What wasn’t to love about this canoe?
For starters, it had only been paddled six times since 1989. And you could tell by looking at it. Its forest-green Royalex exterior — composed of heat-treated vinyl, hard plastic and foam — looked smooth and polished.
It’s an Old Town, so that means it’s of good quality. And it doesn’t weigh too much, maybe 60 pounds, so it’s ideal for regular octogenarian hoisting.
“Look at the bottom of it,” said Kathy Armstrong, 81, lifting it from the wet grass and onto its side. “It’s a flat bottom, a very stable boat. Very stable.”
Her voice trailed off, as she examined its bottom. The Niskayuna woman and her husband, Chet Harvey, have been helping out at the ECOS: Environmental Clearinghouse’s No Octane Boat Sale since it began four years ago. Saturday was their first time making a purchase.
Usually, they just help sell the goods, which include any kind of boat without a motor — kayaks, canoes, skulls, sailboats, even dinghies. As lifelong paddlers, they know their stuff.
“We actually went and picked this up from some lady in Albany to bring it over for the sale,” said Armstrong. “But the more we looked at it, the more we decided we wanted it to ourselves.”
Since most ECOS members have a profound appreciation for nature, it’s no surprise many enjoy paddling in their free time. The regional environmental organization decided a few years ago it made sense to host this kind of sale, where people could take their old boats to one place as they looked to upgrade to better or lighter or bigger boats.
Plus, it’s for a good cause, with 20 percent of sale proceeds going back to ECOS. The nonprofit organization raises environmental awareness throughout the Capital Region and frequently hosts environmental festivals, lectures, nature walks and youth programs.
Executive Director Patrick Clear left his office inside the Niskayuna Recreation Center and headed toward a half-dozen people on the front lawn. It was a drizzly Saturday, and he wondered if that’s why they had fewer boats to offer this year.
Last year, they sold about a dozen and made $1,500. This year, they had nine boats to sell.
“It’s been raining all day, so people might not want to drag their boats out to plop them in the rain,” he said. “But we’ve sold most of these already. The white-water kayak and one canoe is all we’ve got left, and it’s only just after 12, so we’re doing pretty good this year.”
ECOS also sells life jackets, paddles and other accessories. Its most unusual offering was a six-hour canoe someone brought in a few years back.
“It’s a kit you buy and a workshop they do up at one of the campsites in the Adirondacks where you build your own one-person canoe, and it’s like half kayak and half canoe,” said Clear. “They were really popular in the ’70s.”
Clear was never interested in selling motorboats, or any boat requiring fuel. Most ECOS members prefer a paddle to an engine, and it reflects in the other activities they participate in, as well.
Randy Jennings of Niskayuna, who leads a Boy Scout program that takes kids and teens canoeing, white-water rafting, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, was lucky enough to have someone donate three canoes to his program last month, so all he needed Saturday was some extra paddles. He spent the morning milling about the boats, talking shop with Clear and admiring a two-seat kayak that looked as though it could handle big waters.
“That is a serious kayak right there,” he said, nodding toward the sleek turquoise boat.
Nearby, Armstrong continued doting over her forest-green canoe. Long ago, her grandfather built a 13-bedroom camp on Kezar Lake in Maine, not far from the New Hampshire border. She and her sister spent summers there growing up, and they brought their own kids and grandkids there over the years so that whenever she stays there, at least a half-dozen are running about.
“Oh, I was practically born in a canoe,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve always had canoes. We still do a lot of hiking and fishing and canoeing.”
Armstrong’s new purchase would be perfect for the kids, she said. If they run into rocks, all she would need to do is apply heat and punch out any dents. It would join one other canoe and two kayaks at her Maine camp.
“We also have two antique canoes, but the kids aren’t allowed to paddle those.”