A few years ago, my buddy (whom I refer to as Minsc) and I undertook to explore the countless waterways in Rhode Island and Connecticut in a canoe named Boo. I have kept a journal of our excursions, and will occasionally post some of the highlights from it. (See “Category” menu to the right for previous installments.)

Old Town 164

After our adventure with the rented Pelican canoe, Minsc and I agreed that we should buy one for ourselves. (Minsc had the money, not I, so it was actually going to be his purchase, but I’m a generous soul and didn’t hesitate to include myself.) So we began doing research to learn about the various types and features of canoes. It opened a whole new world.

We learned about the canoe’s rocker (the curvature of the bottom, bow to stern), flat bottoms versus rounded, straight gunwales versus curved. (The gunwales are the sides, for the nautically challenged, and it’s pronounced “gunn’les.”) We learned about the factors that influence maneuverability and speed and stability. We determined, for example, that the red Pelican of our first voyage was a flat-bottomed canoe with no rocker, which accounted for its high stability (as demonstrated by the patented Flying Minsc Entry technique) and its low maneuverability (as testified by my constant recriminations from the bow).

We then visited our local canoe dealer, and found that we had only begun our researches. We discovered that there are many different materials used for canoes these days, the most common being fiberglass, aluminum, multiple layered polymers, and Kevlar (also called Royalex). I was disappointed not to find any birch-bark offerings, although Old Town came close with several gorgeous wood models. The fact is that, the more we looked, the more overwhelmed we became — just too many offerings and combinations and variables. Color was the least of our problems, as there were many types of seats, yokes, and accessories to comprehend and decide upon. Add to all this information overload the fact that there are many manufacturers of canoes, each with their own variations and brand names, and you will recognize our difficulty of decision.

The following week was spent in daily discussions as to what we (he) should buy. (We’re both self-employed, and thus have the freedom to fill our time with useless pursuits.) We were firmly, unshakably committed to purchase the Pelican, the Old Town 164, the Old Town Penobscot in Royalex, the Mad River 16-foot Kevlar, or a Boston Whaler. The top priority was unequivocally maneuverability, stability, lightness of weight, durability — or perhaps color. The primary users were going to be Minsc and me, Minsc and son #1, Minsc and sons #1 and #2, Minsc and wife and both boys, wife alone with the boys, and the Ancient Mariner.

The Ancient Mariner

Price was not a factor at all, except for the times when it was the primary consideration. Perhaps we could order a custom model, since time is not urgent — although we need it for Saturday.

I began to lose patience. The problem was the American curse: we had far too many options. It was a fairly complex decision: weight was a factor, since Minsc would probably be lifting it alone at times when he takes out the young boys; yet the very lightweight materials, such as Kevlar and Royalex, are not as resistant to rocks and abrasion as the polymers — and we tend not to be gentle in our excursions. (See part 2.) We both wanted a maneuverable canoe to thread through river snags, yet Minsc would need some stability when taking out his family. One could buy two Pelicans for the price of one Old Town. . . but what would one do with two Pelicans?

Sunday we were buying the Old Town 164. Monday we were buying a Pelican. Tuesday morning we were committed to the Old Town Penobscot; Tuesday afternoon we were absolutely investing into a Mad River Kevlar. Wednesday we would rent for the rest of our lives. Thursday we would buy our own canoe company. On Friday, we went back to the canoe dealership so that we could agonize in person.

Now, the first time that I laid eyes on the Old Town 164, I knew it was the right one for us. As we looked at it again, Minsc agreed. Unfortunately, the dealer had a red one, and we wanted green. So we went to the counter and, against my better judgment, looked in the Old Town catalog to see about ordering a green one. This came close to being a fatal error — more options — and my patience gave notice of imminent departure. I began looking around for a heavy blunt object.

But then a salesman came to our rescue, saving Minsc from sudden head trauma and me from years in prison. He informed us that they had more canoes in the back; perhaps they had a green Old Town 164! We made our way to the rear lot behind the store, where several big-rig trailers were parked. After trying every key on a prodigious ring, the clerk got the door unlocked, threw it open — and there it was: our new green Old Town 164!

Of course, no sailor would ship out in a vessel that was unnamed, and we had been discussing this question for a couple of weeks. I’d felt that we needed to have her properly christened before her maiden voyage, and wisely broached the subject well in advance to avoid facing another decision-making crisis.

We’d considered many possibilities, but my overwhelming favorite by this time was “Boo,” in honor of Minsc and his hamster companion. (See part 1.) I had originally suggested it because I thought “Adventures with Minsc and Boo” would make a great name for a canoe journal — and that worked better than “Diddlysquat,” as my canoe-partner kept insisting — but the name became a natural fit once he had come to recognize his own similarities with Minsc.

And so we decided to christen Boo at the head of the Pawcatuck River, since we’d done the lower portion already, but that trip must wait for another installment.

  2 Responses to “Adventures with Minsc and Boo, Part 3”

  1. Okay, so there you have it.

    • Ok, maybe that one was too technical. Debated about leaving it out. But perhaps somebody is thinking of buying a canoe! Anyhow, next one will be more entertaining.

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