Thursday, April 29, 2010

That first boat

Midwest Mountaineering moved a few boats at their Outdoor Expo last weekend. Between the auction and the actual sales floor three friends of mine acquired new kayaks, and two of them were available on Tuesday night to properly christen their new craft. After a lovely paddle on Long Lake, the entire east side of which is a regional park reserve, we cracked a bottle of champagne and anointed the boats. Actually, just a bit of bubbly was sprinkled on the boats and the balance was quickly consumed by the paddlers before adjourning to Barley John's brewpub and the best English style bitter ale within several hundred miles. Both the IrishPirate and BunkerBrian were both excited and happy about their new boats and that brought back memories for all of us about our very first kayaks and our introduction to the sport.

My first boat was a Current Designs Storm. I had paddled two boats in my brief kayaking career at that point, an Eclipse Sea Lion and the Storm. I greatly preferred the Storm and bought a used, slightly beat up rental boat from Trek & Trail in Bayfield at the end of the season. It was that lovely blue rotomolded plastic color with yellow trim. Oh, I was stylin' for sure. After a couple years I traded the Storm in on a very similar hull, the CD Solstice GTS HV, a boat now in the posession of the Podman. His first boat was actually three boats, three mammoth Northwest doubles that were trashed in a wind storm at a youth camp near Boulder Junction, WI. Between him, the GurneyGranny, and KingIronwood they managed to cobble together one Lake Superior worthy boats out of the pieces of the three busted up ones. The VOR recalled driving back to Bismarck from Winnipeg with her brand new yellow CD Storm on the roof and a big smile on her face. She purchased that boat after paddling my Solstice with its similar hull design. The KingOfIronwoodIsland's first boat was that very Storm, purchased from the VOR in a Goldman Sachs-like deal involving a Bending Branches wooden paddle, a VW Jetta sedan, a wetsuit, and some body work. RonO had a Northwest Cadence, and the ManFromSnowyLegs a rotomolded Perception of some sort if memory serves.

We all remember our first boat, the boat that officially made us kayakers. We hadn't even reached the stage of knowing just how much we didn't know about the activity, but by god we were in the game. Things like cockpit fit, edging, tracking, and nimble handling were things that seeped into our awareness the more we paddled those first boats. A new boat always gets the juices flowing and we are much more critical now before we buy, but there is nothing like strapping that first boat on the roof and officially calling yourself a kayaker. Greg Brown wrote a song called, "If I had Known", a wonderful tune that you can sample here. The last line of the chorus says it all. "Its just as well we don't know when things will never be that good again".

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