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The Gearboat Chronicles

Inflatable Warship

I can’t wear a shirt to bed anymore if I want to be a man. Learned that over the weekend.

I was visiting my family in Vancouver a couple days back and my dad got out his raft to pump it up and get ready for a float trip next week.

Jacob and Joe, my eight and six-year old nephews, crawled in the empty boat and played in there for hours, covering a lot of miles without ever leaving the yard.

It’s a privilege to witness young imaginations firing on all cylinders like that, before the creative engine slows down after learning you’re not supposed to think up your own worlds anymore. Grownups buy movie tickets for that instead, or watch sitcoms. Paying somebody to furnish our make believe for us.

Jacob and Joe turned the raft into a warship, but I never heard any gun noises so I don’t know what manner of cruise that warship was on. Maybe diplomatic relations or an escort of some sort. I didn’t want to interrupt and don’t have a very high security clearance anyway, so was afraid to ask.

Whatever oceans they were on, they were at it so long they started standing watches.
I don’t know where they learned that maritime practice, but Jacob took the first watch while little Joe got some Z’s.

My dad walked by the warship and suggested Joe put his shirt back on, since it wasn’t all that warm out and he was bound to get cold, laying in the bottom of a rubber raft like that.

“Grandpa, I’m a man,” Joe explained. “And men don’t sleep with their shirts on.”

Grandpa was also corrected on this being a warship, not a raft, and that’s all the time they had for chit chat, since Joe needed to get back to sleep, as his watch was coming up and he needed to relieve his brother.

I’ve seen other rafts turn into warships before, during heated waterfights on our Snake River, Salmon and Grand Ronde trips. Five gallon buckets turn into the big guns for close-in battle, with the super soakers for long-range artillery. Things really pick up once the raiding parties start, boarding other boats to steal buckets and water guns from the enemy. And these were no six and eight-year olds. I’m talking about adults. You know who you are, you pirates.

That’s really what we’re up to on the river, I’d say. Playing. I went into one of my favorite outdoor stores while I was in Portland, crammed with gear, rafting supplies, army surplus and all manner of awesome stuff. I wandered around being excited just like my nephews do in Toy-R-Us. Ten more minutes in there and I would have been inside one of their display rafts, making gun noises pretending to be in a warship.

I do think my nephews are onto something with standing watches. I can’t wait to tell Patrick, my gearboat apprentice, about our new system. I think I’ll give him the daylight watch, so he can see better. I’ll take the after dinner to right before breakfast shift.

True, all the real work of setting up camp and cooking dinner will happen during his watch, but … waaaaait a minute … I just realized this is the same system Morgan’s had me on for years. He must have nephews.