|Okay folks, I'm not as young as I used to be. Time was that you
would have to flip me out of a canoe with the help of a few fellow men.
Today, unable to contain myself any longer, I took the Swamp Yankee down
to Doctors Lake. Here is what happened.
Once at the launching point, I donned my life vest (a really good
thing to do the first time you test out a boat) along with my windbreaker.
The water was low, so I had to sort of get in the canoe and push myself
out over the sand into deeper water with my paddle. Once this canoe was
fully floating, I knew immediately that I was in a very tender boat. I was
using a single bladed paddle and wished I had a double blade. A double
blade would not have made this canoe any less tender, but it would have
helped my chances of staying upright by keeping my center of gravity more
or less stable. Swinging a paddle back and forth or trying to make
J-strokes is a bear in a tender canoe. Remembering my youth (or maybe it
was that a first time launching makes me feel 18 again) and forgetting
that I am 45 and in sorry shape I proceeded outwards towards the wide
open. I was about 50 yards off shore when a motor boat (about 500 yards
out) went by. The lake was dead smooth. By the time the wakes had reached
me, they had flattened out and I rode them without incident.
I started towards the rt. 17 bridge and the swampy creek that runs
beside it. The birds and other critters hang out there so I figured I
would do a little exploring. I needed to head towards starboard so I
switched paddle side to port and gave a good push. Maybe too good, because
I heeled over and rolled over. Quicker than you could say JackRabbit, I
was floating in the lake. Needless to say, I panicked (for about 3
seconds) before I composed myself, scolded myself and started to reason
what the heck I was going to do fifty yards from the beach with a swamped
canoe (hey maybe that is why it is named the Swamp Yankee Canoe
J). First thing I did was to right the canoe. That was easy.
This canoe spins like a barrel. Full of water, I tried to lift and empty
enough so that I might have a chance of re-entering. I quickly gave up
that idea and looked towards shore. I started to swim side stroke, hauling
my swamped canoe and paddle with my left hand. Thank God for low tide and
the sense enough to wear a life jacket. I only had to swim for about
twenty or thirty yards before I could touch bottom.
Huffing and puffing I beached the canoe, turned her over and emptied
the water. Still a little red in the face, I took a quick look around to
see if my swamping was caught by any of the locals. No one was around, so
if they saw me, they were quietly snickering from the comfort of their
family rooms. I walked to the van dripping wet and hoping that I had a
cigarette inside (my pack was in my pocket). Well, there was a cigarette
and my old trusty dry sweatshirt. I pulled off the windbreaker, life
jacket and tee-shirt and traded them in for a nice warm, smelly old sweat
shirt and a smoke (had half a pack in the glove box). No dry pants or
shoes (and to think that the thought had crossed my mind to leave my shoes
in the van, but the 18 year old won out again, get wet? Never happened
before, why would it happen now?….yuk..yuk The beauty of hindsight huh?)
I quickly decided that this canoe was way too tender for me and
while I stood there smoking I ran through my options: 1) Take a chain saw
to her (mainly to get even for the embarrassment of the swamping). This
never really was an option as I never would destroy something that I
worked so hard on, but I do admit that the thought crossed my mind. 2)
Finish her and sell her. 3) Add outriggers to her so that I may be able to
enjoy her for the reason I built her. This option won't work for me. I'm
just to proud, stupid or as my wife says, macho to be seen paddling around
with training wheels on my canoe (this is the 18 year old talking again).
This is a viable option, but would make the canoe a very stable (and ugly)
water creature. 4) Sell her the way she sits with stiff warning about her
tenderness and the necessity of a good life jacket! This is the option I
will take (at this moment anyhow). My ego has been bruised and this is the
only real (manly/macho) way to restore it that I can see. Anyone want to
buy a canoe cheap?
Keep building, wear a life jacket and for Gods sake -
Rich Deming - Back yard Boat Builder