An Outdoor View: Boats and docks

Boats and docks


For most of my life, I’ve owned some sort of vessel that could pass as a boat.

I sold the last boat I’ll ever own a few years ago. The good part about not owning a boat is that I no longer have the work and expense of preparing it for use in the spring and winterizing it in the fall. The bad part is … well, I can’t come up with anything. For a while, I missed not having a boat, but I’m over it.

If you have much Norwegian in you, having a boat is a top priority. My dad’s mother was Norwegian, and he had the boat bug bad. He kept his final boat, a 12-foot Smokercraft Alaskan, until he was in his late 80s. He sold it only because Mom worried about him going out in Puget Sound alone, which he often did. It was no comfort to her when I told her that, if he went out and didn’t come back, it would be a good thing. The Old Man would’ve thought “going down with the ship” was a fine way to go. It would’ve been better than dying slowly in a hospital, as he ended up doing.

I’m only half as much Norwegian as Dad, which may explain why I don’t feel as strongly about boats as he did. I was in my late-60s when I sold mine.

Not having a boat means I’ve been spending less time fishing. I don’t catch as many fish now, but that’s not a bad thing. For one thing, with a little help from friends, my wife and I can catch all the fish we want. For another, there’s more to life than sitting in a boat.

I’ve rediscovered the joys and benefits of being a “bankie.” While fishing from shore, you have lots of time to notice things. Something I noticed this year was how little time people spend fishing from docks and fishing platforms on the Kenai River in the Sterling area. These things cost private property owners thousands of dollars. Due to the risk of damage from ice, they have to be removed in the fall and reconstructed in the spring. Yet, other than in late July and early August, most of them aren’t used much.

I wonder if the owners of these docks and platforms know what they’re missing. Having one is almost like having a boat anchored in your own exclusive spot on the river.

If you’re on the Kenai River in a boat, you have to watch out for what other people are doing. You have to be alert and careful, especially if you’re the captain. Things can get tense. Boat wakes will be rocking the boat. On the other hand, if you have a access to a dock, you can relax on a deck chair. You can come and go as you please.

My wife and I are fortunate to have friends who let us use their dock in Sterling. We enjoy fishing from their dock, but sometimes we’ll take an adult beverage and just sit and watch the river go by, or the sun go down, or the leaves turning gold. This year, we saw seals, more than

See BOATS, page C-2

35 miles up the Kenai from tidewater. We also caught a couple of trout that were larger than some of the salmon we’d been catching.

Not once did I find myself wondering if some yahoo would run across our lines or crash into us. Not once did someone anchor so close that we could hear him yakking on his cell phone. Not once did I wonder if we had enough gas to make it back to the landing.

I know that a boat can take you where you couldn’t go without one, places where you can make memories that will last a lifetime. I’ve been there and done that, but now I’ve reached a point in my life where my yearnings are more about keeping things simple. If I’ve learned anything about boats, it’s that life is much simpler when you don’t own one.


Les Palmer can be reached at

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