One lucky individual will soon have the rare experience of paddling his or her own authentic birch-bark canoe, just like the ones built by Maine’s Wabanaki Indians in the early 19th century. The Penobscot Marine Museum has announced that it will raffle the canoe to raise funds for an important education program. The drawing will be held July 1, in good time for the canoeing season.

Named a 2009 “Boat of the Year” by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, the birch-bark canoe was built at the Penobscot Marine Museum by a team of apprentices from the Penobscot, Micmac and Passamaquoddy tribes, under the guidance of master canoe builder Steve Cayard of Wellington. As tribal members relearn the nearly-forgotten skill of bark canoe building, they will be able to pass it on within their culture.

“This is an extraordinary chance to own a piece of Maine history and to help perpetuate a culturally important skill,” said Niles Parker, executive director of the museum. “By raffling the canoe, we’ll be able to repeat the program in 2010.” He added that the two-week-long demonstration was one of the museum’s most popular events last summer.

The 16-foot canoe is a replica of a Wabanaki canoe from the early 1800s and is authentic down to the last detail. Real birch bark is lashed to white cedar gunwales with split spruce root, and seams are sealed with a mixture of pine resin and fat. No nails or other metal was used anywhere in its construction.

Other raffle prizes include a Sponsor-level museum membership, valued at $250, and a $150 gift certificate to the museum’s gift shop.

Tickets are $100 each, and only 200 will be sold. The canoe will be displayed at various locations throughout the state prior to the drawing. For more information, contact the museum at 548-2529 or penobscotmarinemuseum.org