Dugout Paddlers Off For Florida….

Dugout Paddlers Off For Florida
Middletown Press reports today:

MIDDLETOWN — With a grey-clouded sky over the river five brave boaters set out for Key West in dugout canoes Thursday.

Setting forth in two handcrafted dugouts, Captain George Frick and four crew members headed down the Connecticut River towards Saybrook and the open water beyond. They are then to head down Long Island Sound to New York and then traverse the Inland (IntraCoastal) Waterway to Florida, a journey that will take about 6 weeks. We reported earlier on the making of the canoes and on an earlier trip down river to Greenport, Long Island. The photo at top is from an earlier excursion on the river and the one below is a view of two incomplete dugouts taken in Harbor Park, Middletown last year. A full account of the earlier trip can be read here and here (PDF). The top photo is from that site.

Here is an excerpt from a web site documenting the building of the canoes:
THE PROJECT
Getting the tree
An Eastern cottonwood tree — 60 feet in length and 12 feet in circumference — had been
identified on Wilcox Island under the Arrigoni Bridge. Ron Klattenberg, Middletown City
Council member and project organizer, observed that there were several auspicious signs
for this project. The first was the weather. The massive tree identified to be cut down for the
project fell during a storm; then subsequent days of rain helped wash the tree trunk down
parallel to the river for launching.
The cottonwood was floated downriver to Harbor Park in Middletown. Clients went
upriver to watch the process. Not only were the clients watching, so were police, fire and
Coast Guard boats. Everyone marveled at how George Frick, president of Friends of the
Connecticut River, was able to manage to straddle the tree without falling off, then to bring
it to shore.
Crafting the canoe: Trial and error
Now it was time for the AIC clients to begin the arduous and grueling process of chopping,
burning, and carving the tree into a canoe. Under the guidance of George Frick and Ron
Klattenberg, the young men set to work hollowing and carving out the dugout canoe. For
a month they burned the wood to make it soft, then dug out the tree, all the while using
primitive tools. Each day they carved, cooked lunch over the burning embers, then carved
some more. While there are no historical records as to how the Indians in fact crafted these
boats, Frick had some knowledge of the methods and type of shape that would be necessary
to make this journey successful.

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