Michael Teach, 50, a telecommunications engineer in Piqua, Ohio, has paddled a Wenonah Spirit II for more than a score of years. His trusty boat has taken him down the Great Miami River in Ohio, which he plumbs for smallmouth bass, and into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, but the adjacent Quetico is his bliss, where he's caught bass up to 23 inches and walleye up to 32 inches.
C&K: What's the backstory on your boat?
Michael Teach: I purchased my Wenonah Spirit II in 1994 from Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely, Minnesota. It was an ultralight 42-pound Kevlar canoe. The reason I say ‘was’ is that this canoe has numerous patches, skid plates, and resin added over the past 21 years. I would have to say it weighs closer to 50 pounds now. It's taken a beating over the past couple of decades, but I love it like an old pickup truck. It's not the prettiest boat on the lake, but it will get you from point A to B, has plenty of room for hauling, and my gear remains dry.
Why'd you buy this model?
I purchased it because of the stability and weight. I fish a lot, so a stable canoe is key. I also wanted a canoe that could carry a big load, handle big waves, and remain stable. It also tracks well, has good maneuverability, and is efficient.
Do you remember your first trip in it?
I realized I had a fine craft the first time I picked it up to portage it to the next lake on its initial journey. I could not believe how light it felt compared to the 80-pound aluminum canoes on past trips. The next realization came when I saw how much gear the canoe could handle easily, and it become even more stable with that gear.
Is there anything you wish was different?
The one thing I would do differently is the seat. I have bucket\tractor seats in my canoe. I would much now rather have the flat bench type woven seat. Using the Crazy Creek chair (backrest) on top of the bucket seats does not work as well as the flat bench type seats.
[Related: Big Al’s Canoe Seat Rant]
Why the Quetico, year after year?
Once, Quetico was all about the fishing for me. Over the years, it became something so much more than fishing. Don't get me wrong; fishing is still the main reason, but there are so many others. One is the solitude and remoteness you experience in Quetico. There are no motor boats and a couple of lakes that can only be flown into. It does not take long to get away from everybody and everything. It is not that I don't like people; it is just better sometimes when they are not around. It is a much-needed break from civilization: no phones, laptops, TV, electricity, cars, buildings, and sidewalks. I can recharge the battery of my soul and come back out of the woods a better person than when I entered. The only problem is leaving.
What critters have you seen there?
I have watched eagles mate as they tumbled in a downward spiral. I have seen colossal bull moose feeding in a middle of stream. I have canoed within ten feet of a wolf swimming across a lake and stared it straight in the eye without any worry. I have had otters bobbing upside down beside my canoe less than a foot away, watching me fish. I have had bears swim onto my island and climb the tree that held my food pack.
So, what's the bad that comes with all the good?
The weather and bugs aren't always perfect; you have to take what God gives you and roll with the punches.
Any hair-raising moments?
I've had several dicey moments while traveling across Bayley Bay of Basswood Lake in Quetico, times when I thought to myself that we really shouldn't be out here right now. The worst part are the cross waves, the huge, western rollers colliding with northern rollers of the same size. Some crossings, I steered while my bow partner did the power paddling. There have been times I wanted to kiss the sandy beach by the next portage.
Any plans to buy a new canoe?
I'm not sure when I will buy a new canoe. I have a hard time letting go of something that is still functional. Even though it is beaten and battered and not the prettiest canoe on the lake, it still works. The canoe doesn't leak, it can still hold big loads, and is still light enough to carry. I'm sure there will come a day when I will need to trade her in on a new model, but I just don't see it happening for a few more years or longer. When I do, it will probably be another Wenonah Spirit II.
-Have a canoe or kayak you love? Want to talk about why you love it? Be in RIDES or recommend a friend! Contact Katie McKy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos are provided by the paddlers.