Part One: I learn how to look like a moron.
It all started with a realization, or at the least a day dream. I had grown to accept, that I was going to need a boat sooner or later, and after a substantial amount was saved up, I pulled the trigger. It was a funny year and a half of researching that lead up to the final choice. In the beginning, I really wanted a one man pontoon boat. In design, it looked like just the ticket for carrying my cat fishing gear, keep me dry, and have the option of mounting a motor.
As time wore on, and I continued, my mind started to develop a mindset towards owning all kinds of small fishing boats, from jon boats, kayaks, and even a stand up paddle board at one point. The problem with being an apartment dweller is that you are dealing with a small space, and more often than not, stairs. Not to mention, I didn't want to go to the parking lot one day, take the cover off, and find that a crack head had decided to make my boat their new home. The most logical of choices would be a float tube, but I didn't dig on the lack of options I had with it, as well as picturing some drunken asshole at Pueblo Reservoir running me over. Having a twelve foot kayak in my living room would result in a lot of lost space, and a stand up paddle board would make me fill too much like some stoned hippy at Huntington Beach. So, after starring at the same damn boat on my screen, the one I had wanted for as long as I could remember going back a year, I clicked “submit purchase”.
I had just become the new owner of a Colorado XT.
* * * *
It was Quail Lake, a little past ten in the morning. I had just put this large damn thing together on the shore, and was going through my head; double checking to make sure I had everything. It had been a month or two, that I had spent ordering all of the necessary gear for my boat, for this one moment. No longer was I going to play Quint in my living room, rum in hand, in my boxers, lookin’ for Jaws. It was go time, it was now or never. I noticed a kid lookin’ at me from the fishing dock, confused.
“What kind of boat is that?”
“Oh, it’s a pontoon.”
Now the kid is running around in his head trying to figure out why I hadn't bought a more traditional boat. Next to him, I notice his mom, who happens to be a looker. I had spent so much time setting it up as a matter of fact, that I didn't notice that there were about fifty some odd people out. Folks were damn near shoulder to shoulder along the dam, the south side, and as far west as I could see before the tree line break. I started to get very, very nervous. I put my life vest on.
“You need a vest, that doesn't look like it will sink?”
“Ahh, well safety buddy, always gotta be safe.”
I felt pretty awkward, and for good reason. Although I had grown up on boats my whole life, this was a bit different. I was familiar with boats that had, you know, that boat look. This was two large hotdog shaped balloons on a steel frame. I was completely unaware at the time, about things like bladder failure, and more so, the signs leading up to such an event that would let me know when to get off the water. I was smart enough at the least to try it out at a heavily populated fishery. Sure, it would be embarrassing to see the fire department show up to watch my investment sink in front of laughing onlookers, but at least I would be safe. Had I decided to launch at a lake with less shore traffic, a bladder failure and me going un-noticed could result in either a lengthy rescue, or at the worst, death should I go under as well. I sat down for the first time on the water, and started to kick off into the deep. I reached to my sides in what would be the first time I had ever rowed, in my life.
‘This won’t be hard, just remember how the guys did it during that one time you watched the Olymipcs.’
I started to row, and to my shock I realized in a few shorts seconds that I was going around in circles. I was not aware of how coordinated you had to be with these things, as putting more muscle into one ore over the other, made you go in circles despite feeling like you were distributing your muscle evenly. I looked behind me to see if the hot mom was watching me. She was, as was her kid. I soon realized that I was “that guy”, the weekend warrior yuppie who just got a boat he is going to use five times, and then sell on Craigslist. As I turned around for the seventeenth time, trying to propel myself forward in a straight line, I found there was one person who had faith in me.
“Come on man, you can do it”, shouted the kid on the fishing dock. When you have a kid rootin’ for yeah, it kind of puts a fire under your ass. I managed to take a deep breath, refocus, and start again. This time, I made sure that I was using a steady constant pressure on the ores. I started to move forward, although slowly. After a few minutes, I turned around to see that the dock was a good fifty feet behind me! The kid let one more encouragement fly, yelling “yeah man, go go go!” And I did, I made it to the very middle of Quail Lake. It was honestly one of the coolest feelings I have had in my fishing life time. I wasn’t on a buddies boat, and I sure wasn’t stuck shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of salty bastards on a party boat. This was my boat. As I looked along the shore, I saw miniature versions of all of the people I saw while I set up the boat. I was out in the middle of Quail, alone, and feeling pretty damn proud of it all. And, not to my surprise, it didn't last.
As I started to row again towards the dam, I thought to myself why I was going so slow. I looked forward, and saw that the metal frame was half in the water. It was supposed to be about three inches above the water. I was losing air pressure. In my research, I had learned that cold water temps, decrease air pressure in the bladders. The water at Quail that day happened to be a very crisp forty five degrees, and I didn't think it would decrease that much. Add on top of the fact that I had not done the best job of inflating the bladders, and you have an inflatable boat that is only half filled, and about as useful as a politician. To make matters even more enjoyable, the wind picked up, and pushed in the exact direction that I didn't want to go. Although I wanted to panic, I made sure I stayed calm, and made getting to shore my primary focus. I struggled along the dam, slowly slipping into exhaustion as I furiously worked the ores.
Thirty minutes later, I finally made it to the other side, and land had never been more enjoyable to step on. I pulled out my dock rope, pulled the boat along shore, and tied it off to a stick in the ground. There was an old timer fishing a few feet down…
“Um, that looks like a lot of work?”
“Nah, it’s not that hard when you start to get it all down” I said, realizing then that I was nowhere close to “getting it down”.
Lucky for me, a buddy of mine happened to be out that day fishing as well. With a quick call, he was able to drive around, load my boat in his truck, and drive me back to my truck on the other side. He could tell I was a bit disappointed, or at the least embarrassed. He tried his best to cheer me up, but at this point I didn’t even fill like tossing bait. I thanked him for his help, drove home, and licked my wounds with some grilled food and drinks.
For the next few weeks, I waited for my registration to come in the mail.