“There is nothing that is so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile as the canoe.”
— Bill Mason, author and ardent paddler.
Colebrook >> What would you do if you won a canoe in a raffle? Well, haul it with your vehicle to a lake, pond or river and paddle away, of course! But then again, members of the Colebrook Land Conservancy have so meticulously restored an “Indian” model canoe circa the early 1950s that you might want to simply use it as a piece of art somewhere in or around your home.
Twenty dollars will get you an opportunity to win the vintage Thompson Brothers canoe being raffled by the Conservancy as part of its 2017 annual fundraising campaign.
According to the Land Trust, the canoe, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, is a fully-restored, hard-to-find 1950s two-seat cedar-hulled Indian built by the well-known Thompson Brothers Boat Manufacturing Company of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. and Cortland, New York. The Indian is one of three models that brought canoe-building fame to the company’s Danish founders, starting in the late 1800s.
Colebrook Land Conservancy trustee John Fernandez, who built his own canoe from scratch earlier this year, formulated the idea to restore and then raffle off the canoe as a way to raise funds for the organization’s work. The money raised by the raffle is obviously going to a very good cause. The Colebrook Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Colebrook’s natural resources. It owns 657 acres of land and holds voluntary conservation easements limiting development on 572 acres.
One of the Conservancy’s properties is the Phelps Research Area, a 394-acre tract in North Colebrook, which is a prime example of unspoiled nature in the northwestern part of Connecticut, says the group, and provides a refuge for a broad variety of wildlife. About 30 species of animals and more than 20 species of reptiles and amphibians have been reported on or near the preserve. The property was originally conserved by the Blum Family and Frank Egler.
In 2005 the Conservancy acquired a 100-acre piece of wilderness between Sandy Brook and Beech Hill Road that it called the “Corliss 100” because of its location on the westernmost slope of Corliss Mountain. The Conservancy says it will keep the land a natural area and preserve its unique ecological features. Protecting the Corliss 100 also protects the adjacent Algonquin State Forest, which includes the 600-acre Kitchel Wilderness, a state-designated natural area preserve.
Another key holding of the Conservancy is known as Hale’s Corner, 42 acres of the former Hale Farm at the junction of Colebrook and Stillman Hill roads (Routes 182 and 183). A preservation project on the property included restoration of a historic Hale barn, which dates from 1779. The Conservancy actively manages the farm’s hayfields, pasture land, and a trail.
Back to the restoration of the canoe, which was sold to the Conservancy for a minimal fee by boat enthusiast Skylar Thompson. The restored boat includes new ribs and gunwales, new canvas hand stretched over the hull, new stem bands and multiple coats of rock-hard epoxy, carefully layered over the canvas for a glass-smooth finish. It took about 100 hours to complete. The work was done under the watch eye of Frank Christinat of the Norfolk Boat Works, with labor provided by CLC trustees Fernandez, Kerry Jassen, Greg Millard, Tom Redington, Linda Raciborski, Robbie Lawton and others.
The boat was on display at Hale Farm on a glorious mid-summer day, its bright green hull glistening in the sun. The gunwales, thwarts and decks are made of gorgeous mahogany, while the planking and ribs are made of cedar, all the wood brilliantly finished and serving as a stunningly beautiful contrast to the dark green hull of the canoe. The boat’s restoration was a labor of love, said Fernandez, and there was, indeed, quite a lot of labor invested in the project.
“We were very aggressive at the beginning of the project. But as we moved through the various stages, we had to slow down because of such steps as applying epoxy, paint and spar varnish, which needed time to dry. All in all, there were over 100 hours of work put into the restoration. Frank Christinat at the Norfolk Boat Works was very instrumental in the project, as he gave us a place and tools to undertake the project and was there to supervise and advise when we needed him.”
Fernandez believes the canoe, which cost $60 to purchase when it was produced in the early 1950s, is probably worth around $2,000 after the restoration project. The canoe is designed for easy paddling, steadiness and comfort, and has a large interior that makes it suitable for carrying equipment and supplies. There are two seats, but a third person could sit on the bottom of the middle of the canoe. The boat’s design also makes it ideal for passing over shallow areas with a large load, as well as proving a very stable vessel in choppy water, as it can ride over waves instead of cutting trough them. Its weight is such that it makes it easy for portage when necessary.
Reddington said the canoe can offer its eventual owner(s) many uses. “It’s beautiful to take on lake, or just use as a decorative piece. It was a great experience to restore the boat and was a cohesive project, where everyone involved did their part. It was all for a great cause.”
Tickets are on sale at various local events and at the Colebrook Store (Colebrook), the Norfolk Farmer’s Market and Berkshire Country Store (Norfolk), Ledgebrook Spirit Shop (Winsted), and Stateline Wine and Spirits (Canaan). Or, you may send an email requesting tickets to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The drawing will be at 5 p.m. on Sept. 9 at the Colebrook Town Hall Meeting Room on Colebrook Road. It is not necessary for the winner to be present.
For more information on the Colebrook Land Conservancy, visit www.colebrooklandconservancy.org.