Is it OK to use a canoe you find stashed in the Maine woods?


By Nolan Raymond If you’ve spent any time romping around in the Maine woods, you’ve probably come across what look like “abandoned” canoes and kayaks on the shores of ponds. Don’t worry, it’s not litter.

By Nolan Raymond

If you’ve spent any time romping around in the Maine woods, you’ve probably come across what look like “abandoned” canoes and kayaks on the shores of ponds.

Don’t worry, it’s not litter.

People often stash canoes and kayaks on the shores of remote ponds that aren’t accessible by vehicle. This way, they have a boat to use anytime they visit that pond, instead of hauling one each time they visit.

I’ve found canoes in some really remote spots — many only accessible by a lengthy hike. It can seem really odd coming across a boat, turned over, in the middle of nowhere. But it makes sense, when you think about it.

So this raises the question: Is it OK to use one of these boats?

Nobody likes to talk about this. But would you be upset if your canoe was used by a stranger? Many would say yes. It’s your canoe and your spot, right? Why would you invite others to use it?

Photo courtesy of Nolan Raymond
CANOE ACCESS — These canoes, left in the woods next to a remote pond, are examples of how avid outdoors people provide access to the water for them and others who come upon them.

Well, it may not be a useless gesture. If everyone locked their canoes up in these remote ponds, then each person who visits would have to tote their own canoe. It would be unnecessary effort, because if everyone who wishes to fish these waters hikes their own boat in, many opting to leave them there, it would result in a pile of boats in the woods.

And even though it’s nice to see how many people are into trout fishing, areas covered in brightly colored canoes can really be an eyesore.

What’s the harm, anyway? As long as your boat is there when you go to use it, is there any issue with sharing? Sure, it’s at risk of getting stolen, but who would really bother to haul a decrepit old canoe miles through the woods to take it? Hardly worth the effort.

It could get broken, but, have you ever broken a plastic canoe? It isn’t easy.

That’s not to say that you have to let the sporting community use your canoe. The solution? Simply lock it to a tree. Many canoes (often higher-end ones) end up getting chained to a tree.

There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s the choice of the owner. After all, it’s certainly possible that someone might carry an expensive canoe out of a pond and steal it. Sad, but true.

So if you borrow a canoe that you come across in the woods, just keep some things in mind.

It’s not your boat, so treat it well. If you abuse it or don’t put it away nicely, the owner may choose to remove it or chain it up, which would ruin the opportunity for others.

It should go without saying, but if someone has chained up a canoe, it’s off limits. They did so because they don’t want others to use their equipment, and that should be respected.

It’s not your canoe, so remember to treat the owner with respect and gratitude for the favor they have done. Should you meet the owner of a boat you’re borrowing, don’t be confrontational. Apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for the use of their boat, and move on. Clean up all of your trash, and offer to help out in any way you can.

At the end of the day, it’s your call whether to borrow a canoe stashed in the woods. Some may follow a different code of ethics than I do, and that’s perfectly fine.

If you do, treat the boat with care and leave it better than you found it.

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