Just as you can age a tree by the rings in its trunk, I am pretty sure you can age an outdoorsman by the weight of the canoe he carries. And, frankly, it is a lot less messy.
When I was in my teens, I bought a 67-pound, 16-foot fibreglass canoe. I paddled that thing through every marsh and dragged it over every beaver dam I knew during the duck season without any issues. That was the right canoe for me back then – it was inexpensive.
About 15 years later, after I literally wore that canoe out, I bought a 17-foot Coleman canoe that weighs 90 pounds. Portaging this is the main reason I am 5-foot-3.
Back then, the weight wasn’t much of an issue, as I was in my early 30s and as fit and strong as I was ever going to be. Plus, I had two young kids at the time, and I thought that this canoe would be the perfect vessel for paddling and fishing trips. I have fond memories of that canoe. My back does not.
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I still own it, as it apparently can only be destroyed by large doses of Kryptonite. But these days I keep it permanently parked at a friend’s property on a riverbank where we still use it to hunt ducks and pull muscles we never knew existed. Between the two of us we can carry it just fine. But we are much older and wiser, so we do not.
As much as I hate to admit it, my days of solo carrying that canoe for any amount of time are over. It’s not that I can’t lift it up over my head. It’s more like putting it down is no longer a predictable event. And I don’t want to be found looking like the Wicked Witch of the East after Dorothy’s house landed on her. That’s not a good look for an outdoorsman.
That is why, when I hit 59, I bought a used 14-foot fibreglass canoe that weighs somewhere around 60 pounds. It’s perfect for solo fishing or hunting as it is still easy enough to load and unload off the top of my vehicle. The only issue is that it is a little small for two. And, by two, I mean me and a duck.
This year though, I will be buying a bigger, more age-appropriate canoe. The canoe I have in mind is a 16-foot Kevlar-carbon fusion canoe that weighs 34 or so pounds – approximately the same weight as the wad of bills required for its purchase.
But to me it will be worth it. This is the canoe that I hope will carry me through my 60s or rather the one that I will carry through my 60s. And I will recoup all that money in reduced vehicle roof repair costs and chiropractic treatments. Plus, if I am going to have to sit at any boat launch in a canoe until the blood starts to re-circulate in my legs again, I want it to be one that looks good.
As much as I am loving the idea of a canoe that light, I am also reasonably certain it will not be my last or even lightest canoe. You see, I have a buddy who makes them even lighter than that, out of ballistic nylon. They are so light that I am pretty sure they carry themselves. Which is good because my paddles seem to have gotten heavier…