Buying a Boat
One Perfect Boatthe All-Rounder
By Farwell Forrest
You like to paddle. And you're not fussy where you do it. You like
beaver ponds and big lakes and swamps, tiny mountain streams and wide-open
rivers. You like wilderness parks and urban waterfronts. Quick water and
slow. You like the sea-coast, too.
And there's more. You don't just want to go with the flow. You have as
much fun going upstream as down. You like to start the day by poling
upriver, break for lunch around noon, and then spend a couple of hours
trying to match the hatch in a poolor maybe seeing if you can't add
a bird to your life-list. Later, you drift back downriver to your car,
playing the rapids as you go. That's your idea of a perfect day.
But this isn't the whole story. There's someone whose company means
even more to you than paddling. So if she (or he) can't come along, you
won't go paddling half as often as you do now, and you probably won't
enjoy yourself half as much when you do go.
Is that all? Not quite. When the rivers slow down to a trickle in
mid-summer, you'd like to try sailing. You know it was mighty popular a
century ago, and you don't imagine it's gotten any harder. It looks like
fun, and you think it's time you learned how.
OK. You're well and truly hooked. There's just one problem. You can
only afford to buy one boat. Or maybe that's not it at all. Maybe you can
afford an entire boat shop, but you've only got room for one boat in your
tiny garage, and you don't want to build an addition to your house to
accommodate a flotilla. Or maybe that's not it, either. Maybe you just
don't want the hassle of looking after a shed full of boats and gear.
Whatever your reasons, you need one boat that does everything. You need an
"all-rounder." What should you be looking for?
I can think of two good choices. The first is an open canoe (some Brits
still call them "Canadian" canoes) between 16 and 18 feet long, with a
beam at the gunwales between 35 and 37 inches, and a maximum depth that's
no less than 13 inches and no more than 15. This won't limit the field
much. You'll find lots of models to choose from. Each one will be
different, of course. Some will have V-bottoms. Some will have
flat-bottoms. Some will have a little more rocker. And some will have a
little less. Each will have its particular strengths (and weaknesses),
too. But all of them will do almost anything, and each one will do
everything well enough for anybody who's willing to take a little time to
get acquainted. That's what "all-rounder" means.
The other choice? A tandem kayak in the 16- to 17-foot rangeone
of the ones with a single big cockpit. It won't be quite as versatile as
the open canoe, but it will be versatile enough, and it will do some
things even better. Best of all, if it's a folding kayak you'll be
able to store it in a closet. Try that with a Tripper or Prospector!
Why don't you see more folding kayaks on the water, then? Cost, for one
thing. They're not cheap. And they've gotten a bum rap on this side of the
Atlantic. Remember John McPhee's cracks about "Snake Eyes" in Coming
into the Country? Well forget McPheethis time anyway. Forget
"Snake Eyes," too. If you overload any boat, it won't perform well, and a
tandem kayak isn't a freight canoe. Load it right, though, and "Snake
Eyes" will become "Lucky Seven." If you live in a walk-up apartment and
you need an all-rounder, you can't do better than a folding tandem kayak.
(You don't like kayaks? No problem. There are folding canoes, too.)
One boat for everything? Why not? Just as long as it's the right boat.
Copyright © 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights