Old Boats


   Pearce Ferry, the end of the motor season. We’re de-rigging a large dory trip while a motor boatman sits and watches in quiet amusement.

   We pull the Tuolumne, one of our old aluminum dories, out of the water. Admittedly, it has looked better. Years of use and countless encounters with rocks give it a weary appearance. Recent insults, (a couple of loud BONGS in Lava and Crystal), have added new wrinkles that make it look older, although perhaps not wiser.

   To us, it’s an old boat with character and history. Each dent has a story. Kenton rowed it a while; so did Cooper. And Boudreaux. The gunwales, shaped a bit like lasagna noodles, left their imprint on my hind end as I sailed out of it in Crystal once. Free of me, the boat moved obediently down the right side, hitting every wave straight as I paddled along behind. My first trip in—and out of—a dory. I feel very close to the old boat.

   But the onlooker does not see the history, only flaking paint and Bondo pasted around some dents. He wryly asks, “Do your boats look like that after every trip?” We try to explain that it’s a cumulative effort, having taken years to achieve this effect. He takes it all in, looks the boat up and down, and dryly says, “No wonder they won’t give you guys motors.”

Jeri Ledbetter