Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Ship Comes In

Words by Greg
Photos by Greg and Trina

A package arrived this week via Mike who got it from a guy in CA who decided he didn't want it after he got it from RD who had it stuffed away for years after pummeling it hard in the wilds of Alaska. (I think it is this raft that features prominently in his book.)

I always knew my ship would come in someday. And I've often suspected it would be out-of-date, heavily used, highly worn, and barely floating. I also suspected that none of this would bother me too much. Hey, a ship is a ship. Right? My ship.

It's a classic Sherpa packraft and came with a small pile of accessories. A lightweight flatwater paddle. A non-functional inflation bag. Spare air plugs. A brand new dry bag. A care-worn life jacket. And two oddly shaped inflatable brown something-or-others that I finally realized were pieces of an old air mattress, and which I believe are to be used as patching fabric.

It also came with numerous patched holes, fixed gashes, and repaired abrasions, as well as several more opportunities to use the (supplied) patching fabric.

For a guy who floats pretty low in the waters of life, these inherent liabilities are not particularly disconcerting. A raft that nearly holds air can probably be fixed until it does hold air. A raft that has a place in the annals of packrafting history would certainly be buoyed by more than mere air anyway. Wouldn't the stories of where it's been, who's used it, and how it has been bequeathed with so many scars and dings be enough to carry me safely across a substance as plebeian as water?

One way to find out.

We headed for a collection of local ponds. Trina and Mike were in Mike's two latest-greatest-pinnacle-of-packrafting technology boats. I left shore in my leaking piece of history, two dogs crowded onto the bow. Trina and Mike paddled away, high and proud. I wallowed behind, happily paddling from the depths of my limp boat, leaning over the tubes now and then to huff more air through the valves and into the bubbling fabric.

I made it to the first portage with no particular problems. (Though Zeek the Jack Russell, who usually won't get into water unprompted, jumped into the pond and swam to shore. I tried not to take it personally.) When we got to the next pond, I topped off my boat and then dropped it at the water's edge. Unfortunately there was a stick poking up at the water's edge. And unfortunately that stick poked right through the fabric of my historic raft. A very large stream of bubbles issued from the hole and half the raft deflated. I decided it would be best if I did not get back in the raft at that time.

I spent the next part of the the evening walking the dogs along the nearby bike path. Then I paddled Trina's boat with the dogs as she swam along in the water. My own raft was was put to use by draping it over the bow of Trina's boat to help protect the newer boat from dog claws -- essentially a tarp, if you want to be cruel about it.

I still have a dream. I dream of packing the little raft on my bike and heading off into the wild world. I dream of riding long days in beautiful places. I dream that my ride will lead me to the edge of a river. There, I will not be stopped. I will load my bike onto the raft and float across the water, moving from one beautiful place to another. I dream of riding for days and days where water cannot stop me.

My dream remains afloat. But until I get some glue, my raft, my ship, does not.


  1. The final picture, with Zeek and Sprocket so happy and ready for an adventure, has to be one of the cutest dog pictures ever.

  2. MSL: They do seem to like boating! And yes, thank you for noticing how cute the dogs are. We have come to think of our dogs as the cutest dogs in the whole wide world. But we thought maybe we were just biased. Good to have confirmation. Even if that's not exactly what you said.

  3. Boy Greg, that made me happy to see such a fitting end for that ole boat. Glad to be the source of such good blogging material!

  4. Roman:
    Fitting end? END? I hope not. I'm planning to finish fixing it up, do some bikerafting, then sell it back to you for display in your forthcoming International History of Packrafting Museum and Theme Park™.

  5. Just wanted to give you an attaboy of sorts--by concurring that you do indeed float pretty low in the waters of life.

    Hey--somebody's gotta do it...

  6. Ahh good! An unspoken but super-important skill in butt-boating is repair and resurrection.

    Gotta say that this post was as funny as watching MC try and throw his ton of bike in the f-sticks.