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4/30/2018 1:40 am  #1

One era ends, another begins

On Saturday, I traded in my beloved Merrimack toward a Nova Craft Pal.  It was extremely difficult to part with the Merrimack, but it was time.  At 68 pounds, I can still manage her, but my desire to do so is waning.  Plus, I wanted a hull that I can just turn the kids loose with and not worry about.  The Nova Craft is a tuff stuff hull, green (how boring is that?), wood trim, and weighs in at 54 pounds, around 22% less.  My wife and I tried one out last week on the pond at Oak Orchard Canoe, and found it stable and fast.  A nice ride.  We selected the one with wood trim, and the trade in value of the Merrimack pretty much paid for that upgrade - somehow fitting.

I can't adequately express how much of a traitorous blank I felt like at the idea of disposing of the Merrimack.  That boat gave me nothing but joy and wonderful memories.  But sometimes we must move on, knowing something is the right thing to do, even if the heart says please no.  So, I hope you don't mind indulging me with a little tribute.

I saw a Merrimack at the Rochester, NY boat show in late January 1993.  It was ivory colored, but I knew they had a maroon one at their store.  About a week later I could take it no more, and I was at Oak Orchard Canoe, plunking down all the cash I had in the world to buy a boat I fell in love with at first sight.  I think I paid $850.


I had no way to paddle it to try it out obviously, but I'd do it again in a second.

the boat went on a number of Algonquin trips.  Here she is in 1994. 

Rain Lake Access.


   I'm pretty sure this is the bottom of the short but wicked portage entering Islet.

And there were other memorable times.

Departing on a trip down the Erie Canal. 1996ish.  77 miles in 3 days.  Had to carry my own water.


My mother-in-law and wife, Allegany State Park, 2009.


My lil' sweet pea, Allegany 2009.


My father-in-law and my little guy, Allegany State park 2009.

Over the years, a lot of things happened.  I used to go all over the place with that boat.  My wife and I met in 1999, and had lots of dates in that boat. We went all over the place in her.  Lisa always enjoyed seeing turtles and watching herons fishing while we silently glided past.  We used to troll for bass on Lake Ontario.  There is no better date than canoeing. 

There is also no better solo activity than canoeing.  I used to work 1/2 day Fridays in the summer so I'd put the boat on the car Friday morning.  One afternoon I stopped at a camera store on the way out to buy a Vivitar Series 1 lens for $5 I had seen.  Nobody was on Hemlock Lake that day, and it was glorious.  I know the photo won't translate here, but this is on of the greatest photos I have ever taken - and it was with that $5 lens.

 Lisa and I got engaged in February 2000.  I talked her into an Algonquin trip in June 2000.  If you like mosquitoes....she married me anyway.  

That's the Farm lake access point where Lisa tried on the 68-pound hat.

The survivor photo from that trip - the bow of the boat looks on.  We saw some moose from the road later that day.

Time marched on.  We were married, a job move compelled a move, children happened right after, and the canoe got dusty.  this was when my 16-years-without-a-canoe-trip began.  But in that time our kids caught their first fish from her, and we used to take family day trips in her once in a great while.  Then in 2016 I realized how long it had been since I had tripped in Algonquin.  Disgusting.  My wife and daughter had a special vacation that year, and I thought I'd take my son on a special vacation - Algonquin. 

Kiosk, just before shoving off.

Then the following year, I took both kids.

Paddling around Islet.

Our "we survived" photo - Rain Lake.  Same access point this boat made her Algonquin debut from.  Please ignore my giant man-boobs....

Well, that brings us to this weekend.  It was not easy at all to say goodbye. The boat and I had a little private moment, a little discussion that morning.  She didn't like it, but understood.  It was also not easy to get her on the car - I took a fall in March.  Tripped over my shoelaces like an idiot and did a superman fall. I did my rotator cuff (left shoulder tendons) and the tendons running down my upper arm.  Started physical therapy a couple of weeks ago.  Not sure how much I'll be able to paddle this spring, but I think I'm laid up for awhile.  When we got to Oak Orchard (same place were I bought the Merrimack 25 years ago), I had to ask them to take the Merrimack off and put the Nova Craft on.   Here's the series of events.

The old town says farewell to the Merrimack.  The Merrimack was always a little jealous after I bought the Old Town Lightweight Canvas.

A rainy day.  Last time on my car.  Merrimack was on....4...possibly 5 different cars over the years.


  The Nova Craft Pal being readied for departure.  It was very kind of them to do the unloading/loading for me, I was very appreciative of that gesture, it would have been very painful for me, and I'm sure would have been a setback.


Welcome home, Nova Craft.


The Old Town Lightweight Canvas welcomes the Nova Craft Pal.  They are getting along well, no jealousy, so that's a plus.  

Yeah, I know it is kind of dopey to attach personalities to canoes, but if I can't feel some sort of connection with a canoe, that's not a canoe I'm interested in.  That's just something that floats.  I want the boat to be my companion.

So, one era ends, and another begins.  We'll make our memories in the Nova Craft, and I look forward to getting that started as soon as my shoulder is better.  We've got an August Algonquin trip planned, and good grief I hope I'm better by then.  It is hard to know what adventures the Pal will enjoy.  I hope to see my children get some independence in the canoe without me sweating what they do to the hull.  If my kids have interest in tripping over the next few years, this will be the boat they learn to carry.  Maybe one day I'll be taking grandchildren for rides in this boat, who knows.  But the Merrimack....that boat carried me a lot of places.  Placed a lot of markers in my life over 25 years.  What a gamer, and what a sweet ride.  Yeah, she was a little heavy, but I'll never have anything bad to say about her.  Trading in for the Nova Craft was the right move, but I still can't believe I actually did it.  Like trading in my left arm, which, as I think of it, doesn't sound like a bad idea right now.


4/30/2018 5:09 am  #2

Re: One era ends, another begins

A great story and great memories. I was smiling the entire time I was reading it. 


4/30/2018 6:38 am  #3

Re: One era ends, another begins

Great story! Hope the shoulder gets better soon.


4/30/2018 6:44 am  #4

Re: One era ends, another begins

Thanks for sharing!


4/30/2018 6:52 am  #5

Re: One era ends, another begins

A small fraction of people use a canoe.  A smaller fraction use a canoe to its real potential.  Even fewer still have that bond you speak of.  No shame at all and it is a fitting tribute to the life experiences you enjoyed.  It is a transformative time of life - entering adulthood, having kids, setting your own path.  Objects like canoes give that transition an identity and take you to unique destinations where your memories are made.

We were driving to the Penguins game yesterday down in D.C. and crossed the Susquehanna River.  My wife looked at the wind-whipped rows of whitecaps and, unprompted, said "I really love how our canoe feels" (we had relatively new Souris River Quetico 17 on the Delaware the previous weekend and were playing in the wakes of the large pleasure boats speeding by in the main channel).  Little does she know  she is in the early stages of a relationship like yours and I will do everything I can to nurture that relationship in the years ahead!


4/30/2018 8:19 am  #6

Re: One era ends, another begins

What a great post! Thanks for sharing the history of your canoe. A great reminder of what makes both canoeing and Algonquin so special!


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