Christmas Break

Posts of new boats in January.


Fall Paddle on the Housatonic

Today was the last day of the school's long weekend, following Parents' Weekend.  My original plan was to leave early and drive to the Adirondacks to do a paddle on the 'Floodwood Loop', near Saranac Lake. It would have been a kind of triathlon: drive 4 1/2 hours, paddle and portage 5 hours and drive home. Reports of rain up north made me come to my senses and do something closer to home instead.

Starting at Woods Pond in Lenox, I paddled up the Housatonic to New Lenox Road, a round trip of 8 1/2 miles. Before I could get my boat to the water, though, I had to wait at the railroad crossing with my boat for a freight train, which shuffled back and forth for a half-hour, before moving down the line.  The young fellow hanging on the back of the train apologized for holding me up.

This was a nice paddle, though the water was pretty low.  I saw lots of ducks, and pair or herons, one red-tailed hawk, and lots of beaver signs - from lodges and dams to chewed saplings.

The river here is different than the section I usually paddle, near the CT-MA boarder. The oxbows are tighter, and more numerous, and the river is narrower - enough so that one good-sized tree could easily block the entire channel if it were to fall across the river.  In a couple of places, today, water was low enough that I was dragging my bottom in the mud.

This was the first time I'd been out in the open skin-on-frame canoe in months.  I've been paddling the Greenland kayak almost exclusively this summer.  The shorter, wider boat immediately felt slower, and the paddle stroke felt off, but in the second half of the trip I got into a groove and felt much smoother.

Map from Water Trails of Western Massachusetts by Charles W.G. Smith,
published by Appalachian Mountain Club Books.



Restored 'Sarum' Canoe


In honor of Carl Williams, long-time Salisbury faculty member, ski coach, canoe leader and all-around outdoors man, the school had this canoe, from Carl's collection of canoes, completely restored.

The Sarum Canoe (Old Town Serial Number 149707) was one that Carl had re-canvased and given a custom red and ‘gold’ paint job at the 100th anniversary of the school. In the process of this restoration, Schuyler Thomson, of Norfolk, CT discovered some of the history of this particular canoe
The original Old Town records show that this canoe was first canvassed in October of 1947 and the keel installed and the boat varnished in March of 1948.  Its original color was ‘fire red’.  Within the month, the boat was shipped to Lowell, Massachusetts, where Carl lived at the time.
When the boat was first delivered for restoration, Schuyler noted that there were some ribs that had been replaced, of a different type of wood and some other details that were not consistent with an original Old Town.  When the previous canvas was removed, a freight order from the Canadian National Railroad was uncovered literally indicating that the boat had been shipped to Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1971.
Schuyler notes that the only destination in Fredericton that would have bearing on this canoe is the Chestnut Canoe Company.  Apparently, the canoe was shipped to Chestnut for repairs and then sent on to Carl, by this time in Connecticut.
For this restoration, the wood of the boat has been completely stripped and sanded and re-varnished.  The stems were straightened.  Previous repairs to the ribs were replaced.  New gunwales were installed and the new canvas filled and repainted with a custom design, which while not identical to Carl’s 100-year version, is in school colors and incorporates the gold stripping of Carl’s concept.

We hope Carl would be pleased with the results.


Frames nearly done.....

Various thwarts and templates
A set of cherry thwarts, before installation
Bolted thwart end

Cherry thwart, being installed

Boat frame oiled and ready for skinning


Start of the Spring Trimester

Here's an update on where we stand at the start of the spring.  For the skin canoes, most, though not all the ribs are in.  All the breast hooks are pinned and epoxied.  All the inwales have been clamped to the boats to take their shape over the break.  Some have even installed the inwales.

Six of the skin canoes, packed tight together.


The runabout has been going slowly, but we are into the decking of the sides and bottom, after which it will come off the jig, and I hope will progress more quickly.


Finally, the Greenland kayak is coming along well.  We've used coat hanger wire to check the lengths of the ribs, and we should be ready to start steaming ribs very soon.
Greeland kayak, top and underside


New Boats in 2013

We are well underway with this year's crop of boats.  In the works are nine skin-on-frame, low seat canoes, one 'runabout' hydroplane and one West Greenland kayak. Gunwales, keelsons, stems and knees and breasthooks are all connected, and stringers are laid on the forms,  Some students have started steaming and lashing in ribs.

Keelson attachment to knee
Fabricating stringers
Ready for stringers

Stringers held in place temporarily with twine

Starting to add ribs

Bent ribs, clamped, ready for lashing

Our steamer, made by local fabricator, Natale Marasco