Thursday, August 29, 2013


I like to think that boats, like people, have potential. When I look at a new touring kayak I think about the possibilities for a boat like that. Maybe it will do a lot of weekend trips, maybe a week. Maybe it will introduce someone to the joy of backpacking without having to put a pack on - and enjoying better food! In the town I live there is a very old Perception Sealoution that I always see on its owners truck. I wonder what amazing adventures it has been on. I think all boats start out with this potential. Potential to do great things and go on amazing trips. But also like people, some boats never get a chance. This is the story of such a boat.

My back yard is a repository for kayaks. For clarity, I should point out that I have only owned one kayak since I got my Delta, but despite this, there are many boats in my back yard. As I was talking with a group of friends about 'the boat yard' one of them said "Hey, your back yard called. It said no more boats please!" Currently there are four, but there have been times when as many as 8 different boats will take up residence. Usually a friend will buy a boat with no place to store it, and it will turn up on the rack I built. Some stay for months. Others, for years. A boat arrived about a month before I left to paddle the Inside Passage.

It was a Delta 15.5 expedition, that had been damaged in shipping. Not the kind of damage that occurs when you drop a boat, for I have dropped my Delta more than once with no damage, but the kind of damage that a shipper creates when they don't know better. The kind of damage done with a fork lift, momentum, and a lot of weight. Jagged cracks that ran down the side, and then angled sharply across the deck. So the boat was acquired cheaply, was deposited in the yard, and left. Unfortunately her owner got busy. Too busy to get her a cockpit cover, or even seal the neoprene under the hatches. By the time I realized that she was vulnerable she was full of water, leaves, bugs and a birds nest. The water over the winter must have at some point frozen in such a way to do more damage. One of the rails that holds the seat in place got popped off the hull. As did one of the tracks for the rudder pedals. At this point, what potential she had for greatness was gone. Like a beautiful person, early in her life she had acquired a set of bad scars. Then she was picked up cheaply and dropped at a halfway house. Where her damage was allowed to get worse. She spent two sad years like that in my yard. Occasionally I would empty water out of her, but that was about all I did. Then about six weeks ago I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to see if she could be returned to her former glory.

I did a fair amount of research - I will do a separate post about the process - and learned a lot as I went along. The structural repairs were completed yesterday, and today I decided she needed a little primping. I spent over an hour cleaning and scrubbing her. I worked solely on the deck, hull and cockpit. The dry storage will still need to be done. Now she glistens like the beauty she was, though she still carries the scars from her previous life. I am good at repairs, but not good at making them pretty. Because of my inadequacies she will carry these scars always. Though underneath, she is as strong as any boat - I hope. I think I have returned her to some level of normalcy. Not only does she once again have the great potential to do amazing things, She will do amazing things. Next summer she will be paddled in Alaska, as we gaze at glaciers, ironically, comparing them to their faded glory. She will do what she was designed to do, and she will give a young woman - also filled with potential, who wanted to do the trip but couldn't afford a boat - an opportunity that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

I like to think of scars as a road map. Here are the things I have done, and the mistakes I have made. This beautiful yellow boat did nothing wrong, but was for all practical purposes cut down, before her prime even got a chance. Now she has one. Next summer you will all get to see that despite rocky starts, and bad scars we are all capable of great things.

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