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The Gearboat Chronicles

A Gear Boatman Christmas

Santa’s bringing me just what I wanted. Somebody to push around.

I’ve been rowing the Winding Waters gearboat for a couple years now, and I love it, don’t get me wrong. It’s great hauling tons of gear up and down a river bank twice a day. Exercise is good. And it’s interesting, too. I did an experiment this past summer and rigged up little gutters around my body to measure how much sweat a guy can produce on a hot day in Hells Canyon. I wasn’t even aware my body could hold that much liquid.

But now it’s Patrick’s turn. Some of you met young Patrick Baird on the river this year. His dad, Mike, is also a guide for Winding Waters and we’re keeping it in the family.

Patrick will be heaving on the gearboat oars this coming season and I’m very much looking forward to standing in the back of the boat with a large drum, beating out a rhythm and calling, “row, row, row.”

The kid’s in good shape. He runs cross country and is on the high school wrestling team. Yeah, well, gearboating is a little more demanding than jogging around the countryside or wearing a leotard, so we’ve come up with a gearboat training program that should get him ready for rafting season. I hope you like Wheaties, Patrick, because that camping equipment doesn’t haul itself up the trail.

Much like martial arts, there are different styles of gearboating. I was trained in the classical Tiger Claw Lotus tradition, which is not often seen on rivers in the west. You need to be strong in both mind and body to carry a full portable toilet down a narrow trail and do it well. You will be practicing that this winter, Patrick.

You will rise at dawn and make four gallons of premium coffee. Meditation will follow, while doing any dishes left over from dessert the night before. Then we hit the gym, starting with propane tank isometrics, flexibility drills to enable the setting up of tents single-handed, followed by heavy lifting with full drybags.

Eye of the tiger, Patrick . . . eye of the tiger. Focus.

It’s exhausting to even list what this poor boy will go through, so I’ll let you discuss his training with him next time you’re on the river.

I got the gearboat trainee I wanted for Christmas, but I plan to make my New Year’s resolution to not go too hard on the guy. He’s off to college next year and I don’t want his Tiger Claw gearboat training to completely absorb his capacity for learning.

So we’ll see you on the river. Happy Holidays from all the crew at Winding Waters River Expeditions.

Watch “Path of a Gear Boatman”