The Boat

by | Apr 7, 2016 | 34 comments

It was constructed by four muscular hands over two days and with one purpose — to float. Built to the specs of intricate line drawings printed on rough paper, the boat came to match the blueprints ordered from an ad in the back of a Popular Science magazine.

The builders used it for two seasons, and then it sat. The boat collected rain and bred microscopic life, providing food for mosquitoes and midge larva which hatched in their own time and fed the swallows nesting in the rafters of a nearby farmhouse turned post-war residence.

Year after year the boat sat, unused, lonely and forgotten.

Then it was sold — bartered actually — for enough groceries to fill one large brown bag. The hands of a builder passed ownership to the hands of a fisherman, having his own purposes for a boat.

And the fisherman floated it just once, long enough to realize he was less enamored with boating than he first thought, before he abandoned it on the riverbank. The fisherman picked up the cane pole, walked into the water and never looked back.

And so the boat sat.

It gathered water and was home to an ecosystem of bugs, frogs and birds. Seasons later, a thunderstorm filled the river with enough water to float the craft again. Following a short drift of freedom, it capsized sideways against a log. It became a home for mice until the snakes moved in. For decades, earth and tree parts encroached on the boat until it was invisible and melted into the landscape.

And then, through the strength of a flood not seen in a century, the vessel was uprooted from the mud, tossed adrift and washed clean — reborn. It floated miles downstream, finally coming to rest upright on a limestone gravel bar.

And it sat again.

The boat collected rain that formed ice in the winter and evaporated through the summer heat, until once, with the floor and the benches revealed and longing for a captain, a storm raised the river enough to lift the vessel. It drifted again into the large, magnificent river . . .

. . . A lonely, uninhabited place forgotten by time. A steep and hard canyon of rock, evergreens and giant hardwoods. One towering sycamore grew as tall as the clouds, until it became exhausted from holding up its own mass. And finally, after sewing together the soggy, streamside earth with spreading roots for a hundred years, it decisively collapsed and broke the wooded bank. The enormous, immovable and majestic fallen sycamore redirected the water until some of the river parted ways from its parent and formed a narrow canal. The grand sycamore held firm to the riverbed, and the side channel deepened, enough perhaps, to float a man-less, lonely canoe . . .

The storm subsided and the rain dripped circles into the hull. Then a canyon wind pushed the craft starboard just enough to find the sycamore and the canal. The boat slipped across the rocks and slid over the lip into the new channel. It slowed and then drifted for another fifty yards until the keel finally dug into the underwater sand.

And so, in the side-channel, off the narrow end of a would-be island, the boat came to rest again. And it sat.

Time and currents passed, and the great sycamore’s decades of watery decay were finally enough to have it lifted and carried downstream by a rising current — the water rushed through to fill the void which the great tree had left behind, and the canal went dry.

The boat sighed. Then it collected and became and provided once again. Half of it became the earth as the other half stood steadfast with the seasons, determined to remain free.

Decades more, and then a man came, carrying refined tools and equipment unimaginable a half-century earlier to the builders of the boat. The man stopped. He smiled. He opened the iris, snapped a shutter behind precision glass, and for a few moments he visited with the boat and let it tell him a story.

Then the man picked up his graphite rod and walked into the water. He looked back only once.

And the boat sat.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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34 Comments

  1. Fantastic read!

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Howard! I really enjoy writing creative pieces like that. Thank you for reading.

      Reply
  2. Great story, I’m thrilled the boat passed it on.

    Reply
    • Me too.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing, what s nice story. For a brief time I was back in a stream again!

    Reply
  4. Great read. Mindfulness on the water.

    Reply
    • Cheers.

      Reply
  5. I didn’t think I could feel sorry for a boat…but nice memory for the fisherman

    Reply
    • Ha!

      Reply
  6. Thanks for sharing a enjoyable read

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  7. What a wonderful way to start my day! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Cheers.

      Reply
  8. Nice story; helped surface similar memories of solo walks in the woods as a kid when hunting and fishing South Western PA along the Yough.

    Reply
    • Never know what you’ll discover, right?

      Reply
  9. Enjoyed the pictures this story evoked. Always look forward to your postings, Dom.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Stan.

      Reply
  10. Outstanding piece of writing. Very nostalgic.

    Reply
    • Fishing does that for us, right?

      Reply
  11. Great article. Question……..where do you buy those small rubber bands for the Dorsey indicator? Thanks .

    Reply
  12. Enjoyed the boat, thanks! Also enjoyed your podcast on streamers. I’ve be throwing size 12 muddlers for years with my 5 wt and a mini-sink tip.

    Reply
  13. A very touching story Domenick. It brought one of my earliest memories, that of my father and a friend of his (Wally) building a small, handcrafted boat from similar plans in Wally’s cellar more than seventy years ago. I was three or four years old then. They labored on that boat over many an evening following a full days work and after dinner. My father would bring me along to give my mother a break and prop me up on a seat while they worked under a single, bare light bulb. In my minds eye, I can still see them in that cellar quietly going about their work. I was with them again when they finally launched the glistening, highly varnished litttle boat into the Connecticut River and, while they were preoccupied, I tumbled off of the pier into the water. Only the quick responses of Wally grabbing me by the hair kept me from sinking that day but the memory lives on. Thank you again.

    Reply
  14. Thank you Domenick for another outstanding read.

    Reply
  15. From technical to memorable…you surely cover it all!

    Reply
  16. That was a wonderful story and full of meaning ,intended and otherwise. Thank you!

    Reply
  17. I like a good chat about tactics and gear and technique and all that, but it’s a rough scribble in the margins of why I fish.
    I like to search for efficiency, for effectiveness, for simplicity, but that’s not why I have to fish.
    I fish for the moving water and for the stories the river offers up. Stories from the flies fished in the water, stories from times just being still while the river’s story flows on.

    Thanks Dom, you just get it and your writing helps me get it more.

    Reply

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