Shortly after former Military Police officer Ross Ott completed his service in the Army in 1977, his childhood scoutmaster out of Delhi gave him and his brother a canoe for work that they did for him.
“It’s (the canoe) got some age and it’s got some damage,” said Ott.
The scoutmaster had a stroke so Ott and his twin brother helped repair a golf cart so their former scoutmaster could drive it around Delhi, which was his only method of transportation.
Later, Ott discovered the canoe at his twin brother’s yard sale, which he put up for sale for the asking price of $100.
“I paid him $50 since I already owned half of it and I named it after a Disney movie, Captain Nemo the Nautilus, the submarine, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’,” said Ott. “I have sunk it that many times.”
Six years ago, Ott was experiencing some hard times and decided to sell the canoe. He sold it to a person in Modesto. After a few months, Ott’s wife Penny was working at the Farmington General Store and she saw the canoe on the back of a truck that belonged to someone from San Jose, then the canoe went to someone in Daly City and eventually wound up right back in Riverbank a couple blocks away from Ott’s home. The journey had more twists and turns than the original Jules Verne novel.
“Now this canoe has been mine forever, since I got out of the Army since I was a young kid,” stated Ott. “When I first got the canoe I was probably 22.”
Ott couldn’t believe this canoe was at a yard sale a few blocks from his house and when he turned it over and he saw Nautilus on it, he knew it was meant to be his again. Ott expressed that he should have never sold it in the first place.
Previously, Ott was a sign builder so a colleague he knew from the sign business made the sticker for the canoe in red lettering, Nautilus, which was placed on both sides of the tip of the canoe.
“It’s (canoe) still sitting out there with all its dents, badges, bruises, and it is ugly,” expressed Ott. “Every rivet is worn off the bottom, it’s a ‘57.
“I have had all the rivets worn off me, too.”
After the canoe returned to Ott’s ownership he took it down his favorite river, the Stanislaus, with some buddies. The Nautilus was carrying beer for all parties involved along with Ott and somehow they flipped and wound up in the river. They were able to recover one beer. The canoe and all its occupants were safe as well.
This is just one of many stories Ott has in his repertoire surrounding the Nautilus. They have made many memories floating down the San Joaquin River, the Merced River, the Knights Ferry area, the Mokelumne River and several others. Although Ott has lost three pairs of glasses floating down the river in the Nautilus, he would not trade any of the memories made.
In the future, one of his kids will inherit the canoe and although they have had good memories and a few bad ones, Ott explained that they have never lost anyone.
“He has never tipped me over in it,” said Penny of her husband. “I am very fortunate, we love it.”
“We have enjoyed ourselves in it,” expressed Ott. “Over the years you grow so accustomed to something you love and you just stay in love with it and that’s the way it is.”