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Three Long Skinny Lake Boats

By John K. Hanson, Jr.

Spring has sprung, and I am on the lake as often as possible. I own a quiver of long skinny lake boats. Someone with only a passing interest in or knowledge of boats might think these boats are all the same. But they fulfill very different functions for me. 

There is the “tin canoe,” which is really a Grumman Sport Boat. A mid-1950s, heavy-duty aluminum canoe with a transom, it is rugged and for that reason is the first boat in after ice out and the last one out before winter sets in. It is also the perfect match for my 1957 Evinrude 3-hp Lightwin motor (which still starts on the third pull). At full throttle, the Grumman can plane, even with my stout self aboard.

A Kevlar Adirondack Guideboat, like those mentioned in the article on page 21, is my daily driver. Almost every morning, and also many evenings, I row it out to a nearby island and back. I love the way it moves through the water. When my wife, Polly, sometimes passes me in her lightweight rowing shell, I stand up and wave. She can’t do that in her tippy little racer. My Guideboat is stable, fast, and elegant.

The green wood/canvas canoe is the most beautiful of my trio. I don’t know who built it, although I’ve been told it has some of the same characteristics as canoes built by Chestnut Canoe of Fredericton, New Brunswick. I love the crosshatch pattern of the cedar ribs on cedar planking in the interior. While it is a wonderful paddling boat, I mostly use it as a sailboat. It is rigged with an American Canoe Association lateen rig and a leeboard, and it has no rudder. The boat keeps me endlessly entertained as I try to figure out how to sail by wind and balance alone. When I get that right, it is beautiful; when all goes wrong, I learn some humility.

Three long skinny boats, three hull materials, three purposes: power, row, and sail. There is no one perfect boat for me when I am messing around on the lake, and that’s just fine. After all, there is no such thing as too many boats. —JKH