Paddle Your Way to Profit

The Link, Summer 2019
| by David Newland |

I just turned fifty and reviewed my financial outlook. Looks like I’m halfway to retirement at a hundred! But I have made one investment that pays massive dividends: my canoe.

I bought in cheap. Fifteen years ago, I got a used, family-friendly canoe for just $750! Plus $500, that is, for roof racks. And custom straps to secure it to the racks, so another $50. Oh – used life jackets and paddles were another $200. Also a throw-bag, which was maybe $30. But I made do with an old tin cup for a bailer so I saved some cash there.

Anyway, for under $1,550 I was ready to reap my rewards. Well, not quite ready. Storage was an issue, since I lived in a row house in Toronto, and my only access to my tiny yard was through the house. When I brought the canoe home, I had to portage from my parking spot up the street, to my house. Then inch the canoe over the porch rail, through the front door into the narrow hallway, turn the canoe sideways to slip it into the dining room, perform a slow pirouette over the dining room table, proceed through the kitchen and out the back door into the backyard – which the canoe immediately covered. I had to do all that in the opposite order to go canoeing the next time, and every time!

“…paddling delivers dividends in fitness, mental health, and quality time.”

Still, my investment began to grow. Keeping costs down to maximize returns meant the Nahanni, the Mackenzie and the Athabasca were beyond my budget. Instead, I braved the suspect waters of my local rivers: the mighty Don; the noble Humber; the lazy Rouge.

That’s when the real payoff began. Local waterways are portals to the wilderness we overlook! Wonderful wildlife and plants in abundance crowd the banks of streams and harbours. As a local canoeist, I made instant returns on my investment with every single outing.

The key to profitable canoeing is a simple formula: time spent in the canoe must exceed time spent in the car. Before long, after amortising my initial investment, it was costing me mere pennies to paddle. All my costs were sunk – but I was floating pretty.

Here in Northumberland County, my investment has really flourished. I’ve floated my fanny down the Ganny more times than I can remember. Cobourg Harbour, Peace Park, Gages Creek, and the shoreline between Port Hope and Grafton have been my playground. I’ve canoed from Peterborough to Belleville – over six years, mind you. Incremental Growth!

Canoeing doesn’t pay (or cost) like stocks and bonds. But paddling delivers dividends in fitness, mental health, and quality time. That’s the currency of canoeing. And if you protect your investment with a tarp in the winter and a bit of fibreglass repair in the summer, it will pay out indefinitely.

I’m no financial planner. But I can recommend one great investment, with a low cost of entry and steady returns over a lifetime. Take it from me: get yourself a canoe – and paddle your way to profit!

David Newland is a writer and musician based in Cobourg. In November of 2015, David was named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a distinction that reflects a lifelong engagement with landscape and story.

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