Should you love your paddle?

One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn about canoeing is not to fall in love with my paddle.

I know, that sounds a little harsh, maybe crazy too. You and I have each run many rivers with our own trusty blade, and it's helped us out of a few tight spots in its day.

broken paddle
My Nashwaak paddle. I got this paddle as a Christmas gift long ago. It is cracked, and a chunk is missing on one side, but not more than half an inch wide. Should I keep it for lake trips?

But it's not the perfect propeller it used to be. Maybe it's dried out, despite the tender love and care you give it every spring before the ice is out. A little bent even because. How long did you say you've had it now?

Maybe it's got a little crack in the shaft. Not a lot, but it's hidden behind tape so you can't see it. It's okay if I don't pull too hard on it. Oh oh, gotta power around that sweeper or I'm toast!

my favorite paddle
This is currently my favorite paddle, a one-piece blade of ash hand-made by my buddy John Jewett.

Maybe it was your spare that day on the river and you couldn't tie it, because it had to be close at hand in an emergency. Like if when the old paddle you're flailing with in the stern snaps.

broken paddleYour boat takes a little flip or sideways pin, and over goes the cherished one-pieced ash paddle you had as a spare, and down the river forever. Your wooden pole too maybe. Because you were using a weak paddle.

Maybe it has a little crack on the blade where two laminated pieces are starting to split apart. You're okay in the calm waters, but what's gonna happen when you need to wrestle and power your way down through the rock garden around the next bend?

I know, because these scenarios have happened to me one time or another. And each time, it was because I was using an old paddle that broke in my hands because it had been with me down one river too many. I shoulda known better, but I was only trying to fool myself because I was attached to a piece of wood.

I swore each time it happened that I would learn my lesson, and throw a cracked or crooked paddle into the campfire. No matter how I felt about it. After all, the time they're gonna break is when you need them the most, in rocky steep places. Is that the price you pay for love?

You're better off buying and using a new paddle rather than relying on a doubtful cripple. It's just a paddle, right?

I guess I have some tough decisions to make by spring. Some of my paddles are getting woe-begone, I confess. They gotta go. Can I do it?

Should I keep one or two not-so-bad sticks for lake trips? I hate paddling lakes.

The only thing harder than losing your best paddle is losing your favorite hat!

Should You Love Your Hat? No Question!


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