Friday, April 24, 2009

One of these years Midwest Mountaineering's canoe and kayak demo will have balmy weather, calm waters, and mild water temps. This was not that year. Unseasonably hot (82F) weather brought what hot weather typically brings this time of year, strong southerly winds. For many of the new paddlers testing boats it was no problem; until they tried to turn around, that is. We safety boaters did a land office business, a record number of capsizes in my experience with this event.

The water was around 50F, a very gradual beach, in a pretty shallow lake. In a number of cases, folks could just stand up and stroll to shore, sheepish, chilly, but with everything intact except maybe their dignity. We did do a few deep water rescues though. The ManFromSnowyLegs fished a guy out that had lost his pricey sunglasses and seemed a bit flustered. He was a large gentleman but he did get back in the boat and headed directly for shore, as did all of the capsizees. The whole episode was a lot like herding cats. RonO, organizational mastermind of the safety boaters, made that observation as yet another person told us, as we gently suggested they stay within the perimeter, "I know what I'm doing". I had almost a .750 batting average predicting who would go over. A quick look at body language paddle stroke, and general tenseness of the person made it pretty easy to guess who was going swimming as they made the turn back and were parallel with the waves. And often it was the guy (I never heard the phrase from a woman) who 'knew what he was doing'. I did a bow rescue with a guy who had gone over, with his spouse, in a kevlar canoe a good piece from shore. Dennis, from Northwest Canoe, towed the lady to shore on the stern of his solo canoe. She was cold and a bit panicked. The hubby was insisting he was OK and was attempting to swim the swamped canoe and paddles to shore. His lips were turning blue and the shivering was beginning as the sodden cotton T shirt sucked the body heat away. We finally told him to dump the gear and wrap his arms and legs around my bow and I'd paddle him to shore. He was still reluctant until I told him I'd been wanting to practice this bow rescue technique for years and now he was planning on "ruining my opportunity!?". That did the trick and I back paddled to shore and let him face the music as his angry spouse waited to rip into him. I paddled away from the increasingly angry incriminations and back to the picket line. None of my cronies had seen a thing because they had, quite properly, been watching the other folks on the water.

People did have fun and even the wet folks dried out quickly in the giant outdoor 80 degree blow dryer. As aggravating as the 'I know what I'm doing' can be, there were dozens of folks with big smiles on their faces asking questions about paddling canoes and kayaks. Its a fun event and it gets a lot of people on the water.

Speaking of the water we are off for the first offical kayak weekend of the year at the Chippewa Flowage in northern Wisconsin. The weather report look spotty and we all know how accurate the weather reports are this time of year. I'm thinkin' we may risk it.

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