As much as my wife and I have always wanted a boat, we’ve never been fortunate enough to own one. It’s not because we can’t afford one, it’s because we really can’t afford one. Actually, I take that back. There are a number of boats in our price range. We’re probably just a little too picky.
For starters, we prefer that our boats don’t have gaping holes in them. Call us spoiled but we’ve become accustomed to cruising the lake above the water. The last thing we want is a “project boat”. Especially with my brief history as a somewhat-handyman. Working some putty into a door jamb carries far less pressure considering there’s no threat of my house sinking should I apply it wrong.
While some of the pre-owned boats listed as being in “great condition” were tempting (we’ve since learned that “great condition” is boater-speak for “still floats”), we were advised to approach a used boat purchase like you would a rabid cobra. You don’t.
Ask around and anyone not trying to sell you a used boat will tell you that the word “Boat” is actually an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand.
Having already been through this cycle with our minivan, I’d rather wait until we can afford to buy new. This way, we can enjoy a few blissful months of worry-free boating before the vessel instinctively begins to suckle on our wallets.
In lieu of a boat, my wife is trying to talk me into buying a canoe (an American Indian word meaning “capsized”) or a kayak (an Eskimo word meaning “capsized”), but I need a boat with some power behind it. Otherwise, it’s not a relaxing or fun excursion, it’s just work.
In my opinion, the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B, or, if boating, from Point A back to Point A, is with an engine. I’ll paddle if my life depends on it (in most cases), but I don’t like paddling for recreation. Whether it be a canoe, a kayak, or a rowboat.
Especially a rowboat.
Sure, taking the kids out on a rowboat sounds like a lot of fun, but just wait until you find yourself in the middle of the lake surrounded by a crew of feeble-armed children with bladders the size of chickpeas screaming that you row faster…faster…FASTER to get them back to shore.
If you’ve never rented a rowboat, let me set the scene for you.
Rowboats spend their days absorbing the full brunt of the sun’s energy until they’re essentially floating griddles. Once the metallic seats are hot enough to fuse skin and aluminum, the boat will be available for rent. You’ll be handed a few bright orange square life vests that are fashioned from 1960’s patio cushions. Intentionally designed to throttle one’s neck, don’t be alarmed if your children complain that they can’t turn their head, raise their arms, or swallow. Explain that it’s a life saving device, not a comfort pillow.
Most children will reserve their complaints and whining until the boat is untied from the dock. From there, one child will be too hot. The other, too cold. One child’s life preserver will be too tight. The other, too loose. One will be hungry, but only for the sandwiches left behind. The other, thirsty for anything not in the cooler. For one child, it’s too scary. For the other, not nearly thrilling enough to maintain interest. Both will want to go home far too early, yet they’ll tell you this far too late. And neither child will be deserving of a ride home, yet our laws demand that you provide one.
I can attest from experience that your patience will never be tested more in life than when you’re struggling to keep the oars in the rickety dismantled oar holder things while your kids are demanding to see a thrashing bubbling wake from behind the bloated aluminum fortress you’re trying to navigate.
Rowboats are fun for about six seconds. After that, the kids want to ride a tube behind it, they want to see fish, they want you to go faster, faster, FASTER! Try as you may, rowboats have a top speed of roughly 1.6 MPH. Assuming you’re rowing downhill. They are twice as heavy as a river barge yet provide half the navigability.
And if you lose an oar? You may as well determine which child to eat first, because unless the lake has a current, you aren’t going anywhere. If you thought you couldn’t make progress with two oars, try getting around with just one. Should this happen, be prepared to summon the strength of Hercules before canoe-paddling the medieval vessel back to the docks. Forget the oar. It won’t be recovered. Just let it go. Half the cabins you see on America’s lakes were built with abandoned oars.
Rowboats exist for one reason and one reason only…to be used as a last resort refuge when the boat you’re supposed to be on is sinking. Even then, you’ll find yourself debating whether or not to float it out or climb aboard. Especially if you think you’ll be expected to row. Don’t let the history books fool you. There were plenty of rowboats on the Titanic. There just weren’t enough willing passengers.
Every time I see someone rowing a bunch of children around on purpose, I know two things:
One, it’s their first time. And two, it’s their last.