The Mendocino Coast not only provides cool places to stay and eat, but it also provides all sorts of cool things to do. On the way from the Little River Inn and just before arriving in Mendocino Village, the highway crosses the Big River. At the base of the bridge on the south side is a canoe rental business. Catch a Canoe has been in business since 1972 and has been under current ownership of Jeff Stanford and the Stanford Inn since the early 1980s. Manager Rick Hemming has been in charge for almost 37 years.
He says the business has evolved dramatically from how it began. The original owner establishing the business for his son, and it was a quirky operation.
Hemming says once the Stanford’s took over, he was approached a boat-builder from Potter Valley, Bob Cummings. Cumming’s had crafted a Polynesian-style, redwood, outrigger canoe and was wondering if Catch a Canoe would be interested in using it. Rick initially was hesitant but then took it for a cruise.
The foot powered rudder system also making navigation much simpler. He took a chance and rented it out.
Then Rick started to push the envelope asking the builder to get creative.
The fleet grew, but the builder retired several years ago, and Catch a Canoe pivoted by adding lightweight-carbon canoes that could be converted to outriggers using a cross-arm and floats, or to a catamaran by connecting two canoes.
He said the outrigger configuration is a more relationship-friendly paddling arrangement…. he says regular canoes are often referred to as Divorce Boats.
The Big River provides opportunities to see a variety of wildlife and can be quite pleasant to explore.
However, in a traditional canoe, conditions can be quite treacherous.
In addition, we also learned that a breeze can also add difficulty to the return.
So, my wife Tami now has the rights to “whatever you want… for the rest of your life.”
Tami does say she will gladly do it again, as long as I don’t say, “just a little farther honey…I’m sure the otters are right around the bend.”
Catch a Canoe operates year-round, but boats do not go out in rough weather conditions. More information available at catchacanoe.com