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The word ‘paddle’ will appear a whole lot in this exercise and while it will entice some to keep reading, others may develop paddle phobia and change to computer solitaire. That’s OK.

About 20 feet to my right, over the closet door, are two canoe paddles. One is ancient and split and from it I have made a clothing hanger using dowels glued into holes bored in the shaft. It is 54 inches long. Resting on the pegs above it is Santa’s largesse, a brand new shiny 7-degree bent implement, just waiting for the warm to be baptized in some lake or maybe the river. No, too new for the river.

I have been paddling canoes since about age 10 or eleven, when I started out in a buddy’s aluminum Grumman craft, fresh from the factory that no longer produced dive bombers after World War II. My friend lived on a lagoon of a tidal river in New Jersey and summer evenings we would paddle, sometimes fishing, sometimes just enjoying the journey to wherever.

Here in the Methow there is a fairly large contingent of paddlers. Over the years kayaks have become the dominant craft, but the canoers are a loyal bunch. There is an old saying that asks (perhaps as surrogates to wives) “How many canoes does someone need?” The answer being, “Just one more.” There are several people I know who subscribe to this. I have had as many as four at one time, and at least two Twispers exceed this at last count.

What I like to do when I get a canoe is personalize it. Ultimately they get sold because my “one more” is generally based on having the money to get a different boat. One tan fiberglass model was converted into a faux birchbark using building plans for a real bark canoe. Two have been painted a subtle camo. But my favorite endeavor has been to add a whimsical portrait to the bow on each side.

Assuming they are still in the valley, there is one featuring Bullwinkle on one side and Dudley Do Right on the other. If you don’t know who these characters are, go to the Solitaire right now. Another has Boris Badenuff and Natasha on either side. There was a third one: I painted a common loon on one side and a Pacific loon on the other.

Last fall I came across a real deal on a well-used aluminum canoe, just like the one I grew up with. It had little bend on one gunwale that was straightened, the flotation material was leaking from the bow and stern containment compartments so I sealed them. I bought posh kneeling mats and did some other minor stuff. Now I am agonizing over what to paint on the cutting edge, the bow.

There are many alternatives, but in the end I keep coming back to Curious George and The Man In The Yellow Hat. If you don’t know who these two are you may be excused. Curious George is a wonderful little monkey of many children’s books and on PBS Kids’ TV, one show I try not to miss. Aside from sports, that half hour is the only daytime television I watch.

For authenticity, I have been taking pictures of the TV screen looking for just the right expressions to copy on to the canoe. Yesterday I got the brilliant idea to look at the books and stopped at the library. I checked out one but feel the TV artwork is more to my liking. Still undecided for sure, but it looks like this duo will adorn my next paddling outing.

If you’re out in your canoe or kayak after the ice is gone, or aboard your yacht on Pearrygin Lake, and see George smiling at you from his waterline, do stop and share a banana with us. Assuming you have one aboard.


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Canoe withdrawal is one of the hardest, especially for those of us raised on annual Canadian canoe trips. Although I've resisted owning one, I'm still drawn to Canadian lodges that include them, such as Cathedral Lakes Lodge, in the provincial park adjacent our Pasayten.

Eric Burr
Mazama, WA