Thursday, December 25, 2008

ANOTHER CANOE LESSON

click on the photo's to enlarge Ah Ha! The sun is up and the weather is to be around 50 degrees. Time to load up the canoe for another self taught lesson. I went to the East Coast Trail at Tellico Lake. The water is really low and there is a long sloping beach where I can gently load and launch the canoe. So, with the canoe in the water; off I go. Yep; the good ol J Stroke. It's working wonderfully. I don't even have to think about it. Off to my right are a couple of seagulls diving for minnows. It is amazing to watch them feeding. They must have incredible eyesight to be able to spot a minnow under the surface from so high. Shortly after taking a few photos of the gulls; I decided to beach the canoe and sit on the shoreline for a bit. I easily turned the bow toward the closest bank and gently paddled toward it. To my immediate left front, the bank was mud and the water shallow. Just thirty feet to the right of that mud bank was a shoreline covered with tiny stones resembling course gravel the size of marbles and golf balls. Well, I opted for the mud shoreline because it would be easier on the canoe. Wrong choice. I turned the canoe sideways and slowly sculled in until the boat touched ground. Great! I put my left foot out and into the shallow water. When I put my weight on it my leg sank to the knee. Of course this tipped the canoe that direction too. That boot was full of water and there was no recourse but to go ahead and pull the right foot out of the canoe and stand up. It also sunk to the knee in the mud. While trying to maintain balance I leaned on the gun wale (top edge) of the canoe and it upset. Great. I made a monumental effort to save the camera, writing equipment and my jacket. I did good. Nothing got very wet. But the canoe was half full of water. There was nothing left to do but pull it up on the bank and unload what was still in the boat. Then I dumped the water out. Nothing was harmed. I learned a valuable lesson today. I thought I would just go out on a short non-serious paddle for just a couple hours. No sense dragging out all the dry bags and nonsense required for a long journey. That is the wrong frame of mind to be in with a canoe. Anything can happen. These boats are very unstable and require a learned skill to operate safely; I am learning. One must keep his mind on business continually. It's a lot like motorcycling. I always think; "if I do this, the bike will do that." And so with the canoe. "If I do this; the canoe will do that." I am still in the process of finding out what the canoe will do if I do this. I do know one thing for a fact. The most perilous areas of canoeing is getting into and out of the canoe. Hands down those are the two biggest areas of my concern. Those are the two situations where the weight in the canoe transfers from the center of the boat to the outside. Remember what I said above; if I put my foot here in the water and stand up; the canoe will do what? Always have to remember that. One must think ahead of the process constantly. I love it. It requires skill to operate a canoe correctly. I have the paddle strokes down perfectly. They just happen second nature now. Stability on the water is common sense for the most part. Launching is not a problem for me. Landing can be interesting and challenging due to the fact that I don't know what the bottom is like just under the surface at the shoreline. The problem today was my fault for not focusing on what I was doing. I took too much for granted. I learned a lesson. I feel confident right now that I could go on an extended trip in this canoe and be perfectly fine. I will, however, have every item safely packed into dry bags. If my camera would have been submerged today over that little fiasco; it would have cost me a thousand dollars to replace. Yep. Dry bags. Tomorrow I'll be leaving the water and venturing out on the motorcycle with my friend Kevin and possibly another friend Greg. We'll see what tomorrow brings.