I’d like to open this post with some foul language, but I don’t swear, so that’s not going to work. And it was Sunday when I wrote this, so I guess I’ll keep it to harsh adjectives and whatnot. Maybe a few &^%$#$% symbols.
We have an impending situation that will probably require me to sell my Old Town Discovery 169 canoe. While I’m happy about the situation, I’m not remotely happy about selling my canoe. I intended this article to be a rant about selling my canoe, but the following memory preempted it. I guess we’ll do part one and two, since I like to stick to 500-600 words. This post will top 800, but it’s cheaper than therapy, I guess. And it’s a testament to the brand.
In 1988, my dad bought an Old Town XL Tripper. For those of you not in the know, it is the Titanic of Old Town’s canoe line. At a 20′ in length, the company boasted (I’m going on memory) that it would haul over 1,500 lbs. Dad used to put the boat on Portage Lake and challenge a group of us kids (ten year olds) to roll it. It could be done, but I assure you that the ol’ Tripper was steady in the water. It usually took four or five of us hanging off the side and rocking for all we were worth to get her to go over. Even then, she didn’t sink to the bottom.
In addition, dad put a homemade motor mount on the back and hooked up a Mercury 5hp motor to it. If you’re thinking it must have looked weird and been a little awkward, you’re right. Dad would have to put at least 60 lbs. of weight in the front of the canoe to hold bow down low enough so he could see over it and not flip. Often times, I was volunteered (by him) to sit in the front of the boat while he zoomed to his favorite fishing spot on the Aroostook River after work. With 5 horses, that old boat would fly upstream.
I can only remember being scared once in the Tripper. We were on Caucomgomoc Lake in 1988. Google it. I’ve been to remote places, but that lake is probably the most remote place I’ve ever been. He and I took the canoe to the dam and I had our brand new RCA camcorder in the bow with me and had been recording fish trying to jump the dam. We were working our way back to camp when a storm came in. It was unexpected and came in quickly. The swells on the lake were soon over a foot high, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re in a canoe, it’s a tsunami. Dad pointed the nose into the wind and waves and yelled for me to hang on tightly. I asked him about the camcorder and he yelled something to the effect of, “F@$% it, I’ll buy another one!”
The front end of the boat slapped back onto the tossing lake after every wave. Water was splashing over the gunwales and I knew that no matter what, I had to keep my keester in the center of the boat. Dad wasn’t much for meaningful conversation, but I heard him clear his throat and start yelling to me.
“We go over, you swim for shore, boy. When you hit the shore, stay on the shore and head that right on the beach!” he hollered.
“What about the camcorder,” I asked again?
“I told you I don’t give a f^*# about that! Let ‘er sink if we dump!”
“What about you,” I asked?
I knew he wasn’t wearing a life jacket and he couldn’t swim. Stupid, but normal for him more than I care to admit.
“I’ll go to the bottom and crawl to shore,” I heard him say in a lower voice.
He referred to that move as the “Australian Crawl”. I have no idea where the term came from, but a few of the men in my family used that term to describe them going over in a boat, sinking to the bottom, and walking back to shore. Even at ten, I knew the real reality of the situation.
If you’re wondering, we made it to a small cove and waited out the storm on shore. The memory is still very vivid with me nearly 30 years later.
Dad died last August and my brother inherited the canoe. That canoe speaks to the durability of Old Town canoes. My dad used his equipment hard. When I say hard, I mean it. I often teased him about having the “Reverse Midas Touch”- everything he touched turned to crap. When I got to the family farm after he died, the Tripper was sitting alone in the tall grass, full of water, scraped to skin on the bottom, with the thwarts nearly rotted out. And I thought to myself…..what a canoe. If she’ll hold water in, she’ll hold water out. After all those years of abuse.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.