“I don’t have a boat,” I said, rather stunned by the sound those five words made in the pit of my stomach.
I hardly believed it, but after a few seconds of mentally replaying each boat sale—me standing with a white envelope of cash, him tying my boat to his car—I realized the mag- nitude of what’d I’d done.
Today is the third day of January. It’s sunny, seven degrees above freezing. Water is gushing off my tin roof and then, surely, into the nearby creeks and the Madawaska River. Tanya tried to help. Why don’t you go for a hike? Lame. Take down the tree? No. Install the new TV antenna? Whatever. Fine then. Sit there and feel sorry for yourself. Okay.
For the first time in 10 years, I didn’t have a boat to paddle.
I’ve heard the argument made before, usually by the bean counters—the type of people who balance their chequebooks and cut their grass diagonally. They say that finan- cially it makes more sense for most paddlers to rent their boats. Work it out, they say: New boats cost roughly $1,500. Let’s say weekend rentals cost $50. So for the price of a new boat, you get 30 weekends a year. Or, more likely, two weekends a month, five months a year for three years—always in the boat of your choice.
Not a bad deal until one warm winter day you’re standing on a ladder mounting the Recoton TV 3000 antenna to your roof while cars with boats on top honk and paddlers wave on their way to the river that’s only 10 minutes from your house.
As selfish as it would be to keep them, I’ve regretted selling every boat I’ve ever owned. I sometimes get nostalgic about the time we’ve spent together, the good times we’ve had. They were more than hunks of plastic; they were stages of my life, some of the best trips and longest summers.
I use them to measure time and remember seasons, like farmers would remember a particular bumper crop or, in some cases, a horrible drought. When I see one of their buyers on the river I inquire about my old boats like you would question a friend about an old girlfriend. How is she keeping, I ask. Is she getting out much? Sometimes, I’ve even asked to take her out for the afternoon, for old times’ sake. Although I always find that there was a good reason we went our separate ways.
In recent years you could count on manufacturers putting its boats on the market before fall—even mid-summer. But with all manufacturers now back on a normal pro- duction schedule of releasing the new models in the spring, my late-summer purge was too hasty. I got caught without a boat for the best fall paddling Ontario has seen in a decade. It will be a season without memories, like it never happened.
However, the move back to spring boat releases is good news for paddlers. Awaiting a spring and the arrival of the year’s new designs builds excitement, anticipation and hype. No longer will your boat be outdated mid-season, completely depreciating by the time kids are back in school.
You’ll be more inclined to hang onto it until spring when the demand, and therefore the resale price, will be higher—keeping even the bean counters happy.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Rapid Magazine.