The Red Canoe

As retirees keeping ourselves busy, my husband and I bought an old fixer-upper house on a gorgeous 1 acre lot in Prescott, Arizona one Fall,  winterized it, locked the door and headed for Guadalajara, Mexico with our R.V.  After several months we began to get a bit antsy about our purchase  and returned to Arizona a little too soon;   as in finding snow still on the ground.  We decided it would be prudent to wait until warmer weather to begin our remodeling project, so there we sat, waiting for Spring and beginning to get bored.

Two of our close friends were snugged into a neat little A-Frame just a few blocks away and cabin fever was bothering them, too.  My husband spent hours leafing through his yachting magazines and spotted an ad for a FOLBOT canoe kit, lightweight and easy to assemble, offering hours of pleasurable outings.  His clinching argument was how easy it would be to explore the nearby lakes and rivers.  (This is central Arizona, by the way, 5400 foot elevation,  but what the heck.)  We were all bored to tears by now and our friends were eager to help assemble the canoe in return for sharing the fun trips.

Our kit arrived in good time, and since we’d already torn out the old living room carpet in preparation for remodeling, it seemed like the perfect place to put together our new canoe.  Two sawhorses were set up end to end among the chairs, and there was still plenty of clearance to work.  The big selling point in the sales pitch had been the fact that a troop of Girl Scouts had assembled a kit just like ours in a very few days.

Big deal!  Here we have 4 adults, all experienced to some  degree at using tools and doing remodeling. The guys had built several small boats  –  what a breeze!  We were good!

The lightweight frame went together quickly and looked pretty spiffy sitting on its sawhorses in the middle of our living room waiting for its  “skin.”  It waited and waited  There’s always a catch to everything and we ran into this one head-on. The  “skin” or actual covering was made of brilliant, shiny red NAUGAHYDE, all pieces cut to size and shape; and with that troop of Girl Scouts looking over our shoulders, so to speak,  we got into the fine print.

Each piece of that lovely red NAUGAHYDE had a mirror twin and the idea was to face two corresponding pieces together, glue carefully and  “massage”  (their word, not ours) until all air bubbles were worked out and we had a perfectly smooth interior and exterior piece ready to be fastened to the framework.   So we massaged and massaged – for days we massaged, taking the name of those blankety-blank Girl Scouts in vain,  day after day after day. Surely assembling that beautiful red canoe,  massaging that NAUGAHYDE  was the most tedious job any of us had ever gotten into. I began to question whether that troop of Girl Scouts had ever even existed outside of an ad agency.

But finally, at long, long last  we had a canoe.  The finishing touches went fast, the paddles were varnished and we were ready to launch.  We were living a mere 200 miles from the Colorado River so our plan was to load our new vessel on top of our old International Travelall the night before, then at the crack o’ dawn we’d grab the thermoses and a packed lunch and head downhill.

This all went as planned.  Since the canoe only held 2 people at a time, my friend and I dropped off the canoe, the 2 adventurers, one of the thermoses and some snacks, waved Bon Voyage  and watched them set off downstream.  There was no christening ceremony; even a bottle of root beer would have collapsed the bow of that light boat.  My friend and I jumped in the car, spent some time slowly sightseeing along the river, checking out the tourist traps until we finally arrived at the designated meeting place.  No canoe was in sight.  Time passed, more time passed, still no red canoe in sight.

We ate the picnic food, bought more, nibbled on that, and continued what was by now a rather anxious wait.  Had we not massaged enough on any part of the skin?  Did they capsize?  Get run over by a ski-boat?  Our questions piled up until at long last they came into view, the red canoe bright and jaunty in the sun as it appeared around the bend.

Never were seen 2 more dejected, disappointed, disgruntled  sailors, faces as shiny red as the canoe.  What had happened?  What  went wrong? There was no real answer.  “It just wasn’t any fun”  seemed to be the extent of their explanation.   I think the routine of paddling an oar mile after mile while ski-boats whizzed by couldn’t begin to compare to the excitement our usual form of recreation, raising and lowering sails with every wind shift, skimming the waves and feeling at one with the water in a small sailboat.

Poor little FOLBOT, it did its part, helping us through some long boring weeks. It never even got a name.  It was the last boat we ever owned and I hope someone learned to love it. By now Spring had come and we got busy with our remodeling,  with no “massaging” involved anywhere.  Let the Girl Scouts assemble all the canoe kits they wanted to, we were done.

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