I'm the April Fool -- I forgot all about it...


Will canoe, and have been canoed,
but here's a story:

WANDA, a 1917 Old Town Ideal.

WANDA is a dream. She's seems French built: she's bluff in the bows and a little broad in the beam. She's easy on the eye, she sweeps, she schoons, she sits easy on her lines. She looks a runner, her futtocks lay fair. When she rests upon the water, her chines make the water giggle and chirp with glee. The water reflects the Mona Lisa smile of her stems. In motion, the waves part before her and she glides like a queen.

WANDA is a sailor's dream. She fills her sail with joyful emotion. She dances to the sound of the wind. She tacks like an eel, reaches like an arrow and runs like she has cast off all the bounds of water and wind. To hold her tiller is to hold the hand of a sprite and be taken on a whirlwind tour of a water-sky wonderland.

WANDA is a paddler's dream. Solo or tandem, WANDA will be your canoe. Be you sitting or kneeling, she holds you comfortably. She was designed for royalty, mere wood and cane seem like velvet and down. When under paddle, your slightest indication of intent is immediately understood and obeyed -- she is the paddler's soul-mate. She tracks, she heels and turns, she senses the lean and thrust of her masters/partners/companions -- she is one with the water, with the paddle, with the paddler.

WANDA, however, is a ***** to lift. Placed on a scale alone by herself, at rest and untouched, she weighs a scant ninety pounds or so. Lifted by two canoeists, each will attest that they are carrying fifty to sixty pounds. In a display of paranormal physics, WANDA will actually double her weight when turned over. Lifted overhead, she transmogrifies white cedar into depleted uranium. Once lifted overhead, WANDA becomes magnetized. She is like a little black Scottie dog magnet. A little black Scottie dog with a single mission: find a little white Scottie dog and fall upon it with great force. Newer cars with canoe racks upon them will suffice for little white dogs. A terrible dent in the car's roof is a small price to pay for the joy of not having WANDA hovering over one's head like a 300lb rock.

WANDA is a ***** to bring in to shore. She doesn't want to stop her fun. A gently sloping beach becomes a bristling seawall when WANDA approaches. A pebbly shore becomes the roadbed of the Union Pacific, and concrete or stone piers assume Terminator attitudes. She finds the weed bed, the sand bar, and the submerged log, which will keep you six to eight feet from the landing. Horses not wanting riders will find trees and fences to rub off such annoyances. WANDA will do the same to stay on the water -- she'll beat her stems on boulders and rub her gunwales on rocks just to remain afloat. On the water, with untold fathoms beneath the keel, she maintains the stability of an ark. Nearing the shore -- where the water is waist deep -- WANDA will roll as quickly as the loosest bimbo on Thames Street.

WANDA is a perfect ***** to portage. Combine her propensity for weight gain and her tendency to be unkind when removed from the water and you will find that WANDA is the queen of portage hell. Her control of the realm of physics knows no bounds. She will accept a load of camping gear without the slightest complaint -- the first time. Remove the packs and baskets and try to replace them -- you will find huge rents in the weight/mass continuum -- no longer will weights balance each other or masses find their lowest centers. A spare paddle placed wrong will cause her to threaten capsize. Re-packing WANDA calls for caution and cajoling.

WANDA just doesn't want to be portaged. The Adirondacks Nine Carries Trail into Fish Pond is not for the faint of heart. A number of years ago some stout fellows attempted this journey -- foolishly they thought to bring WANDA along. The carry begins with a short paddle across Long Pond. The put-in is in a lovely part of the very scenic lake, the take-out for the first (and longest) portage to Fish Pond is hidden behind blow-downs and scrub brush, guarded by masses of black flies and mosquitoes, and is blessed with hip deep mud and ankle deep leeches. Just the environment to bring out the best in WANDA.

Somehow she had performed a loaves-and-fishes miracle on the gear. There were now enough packs, baskets, paddles, poles and other stuff for TWO gear portages beside the ONE canoe portage. We could almost hear her snicker as we unloaded and humped and unloaded and humped. And she snickered as we retrieved muddy shoes, and slapped flies, and removed leeches. The gear was out and moved a mile and a half -- now to begin the Queen's Ordeal.

WANDA became heavy. Carl Sagan, had he been there, would have compared her to the infinite mass at the center of a black hole. "Sheesh," he might have said, "this canoe weighs billions and billions of pounds." Lifting from the bow and stern, we found that WANDA had a great affinity for the mud, and although we were able to break the suction and get her out of the mire, she found a way to take a great quantity of mud along. This mud -- and its particular smell -- would be with us for days.

Out of the lake, headed for the height-of-land, WANDA began her own Carl Sagan impression by offering some scientific demonstrations. Time can be made to stand still, mass can overcome energy, location and certainty are only theory. The center thwart -- which used to be in the center of the canoe -- drifted forward and aft and the stems bounced as the canoe rocked on its new axis. The hull became a torus, or a Klein bottle -- one could place the overturned canoe on his shoulders and disappear completely into it. No one could see in, and no one could see out. Communication came to a halt. One came out from under the canoe years older.

The only creatures not effected by this warp in the time-space continuum were the black flies and mosquitoes. They seemed to thrive on it.

As the portaging WANDA approached trees and rocks, her influence on them varied with the square of the distance. Her propensity for a collision with a tree grew so quickly with the approach of the tree that it seems as though she was being attracted by some weird tree magnetism. Larger trees, of course, attracted larger collisions -- often the person carrying WANDA had to stagger five to ten feet off the path to effect the crash. Smaller trees and bushes however could only throw themselves into her path.

In a kind of weird Doppler Effect, WANDA was able to shift the elevation lines on the path the portage followed. The topographic details of the path were clear in our memory, but as the portage continued we found that the land we had just traveled was quite flat, while the path in front of us was packed with a bow wake of blue, twenty-foot elevation lines.
WANDA finally consented to completing the portage. We spent a few days together on Fish Pond, making friends with the beavers and the loons. WANDA was almost well behaved on the way out too. Having completed the Nine Carries, she seemed eager to get onto the Seven Carries Trail which would lead us to Paul Smiths.

WANDA is retired now. Her only outings are short sails about every week or so. She's happy to be strapped onto the two-wheel portage cart for the short walk to the lake. She seems to shake like a puppy to free herself from the cart straps when we get to the shore. Our sails are always calm and peaceful -- we don't invite the excitement of high winds or nasty weather.

There is still the reluctance to meet the dock when we return. And she can still have a tantrum about dropping a sail or shipping a leeboard.

The walk back home, with her on her comfortable wheels and me with my cigar, is a time for remembering our adventures together. ……We've sailed, we've paddled, and we’ve poled together. We've even been on some memorable portages too…… Jeez, WANDA, will you EVER stop snickering?