Please gather around the fire and listen to my pitiful tale . . . .

A great beginning if I had a story to go with it. By now almost everyone within 3500 miles of Wisconsin knows my boat is waiting patiently to be repaired. I really need a garage, but while I’m dreaming I could use a house within a couple miles of a coastline as well. So fate being what it is I have no choice but to be patient. I certainly understand the trials of the poor guy who is backed up at least until the great George Bush moon landing. But I still really miss my baby. The hope is it comes home this month.

My old blue Nigel Dennis Explorer is just under 18ft long and about as heavy as fully laden Mississippi river barge. (Not to be confused with a coconut-laden swallow) The fact that I am a gear hound does not help matters any. But I really appreciate the old axiom (cliché?) that says “ I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” In some parts of life that’s just a justification for collecting crap, but in sea kayaking this is a given. So I have lots of gear and a damn heavy boat.

My Explorer is the robin’s egg blue model that is common as mud. I really did’nt like blue, but I always knew I wanted an Explorer. I had read everything I could get my hands on there was no doubt in my mind that if I got an Explorer I would never need another boat. I also knew that whatever went wrong in that boat would be MY fault. There is just no faulting the boat. So it would teach me to paddle it correctly in time. The only problem was I couldn’t afford one.

Luckily someone else traded it for a new boat and there it sat at the local paddle shop covered in snow. I practically mortgaged my dog to get up the $1400.00. In fact the day I went to see it my chest locked up so bad thinking of the cash I was going to layout that we left without buying it. Then about 2 miles in the direction of home my wife and I pulled into a parking lot while she encouraged me and I swum in the guilt of the purchase. In the end we turned around and went back. Many of you know how you try to keep your bursting excitement contained when you finally get your big toy. I think I did a good job looking like I do this every day. We got it loaded and I hardly considered it all the way home. I could not let go of the expense. It’s like having Indiana Jones’s dad in your head saying “Look What You Just Did!, I Can’t Believe What You Just Did!: Then I planted it in the yard and comatosely stared at it for days as it rested in the brown grass. After that, it has hardly spent a night outdoors when it was not on a beach. Not only is it a beautiful boat, but I can’t imagine it in any other color. . .

The first time I took the warhorse out it was skittish like a horse with a first time rider. I was sure I was going to swim in the just thawed waters of Devil’s Lake. Somehow though we stayed upright. My boat kept me up even if I didn’t have a clue. From that day on I knew I was in good hands. I just needed to learn to be equal to my steed. Something I am still trying to do today. I think it may take a lifetime.

In December of ’04 I was involved in a rescue on Lake Michigan. The interesting part of the day was how conditions got worse as you passed through the surf zone. You would expect it to settle down out past the breakers but that is not always the case. I was so locked in the task at hand that I really had little time to think about boat handling. The fact that I came back in one piece is a testament to my Explorer. In many ways I had no business in the situation I was in, but often situations do not wait for your perfect moment. Sometime I hope to post a detailed report but today I am only thinking of how I with only meager skills, was able to quickly lean and turn myself round in the nasty conditions that day. My explorer allowed me to never fear my inabilities. I did not consciously make any effort to lean into the big, fast, sloppy waves coming in from the northeast. I was too busy. The warhorse stood solid while I took care of what I could do and never asked me to do anything to care for it and in the process it took care of me.

When I took her/him.. ( I have never made a gender assessment of my boat) down to be repaired I realized I only wanted the necessary repairs done. Fix the bone, but leave the scar so to speak. The big gouge in the rear deck gel coat would be remain as a reminder that it took the hits for me and how it kept me alive on that day. They also remind me why I have to keep working to earn “the boat”. I know that it’s of a rare bloodline and deserving of a skilled rider. I can’t be sure I will ever get to that point, but every time I see that beat up old boat I will be reminded why I want to keep trying. . . Thank you, Nigel wherever you are . . . . .

Man, I sure do miss my boat!

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