Thursday, December 18, 2008


click on image to enlarge At last. I woke up this morning and it wasn't raining. Great! It's a chance to get the canoe out and hone the paddling skills. I wanted to slip out alone without any dog but Happy slipped past the gate faster than lightning. Oh well, why not take her. It was early morning and the sky was overcast. But no rain. Tellico Lake appeared brown and filthy. It's been raining for two weeks solid. I wanted to get the boat in and out of the water before any afternoon winds should appear. Ok; I got a dog this trip. I figured a little thirty pound dog wouldn't make too much difference to a sixteen foot canoe. Whoa! It does. I gently settled myself into my position within the boat and called Happy to get in. She did so nicely. Great! This isn't bad at all. I pushed off the boat and we were on our way out toward the main channel of the lake. I steered toward the North shore line in an attempt to hug it just in case. This was my third time out with this canoe and I was getting fairly familier with it's idiosyncrocies. I slowly put more power into the paddle stroke and we were gliding along really fast. This canoe has great long glide, thankfully, and is very responsive to the J Stroke. I settled into a cadence and focused on the J Stroke. This boat moves. Soon focus on the Stroke was not necessary and I was looking at the scenery. The total control of this canoe was mine. I didn't have to think about the paddle strokes or turning slightly left or right. It was all happening as if I had done this all my life. Then it happened! Happy NOOOO. NOOOO!!! This little dog decided to stand up on the left side of the boat and put her feet on the gun wale. Her thirty five pounds was instantly placed in a high position on the paddle side of the boat. The canoe listed strongly to the left and the gun wale almost touched the water. Happy NOOOOOOOOOO! A quick shift of my weight to the right corrected the sudden weight of the dog to the left. I learned a quick lesson. You're never in total control with a canoe. There are too many variances that affect operation. Current, wind, waves, chop, obstacles, and yes; dogs. This is becoming like motorcycling. One can never assume or take his mind off the business at hand. Ever! NO HAPPY; NOT AGAIN! OH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok; I gotta either get this dog to sit beside or in front of me or get her to go clear forward and sit in the front. The key here is sit. Ok Hap--------Go up front and sit ....There's a good little dog. Good girl. Go up front. OH HELL! Happy!!!! Down girl. Happy; come back. Come!!!!!!! Great Scott! The canoe really felt the transfer to the left side when Happy went totally to the front nose of the canoe and jumped up on the gun wale there. I think it's time to go to the shore and rest a bit. I have to think this out a little bit. If that little dog can create this much havoc with this canoe; what would a one hundred pound Golden Retriever do to it? It's a certainty Douglas can never go in an empty canoe. But a canoe loaded full of gear would make the boat displace more water. It would sit deeper into the lake thereby making it more stable. That would be called secondary stability. I'll try it with Happy first. The shoreline is very rocky here. I'm sure the canoe will pay the price with scratches on it's bottom. I am gentle with it and beach it the proper way. I can't decide if it's pretty out here or gloomy. I'll settle for "it's natural." The morning is warm and there is no wind. Happy is having a great time exploring the edge of the forest. The bank has a good concentration of forest ferns and mosses. These areas in the woods always appealed to me. They offer a beautiful green hue to the mundane browns of Winter. This canoe was not acquired to be used on these big lakes. There are too many motorized boats in the Summer to really enjoy paddling. This boat will be used on lakes where motors are not permitted. Of course; Santeelah and Calderwood Lakes will see the Champlain. Note the scum line in the picture above. This is filth from the lake. It also is indicative of how much water the canoe, Happy and I are displacing. The next photo is of another area of the boat. According to the line of scum on the bow; there is just enough of the canoe in the water to allow stability. Good thing I put ballast in the front today. The education process is ongoing. For instance; I learned that a beavertail paddle is a better paddle for this boat. It is wider and facilitates correction strokes. It grabs more water than the longer more slender ottertail paddle. The Ottertail requires less effort to use but requires more paddle strokes to propell the boat. I guess it depends if one desires more speed or more grace. Ha. How bout both?! I learned one more valuable lesson when I put the canoe onto this shoreline above. I came into the shallows with the side of the canoe facing the bank. In eight to ten inches of water, Happy decided to jump out of the boat. Fine. When she made her leap; the boat tipped quickly in her direction, taking me with it. This put my torso over the edge of the boat thereby creating a top heavy situation. Over it went. I plunged my hand into the ten inches of water and stopped the complete upset of the boat. But I couldn't right it back up. I was holding it from tipping any further only. And here came Happy with intentions of re-entering the canoe. NO, NO, NO, NO Happy. Go Back!!!!!! With my other hand I swung the paddle around and quickly stuck it into the mud on the tippy side. Whew! Saved! I'm glad this is happening in ten inches of water. I think I'll get this dog back to the truck. The truck is out there somewhere. I'm enjoying this canoe experience a lot. I believe I could load it up today and go for days in it without any worries. The paddle strokes and corrections strokes come to me without thought now. I need to experience the boat with a load of camp gear in it. The stability of it should improve tremendously. As far as dogs go; the jury is still out. I believe Happy would be fine on a camping trip. I'm not sure of anything bigger. It makes me wonder how Clark Gable paddled that canoe with the huge wolf dog in "Call of The Wild."