When I was young my father used to take us on canoe trips on the Namekagon river. We went with the Boy Scouts, we went with friends, we even went with some teachers from my school! I don't know how many times I went down that river, but I have a lot of fond memories. When he died there was talk of his ashes going in the river, but it was decided that some seedlings from the memorial tree we planted for him would be a better contribution to the area.
Many years later I have taken my family down the Namekagon on day canoeing outings. Rather, my wife motivated us all to go. I was so happy that she shared our love for that river! While the stretches we've come to know are up a bit upstream from where the canoe trips were, it's absolutely the same river. Winding, narrow with lots of sand bars and a seclusion that makes you feel like you really are out in the "the wild and the wooly" as my dad used to say.
So when I built the boat I did so with the Namekagon in mind. When I tell people it's a minimalist river cruiser I always add "think canoe trips without the tent!" Launching the boat on the river was very exciting and I was thrilled, to say the least. Launching on a river was a new experience, but lessons were learned pretty quickly. It was also one of the first launches with the newly refitted trailer. I could walk out on the skids and she slid right in easy as can be. I hopped in and ran the electric motor to get her out into the river so I could start the outboard motor in deeper water.
The motor fired up quite nicely (once I opened the fuel valve) and I headed up river. Jill took the kids and the car/trailer to the other end and got a ride back up with the canoe outfitter and a rental canoe. Meanwhile, I headed upriver. The new motor took me against the current nicely, but not really "fast" by any stretch of the imagination. And it was loud. I was used to the electric, so blowing upriver with the outboard running seemed sacrilegious.
I turned around and headed back down to the launchpoint just as Jill and the kids were re-arriving. I pulled the outboard and went on electric for the rest of the trip. It was all I needed to keep my direction and keep up with the canoe. I was able to pass them and move ahead, but kept them in front of me as much as possible. I didn't want to be fighting a current sideways and worry about them coming up on me from astern.
It was a lovely trip, and waters were high enough that I grounded out only once and not even very much. An oar pushed me over the sandbar. The "rapids" we did see were minor and easily handled. I was happy to know she could make it through a bit of bubbly water, though I did ride one rock all the way down her and waited to see if it would take out her transom. It didn't. Didn't even scratch up the hull, just the skegs a little.
We stopped for a picnic lunch on a sandbar and I channeled my father by scrutinizing the maps. Eli wasn't feeling well, so he transferred into the After You for the last half of the trip.
As it happens, he also became the first person to sleep aboard the After You while underway. I had a nap in it on the trailer once, but that's another story.
Taking her out was fairly easy, attracted the usual "old man" come to look at the boat. It did rain for a bit while Jill brought the car to the landing, but Eli slept through it and I enjoyed being out in the rain -- with no serious clouds in sight!
Notes for future trips:
- Downstream only, like the canoes do. No need to prove anything anymore
- A little higher water level would be ok, but it was doable.
- Less rocks, more width. The Saint Croix past Riverside landing, maybe
- Next time: Camping in the boat!