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The Gearboat Chronicles

Road Map as River Guide

A good river map is downright essential equipment for a proper voyage, right? Yeah, but there’s always the AAA Road Atlas alternative for finding your way by boat. It’s not ideal. Or all that safe. Or recommended, really. At all. But this story I’m linking you to is recommended. Warning: the ending appears to not be a happy one. But this is well worth the read. Particularly for the river-minded. There’s even a Salmon River tie-in from our territory. It’s quite a tale.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.59.34 PMBen McGrath does a dandy job with ‘The Wayfarer,’ writing about long-distance canoe traveler Dick Conant. Big fella in bib overalls charming folks on riverbanks – from police officers to librarians to residents of rough parts of towns – on a big long paddle trip from 20 miles shy of the Canadian border, down to North Carolina where his canoe and belongings were discovered, but no Dick.
The Salmon River portion of Conant’s river time involves a kayak he has “fashioned” … sounds ominous … in which he set out to reach the Pacific, via the Salmon. Made it 350 miles, shy of the ocean but described it as “a learning experience.” I’ll bet it was.

For reasons not clear, I very much enjoyed the description of Conant drinking capfuls of soy sauce on a riverbank, alternating with sips straight out of a Tabasco sauce bottle. Huh? I don’t know, but this guy is my kind of kooky and without any more ado-ing, I’ll plop the link here with a hearty recommend for the best big-ol’ story I’ve stumbled on while walking around the internet in some time. It’s in the New Yorker … which, I don’t know, I guess is OK. Me, I prefer the Old Yorker. But no matter.

Read this and enjoy. If you don’t, I don’t want to hear about it.

Further Suggested Reading Involving Road Maps as a Navigational Aid:

I read this years and years ago and it made a real impression, as I was a shoestring sailor living on a crappy sailboat at the time. Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.58.53 PMI probably still have my copy of Cruising World stashed somewhere with the original article. Upshot: It’s cold up north. Guy in a rough spot buys a crappy boat for $500. Makes homemade sails from blue tarps. Navigates down to the Florida Keys using road maps. Somehow makes it. Whoah. Would like to know what Capt’n Freddy is up to now. Story is still floating around online, but just barely. Check this out.

Capt’n Freddy or Dick Conant, if you’re reading this, get in touch. Although Dick, you should probably just contact that New Yorker guy.

All the rest of you, safe travels to your Christmas get togethers and we’ll see you on the river.

UPDATE (Not a good one): Attentive reader Hal Morello sent this update, from August 2015, which suggests Capt’n Freddy is no longer with us. Damn.