‘Boats is boats’

When Tez (the ed) first suggested I write something for Sitons, I couldn’t help spotting a slight paddle-craft misalignment. Even in thick mist and heavy rain (or British summer) my chosen vessel doesn’t look much like the ones usually found on its digital pages. More sit in, than sit on, and then there’s that funny unfinished paddle I use, the one with the missing blade. But then water is water and boats is boats, and given the chance to wax lyrical about my canoe, I couldn’t really turn down the opportunity.

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Loaded and ready to go – pic Tim Gent

Compared to the sit on kayak, the canoe is certainly an old boat form. As humankind worked slowly northwards at the end of the last glaciation, they probably set out over the cold flooded landscape in something canoeish. Nobody really knows how long ago someone in North America (or perhaps even Europe or Asia), first peeled a section of bark off a birch tree, looked at the nearest river, back at the bark, and…

Mind you, generations of North Americans wouldn’t have stuck with the canoe unless that basic design worked. Add a lightweight Kevlar hull, or something made from Royalex (or whatever is about to replace it), and the canoe of today has become very much a modern vessel (even if those of us using it might exhibit a slight preference for canvas bags and woolly jumpers). Importantly, during all its transitions, the canoe has managed to retain a vital quality. While moving into the space age, it hasn’t lose its own, its space that is. Canoes still have almost ridiculous amounts of cargo room.

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Wilderness home in Finalnd – pic Tim Gent

Self propelled exploration

Which is extremely good news for those of us keen to do a little self-propelled exploring. When Susannah and I head out along a river, lake or sheltered stretch of coast for a few days, we not only carry a tent, but one designed for seven. In colder weather we add a wood-burning stove, throwing in a bow saw and axe to help collect fuel. To cook we carry a frying pan, a kettle and three stainless saucepans – oh, and often a lidded cast-iron pot as well. When I admit that we even take pillows, two each, I can almost hear the accusations that this is hardly roughing it. All I can say is guilty as accused. The last thing I want is to spoil any time in the wild by being uncomfortable. With a canoe doing the donkey-work, it shouldn’t happen.

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Temporary Scottish home – pic Tim Gent

Breaking away from the bustling shore and the well-trodden path, we’re able to head for somewhere new, somewhere of our own. And once there, at the end of a thoroughly satisfying day of paddling adventure, we can pull ashore to spend the night – not just creating a camp, but a temporary wilderness home.

Sitons note

As Tim rightly states at the start of this article: ‘paddles is paddles and boats is boats’ – variety is the spice of life after all. Plenty of us participate in more than one activity and while sticking to your chosen is perfectly fine, skills, experiences, memories and sensations will only increase by opening our minds to alternatives.

There’s nothing wrong with trying a different craft the next time you’re off for a float – after all, just being ‘out there’ is what it’s really all about. You can learn a lot by switching things up and piloting alternative craft – it’s all good!

Tim writes for a number of outdoor magazines, including Canoe and Kayak UK and Bushcraft and Survival Skills. You can see where Tim has been, and what he’s been up to, on his Facebook page – Tim Gent

Featured Image: Adirondack Watershed Institute