The Ugly Truth

So everything is going along fine. We’re minding our own business and enjoying an incredible spring in Charleston, thinking we’ve made it through the winter doldrums, when out of the blue, I get the following email from one of our favorite customers, an intrepid paddler, our heroine actually, owner of many Folbot models, and an inspiration to us all: (The title is Carnac the Magnificent Lives On, and it’s written in Ann Rougle’s inimitable style.)

Ed McMahon: “38 pounds, 14 feet long, 35 inches of girth, $1700.00”

Rougnac the Magnificent: “Silence! I must have complete silence. Wait…
I’m getting something….” (envelope to turban, eyes fixed on cue card)
“Yes! Yes… What is the Nomad, aka Folbot’s upcoming Big Release?”

That Rougnac is something, ain’t she! And no, Price Waterhouse did not reveal the envelope contents in exchange for a free ride in a Yukon. Rougnac spotted it in the Canoe & Kayak 2004 Buyer’s Guide. Of course she is mildly bemused, as this 14-foot boat appears to be listed as a tandem sea-touring kayak…. And the Edisto is mysteriously missing from the list. She awaits, lips still sealed, the grand unveiling.

The arrival of this email, while quite humorous, is a blow, and it’s obvious that the time has come to fess up. Here’s what happened. In the fall of 2003, I began work on a new two-seater. The object was a smaller, lighter boat that would still carry two paddlers in comfort. The frame was complete. The skin was in progress. Canoe and Kayak magazine called and reminded me that the deadline for material submission for the 2004 Buyers’ Guide would close in ten minutes. Priding ourselves in being able to make decisions quickly, we held a five minute powwow amongst the staff and decided to go for it. Of all the names considered, the consensus was “Nomad”. The material was immediately faxed.

Three weeks later one of our employees remembers why she has this nagging dislike for the name “Nomad” and finds a photo on the web of a hideously ugly 1956 Chevrolet station wagon of the same name. The skin development is now finished and the resulting boat is no more attractive than its namesake. It paddles no better than it looks and is scrapped, totally forgetting that the 2004 Buyers’ Guide is now moving relentlessly toward the presses. For us, killing an R&D project at this point is not unusual, something Chevrolet should have seriously considered in 1955.

So there you have it. The Edisto replaced the Nomad, much too late for the Buyers’ Guide. At least we’re not trying to sell an ugly boat, and R&D has not been idle over the winter. Sorry, Annie, Carnac has no peer.

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6 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth

  1. Reasearch and Development can be a rich and rewarding endeavor, Phil. It can also be a devastating disappointment, at times. I worked in R&D at IBM Corp for 26 years and saw lots of projects “go in the dumper”. I look at it this way: If you do two things and one is bad, that’s 50% failure. If you do a hundred things and totally screw up two, that’s only 2% failure. So, keep the invention juices flowing! Next year Buyer’s Guide will be correct.
    Pete

  2. Dang. And here I thought I had the scoop of the decade. You guys clearly made a good decision, though, Phil — the Edisto is one pretty boat. Actually, even better than that, it’s three pretty boats!

  3. I might take Pete’s failure and success formula just a bit furthur and note if you have one hundred projects toward a goal go bad and the one hundred and first works you have Complete success… Heck, we were just being nosey about the next boat.

  4. Dear Sir:

    Please send me one of them there Nomads.
    I am ugly and I paddle ugly.
    The Normad is perfect for me.

    Bob K

  5. Good story. Hey, Cliffy just posted an old ad about the old Super Junior (or is it Junior Super, I keep mixing those up). How about a smaller two seater based on the basic Greenland II only shortened for two people, the same concept behind the old SJ/JS, right (though from an design point of view, it’d probably be more like a two seater Kodiak or a stretched Yukon)?

    Why not post a picture of the Nomad and ask people to vote on it, something like: “Ugly” and “Not Ugly” or something along those lines. This would be just for fun.

    Paul

  6. I was shocked for a moment.. and then releived..
    all my sneaking around looking for new stuff… and never heard of the Nomad.. Whew..
    I seriously thought I was slipping..
    And.. by the way… I thought the Chevy Nomad was kinda .. uh.. cute??? nearly as nice as a Vega.. ha Ha ..

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