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Hope May Indeed Float

every spring I get the strong urge to find a vessel and traverse the river

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Every spring I am overcome by a recurring fantasy, and this last spring was no exception. My fantasy has to do with owning a boat so I can travel up and down the Chippewa River. Having grown up on and in the river, and living within a stone’s throw of the Chip, it seems like a fairly normal thing to fantasize about. But last spring, I became obsessed! I had completely forgotten the total failure of the aqua skipper a few years ago, a colossal embarrassment, which I won’t elaborate on here.

I spent hours on the internet, looking at various kinds of boats – new and used, big and little, cheap and expensive, flat boats, speed boats, pontoon boats – and checking out all the details; how much draft the boat would need, how much weight, how many passengers, etc. I checked out the want ads in the newspaper and on Craig’s List and everywhere else I could think of. We made the rounds of all the local marine establishments, getting an idea of what was for sale.

Now I should admit that we have owned a canoe for some 40 years, but a canoe only goes downstream, and I wanted to be able to meander wherever my fancy might take me. My husband Tom, a confirmed landlubber, for a change, did not discourage me, which was all the encouragement I needed to pursue my dream.

So one cold day in April, Tom, our neighbor boy Jon, and I, went to try out a used Seadoo, a small, bright yellow boat that looked a little like a big bathtub and supposedly had a very small draft. So we all got in along with the owner, and promptly took off like the proverbial “bat out of hell,” at a speed of 55 mph, which thrilled Tom and Jon, but wasn’t quite what I had had in mind. In my boat fantasy we are meandering, not flying over the water at break-neck speed to get from point A to point B.

I thought about my friend Gloria, a former boat owner, who says that the two happiest days in the life of a boat owner are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it, and whose best advice was to “get a friend who has a boat.”

We spent a few days talking over the purchase of the Seadoo, the only boat so far that had caught his fancy. Tom seemed willing to go ahead with the offer, but left the final decision to me, which in hindsight was probably a good idea. I thought about my friend Gloria, a former boat owner, who says that the two happiest days in the life of a boat owner are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it, and whose best advice was to “get a friend who has a boat.”

Then I thought about all the stuff that we have sitting in our shed that rarely sees the light of day (bicycles, camping equipment, the already mentioned canoe, the Aqua Skipper, etc). Eleven thousand dollars began to seem like a lot of money for something that might not ever get out of the shed and the boat would definitely need two people to launch it.

So Tom made his typical low ball offer, that was quickly rejected by the owner, and I was left with a feeling of relief. But the boat fever was not entirely over. We decided that what we could do would be to outfit our old canoe with a small motor that could be used in shallow water. And my nephew Adam just happened to have one for sale. My brother in law John gave us a side mount for the motor, we ordered an outrigger to keep the canoe steady, and some seat backs for comfort. Now we were all ready to navigate the lower Chippewa!

Every week during that spring, summer, and fall, we talked about getting the canoe out and trying out our new gadgetry. But the summer passed, and then the fall, and still we had not gotten out on the river except for a short canoe ride from the Caryville Bridge to Meridean, which we paddled with some relatives. 

I think there must be a lesson in all this, but I am not sure what it is. This spring I will try to limit my fantasies to something more practical, like growing the perfect vegetable garden. Maybe we’ll get the canoe out, motor, outrigger, and all, and take it out on the river. And come to think of it, I do have a friend that has a boat.

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