Paddle Me Canoe Edition


Every great expedition begins with a solid plan. Seen here is an artist’s conceptual drawing of everything we imagined. We were decidedly not on solid ground.

Sauvie Island by Canoe

A Year Ago

Have you ever wanted something? Which do you think is preferable? Achieving it or remaining an interminable infinite loop of denial?

One year ago we moved to the big city of Portland, Oregon. Soon after we stunned by the sheer number of outside things to do. Tucked away here and there amidst the urban sprawl were remarkable natural areas to explore. I no longer remember how but somehow we became fixated on the idea of getting a canoe.

Owning a canoe became a frequent topic of discussion during the next year. We imagined the places we would go. We envisioned it as easy and inexpensive way to enjoy our new home. Need something to do? Just throw the canoe on the car and hit one of the many interesting places: rivers, lakes, sloughs and more. Viola.

I’d been in a canoe one before, but that was at church camp like 30 summers ago. I didn’t recall any bad memories so it must have been easy and fun. Right?


We both got into it. Tirelessly we researched. What was involved in owning a canoe? How would it be secured to the roof rack of our Suburu Outback? What kind of canoe should we get? What type of materials should be used in its construction? How long should it be? What make? What model? What design?

We browsed some new canoes. Wow, look at those prices. 99% of our criteria just went out the window. Craigslist, eh? We set up some search alerts and watched and waited. There wasn’t much point: We didn’t have the money. But we did it anyway.

We checked our car for tie-down points. It had them. We researched ropes. I took measurements and made calculations. We developed, refined, tested and rejected innumerable theories.

In an affront to my testosterone levels, I even acquired a Craftsman toolbox and fill it will all conceivable canoe gear.

Cleverly, we waited until the sun was coming out so there would be intense competition for every canoe on Craigslist. Against all odds we met a nice kid and got what we wanted and at a fair price. Finally, things were going my way. I failed to recognize this as a warning sign.

Present Day

Our goal: Sauvie Island, the largest island on the mighty Columbia River and located only about 15 miles from downtown Portland, Oregon. To put things in perspective there’s one one national park in Oregon and that’s Crater Lake. It gets about 500,000 visitors per year. Sauvie Island, due to proximity to major city, gets about twice that amount. It’s a neat place and much of the island is devoted to wildlife refuge.

Located on the island is Sturgeon Lake which Wikipedia says “is particularly notable in that it is the largest lake on the largest fluvial island in the United States and occupies quite a large area of that island.”

We were heading to Steelman Lake, located on the northern part of the island, which connects to Surgeon Lake.

Canoe Day was a comedy of errors. They say be careful what you wish for? And that wanting is not always as enjoyable as having? (Yeah, I learned a lot from watching Star Trek, or, apparently, absolutely nothing.)

My back went out early in the morning, and that was during preparation before we even thought about putting the canoe on the rack of the car. 80 pounds doesn’t sound like so much, right? Maybe not except when formed into the shape of a canoe.

After a little trial and error, I told my wife, “If this thing starts to tip, there isn’t a thing I the world I can do to stop it.” My head will filled with visions of a canoe broken into two separate pieces before we even got to use it. Luckily that didn’t happen.

The site we picked was further from the water than we remembered. Luckily we had this set of wheels that was supposed to make the canoe easy to move around. Flaw: We didn’t know how to attach it. That’s information that could have been useful.

I called dibs on Captain. I told my wife that she was in steerage.

I helped my baby into the canoe and pushed us off. “Look at me,” I said. “I am the captain now.”

Perhaps it’s bad luck, but we still haven’t named her. Under consideration are: Annie’s Boobs, Abyssian, H.M.S. Pinafore, Reliant, Defiant, Lexington, and many many more.

Long story short, we had a good time out on the lake. It was a beautiful day and we were the only ones out there. Adventure is obviously in our blood. There are more stories but right now I’m tired and sore. So I’ll close with a few pictures from the day.

My entire life I’ve never been in a boat that I owned. I was always a passenger. This was the successful culmination of that dream. A real achievement during my lifetime. After we got back my wife asked what that was like. “Meh.”

4 responses

  1. Out of the mouth of “babes.”

    I’m impressed with your adventurous spirit. I didn’t think you had it in you.
    Keep on canoeing and you’ll soon have buns of steel.


    1. Ellen DeGeneres – “I really don’t think I need buns of steel. I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon.”


  2. Deborah the Closet Monster | Reply

    A and I have been very loosely considering a move to Portland . . . okay, well, him more loosely than I, now that my sisters are having kids and I feel the pull of local cousinhood for my kids. Seeing this pictures makes my urge all the stronger. I’d stick to your canoe stories, though!


    1. It would be awesome to have you guys here! The first raw kale salad is on me!


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