they built me ! Yes and I float ! Didn’t you see me at the « fêtes de l’Erdre », happy like a fish in water, proud as a peacock !


Do you  know Joe Dassin’song : how long was « Daddy’s road » ? « Try again. Fail again. Fail better » the famous irish poet’s motto guided us during the whole construction.


Three attempts were necessary to bring to a succesful conclusion this operation which aim was to construct a paper canoe to make it navigating of course but more important in involving children in an educational purpose and members of others associations having problems with their health or with society who usually participate actively to the activities proposed in our shipyard. All this was made possible thanks to the help of members of « La Cale 2 l’île » which is a melting-pot of talented people. The writer of this lines who managed  the operation admits he is more a smooth talker than a technician but he was easy for him to find the right man at the right moment. In this paper, he wanted to point out on the canoe building but above all on the men who built it.

First attempt : "Try again !"

Go on our website to read : « La Cale 2 L’île paper canoe » and you will know everything about this wonderful time of the « infancy » of the first paper canoe. It was a success in terms of chidren’s participation to the tape paper glueing on a wooden canoe mould provided by Daniel but adulthood » ended up in a failure on the technical plan because the manager confused speed and  precipitation, removing the still wet hull from its wooden canoe mould. (This wooden canoe was built seventy years ago in Kirié’shipyard, (les Sables d’Olonne). And repaired by Salif guided by Daniel. After a long travel through rivers, desert, mediterranean sea, Salif arrived as a youg emigrant at la Cale 2 l’Île. We are pleased to tell everybody that he will pass his bac pro in welding soon while being a great « football  pro ». Thanks for your smile, Salif. And the lesson of life, you give us.


Secon attempt : "Try again. Fail again."

Chidren glued paper on the Kirié canoe mould but this time, we waited for a long period the drying of the paper. After summer holidays, we started the operation of removing the hull but it was as hard as concrete and how to remove a « concrete » hull molded on the convex  wooden canoe. We had to saw the paper stem to extract the shell. (« Observe, think, act »  is the motto of our association. Find out  the weak link in the chain?)

In fact, a more serious problem appeared . The three internal  layers  were glued by adults with epoxy while for the outer  we used simple paper glue.


Who is able to explain why the interface  inner/outer layers did not adhere ?


Air bubble ?


Third attempt : "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

The decision was taken to glue the paper directly on the carpentry of the canoe. So, first we had to construct the skeleton of the hull.

First step

And we drew a sketch from the wooden canoe serving as a model but with its convex parts : extremities and inwardly protruding free borders altered and flared.

From this new sketch, Patrick who just arrived at the association was the man of the situation.


When he was young he learned joinery and carpentry. He  built the templates, the wooden middle line keelson which was going to become the keel and the six ribs and longitudinal slats of fir tree, one medial, the other at the level of the free edge. He glued them together. So the initial frame of the structure was defined.


Then, members of the association « la Chicotière » and « civil volunteer service » set up the other wooden strips  and smoothed their angular edges.


The frame of the hull was ready to receive the paper  strikes.


No !  Never forget the capital operation of painting on a wooden shell !…



Second step

Strips of old Newspapers, Ouest-France and Presse Océan were used and for children it was more pleasant to stuck newspaper with pictures. With some Sader glue given at cost price by Yves, children stuck directly on the wooden frame following the indications of Soilih Ali Andrantseheno who came from comorian islands, accustomed to build paper roofs in his country. Ali is marine carpentar and attended the lessons of naval architecture in Nantes. We are pleased to tell he valided his master 2 and got involved a lot with young people in our association for vocational teaching and training.

In the middle of the operation of glueing Alain arrived. Usually  I move forward in my work as the kind donkey of my native Cotentin.


Alain found the right dose of  bran for boosting the animal and its speed changed. Alain can build blindly a p.v.c. windsurf board, a resin kayak, a wooden canoe. And he always brings with him his own tools and among them a very impressive quantity of clamps  and adhesive tapes very useful.

He was the right man at the right moment because  the big meeting « Fêtes de l’Erdre » was approaching. All the following operations took time but thanks to his methodical spirit ant his know-how all, the problems were resolved. The well dryied paper hull was smoothed, then the keel and the two bilge keels were glued and screwed as well as the inwhale and  outwhale. The two extremities of the canoe were closed and filled with empty plastic bottle which serve as air reserve.


The roofs of the compartments made of transparent polystyrene to allow the children to see the bottles. « But, to whom that is of use ? » Ask the question to Ali who told us that in his country canoes were provided with such devices.


At last the wooden floor was laid (Marie, bravely, had tested its solidity, first. Don’t forget the hull is made of paper!) and the two « benches » fixed. « please, sit down » as said to me, Alain ! was it a place for a future beautiful trip or a polite invitation showing me my place as a paddler ?

First trip to the Cremetterie school

Ready for a  first trip ? Yes. On the river. No ! why not ?


A very beautiful  afternoon.

We had an appointment with the children of la Cerémetterie school. Of course they  were no longer at the kindergarden, now they attended the elementary school but everyone remembered  their first wokshop in our shipyard and took great pleasure to write their name on the hull, listening to the explanations of Alain while another Alain was filming  the scene.

(you can see it on our site)


It  was very proud to cross the city of Nantes ant to wind among the numerous cars on the roads looking at « him » with curiosity and one with envy, I think. Would you go to the river Erdre. No impossible. Why ?


A car is not a boat and know nothing about  the essential condition which allow a boat to float. Do you know the Word waterproofness ? The children of la Cremetterie  will tell you that it’s possible to build an hull with any kind of material (paper, wool, bark, flax, hemp …) but it must be made waterproof otherwise it sinks

Paper Hull Waterproofing

Initially, waterproofness was to be made of a thin fiberglass layer soaked with  epoxy but  one day  a reprensentative  praised us the qualities of  his acrilic varnish and he was willing to give us free o charge to experiment it (thank you Gregory). Four layers were spread up on the interne and external walls of the shell. Before becoming transparent the varnish  took a very curious not captivating milky aspect which fortunately disappeared very quickly.


I remind the waterproofing varnish was to be transparent to let see the paper hull.


If you are interested in building a paper boat never forget  the watertightness of internal wall of your boat. Otherwise it  may happen to  you the same adventure  that happened to the british canoe which lauching was told with a so british humour.

First Water tightness test

My first bath. At last I am going to taste water ! 2016 june 06 .


In the Alain’s swimming pool. Waterproofness or Waterloo ! I thought. I have always admired  Alan’s confidence without beeing  necessarily reassured.  


Pay honour to whom honour is due and of course who better than Daniel could inaugurate this first trip. Do you remember the teenager who replace the cloth  torn  hull of his canoe by a paper one. Alain, Salif, Olivier and the others  followed him in this blue ocean, dreaming of distant paradisiac countries  with  beautiful mermaids and casks of muscadet.

Last operations at La Cale 2 L'île

Nathaniel Bishop gave his name to the boat. Do you know Nataniel Bishop ? go and  read his splendid odissey from Quebec to Florida on the web or buy his book. Last inscriptions of the patrons on the shell, stuking of our logo. Last layer of varnish, fabrication of two beautiful padles made out of scrap wood. Thank you Ali, Olivier for your collaboration.

Second tightness test

On the river Erdre.2016 august 22. We are one month before the « rendez-vous ». This time, Alain took us to Port Barbe. Samuel, Rémy Olivier and  Alain always so confident and i , always a little bit worried. N. Bishop performed very well and we could admire samuel’s technique used to fishing  together with crocodiles  on the river Wouri in his native Cameroon.

Les fêtes de l'Erdre

The canoe worked out very well and our arrival ponctuated by the beatings of our guitar-paddles  taken out from Alain’s imagination did not go unnoticed. Samuel and Olivier established a record of descent of the river which would deserve to be registered in the guiness book and at the junction  of river Sens and Erdre  we met a venitian crew and another from Oxford and have a very good while.

Conclusion of the fairytale

The happy end of the fairytale relating the construction of a paper canoe named N. Bishop is due to the fruitfull collaboration between all the men and women, adults or children regardless their social status, the problems they may have with their health or with society who worked together to transform an idea in a concrete realization at La Cale 2 L’Île.

Now beginning of a new adventure : how to use this canoe ? On water, to make it navigate  of course and on dry land, in our shipyard or elsewhere,  in  workshops for children for educational purpose. Contact Jean-Luc or Emmanuel.


All ideas are welcome even crazy.

Thanks to the participants at this Cale 2 L'île creation

Children of  Cremetterie nursery school (saint  Herblain) and their teacher with La Main à la Pâte  (Hands on), and  l’Ecole des   Mines  de Nantes involved in its functioning  who asssisted in doing the experiments at Crémetterie school. 400 paper stickers, elementary school pupils for the most part sent by SEQUOIA , pole sciences and environment  of Nantes city. Mrs Epaillard from School of Printing Trades of Nantes. Members of « la Rabotière » and « la Chicotière » leaded by Ghislaine and Morgane, their specialized educators. Young people making community  service hours or National Voluntary Service ; pupils of « the second chance school » anf of course the members of our association.

Any realization has a cost and for the canoe the amount of  the bill was about 150 euro paid by the Cale2 L’île, ie our chief financial officer : Eric.


Thanks to the sponsors, the expense has been limited :

- Yves N… who supplied us with sadder glue at cost price

- Guillot Carpentry, Arthon-en -Retz : oregon pine

- Grégory G… from Haghebaert and Fremaux(Nantes) : acrilic varnish.

Technical data

Length : 4,40 m

Width : 0,90 m

Depth : 0,37 m

9 layers of newspaper

Louis Bortuzzo

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La Cale 2 de l'Île
Hangar 31

Quai des Antilles
44200 Nantes


Téléphone : 02 40 12 09 87‎

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de 9 h 30 à 18 h

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