Facebook reminded me this week, as it does, that nine years ago this week, I molded the first Blackfly boats. That first boat, Blackfly #001, still hangs in a place of honor, along with Option #001, in the Blackfly shop. Looking at those early boats now, it’s pretty obvious that I’ve gotten slightly better at making boats after nine years and a few hundred boats.
I hope and imagine that most people who read this over the long weekend following Thanksgiving do so before or after an adventure in the outdoors. I’m a fan of the #optoutside idea over the mark-down fueled spectacle is that is Black Friday. But this cultural event has given me pause to think about my pricing structure, and Thanksgiving has given me reason to reflect on what I’m grateful for in my business life. More
After seeing the response to last week’s blog post about the the idea of doing a kid’s boat, this week I started taking pre-orders for the Mosquito Burrito. There are two competing factors leading me to take this approach. 1) I really, really want to make this boat. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. 2) I’m not in a position to do another “I’ll eventually break even” project. If I get enough support for the project, I’ll make the boat. If not, everyone gets their money back and it gets shelved indefinitely. So that makes it my first attempt at “crowdfunding” a project. That’s gotten me to pondering the basic notion of crowdfunding, and I’ve come to the conclusion that crowdfunding is weird.
My son is five, and I guess it should come as no surprise he already has a taste for canoeing. He really likes paddling in the bow of our Octane 92, which he has dubbed “Splasher.” He already thinks boofing and rock spins are cool. This summer I decided I might as well get him in his own boat, so I drug the Octane 85 prototype out of the boneyard, cut it up and welded it back together again (It was originally a cut and welded Octane 91, so it’s not the first time). He dubbed it the “Mosquito Burrito.” This is what happens when you let a 5 year old name a boat, but I kind of like it. We had a lot of fun floating down the Pemi this summer, running his first “rapids.”
I’ve very fortunate to have some very talented filmmakers on the Blackfly team and I’m excited to launch a new video series this week. It’s fairly easy to shoot eye catching video of canoes running big drops and hard rapids and drop a music track over it, but we’ve heard the criticism time and time again that it doesn’t really connect with people or inspire them to go canoeing. There’s nothing wrong with those sorts of videos, I like watching them, but the fact of the matter is, while I love running big, hard rapids, most of the time, that’s not the sort of water I’m running. That realization was the genesis of “Where We Canoe.” Let’s look at the rivers we run the most often; the challenge then becomes, can we make compelling videos about the ‘everyday’ runs we take for granted? I think so.
I’ll be straight, I have an agenda to sell boats. I do it for a living, it should be obvious that I have a bias. If you ask me for my opinion on my boats vs. other boats, I’m going to try to give an honest answer with a spin toward my boats (but I also really do believe mine are better…see, I just showed my bias). But what about the other, often less obvious biases involved in choosing which boat to buy? Since this has been on my mind lately, I figured I’d take a look at some of the influences on what makes people buy boats.
With apologies to Sir Mix-a-lot for that title, I though this week I’d look at why Blackfly boats are “funny looking” for canoes, and why it works better. I get the question pretty commonly, “Why are the ends of the boats so bulbous?” To answer that, let’s fire up the Way-back machine and take a walk down memory lane…
Fall seems to have come on quickly in New Hampshire this year. The maples around the shop and along the rivers are turning fiery yellows and reds. There’s a chill in the air and the fall rains have returned. The rivers a coming up a bit. And I’m thinking forward to winter and trying to prepare for it.
In 2005, I was in the process of finishing up a master’s degree in Geology, was feeling a bit burned out on school, and wanted to take some time- maybe a year- to travel and paddle. I bought a 1994 Airstream B190, a vehicle I’ve heard (accurately) described as “The ugliest and best camper van ever made.” I never looked back, and ended up spending about four months a year in the van and traveling the country paddling for the next seven or eight years.