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HomeNL-2016-04 Out with the old

Out with the old, In with the new
February, 2016
John Rich

The phrase "Out with the old, in with the new" is an old adage about letting go of the past, and moving on with something new. 
And in this case, that adage is being used because it finally came time for me to let go of my trusty old canoe...  It was an Old Town Discovery 15'8" made out of Royalex.  The outer layer had worn through to the middle layer at wear spots on the bottom of the bow and stern, and been patched several times. The outside plastic on the bottom had several large bubbles where it was delaminating from the middle layer.  The inside layer was brittle and cracking.  Half a dozen patches had already been made to the inside deck, and the plastic kept re-cracking around the patches.  I no longer trusted it for an expedition trip on a rocky river.  One good whack in the wrong place, and I feared the hull could be punctured.  So, it was time to replace that reliable old water horse.
I had purchased that boat, used, from Louis Aulbach's sister, Lauretta, for $500.  The total age of that canoe is about 16 years, of which I have used it for about 10, so the cost averaged out for me to just $50 per year.  But the amount of adventure I've had with it, the sights I've seen, the places it has taken me, and the friends I've made along the way: priceless!  It has been the recreational bargain of a lifetime.  I started out with it keeping a log of all my paddling trips and miles, but quit doing that after 6 years.  During those first 6 years, my log shows I paddled 1,300 miles in that canoe.  I'm sure I've got close to 1,700 miles total on it, and many of those were really hard miles, like dragging it fully loaded across limestone in shallow water on the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers. 
So it was time for it to go out with the old.  I listed it on Craigslist for just $40, along with a list of all of its flaws, and had an avalanche of interested calls.  As is, first come, cash only.  The man who showed up first had sons in the Boy Scouts, who would be using it on a lake.  Perfect!  That old boat still has life in it for flat water.  And introducing new kids to canoeing and the outdoors, is a satisfying continuation of service.
So, what next?  I looked around at other makes and models.  I checked specifications; length, weight, capacity, composition, and so on.  And it came down to another old adage: "don't mess with success".  I decided to purchase another Old Town Discovery 15'8".  It's been quite a flexible platform for me.  It can be paddled tandem, or turned around backwards and paddled solo.  It has a high weight-bearing capacity for expedition trips, to carry lots of food and camping gear.  The new three layer polyethylene construction is still reputed to be super tough.  Yeah, it weighs 80 pounds, but so do a lot of canoes and kayaks.  And I don't feel the thin lightweight kevlar or fiberglass boats can withstand the rigors of rivers like the Rio Grande or Pecos.  If you have room for only one boat, this one is quite versatile, and can serve many roles.
The only task now was to find a retail store that could sell me one.  
Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK) didn't stock it, but could special order it, at list price of $1,000.  
Academy Sports has it listed online for $700.  That's quite a discount!  However, when you investigate that option, you find out that they don't have it in stock in any store in the Houston area.  They can't tell you when they might be ordering one.  And they won't special order it for you.  So my question to them was; "Why do you list something in your catalog that you don't have, can't say if you'll ever get, and won't order?"  They didn't like that question.  Beware of this tactic from Academy...
How about Bass Pro Shops?  They stock only the Old Town Saranac, not the Discovery.  And they won't special order it.  Gosh, here I am in the 4th largest city in America, with some of the largest and best known outdoor chain stores in the country, with vast resources and customer service promises, and yet I can't seem to buy a darned canoe!
Next up was Gander Mountain.  They don't stock it, but it's in their catalog for $1,000, just like ACK.  But, unlike the other chain stores, they were actually willing to special order it for me.  And since they were located just 10 minutes from where I work, that sealed the deal.  When it was delivered to the store, I could pick it up on my way home from work.  Since the price was the same between ACK and Gander, I wanted to support ACK as the local store which specializes in providing for our sport.  However, in the end, all other things being equal, it was the convenience of location which took me to Gander.
Academy Sports
Not available!
Gander Mountain
Special order
A week later, my shiny new red Old Town Discovery 158 was in the Gander Mountain store waiting for me.  I got a kick out of all the young sales clerks.  One told me on the phone "This thing is huge!  It must be 20 feet long!  Bring a trailer!"  Upon arrival for pick-up, a crowd of Gander employees gathered around out back by the loading dock to watch me peel off the cardboard and bubble wrap to inspect it, as if they had never seen a real canoe before.  I wondered who was minding the store inside.  When I mentioned week-long expedition trips living out of the canoe, they oohed and aahed with great appreciation.
I spent several evenings with the new boat at home getting it rigged the way I want it.  Bow and stern lines, with bungee line holders to keep those painters neatly stowed.  Gear tie down loops on the gunwales.  Padded knee cushions on the deck.  And a thick padded seat for my thick padded derriere.
Painter & stow    Tie-downs    Knee pads    Seat pad 
And then it was ready for its maiden voyage.  I took it out on the Brazos River for a short paddle upstream to Allen's Creek.  It was short in mileage, but the water was flowing pretty quick, so it was a lot of paddling to cover that distance against the flow.  The handling was just like the old boat, with both single blade and double blade paddles.  No surprises there.  See the separate story in this month's newsletter for that trip report.  The new boat has now been christened with mud, dragged over logs and up and down a hill, and its gleaming, smooth surface is already scratched.  All I need to do now is to whack it against some rocks in a rapid to complete a proper break-in.
In with the New 
I'm sure that this new canoe will serve me as well as the old, providing continued adventure, sight-seeing and friends.  And I'm looking forward to it!

The author, John Rich, in
Judge Roy Bean's saloon.