You didn’t come back to learn not to stick the blade end of your paddle into the ground because the sand will eat into the blade and ultimately split the wood.
You didn’t return to learn that the way to determine if a canoe paddle’s the right size for you is by standing the paddle vertically in front of you – butt end down; See: Above for the reason – and if it grazes the tip of your nose, that’s your paddle.
You didn’t come back for those. Those are special bonuses, for my readers. Other blogs update you on celebrities in prison. I offer canoe paddle etiquette.
You also didn’t come back to learn about the various canoe paddling strokes. The “bow stroke”, which propels the canoe forward, the “front sweep”, a half moon maneuver, going front-to-back, that turns the canoe to the right, or the “back sweep”, a half moon back-to-front move, that turns the canoe to the left. The “J-stroke”, performed by the “sterns man”, sitting in the back, serves as a rudder, to keep the canoe headed straight ahead. And let’s not forget the “feather”, which makes the canoe go sideways.
The “feather” is impossible. I practiced it for years, rapidly swiveling my wrist in one direction, and then the other. I just looked ridiculous. Ultimately, it’s no big loss. How often do you need to go sideways?
(Answer: You need to go sideways when you’re coming up beside a dock, but you’re not quite at it. The “feather” allows you to “sideways” yourself in those last few inches. Unable to master the “feather”, I applied a different approach. I steered the canoe directly into the dock. But gently. When the canoe hit the dock, the impact of the collision would generate waves. The current produced by the waves invariably floated me to the dock. Not as elegant as the “feather”, perhaps, but it did the job)
Okay, we’re getting close.
One of the lessons we were taught in Canoe Instruction class was jumping out of a canoe. This one I never understood. You jump out of a canoe, and the canoe remains upright. What is the practical value of learning that? Think about it. Under what conditions would a person end up in the water, while their canoe remains upright? They would have to have been blown out of the canoe.
In fourteen years of camping, I never saw anyone blown out of a canoe.
I’m skipping that lesson. Which brings us to…
What do you do when you’re in the water, and your canoe has turned over?
Get your Hi-Liters ready; it’s a little complicated.
You’re in the water; your canoe is upside-down.
Rule Number One:
Have fun with it.
Hold you breath and go under the overturned canoe. Once inside, you will discover that the capsized canoe has created a giant air pocket. You can stay in there for some time. You can breathe, sing the theme song to Yancey Derringer, whatever you want. And your voice sounds real echoey. Not “Hello-hello-hello” echoey, but loud and reververberatey. If you’re in no great hurry, you can have quite a good time under there.
Okay, fun’s over. It’s time to get back in the canoe.
Here’s what you do.
Wait, if there’s only one canoe, your only choice is to grab hold of the end of the canoe, and “flutter-kick” your way into shore. Canoe trips, however, rarely involve only one canoe. (Though it’s possible, I suppose, at a really small camp.) Generally, however, if a canoe overturns and its occupants are thrown into the water, here, finally, is what you do.
Step One: Position the capsized canoe at right-angles to the upright canoe (or, if things went really wrong, another capsized canoe). It’s easy. Canoes floating in water are extremely light.
Step Two: Sit on the end of the capsized canoe. This causes the other end of the capsized canoe to rise high in the air. Putting it in position for
Step Three: Lower the raised end of the capsized canoe onto the gunnel (spelled “gunwale”, though spelling in not important at this juncture) of the upright canoe. (Though the procedure is the same with two overturned canoes, I am offering only the “only-one-canoe-tipped-over” scenario. It’s a canoe trip, not a “summer blockbuster.”)
Step Four: With the capsized canoe resting comfortably (you can sometimes detect a sigh) in place, with the assistance of the people in the upright canoe, slowly and gently, slide the capsized canoe along the top of the upright canoe. When the capsized canoe is equally balanced on both sides of the upright canoe, stop sliding the capsized canoe. This is very important. If you don’t stop at this point, you will slide the capsized canoe back into the water on the other side of the upright canoe, at which point tempers all around will very likely begin to fray.
Step Five: With the capsized canoe is now comfortably balanced on top of the upright canoe, flip the capsized canoe over. (Note: The person in the upright canoe does this. The person in the water can rest. He’s earned it. He’s done a lot.)
Step Six: Slide the formerly capsized canoe back into the water, being careful not to hit the person in the water in the head. That’s real trouble. Try not to do that.
Step Seven: Pull yourself out of the water, and back into the canoe. This maneuver should be executed with someone in an upright canoe holding the formerly capsized canoe steady. Not doing so could result in the person climbing into the canoe’s pulling the canoe over, in which case, it will, once again, be a capsized canoe. Should this happen,
Return to Step One.
I know that took a while, but it’s important. If, however, you think all this is too much trouble, you can short-circuit the process by following one simple precaution:
Stay the hell out of canoes.