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Storing your canoe

Storing your canoe
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Self-storage allows Mike to enjoy owning his hand-built canoe.

About this time of year I generally get a call from my mate Mike. ‘Fancy a roadtrip?’ He wants company on a round-trip he makes every year to bring his hand-built canoe out of storage and down to the same  green-painted beach hut that he rents – every year – for three weeks after midsummer. During the off-season he stores his canoe at the same lock-up, which is about as far from the shore as you can get.

We’re in the same line of work and I see the three-hour round-trip (plus the time at either end) as continuing professional development. We chew over industry news, discuss possible projects and bounce ideas around. And he’s good company, Mike: we have the same taste in music, too, so I put together a playlist for the way, and he makes one for the way back. Mike’s tastes tend towards prog rock, so we need a good long roadtrip for his tunes.

Wooden canoes are fussy about the way they’re stored. By the way, if you’re getting the impression that Mike doesn’t mind taking trouble over things, you’d be on the mark. He built this canoe himself, and in between outings he stores her in a carefully selected lock-up that meets his high standards of security and climate control. She’s even got her own custom-made stands so she doesn’t have to lie on the ground. ‘Compresses the keel if you put her on the ground,’ he told me once, as if this explained everything.

He runs a hand over the hull, checks the thwarts and the seats, and then we lift her out to the yard and load her on to his boat trailer. She is not heavy, but she is awkward for one person to manage, which is why (apart from my scintillating company and great playlist) Mike gets me involved.

Once the trailer is carefully hitched up – and Mike has checked everything twice – it’s time to leave. Our part of the world is beautiful in midsummer – the trees are full green and the verges are white with those big cheeky ox-eye daisies. But my favourite moment is when we get the first glimpse of the sea down at the end of a valley.

It doesn’t take long to bring the canoe – and the custom-made stands, the hand-carved paddles and the lifejackets – down on to the beach. The tide is right up today and Mike is looking at the water. I know he’s wondering… ‘Want to take her out quickly? Best to give a canoe a test run after months in store,’ he says.

I open my mouth to tell him that there is no canoe just out of storage on the entire coast that has been more carefully checked than this one, and that we should really get back. But then I think what a warm day it’s turning out to be and that it’s pretty pleasant being on the water, particularly in a really superb craft like Mike’s. So I take the lifejacket he’s offering and we have a paddle – just for half an hour. Life doesn’t get much better, really.