This question got me thinking about Canoes, Troop Trailers, & Buses.
Julus Pahl writes:
Clarke I am wondering how to go about getting canoes for a troop?
The troop I am working with only camps and the current SM is training me to take over. In the past the boys pretty much only camped and this has taken a toll on the older Scouts! They want something more…something different!
My troop growing up tended to canoe and backpack so I am eager to introduce the boys to both. I have access to several great beginner rivers in our county and priced out renting canoes. Renting and return transportation for a three day canoe trip would be 1/4 of the price of buying a beginner canoe! Any tips or hints?
I would be leary about being too worried about older Scouts carping about nothing new to do. Boys this age change opinions as quickly as they change clothes. (If you go out and buy canoes they’ll likely end up finding fault with all those canoe trips!)
I’ll remind everyone the real older boy program in Scouting is the challenge of leadership and responsibility. Sounds kind of dry but it really works! They do need and want bigger adventures and challenges too but I always emphasize how important it is that they stay engaged and active as leaders.
That being said I think canoeing is great! In fact I’ve thought of trying to get some canoes for our Troop too but there’s not enough good canoe tripping water nearby to make it worth the investment. I determined this by doing my own resource survey.
First I drew a circle that represented an hour’s trip form our meeting place. We’ll drive more than an hour for a weekend trip every once in a while but mostly try and stay in the one hour circle. Then I asked myself how many places could we go canoeing within that circle, if these were places where we could camp or just places to go paddling and also worked out what the itinerary for these trips would look like.
There were several places we could go but most had no camping opportunities and the possible itineraries did not look all that promising. We tried a couple of these places in rental canoes. In the end it was hard to justify bringing our own.
If you do have three or four great trips within reach I’d say that you have the resources to make the investment; but their are other factors to consider.
- PFD’s, paddles and throw ropes with buoys add about $75-100 per canoe.
- Check on any applicable local laws (canoes usually don’t have to be registered or licensed) also check with your local council and chartered partner to see if they have any restrictions or concerns.
- Consider how you are going to transport these and if there are any insurance issues involved for drivers (if you’re going to transport atop private cars you may want to have the canoes insured against damage and you’ll need to figure in the cost of the gear to secure the canoes).
- If you are going to get a purpose built trailer that will need to be factored in – initial investment, annual insurance, and storage – plus you’ll need a tow vehicle available.
If you’ve really studied the issue and decided it’s worth the investment I’d suggest you look for used canoes in the classifieds. You may even be able to get a couple by offering a tax receipt for a donation (if your chartered partner is a 501C3).
Check with rental outfitters, they often sell off their older canoes relatively inexpensively. I’d think you could get acceptable used Royalex canoes for about $500.00 each. Cheaper beginner canoes are a false economy; higher quality gear lasts longer and is usually better to work with.
I’ve researched several major capital purchases like this for my troop in detail. Should we buy a trailer? How about a bus? Should we build a cabin? The real cost of ownership, storage, insurance, transportation, licensing, accessories, maintenance, always ends up being significantly more than I first thought.
If you sit down and do the numbers you may find that the rental, which seems high right now, is really a bargain. For example we spend about $900.00 a trip to charter a bus once or twice a year. About half comes from what we charge participants and the other half from the troop treasury. We’d pay significantly more every year to own, maintain, insure, license and store a bus.
The hidden cost on major capital acquisitions like a troop trailer is the organizational energy you’ll expend towards the new asset. This is an ongoing commitment of time and resources that is hard to quantify. Funding, physical maintenance and organizational maintenance are all important factors.
Every troop has a finite resource of organizational capital; if we spend it in one direction we may have less to devote to other concerns.