by Scott Sadil

I’m halfway home with the new trailer, worrying about how I’m going to get the new boat out of the garage and onto her new ride, wondering if the bunks are set right, whether the hull will clear the fenders, or if the foot of the stem will hit the forward cross-brace.

I’m chewing, as well, on the best way to overnight a check so the manufacturer doesn’t tack on an extra 4.5% to a credit card charge – suffering all of the usual anxieties, that is, that inflict me when I’m dealing firsthand with boats, at least my own. I tell myself, finally, to relax, give it a rest.

Since building my first boat a dozen years ago, a late-life inspiration that also required I learn how to actually use a boat, not to mention tow a trailer – a suite of everyday angler skills that for some reason I had ignored or simply shied away from despite a life spent surfing and fishing – ever since this new strange trip began, anyway, things, I remind myself, have usually worked just fine.   


It’s the rough spots, no doubt, that keep you on your toes, the memory of tough chances and near-misses that prevent smart boaters, especially newbies, from resting easy.

Or maybe I’m the only one.

Rolling down the interstate, trying to hold my own in the press of Monday truck traffic squeezing in on me somewhere between Seattle and Portland, I recall the first time I planned to sail Tía, my stitch-and-glue Chesapeake Light Craft Northeaster Dory, built from a kit, out on the Columbia. 

A week or so before, I had already had her on the river for a festive boat launch; sometime during the outdoor brunch and ceremonial Calvados toast, the mid-day June wind began building through the Columbia Gorge. 

With a bunch of genuine boaters and sailors looking on, I rowed downwind across the riffled bay, came about – and then barely made it back to the boat ramp, my non-existent rowing skills such that I could hardly keep her pointed into the wind.

Today I intended to sail. Was I a wee bit anxious?

The good news was the boat ramp was empty; the salmon and sturgeon anglers had all launched at dawn, hours ago. I managed to back Tía straight down the ramp. Still uncertain how deep I needed to put the trailer, I climbed out of my Subaru, closed the door, and walked down to the edge of the water. Things looked about right. 

Back at the car, of course, the door was locked. 

And the keys were in the ignition, the engine still running.

On the interstate, near Battle Ground, Washington, I recall a twinge of the sinking feeling I suffered on realizing that, no, I didn’t have an extra set of keys with me that day; they were in a backpack at home. What had I been thinking?   

I was worried about sailing my little dory on the mighty Columbia, for chrissake.

Light rain begins to fall. Glancing in my mirrors, I admire the running lights on the new trailer. Today, I’m happy to report that the summer after waiting at the boat ramp, hoping my idling Subaru didn’t overheat while someone fetched my extra keys from home, Tía and I sailed from Astoria to Lewiston, a 470-mile voyage up the Columbia and Snake rivers. At the split in the interstate, I decide that things did in fact work out after all.

Changing lanes, I glance back again at the new trailer, trying not to imagine what fresh troubles it might help usher into my life.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil still hasn’t decided what he likes more, building boats or using them – yet another question he doubts he’ll live long enough to answer.