Boats I have known and loved: Game Trail Tioga by Chris Espenshade – The Wellsboro Gazette

boats-i-have-known-and-loved:-game-trail-tioga-by-chris-espenshade-–-the-wellsboro-gazette

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It is my contention that if you have lived your life well, you have owned many boats. By that measure, I have done OK. This topic is relevant today as I am giving away one of my boats and am in the process of building another.I will not go into the full details, but I never paid more than $250 for any boat, and most I bought for $100. I was given one, and I have given away three. I never bought new; scratches and dents do not affect how a boat paddles.So, in order – if my memory is working today – there was a Perception Quest kayak, an Oldtown 16.5 tandem canoe, a Dagger RPM kayak, a Whitesell solo canoe, a Perception Super Sport kayak and a Dagger Redline kayak that I converted to a C-1. I now have a Walmart special, sit-on-top kayak for lake paddling. Those are the boats I bought or was given.Now, let’s talk about building boats. I blame it on Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation), and his book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe.”For 3½ years, I was in Michigan while my family was in Corning. I had a lot of time on my hands, and I had been reading about the arts and crafts movement, so I decided to build a boat. I used the stitch-and-glue method, which does not require any fancy tools or refined expertise.I ended up with a 40-pound, one-person punt that I could easily load on my roof rack. It worked, as water stayed out where it was supposed to be. The boat served me well for duck-hunting and fishing, and it rows nicely for a little boat. If you get any decent fish on the line, you get a free tow.But now, I would like to have a craft that Linda and I can enjoy together, with the stability and safety to take cameras and binoculars and such with us. Maybe even Sid, our basset hound. Maybe.So, once again, I am building a boat. This will be more substantial, a 13-foot, three-seater. All the main elements are cut out and stitched together. I await the arrival of the resin and fiberglass tape, but I hope to have the boat completed this fall.And my one-man boat is on its way to the Shenandoah Valley. Friends have just purchased a retirement home with river and lake frontage, and I think that will be a good place for the boat to retire as well. Linda and I have our sit-on-tops, and the Perception Super Sport is still in the barn loft. We will soon launch (working title) Maid of the Muck.As I look back on this string of boats, I loved them all. Each and every one meant a relaxing time on lake, pond or whitewater.I never capsized and swam in whitewater because of a flaw in any boat. To be clear, I capsized and swam in whitewater a few times, but no boat was to blame.In closing this paddle down memory lane (badly mixing metaphors), let us remember the wisdom of “The Wind in the Willows”: “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” See you on the water.

An archaeologist, Chris Espenshade grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping in rural North Carolina. A resident of Wellsboro, he is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.
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