There it was, lodged in the second tier of canoes in the back of the Springriver store in Rockville, between a green plastic Old Town and a blue Folboat.

It was the HD-1, the new hot boat of open canoes, the Ferrari of the wet set, a radically new small boat made by Perception Canoes for solo paddlers.

I'd heard about it for months. Word of it had swept through the paddling community like the sound of the first spring thaw.

It was rumored to be able to turn on the tip of a standing wave; to corner a boulder on the edge of a paddle; to be fast and quick and take fewer strokes per mile. Altogether, the ultimate high-performance boat, designed to give its paddler continuously the feel of the river.

All this I heard through the network, but I'd never seen one until now.

I tried to ignore it really. Every tandem canoe paddler thinks about going solo sometime. It's a teasing question -- "Could I?" It rests at the back of the consciousness most of the time and comes charging forward when your partner does something especially outrageous like pulling you right into the biggest boat-munching hydraulic on the river.

Still, most of the time, thinking solo borders on infidelity.

Besides, somebody had said "It's a squirrely boat," which turned out to mean he'd tried one and had a hard time controlling it.

But it kept beckoning. Once I even thought it winked at me, though of course I know it was just the light bouncing off the sharp curve of the plastic hull.

Yet, I found myself edging toward the back of the store, stepping carefully in the jumble of canoes and kayaks that give Springriver its cluttered, homey feel.

The letters HD-1 -- for Hot Dog No. 1 -- stood out in bold black on the glistening yellow surface of the bow.

I reached out and lifted the boat. Light. Thirteen and a half feet from bow to stern and only 48 pounds. Our 17-foot canoe weighs more than 75. I could manage this boat. I could carry it to the river myself.

My hands ran along the polished aluminum gunwales and I could feel the throbbing of river current.

The seat, designed like a saddle, is carved from a six-inch-thick block of polyethylene foam. Comfort. And with rubber pads already glued in to cushion my knees. Wide, thickly padded straps across my thighs to give stability and instant responsiveness.

I could feel the pounding of the drop at Wet Bottom in Mather Gorge; hear the groan and growl of the Potomac throwing itself over the ledge and lashing back against the hull, spray slashing against my arm.

And, I could hear the muscled young sons of Poseidon who own the rapids below Great Falls nodding and telling each other, "Look at that old lady in that hot boat."

"Looking at the HD-1, huh?I can give you a good price." It was Brad Reardon, the proprietor of Springriver.

"What? Uh, yeah. Well, I heard a lot about it," I mumbled, backpadding into reality.

"You ever try one?" he continued.

"Uh, well, no, we paddle tandem you know. Don't do much soloing," I said as I turned my back on The Boat.

Brad smiled and started to walk away.

"Say, Brad," said I with casual curiosity. "How much is one of these, anyway?"

"It lists for five ninety eight."

"Five, nine, eight? Five hundred and ninety eight dollars?" I repeated as though by magic incantation it would shrink.

I looked back at The Boat and the saucy wink seemed to turn to a leer.

Oh well. What would an old lady like me do with a hot boat like that anyway?