Canoe believe it? Campers keep cardboard vessels afloat

Aug 2, 2021

They didn’t need a bigger boat.

Intrepid young sailors capably sailed the seas of Apponagansett Beach Friday morning in canoes they built themselves using cardboard, tape, paint and a lot of ingenuity.

Six canoes were launched a few feet off the beach as the sailors scrambled on to the vessels and paddled as far and as fast as they could go. 

They all traveled at least a short distance as Sam Brodsky watched proudly from the shore. 

“Things went great,’’ he said. “”All the boats went into the water and floated. That’s a win.’’

Brodsky led the youngsters in a week-long summer camp session at Friends Academy called Cardboard Canoes. The week began Monday with only the participants’ enthusiasm and ideas and ended Friday with the launch of six canoes the 10 campers had created through the week.

The limited supplies — cardboard, tape and “all the latex paint we could find in the basement, Brodsky said — required creativity and imagination.

“The hardest part was making the corners,’’ said camper Graeme, since they were crucial to keeping the canoes a float.

The easiest part, he said, was the painting.

For one team, the painting created a unique style with random splatters decorating the canoe bottom.

“We did that intentionally,” said Lucas.

He and teammates Ayden and Eric named their creation Legendary Poop Dog. “We put all our favorite words together and got that,” he said.

“It’s probably going to sink, but I don’t mind getting wet,” Ayden said.

The winning canoe, Albino Lightning, was led by James and Nirjal.

As the canoe eclipsed the others, James pumped his fist and yelled, “My dream has come true.”

“I thought we would end up in last place,” he said, “I thought the water was going to pull us down and it didn’t.”

Nirjal was also surprised.

“That was pretty unexpected,” he said. “I thought it would sink on its back like the Titanic.”

“It was really fun,’’ said Graeme, who paddled his canoe, Black Nevo, to a second place finish with teammate Nolan. “I really liked it. It’s really fun to see the boat float and getting soaked.’’

Nolan was pleased with the result.

“Second place isn’t all that bad,” he said.

Susan Yao, director of summer programs at Friends Academy, said the firsthand experience provides valuable lessons.

“This is the best way to learn,” she said. “They’re learning so much about trial and error and how to improve.”

Ben summarized the experience with a one-sentence takeaway. “I would have won,” he said, “if I hadn’t tipped over.”