Monday, September 1, 2008

A little surprise.

My oldest child's 9th birthday was this past weekend - "The Divine Miss M" as I refer to her.

So, Monday - Labor Day - was a "big day out" for the family. The weather was gorgeous - sunny and in the high 7o's, clear and dry with a slightly increasing breeze. We packed up the family, three of our canoes and a breakfast and drove up to a local state park with my father.

When we arrived, we brought the breakfast over to a table overlooking the water and started a wood fire. Soon, the smells of coffee brewing in the French press, hot chocolate, sizzling sausages, home fries and wild blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup were dancing on the breeze along with the aroma of woodsmoke. Leftovers? Nahh... You're all lucky I haven't got smell-a-vision installed. You'd gain 5 pounds just from that.

While we were having breakfast, the breeze freshened up a bit on the pond. No whitecaps or anything too bad, but...

After we got breakfast cleaned up, we drove over to the launch ramp. The three boats are all hand-made. The lapstrake canoe is a Charlotte, the small cedar strip is a Wee Lassie and the larger one in the rear is a Wabnaki. The Divine Miss M had only been on her own in a canoe once. In the fall she paddled the Charlotte in a small area of the same pond. She decided that she wanted to paddle my Wee Lassie, so I was paddling the Charlotte.

My father, DS and DW were in the Wabnaki. It was DS's first time in a canoe - ever. He was very excited. DW was excited too, but only because she's not particularly comfortable in a small boat.

We finally got out on the water and The Divine Miss M was trying to paddle with a Greenland style paddle that I made for her. She wasn't having much luck as it was a bit short for the Wee Lassie's beam. She then tried a larger paddle which she managed to work with. I was trying to stay close, shadowing her in the Charlotte and at the same time having a running tutorial on paddling as she tried to go along in a straight line. She was finding it a bit frustrating as she's very light and the wind was pushing her around a bit. Pretty soon, she felt she was getting the hang of things and was paddling fairly aggressively. I warned her not to get too cocky.

It was very sudden, really. She appeared to try to take a stroke, but the flat of the blade was not oriented correctly and as she tried to push, she got no resistance from the paddle as the blade sliced through the water - over she went.

The next thing I saw was the canoe's bottom and a floating paddle. The Divine Miss M was nowhere in sight. I had a moment of panic only a parent can have and began closing the short distance at an amazing speed. While I was paddling, I was relieved to hear her screaming very loudly from underneath the canoe - I knew she was OK if she was screaming. Little girls have this really piercing scream when they want to.

As I got to the boat and rolled the gunnel of the submerged canoe up to get her out from under the canoe she darted out and grabbed the gunnel of the Charlotte. She was going to haul herself aboard.

Not so fast, young lady! Let's wait for Grampa and he can help balance us while you get in - before you swamp a second canoe and the camera, wallet, key fob and dry gear!

It took me a minute to convince her to hold onto the canoe and float while waiting for my father come over. Amazingly - she hadn't lost her hat, her glasses or anything else. She finally stopped screaming once she got in the boat again. She was wet and cold, but OK. After being transferred to my father's boat, I went back and collected the loose paddles floating in the water and towed the swamped canoe to shore to empty it.

Amazingly, The Devine Miss M wanted to get right back into the canoe and paddle back to the put-in. I've got to give her kudos for wanting to get right back in the canoe. It was very brave of her, considering the scare she had.

She did learn some valuable lessons today:

-Always, always, always wear your PFD.
-Don't overestimate your skills.
-Don't paddle with your shoes on, you may need to swim, and it's easier without them.
-If you got over, stay with the boat.
-Even when the boat is upside down, there is (usually) air underneath!
-Always dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
-No matter how warm the day may seem, the water can be COLD.
-Always have a dry change of clothes. You may not be going swimming, but Murphy may have other ideas.

No pictures of the after-capsize Miss M. She was a bit too ornery for them!


Almost American said...

What you didn't say was that your father wasn't going to bother coming over to help out. He thought I was over-reacting when I insisted we should!

Canoez said...

Yeah, I was a bit surprised about that myself. He's paddled the boat that I was in that day and doesn't find it very stable at all. I couldn't figure out what he thought I was going to do without some help.

I probably could have towed her to shore and gone back out to get the boat and paddles, but I couldn't have gotten her boat emptied of water and her back in it. She's still a bit small to be paddling a swamped canoe back to shore. Certainly that will be an important lesson for her when she's older. I was more worried about her being cold and wet as she was fully dressed!