Lessons learned

I learned...

Saturday, May 31st, 9pm

Suddenly, the canoe was above me. I don't know quite how it came to pass. But there I was, paddle in hand, looking at the yellow underside of the boat. It took me a few seconds to deduce that I was actually in the water.

After a morning and most of an afternoon hauling 90 pounds of hard plastic through boiling water, headed mostly in the opposite direction, your skin is soaked and has been for so long you've come to accept your fate as a kind of mobile salami. So capsizing doesn't get you wet per se - you're already there. It wasn't until the river water penetrated my bike jacket and envelopped my comparatively nude arms that I realized we had dumped.

As Dot and Nancy were yelling instructions at me over the roar of the river I tried to piece together just exactly what had happened.

For what seemed like the 120th time, I remember turning out of the eddy and heading down stream trying to pretend like I knew where the eddy line was on the other side of the chute. I remember figuring we were done, because the wavy bits were well behind us, and it was just a matter of catching a breath and then pretending that one or another patch of bubbling, boiling water was an eddy and then bringing the canoe about.

I was tired, cranky and meaningful communication with my paddling partner had ceased long before. I remember resting my paddle and looking over at the shore. Then we were over.

I found swimming quite challenging. Between the wetsuit and the PFD I was altogether too buoyant. Maneuvering myself into position was surprisingly difficult. Dot and Nancy fished us out and got us going again. My water bottle and snack bottle were safely clipped in, but unfortunately my pride got washed down the river.

Did we hit the mysterious water feature referred to as "the boil?" Who knows. In any case it was an instructive moment. You're never truly safe until you're sitting around the campfire, which is where I am now.

The group was up for a 7am breakfast, suited up and reviewing our river morphology for 8am. We were on the water by 8:45ish. The day was overcast, with rain threatening, though most of us were likely more worried about the water coming up to meet us from below.

We spent the morning practicing maneuvers and learning to get in and out of current. Paddling was a bit like driving in a shopping mall parking lot on a Saturday afternoon. Boats floating in from everywhere, some at speed, some crawling across the current as you bore down on them at speed. Boats zipping in, eddying out and ferrying back and forth.

Traffic lights would have been helpful. And a tow rope. Yes. A tow rope.

After all the student canoes had dumped (except Sue and Jenn) we ran the lower set a couple of times. The water was so high, the entire set was pretty much obstacle free. A wave train, they called it. Shooting it was a thrill, but completely non-instructive. We determined that the correct line on the lower set was head downstreamtm, we paddled forward a couple of strokes, and then started saying "yahoo" a lot. Okay - that's a lie. I was tired and getting cold so I didn't have a lot of "yahoos" in me.

We wrapped up by around 5pm, which was perfect - I could feel shivers coming on. After dumping, you never quite get warm again. And you start developing strange fashion sense. Witness the photo of Marj.

Dinner was a Slovakian dish Lester calls halusky, which sort of looks and tastes like scrambled perogies. Potato, flour, feta cheese, sour cream, all done up into curd-like things in a white sauce. You sprinkle parsely and bacon (if you like that sort of thing) on top and pig out. Spectacularly good food, but... er... bring lots of pots.

After dinner we learned the basics of using throw ropes (Reach, throw, row, go) and some safety stuff.

Position, angle tilt.