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Alan Liere: Canoeing is a Devil Craft

Canoeing is the one warm-weather “outdoorsy” activity besides drowning I do not care for.

My aversion goes back to a solo float on Alaska Kenai Peninsula many years ago when I endeavored to paddle the Swan Lakes Canoe System. I was dropped off at a small lake far back in the bush and would proceed from there through several other small lakes before coming out on the Moose River, where I would end my adventure at a popular fishing lodge.

But three minutes in, I learned something very interesting about canoes – they won’t sink even when they tip over and fill up with water. Cameras and cooking utensils, food and fishing rods, on the other hand, do.

There was no turning back because my ride had left, so I righted the Devil Craft and forged ahead, “navigating” the leisurely three-day float in just over 24 hours of frenzied paddling and portaging.

During that time, I stopped only to right my capsized devil craft each time I moved too far to the left or right of its delicate, unforgiving point of balance. One would think that by the time I finally reached my destination I would have gained a measure of competence – one would have thought incorrectly.

I vowed to never sit in another canoe.

Despite this proclamation, 10 years later I actually purchased a canoe. I did this because I suffer from The “Depression Syndrome,” an affliction affecting millions of Americans who had parents who lived through the Great Depression. The primary symptom is an overpowering urge to acquire things on the cheap, even if you don’t want or need them.

What child of the Great Depression could turn down a $400 fiberglass canoe for only $50?

After purchasing the deceitful monster, I was more than happy to just let it sit. It looked pretty good there, turned upside down beside the garage – a suggestion of youth and robust athleticism – but my wife and daughters thought we should “get our money out of it.”

“Hey,” I protested each summer, “it was only 50 bucks! I get 50 bucks worth of enjoyment just throwing a rock at it now and then.”

I stayed out of that canoe for over 25 years, but my summers of bug spray abuse evidently destroyed some brain cell, and at the urging of my cousin, Judy, I committed to a trip on Winchester Wasteway near Moses Lake.

Judy assured me it was not only loaded with bass but easy to navigate. She was right about those parts, but she neglected to mention the deer flies. A timid, inexperienced canoeist cannot paddle a devil craft fast enough to stay in front of deer flies – they dined on all exposed body parts the entire way. Distracted by insects, I capsized twice and never got a line in the water.

Today, the green fiberglass canoe sits once again upside down beside my garage. But this time, I’m taking no chances. I’ve put it on Craigslist for $50. What water enthusiast can pass up a deal like that?

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