Friday, August 14, 2020

It takes a boat


I don't remember the first time I was in a boat, but it was likely one of the little wooden duck boats that Dad set me in before I was even old enough to go to school. I can't say what Mother had to say about taking a little kid out into a cold marsh in a tiny boat complete with wet dogs and loud shotguns, but in those days people took that sort of thing as normal. When we returned with ducks Mom would take out the instamatic for photos before I'd watch my dad pluck and gut the birds. The next night it was roast duck for dinner.

I was a little older when some of my fondest memories were of sliding those same boats across frosty leaves down to the water before sunup. Flashlights, retrievers, uncles and cousins. Even then the boat was tool: a transport, a means to get to were the fun would begin. Little thought was given to how it looked, how it handled, or even how comfortable it was. If it didn't leak and Dad could pile decoys, dog, and me with space for him to stand in back with a push pole it was all good.

All my life there's been a boat of some kind around. Never anything fancy – no party barges or ski-boats – just blue-collar craft to get us hunting or fishing.  There was the 10 foot pram when I was learning to trap muskrats and turtles and miraculously never swamped with the gear I overloaded on it. And there's the shallow 14 foot aluminum job that was built in the 1960's. Bench seats, camo paint, and a small motor. It sits in my yard today and doesn't see much use anymore.  A handful of canoes taught a lot about wind, water, and manual propulsion.                                  

Then the the present fishing boat: 16 feet long, pedestal seats, storage, and an outboard motor just big enough to get off a lake quickly if the weather turns bad with an electric trolling motor up front.. Still nothing fancy or impressive – there are many nicer boats out there – but a comfortable and simple way to get out and fish. If these boat have anything in common, it's the fact that they have a workman's purpose. Sometimes it's function over  form.