Sunday, September 24, 2006
To each his own....
To someone, she's a beauty. I've seen this pontoon boat tied up each day that I have paddled. Just down river from the town boat dock where I put in, this fully outfitted vessel does not seem to have moved much in the past month. And while I am sure that I would enjoy an afternoon steaming up and down the banks of the river through Simsbury, Avon, and, perhaps, as far south as Farmingtion, fishing, tossing back a few beers, and having a few laughs with good friends, she's just not my kind of ship. Even my ten foot Walden kayak in which I have been running my mile of river almost exclusively is not my favorite slice of boating design. To me, the perfect vessel in any water is the canoe.
Whether for a short day trip with good company, or in the hands of a guide and a group of six or seven tripping canoes in wilderness waterways, this ancient craft is near perfect in design, functionality, and joy of paddling. Just compare the orientation of the paddlers to one who prefers to row a boat. I learned how to control watercraft in a small rowboat and was skilled enough to help teach other campers during my years as a young adolescent at Camp Mi-te-na in Alton, New Hampshire. Yes, rowing is an art and a pleasure. However, you are forever having to look over your shoulder to make sure that your heading is still in line with the intended bearing. In a canoe, one can always see ahead and to the sides of the planned route. The stern paddler can, with a quick adjustment of stroke, make quick maneuvers that would never be possible in any type of craft that is rowed with oars. In addition, the techniques and adjustments that can be made with a paddle far outnumber any tricks with the bulky oars in a rowboat.
I paddle because I love to be on the water. Yet, my love for the water brings me into contact with the feel and grace of the paddle which is an even deeper passion. I can recall many days in Canada, after hours in dry heat or steady rain, feeling as though the paddle and my subtle course adjustments have become a part of my muscle and sinew. But a pontoon vessel may be bringing just as much excitement to the heart of my friend whose craft sits patiently along the banks of the Farmington in the late evening glow before sunset.
I won't begrudge a man for his choice in craft - to be on the water and down the river affects anyone regardless of personal preference in vessel. I will say, though, that the quiet trickle of water off a paddle leaves little room for improvement when all is said and done.