Itís my great pleasure to announce that I am still higher than the daisies are. In other words, over the weekend I launched my third-built boat and it was not fatal.
Yes, after a couple of months of toil and tribulations I launched my hybrid canoe/pirogue, hereafter referred to as the Pinou. It is 15-feet long and 35-inches wide with high sides. I built it mostly out of lumber I had lying around from other projects, so itís framed in, believe it or not, cypress, mahogany, fir and maple! It is plywood on the outside, painted a dark hunter green and has a black waterline. I made a seat of cypress slats in the rear. Remembering that I did all this by the seat of my pants and without a set of building plans, it is not exactly perfect, but then, neither am I. Close, but not quite.
A couple of people wanted to see me launch it, take some pictures, that sort of thing, and at first I was all for it. But as in the previous two launchings I performed, I chickened out. The first boat I built, a 12-foot bateau, I launched alone and the second boat, my 14-foot four-inch runabout, I had only two neighbors with me, one with a camera and another with a lifepreserver ring to throw in case things got nasty.
I had varnished the inside of the boat and it was dry enough, though I still need another coat Iíll apply later. Early Sunday morning, then, I got up and put the Pinou in the back of my truck and went down to the bayou behind my house. Clandestinely I made my approach, looking for neighbors or other onlookers. I donít quite know what I would have done if I had been seen.
"Hey," says the innocent bystander next door hosing off his patio concrete. "Whatcha got there, a pirogue?"
"No," I say quickly, looking shiftily from side to side. "Itís not! Itsís aÖaÖokay, yes itís a pirogue, sorta, what of it?"
"You going in the bayou with it?" asks the curious citizen.
"NO!" I shout. "Why the devil would I do something like that? No indeed! I justÖerÖuhmÖI like to carry it around in the back of the truck. ForÖuhmÖballast! Yeah, thatís it! Ballast!" I then punch the accelerator, spin tires in the wet grass and fly back to the house at about 60 mph.
But there was nobody outside, so I pulled up near the bayou and slid the Pinou out of the truck bed. I was happy with how well it slid effortlessly over the grass and I put it into the bayou aft first, leaving enough on the bank to keep it from drifting off. I put on my PFDÖpersonal flotation device, what, you think Iím nuts?Öand braced myself for liftoff. I looked up and down the bayou: No bassboats coming, no tug boats pushing barges, not even an errant crane looking for minnows. No more excuses. I looked inside the boat, it wasnít leaking. Well, no surprise there. My wooden boats do not leak, thank you very much, contrary to popular belief. Gingerly, I stepped in.
This wasnít too bad because the forward third of the boat was still on the shore, so she didnít wobble much. I moved on aft and, surprisingly, just the movement of my feet as I walked along the bottom caused the Pinou to shift back and forth. In other words, as I pushed off with my foot to take another step, I could feel the boat slide back behind me under my feet. It was only floating an inch and a half or so deep before I got into it.
Then I was seated and had my paddle and with a couple of strong strokes the boat slid off the bank and I was free.
First things first: I leaned left and learned quickly that I didnít want to do that very far, but it wasnít as bad as I thought it would be. I stood, and walked carefully from one end to the other and back, and I learned I didnít want to do that very much, but it was okay. That feeling of the bottom sliding away from me when I walk is still kinda unsettling, though. Sitting, the boat is very stable and so I started paddling.
I was most delighted. I donít know much about paddling canoes and pirogues, but I am learning. I paddled downstream a far piece then turned back around and came back up. This was much harder because not only was I going against the current but into a headwind, too. Once I stopped to inspect the hull for leaks again, the wind caught me and spun the little boat around like a carousel for a few minutes. Whew. Dizzy!
My neighbor has a dock next door, so I was ready for my next test: I pulled upside it, and with great care got out of the Pinou and then back in. It was mildly frightening, but not too bad. I paddled around another few minutes then disembarked and loaded it up and took it back to the house. I spent the afternoon installing a forward seat, satisfied that it is, in fact, a boat, not a barge.
I doubt Iíll build many more boats, if any. The price of materials has gotten pure-dee ridiculous. I may do a few more small boats over the course of my life, but I doubt now Iíll ever build that big sailboat or cruiser. This little project has been pretty fun, and Iíve got very little money tied up in it. Iím working on creating an even cheaper truck rack to carry it securely now.
This shall be a little fishing boat to reach some of those out-of-the-way spots that probably donít hold anymore fish than the places I normally go. The grass isnít the only thing thatís always greener, you see.
But of course, really, it doesnít matter. As in all things in this life of mine, the journey is most of the reward, and the destination is only a milepost for the next departure.