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Boating Through the Ages - Part I

November 8, 2019

The Genesis of Boatniks
 I am a boatnik to the marrow. My life is consumed with thoughts of boats. There are lots of people like me; perhaps you’re a boatnik, too. But how did it all get started? What evolutionary quirks created our subspecies, “Homo-boatnik-erectus”?
I’ve gotta figure it all started with that great biological mass known as the primordial ooze. Back when we were merely one-celled paramecia we were happy in that ooze. No worries, no complaints, just cruisin’ around the old ooze puddle. That’s where we first learned that being on the water was good and that storms on the water were bad because that first lightning bolt struck the ooze, sparking off evolution and started us down the path to fretting about keeping our teak neat. Things haven’t been the same since.
First as bugs, then reptiles, then early mammals we were too busy trying to eat while not being eaten so for a few eons little happened in the way of boat design and construction... though as mammals–particularly during our beaver stage–we were preoccupied with building things on the water made out of wood. Fortunately, the early beavers had not yet gnawed down any teak trees so the evolutionary rush toward boat building was still moving right along.
We evolved into monkeys, then apes and experimentation with floating objects began. Tossing twigs and sticks in the stream and watching them float off into the distance to some unknown destination grew boring, thus we yearned for something that would provide a bit more flotation, like logs. Unfortunately, crocodiles were always lying in wait for a dumb ape to wander down to the water’s edge to throw sticks into the stream and look for floating logs, so the progression towards catamaran and hydrofoil development was put off for a few more millennia.
As early hominids we gave up foraging for grubs, roots and berries (and the occasional treat of rotted carcass pickings) so took to wandering the plains in search of wildebeest to poke at with our recently discovered pointy sticks (our fascination with wood things had really progressed by now). Once we downed a few of those critters and ate them, we had leisure time on our hands and the first weekend came to be.
Can you just imagine that first dockside chat?
“Wildebeast good, Thag. Me bored. What do now?”
“Me want go down to water, Crom. Relax, drink happy tree sap, oogle at beast-women.
“Me tired just standing at water’s edge, Thag. Want be ON water. Log float by. Me get on log, float on water. Then Beast-Woman want come when she see me floating on log with happy tree sap. Then nookie-nookie. Happy tree sap good.”
The next thing you knew, Neanderthals were floating astride tree trunks all up and down the river. Hunting took a back seat for a while but, eventually, the Beast-Women forced the men to fetch more food. This was histories first recorded Monday.
It didn’t take long before these guys realized that the bigger their log, the more Beast-Women they could attract and pack onboard, furthering the genetic selection process to favor those who liked floating on the water. In time, these early mariners reasoned that keeping the Beast-Women out on the water as long as possible had its benefits so they made bigger boats by lashing trunks together with vines, fashioning paddles from mastodon tusks and constructing sails from palm fronds. Quad-hedrial hulls, turbines engines and surface piercing propellers came a bit later but there was still no teak to be found so progress rushed forth unabated.
“You like drink more happy tree sap, Beast-Woman? We nookie-nookie, then I go paddle more fast than Crom.”
But another Monday rolled around and it wasn’t long before these guys discovered fishing since it meant there would be food aboard without trudging back to the wildebeest herds. Our ancestors had long since learned to tap the happy tree sap from trees found along shore.
Then the great ice age came and there was no more boating since bubbler systems of the time were ineffective against the crush of continental-sized glaciers. The men continued to gather in the caves those frigid nights, thinking of the day they could return to the water.
“Me want go float, Thag. No like cold-hard water. Like fish, no like chase wildebeest in snow. Pass me happy tree sap.”
“We go south, Crom. Always float there, no cold-hard water. Me hear Beast-Women in south no ever wear deerskin. Pass me back happy tree sap.”
But little did our unwitting ancestors know, that’s where the teak trees grow!
Next time: Yacht Clubs, the Vikings, Naval Command and Roman Pleasure Barges

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