I can’t remember exactly how it came up, but my father mentioned one day that Grampy’s old boat was sitting in a heap of trash and brush out back. He said that I could have it if I wanted. To say the least, the thing was in rough shape. The paint was peeling off. It was filthy, and you would have been afraid to touch it. Once I got to scraping, I found the few small holes that had been crudely stuffed with oakum. Remembering back on the few times I’d been out in it in my childhood, I did recall that it leaked a little. Hey, free boat. But the thing was definitely going to take some work.
So I made it my summer project. Using an angle grinder with a wire brush attachment, I brought the paint down to bare metal. The holes were then all properly patched with epoxy putty. It was expensive, but I ended up repainting it with some proper marine paint. With a glossy white hull and kelly green trim, and the deck painted with truck bed liner, the thing ended up looking better than ever. Often, when I’m tied up to the landing, either getting ready to head home or trying to make way, people will stop and comment, “What a pretty boat.” That will give me an opportunity to tell all about how it was my grandfather’s and how I inherited it and fixed it up. As conversation starters go, it does its job.
Now, it’s Grampy’s boat and I love it, but how well does it function? I’ve gotta say that it does everything I need it to do. The big thing is space. For a day of fishing, while I cant help but notice the kayak fishermen struggling to fit their gear, I can easily pack a sizable tackle box and a cooler and still have plenty of room to sprawl out and stretch my legs. I’ve taken my boat for three and four night trips, complete with tent and sleeping bag, food and cooking gear, and stuff to fish with. There’s plenty of room. While I’m all for minimalism and ultralight camping, with this thing, I don’t need to.
And with the flat bottom, it’s remarkably stable. It’s a smooth ride on calm water. You see all those people, out on the water with their paddle boards, doing their yoga? I can stand up and do that too. I too can stand like a warrior or a tree and say Om. And when you’re rowing, you just glide along. It’s perfect for a day of fishing. It’s perfect for getting out to some place remote. It’s perfect for just hanging out on the water. The thing is an absolute gift.
As with anything though, it has its weaknesses. I wish I could figure out how to portage it. While I can drag it across the lawn and wrestle it on top of the jeep with no trouble, the thing’s a little awkward to carry any distance. There’s no yoke or anything, as with a canoe. And while it’s great on smooth water, you’ll feel every wave on a rough day. Generally, if I see white caps, I head home. Being a rowboat, you also can’t see where you’re headed, so awareness is the key. But that’s the deal with any rowboat. Overall though, the big thing I’m worried about is durability. I can patch a small hole, but I’m waiting for that one big tear that will send it to the bottom. One day I’m going to scrape across a rock, and that rock is going to put a long gouge along the hull. As the boat’s metal, it will sink. It’ll be the end of it.
Would I trade it though? If someone offered me a $1000 touring kayak, would I swap. No. It’s my boat. It’s unique. It’s not something where someone can just go out and get another one like it. This boat is special. It’s mine. It’s Grampy’s boat.