Part 1: Purchase
It started during 2011, when I found myself torn, on fine days, being sailing and walking for exercise. That summer and fall, sailing lost consistently, and it hurt. "Ah," I thought, "If I had a rowboat, I could be on the water AND get exercise!" When the glaciers retreated in the spring of 2012, I started looking into rowboats, specifically canoes that I could rig with forward facing oars. I had considered kayaks, ordinary paddled canoes, and traditional rowboats along the way, and had rejected them all for one reason or another.
This brings us to our first digression; there will be many. Remember that the journey is the worthier part.
I have never been able to make a canoe go in a straight line. I have never even been able to PARTICIPATE in making a canoe go in a straight line; a canoe in which I am a passenger will behave normally, but as soon as I pick up a paddle, whether as skipper or crew, the boat begins to weave drunkenly.
Kayaks are better, except that I am (or was, at last test) too fat for most of them, both by capacity and because my gut interferes with my ability to breathe in a typical kayak seat. My most successful kayak expedition involved sitting on the back of the seat well, with my legs tucked into the seat well tailor fashion. This worked pretty well, except for the fact that the water entering the kayak through the steering cable vents (which were submerged due to the horrible weight distribution of my makeshift seat) sank the kayak.
Traditional rowing (facing backward) just isn't any fun for me. I've tried it, I don't get along with it. Speaking as someone who has destroyed two different bicycles by ramming parked cars THAT I COULD SEE, my ability to collide with things in improbable circumstances is just too great. This is obviously a moral shortcoming on my part, but the fact remains: I simply do not enjoy going backward.
Homebuilt rowboats were also not an option. As much as I love the the homebuilt community, and as much as I am fascinated by the designs, that path is largely closed to me. Part of the problem is that I simply don't enjoy carpentry. A larger part of the problem is that, if I am going to do carpentry at all, there is a LONG list of home repair projects that I really should do FIRST, so boat building is a morally dubious exercise thereby. And finally, there is the fact that I need to do most, if not all, of my carpentry out of doors, which means that boat-building time conflicts directly with boat USING time, and the chance that building will win out on any given day is REALLY small.
So... A commercial canoe, and forward facing oars. I had already had a fair amount of experience with the forward facing oar rig made by Gig Harbor Boatworks; I had installed a set on my second-hand Michalak "Vector", the "Valkyrie", so that part of the set up was easy. Finding a suitable canoe, on the other hand, was trickier. My budget was limited, and I NEEDED a fat canoe to get a functional spread for the oars. I looked over what was available, and eventually bought a dark green "Rogue River 14TK" from BassPro.
Getting the boat home was interesting. The loading dock crew at BassPro felt that four guys was the appropriate crew to load the canoe on my car, which amused me, since I was planning to take it on and off solo. I paid for that brief grin, though; there was a moment a while later, when I was taking the canoe off the car, when I was standing next to the car with the full weight of the canoe on my right hand, overhead on my outstretched right arm. I suddenly realized that my brand new toy was seven feet above the pavement, and that I had no idea whatsoever what would happen when I bent my elbow. There was a time, certainly, when I could do a 65 pound one handed overhead press-- but that was 30 years ago. I hesitated for a stupidly long moment, and then went for it. Nothing, including me, broke. I bought some oars, some lumber, and spent some time fretting about drilling holes in my brand new toy.
End of Part One