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Making a splash

June 6, 2008
By Bob "Commodore Dope" Seidenstein,
You know who really bugs me? It’s those people who whine that nothing ever happens here. Lots of things happen, and they happen all the time.

Here’s a relative sample from last week: Anti Em’s apartment flooded when a pipe in her ceiling broke. Three of Joe Keegan’s dogs are almost housebroken, or so he says. The Blue Moon has been restocked with Kenny Fontana’s special, homemade hot sauce.

And if that’s not exciting enough for you, how about this: Ken Hunt successfully launched his sauna boat.

Last Sunday, when I shared this crucial information with Whispering Tom, his reaction was predictable.

“A sauna boat?” he said. “What’s that — a boat with a sauna, or a sauna that floats?”

Well,” said I, “it’s both.”

When a look of childlike confusion crossed his face, I realized I’d better simplify it for the poor soul.

“It kinda looks like a houseboat —”

“It’s a houseboat?” he interrupted. “I thought you said it was a sauna boat. What’s the story?”

“You’ll find that out when, and if, you quit interrupting,” I said. “And if the last 30 years of your conversations are any indication, the odds are it’ll be ‘if,’ rather than ‘when.’”

I glared at him till he was sufficiently rebuked, and then continued.

“As I was saying,” I said slowly, “it kinda looks like a houseboat because it’s got a big superstructure on two pontoons.”

“But it’s not a houseboat?” he said.

“Very good,” I said. “ See, the superstructure’s divided in two. The section in front – or in nautical terminology, ‘forward,’ – is where the controls are. Capice?”

He nodded.

“Good,” I said. “And whattaya think’s in the back – in nautical terminology the ‘aft’ — section?”

“The sauna?” he said.

“Brilliant,” I said. “And do ya wanna know how it’s heated?

“Sure,” he said.

“With a wood stove,” I said.

“Isn’t that against EnCon regs?”

“If it’s not, it probably will be,” I said. “But let’s be optimistic…at least for a little while.”

The big invitation

And how, you might wonder, did I know so much about Ken Hunt’s attempt to be the James Bond of Kiwassa Lake? It began in the Blue Moon on Friday, when he came over to my table.

“Doing something tomorrow morning, say about nine o’clock?” he asked.

“Gotta check my appointment book,” I said. “I think my picnic date with Tina Turner is 11:30, so I’m free till then. Why?”

“Well, I’m launching my boat then and I thought you might like to be there. Make a good story for the paper.”

“Oh?” I said. “Why’s that?”

He then launched into all the details: It wasn’t just a boat — it was a sauna boat. He designed it himself and spent almost five years and 500 hours building it. And more amazingly, he spent almost 300 hours drawing the plans, which he did the old-fashioned way — entirely by hand.

“You invite any friends on the maiden voyage?” I asked.

“Sure did,” he said. “All of them.”

When I showed up at the boat launch at exactly 0900 on Saturday, all of Ken’s friends were there. Unfortunately, they were all his imaginary friends: In addition to me, the only visible beings were his daughters Holly and Evie.

Completely dry…and all wet

Ken was in the truck; the girls were on the boat, which was on the trailer. And I, stalwart representative of the press, was following the action, camera in hand, notebook at the ready.

Then again, when it came to the action, it wasn’t all that hard to follow. Ken backed up the truck, slid the boat down the ramp, and it floated away just fine, with Holly at the controls.

“There,” said Ken, “now you’ve got a great story for the paper.”

“A good story, yes,” I said. “But not a great one.”

“C’mon,” he said. “Everyone loves to read about people’s successes.

“Is that why the newspapers are always full of so many upbeat and positive events?” I said. “Listen, there’s no doubt that designing and building your boat is great work. But it’s not a great story.”

“Yeah?” he said. “Well, I don’t agree with you.”

I just shrugged and said nothing. After 35 years as a classroom teacher, I know better than to argue with someone whose mind’s already made up.

But as much as Ken knows about boats, he knows nothing about newspapers.

Let’s get brutally honest. Say someone plans and builds their own boat – even an unusual and beautiful boat – and then launches it without incident? As far as the papers and their readers are concerned, it’s another humdrum handyman story.

But if that same guy slaves away for years on that same boat and when he launches it, it sinks like an anvil? Why then, my friends, you don’t have a mere story — you’ve got a first-class journalistic coup!

Article Photos

The sauna boat sets sail from the boat launch on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake.
(Photo — Bob Seidenstein)



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