Blog : Boating

Oh Henry

Oh Henry

I can’t quite read the name of the boat. ENRY is all I can see, the rest blocked by the odd inboard/outboard engine protruding from the stern. Maybe it’s HENRY, but I’ve never heard of a boat named HENRY. Perhaps it’s, no, that must be it. Henry. That’s an odd name for a boat, unless I can’t see the Oh. Then it would make sense, like when he bought the boat and he drove it home to his driveway his wife said, Oh Henry. That would have been all he needed to make the name the same. Oh Henry, it’s a reasonable little name for that reasonable little boat.

It’s blue, but in this light I can’t tell what shade. It has a Tiffany coloration to it, but it’s probably not that blue. There’s cover over it, so I can’t see the inside from here, but I can see the outside and the engine and the down riggers. Henry fishes. He has a smaller engine next to the bigger engine, a “kicker” it’s called in fishing terms. The boat is’t more than 19 feet long, but it’s enough. He fishes lakes and rivers, mostly rivers but also lakes, and he’s pointed north at the gas station. Whether he’s heading north to fish or he’s just gassing up in that north facing lane, I cannot know.

The truck is a Ford. I’m nearly sure of it. It might be blue, but dark, not like the boat. The bumper hangs low, in part because of the boat on that trailer but also because of the large camper that he long ago bolted to the open bed of that pick up. The camper hasn’t been nice for decades, or more. It has a back door, and a back window, but you’d have to duck to get inside the back door, and if you were large around the middle you’d need to both suck in and turn sideways to enter. There are some side windows, a front area that protrudes over the cab of the truck, that’s where he sleeps. There’s a two tone stripe of paint wrapping around the entire thing holding it together.

I can’t make out his license plate, but he’s been in the gas station for a long time now, so he must not be from around here. He’s in there drinking coffee, eating donuts, washing his face in the washroom. Or maybe he’s still in the truck, frantically digging through the seat cushions looking for his wallet. To be this far from home without ones wallet would be a horrible imposition, whether you had a small boat named after you or not. He’s in that gas station and his truck, camper, boat, and trailer are resting under the covered roof of the Mobile station.

There are at least two stickers on the back window, bu there’s no time for that now. He’s walking back to the car. He’s a bit older, maybe 65, maybe 70, maybe 73. He walks quickly, like he spent too much time in the station and he’s ready to hit the road. He’s probably from Illinois, but downstate somewhere. Some place where campers are more in style, where light blue is the preferred boat color, where his buddies see him drive through town with that camper and that boat and they wish they were him. He fired up the truck and with a diesel rumble it came to life. The truck isn’t a Ford at all, but a Dodge. The trailer lights work, which means he’s driving somewhere far from here, and he’s already far from home.

When he gets to where he’s going he’s going to pull into the campground and pick the best spot. It won’t be difficult to do that, because it’s rainy today and it’s dark, and it looks like fall and no one camps when it’s like this. Not on Wednesday’s, anyway. He’ll get to where he’s doing and he’ll uncover the boat. It’s filled with rods and reels, life jackets mostly of orange. There’s an old Coleman cooler, old enough to be old but not old enough to be cool. He has beer in it, venison sausage, cheese and eggs. If I were driving that truck across this state and I reached my destination, I’d be sad to think that I had to then sleep in that horrible little camper. But he is not me, and so when he gets there he’ll unpack and he’ll eat and he’ll sleep. And in the morning, he’ll fish.

He’ll spend the week that way, maybe more. He’ll fish and he’ll camp and he’ll sit in that little musty camper and he’ll read a book. When the nights get cold he’ll turn on the propane heater, but he’ll turn it off when he gets a headache from the exhaust. When he wakes he’ll go fish, and when he catches something he’ll cook it over a dark black skillet that he’s had since, well, since forever. He’ll endure some rain, some cold, some fumes and plenty of solitude.

When he rides back into whatever town he’s from, his friends will see him and they’ll wish they, too, had been on a trip to somewhere far away. They’ll see his boat and trailer and they won’t think that it’s a shame that the boat is so small and such an odd color blue. They won’t think that the engine is old and the down riggers rusty. They won’t see his camper and think of how oddly musty it surely smells, or how his truck must be full of wrappers from the venison sticks and the gas station pastries. They’ll just think that he was lucky to have spent those days someplace else, living in a way that he can’t live in Sometown, Illinois.

Lake Geneva Antique Boat Show

Lake Geneva Antique Boat Show

Crain’s Chicago Business has a fun little column that appears on Thursdays. It’s called Ten Things To Do This Weekend. It is a nice list. And it’s good for Chicago area events and businesses, because it supposes that everything there is to do on a weekend should happen in the city or the suburbs. The events are wildly varied but somehow all the same. Come visit a three piece cello band while they play you their greatest hits at some outdoor place in some suburb. That strangely sounds the same to me as a painting class at some university under some tutelage of some artist, who painted some piece that no one has heard of. See, the things are very different but somehow both the same.

The list fails most, because anyone with any sort of sense knows that if you live in the city the weekends are for anything but the city. If you live in the suburbs, and you’re not tethered to your child’s soccer or baseball schedule, you also know that the suburbs are lame and that you should leave them whenever possible. This list is, at the very heart of it, what’s wrong with the thinking of most city and suburban dwelling affluents. Tuesdays you have little choice where you’ll be, but Saturdays? Well, Saturdays you could either make the hour drive from Naperville to Millennium park to witness the first ever Basketweaving While Blindfolded competition, or you could point your car north and drive as fast as possible. I choose North.

And why wouldn’t you? This weekend, like all weekends, there are things to do at Lake Geneva. But this weekend, unlike all of the other weekends, there’s a wood boat show. That’s not really fair, to call this a wood boat show. Because it’s not a show, it’s the show, and if you’re anyone who appreciates fine things, you’ll be here. Note I didn’t say you had to appreciate wood boats. That’s the same reason I don’t think you have to love golf to live on a golf course. It’s nice to look at something that’s beautifully maintained, no matter if it’s a sprawling green golf course or a highly polished wooden watercraft. Nice is nice, and if it’s at Lake Geneva it’s usually nice made nicer.

The show takes place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Abbey Harbor in Fontana. The forecast, as you may have noticed, calls for 75 and sunny on both Saturday and Sunday. The real highlight of the show is the boat tour that happens today, Friday. This tour is mostly missed by the casual boat show attendee, as those patrons visit on Saturday and Sunday, oblivious to the fact that they missed the most important event of the weekend. Then again, if you’re reading this right now you’ve likely already missed the Friday portion and you’re completely and utterly out of luck. But still, come Saturday or Sunday and you’ll enjoy the finest wooden boats in the country as they ply the finest lake in the Midwest.