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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

The Prodigals Return

In The Same Boat is Back

by Tamia Nelson

In the Same Boat is back! Surprised? You're not alone. We feel the same way. When Farwell and I said goodbye to you last September, we were afraid that it was "So long"—not "See you later." We never thought that we'd be coming back.

Well, we were wrong. While we slogged through the long northern New York winter—working to keep food on the table, reading and writing when we got the chance—Brent Vredevoogd and Brian Van Drie were busy growing

Their effort's paid off. is bigger and better than ever. And we're back. We hope you're as happy about this as we are.

Spring is the time for new beginnings, after all. The sun's already setting well north of due west on our horizon. The ice is all but gone from the Flow, the rivers are high (and getting higher!), and the ducks are back. Even the rhubarb's pushing up through the soil in the far corner of the neglected tangle we call our garden.

Neglected? Yep. And likely to stay that way. Our garden may not look like the pictures in the glossy magazines, but it's home to a lot of life. Chipmunks and red squirrels peek out from their hides in the brush piles, red-winged blackbirds and grackles scratch in the leaf litter, and skunks and raccoons make nocturnal visits to forage for grubs.

Untidy? Yes. But our garden's alive. It's crackling and buzzing with life, at all hours of the day and night. We think that's what's most important.

You might say the same thing about this year's In the Same Boat, I suppose. It may be a little untidy from time to time, but we hope that it will always be alive. We've spent years—decades, in fact—driving from place to place with boats on our truck, chasing the runoff or looking for a wilderness that hadn't yet found its way into the guidebooks. Now, we're going to try something different. We're going to spend less time in the truck, and more time paddling the lakes and rivers close to home. In short, we're going to get to know our neighborhood. We'll push our little canoes into some of the odd corners and out-of-the-way places that we used to pass by on trips to the Big Water or Big Woods of our dreams. We're going to take time to see what we've been missing during all those years on the road.

We'll let you know what we find.

There are some things that we won't be doing, however. We're not going to try to tell you how to canoe or kayak, for instance. We've written some how-to articles in the past, to be sure. You can find them in the archives. When all is said and done, though, paddling's a physical thing. You can learn a lot from an article or a book, but you can't learn to paddle. You can only do that by getting in a boat and—you guessed it—paddling. Even if all you do is go in circles at first.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? Chances are you didn't read a book about bike-riding first. Chances are you got on your bike and tried to peddle away. And fell down. And got back up again, got back on the bike, and tried again. And again. And again. Until, minutes or hours later, suddenly, magically, you were riding a bike. And not falling off.

Paddling's a lot like that. Read everything you can, of course. We'll be recommending books and articles from time to time, and we'd like to know what you've been reading, too. And by all means get instruction from a pro or from a knowledgeable friend. Careful beginners don't go paddling alone, in any case—not if they want to live long enough to become experts, that is! Even experienced paddlers are better-off paddling with someone else. Accidents happen to the best of us, and most things in life are easier to deal with if you're not alone.

Just don't think that any book or any instructor can take the place of getting in a boat and getting out on the water yourself. That's where the real learning starts. Everything you've done up to that moment is nothing more than warming up.

So, if you're not going to find how-to articles here—at least not very often—what will you find? That's easy. Almost anything and everything else. History, for one thing. Not the dull recitation of dates and documents that you remember from school, though. Just stories. History is a collection of stories, after all, and the history of canoeing and kayaking is no exception. What does a canoe have in common with a Viking longship? How did boatmen from a remote cluster of Scottish islands come to play a critical role in the economics of the fur trade? Why is today's kayak boom really nothing new?

Curious? We'll answer these questions— and many others, besides—in the weeks to come.

What else? History's a lot more than people. There's natural history, too. If one reason you paddle is to get closer to nature, you know that already. And you probably have a lot of questions. Why aren't the fish biting like they used to in your favorite river? What's the reason that so many eastern lakes are suddenly so clear—and why isn't this good news? How can you learn the names of all the new birds and plants you see when you go paddling? Good questions, every one. And we'll have some of the answers.

Anything more? Sure. We'll even write about politics from time to time. Don't worry, though. We're not going to chase George and Al around the country. They can tell their own stories. We'll be looking at politics closer to home. What happens when fishermen and canoeists both want to use the same stretch of water at the same time? Should we regulate the recreational use of our lakes and rivers? Can we? How? Should paddlers have to pay in order to play?

There's no end to the questions, is there? And there are plenty of viewpoints on every side of every issue. This time around, however, you'll be able to talk back to us directly. Brent and Brian have set up a forum where you can have your say on anything we write about—or anything else that interests you, for that matter. Do you have a question for us? Ask it. You don't agree with something we've written? Tell us. Want to suggest a topic for a future column? Just let us know. We're all in the same boat. Let's start talking.

Copyright 2000 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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