A few weeks ago my friend Rick and I were on our way home to put this year’s canoe buyer’s guide to bed after finishing a circuit of paddling shows. To kill a few hours of arrow-straight U.S. interstate we started playing the If-I-had-a-million-dollars-which-canoe-would-I-buy game.

Which canoe would I buy? With 155 canoes in seven different categories in our buyer’s guide I didn’t know where to start. So we stopped.

I can see the Madawaska River from my office window. Every morning I dream about going for a paddle at lunchtime. I’d portage down the road to the pubic launch, climb in and hammer for 30 minutes. For this I’d want something light and fast, like a Jensen 18. If I was going to sweat I’d want a canoe that would reward my efforts. In three years I’ve never paddled at lunchtime.

My neighbour Bobby is the local handyman. He’s a hell of guy with a shop full of tools and a well-stocked beer fridge. For two years of winter evenings I’ve sat in his shop in a tattered barber chair by the wood furnace. While I watched him work we’d make summer plans to load a canoe on his Yamaha Rhino ATV and go fish for pickerel in the lakes back in the hills. We think a wide and stable square-stern, something we could put a small trolling motor on, would be the ticket for our off- road angling adventures. Once summer comes we’re both too busy to go fishing.

I’ve also thought about buying a small tripping canoe that I could take this summer on my first father-and-son river trip. It’d be a tandem that I’d paddle solo. It would be big enough for our camping gear and stable enough so my son could climb around and play with his toys, eat his snack and curl up for naps.

I remember the day—the only day—I paddled with my own dad. I paddled us to the end of Long Lake while he fished for bass. He offered to paddle but I told him to keep fishing. It was peaceful. I paddled. He fished. And we talked.

I remember how happy I was that we were canoeing together and how proud I was to be able to paddle him around. I think of that time we spent together quite often, but I don’t remember anything about the canoe, not even the colour. It wasn’t the canoe that mattered.

I think this summer I’m going to buy myself some time. Time to paddle at lunch, fish with Bobby, go for a weekend father-and-son trip, and take another paddle with my dad. Only then will I get back to playing the game, open up the buyer’s guide and wonder what canoes I should buy.

This article on canoeing was published in the Spring 2006 issue of Canoeroots.This article first appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Canoeroots Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Canoeroots’ print and digital editions here.


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