Bell Wildfire in WW

After seeking advice last month about installation of floatation in a Wildfire, I had an opportunity to try it out on the East Race WW course in South Bend, IN. (class II or III, dependent on the number of gates open).

I swam once, right out of the first gate, due to falling out of the boat (boat was upright). After that, it was mostly a matter of stopping at the half way point to bail out and didn’t have any other issues. My goal was to take the driest line I could based on limited experience, and the boat performed well , but still took in a few gallons by the end of the run.

I also spent some time in an older Dagger Encore WW canoe. There was a night and day difference - much drier, spins on a dime (comparatively), but slow and hard to keep straight.

A fun day on the river and a great place to learn - swam the length of the course as a group at the end of the day to practice defensive swimming and catching eddies. Much more confident in trying new lines when you are comfortable swimming in the current.

Sounds like a great day!
South Bend isn’t too far from us. We’re in northern IL. Was this course built for the PanAm games?

You’re right about swimming practice building confidence. Most people think of paddling skills as the paddling. I find that my paddling is better when I know I’m prepared to handle the consequences of dumping. More relaxed, more willing to push my ability.

Saturday I was paddling with my partner…she just switched to the dark side (solo ww canoes s) from a kayak and this particular river was lined with willows and dogwoods and extremely serpentine. The intent was to get LOTS of turning practice. It had good drop and a nice swift current, but at 220 csf, was a relatively safe flow.

At about the half way point I found myself drifting backwards in a slower stretch waiting for her to make a particular bend… as she negotiated the bend, the blind rock and the overhanging willows I heard her warn me (George-of-the-Jungle style) “Watch out for the tree”…

I turned to look behind me and saw jumbled mess of small deadwood coming across my stern deck… rather than simply ducking… I leaned out over the gunwale… As the water began to pour in over the gunwale I realized I hadn’t been swimming out of this boat… yet.

When I resurfaced, sputtering and laughing, I was reminded of the extra confidence that you can achieve by occasionally taking a swim… knowing you’re prepared to handle it and realizing that it won’t kill you.

It was also reassuring to know that all of the prep work that you do at the put-in, tying things down, securing everything, and wearing the proper gear, does pay off when you do decide to become a U-boat skipper.

None of us will ever pride ourselves with taking a swim… but it’s probably something we would all benefit from occasionally practicing.

I am not much of a ww paddler but
I have never enjoyed paddling a canoe more than I have this season with a Wildfire in up to class 2 ww. I mean I still end up in the drink at times but that doesn’t bother me at all because I am having so much fun paddling. Picking off little eddies and ferrying across the river at every opportunity has been with a youthful exhuberance that leaves me with a smile. Heck I havent touched my sea kayak since February. Thats unheard of for me. That’s like…months.

Over the past three days we have been getting some rain that has brought with it some really decent water levels considering this weekend is Memorial day already. I am hoping to get out some this week and enjoy it while it is still here. Soon the water will be gone from the streams and the little canoe will lose it’s place on the rack again. But as long as the little rivers around here are running I’ll take the canoe and leave the sea kayak for when the rivers are dried up.

I think I have fallen in love with the Soucook River all over again. Here are some shots from the last couple of months off paddling form all over this 22 mile long river just a half hour from my house. The river is just outside Concord NH.

Bell Wildfire and tidewater canoeing

– Last Updated: May-28-04 8:42 AM EST –

Hi Scottb,
I am interested in taking my Wildfire out on the Down East Canoe Trail someday. In looking through your photos, the album entitled 'Down East' seems to be about that trail. I know you are a sometimes sea kayaker, but was wondering if you thought your Wildfire could handle this canoe route from South Portland to Fort William Henry, weather permitting. I use a Cooke spray cover as well.

I wouldn’t do it
but that doesn’t mean much.

Can you do a deep water rescue in your wildfire? Or are you going to be with people that have helped you do assisted rescues?

I can understand the appeal of traveling the Downeast canoe trail in a solo canoe. I am sure many people have had much success doing just that. For me though, I would be very apprehensive about changing weather conditions and my personal lack of ability in the self rescue department in a solo canoe. If I were part of a large group I would feel a lot better about the safety thing. If I practiced doing deep water rescues I would consider a trip like that top be quite an adventure at least.

MITA membership well worth it
for access to many islands on the Maine Island Trail. The guidebook is well worth the money for all the knowledge of the danger areas: Pemaquid Point being one of them as well as Cape Small.

Going solo depends on how well the Wildfire handles sometimes large swells (to over ten feet off Popham beach)

I paddle a Flashfire around Lower Hell Gate as I have a cabin there but once down to Five Islands which is more exposed to the ocean it is so short that it twists and turns with each swell not to mention sometimes six foot chop. So I like my 18 foot sea kayak better as more of it stays in the water.

Casco Bay is considerably more protected and more canoe friendly as well as Muscongus. Pen Bay is usually awful with waves, as well as anything exposed to the full force of the ocean such as headlands.

OC-1 on the Downeast Trail

– Last Updated: May-28-04 9:29 PM EST –

Let's see. Yes, I have practiced deep water self-rescue in the Wildfire, actually.
Is MITA membership necessary to camp on state owned islands such as Little Chebeague and Fort?
I asked the MITA fellow at the KTP Paddlefest if they were non-profit, and he wasn't sure if they were or not. They seem like a good group, I think.
Listen, I'm not planning this anytime soon, and if I see a 10 foot wave on any canoe trail, then I'll start looking for a new canoe trail. I only know that this one has been paddled safely with open boats many times (weater permitting).
And yes, there is safety in numbers. If any open boaters out there are engaged in this sort of tidewater canoeing, I'd love to talk to you. I plan to work my way up to this with easier/shorter tidewater trips.
And thanks for the information, I do appreciate it.

No permission needed

– Last Updated: May-29-04 8:21 PM EST –

to camp on little chebeague. Just pull up and make yourself at home. Jewell Island has some real nice sites.
I believe any state owned islands are open to the public.

MITA is non profit
And the public islands (BPL )Islands are first come first serve.

Jewell however isnt an experience of solitude in the summer.

The trail has been paddled for many years (before there were kayaks) in open boats by sailors who knew what to do when approached by a 10 foot wave at the mouth of the Kennebec( I saw a 26 footer once) and the shortcut routes to not encounter those things that could only be done at certain tides. Of course you will get lots of more benign days (22 foot isnt the rule). What I am saying is that the Trail is not marked and the more local knowledge that you have the better equipped you will be. Its not your equipment that will matter in the end, its your mind.

And to fill it with education, the MITA guidebook is very useful.

Those day trips really help to put all the factors together.

I have a friend who successfully paddled it in a Lost Pond 12. You can do it in a Wildfire. I dont like the way my Flashfire bobs and weaves however, then I have to take ginger to alleviate the seasickness and I hate ginger.

Sorry ten foot waves in some area are normal. You have to live with it.

26 foot waves, oh my!
Oh no, the waves are getting even bigger!

I will take your word for it, and have sent in my membership form and dues to join the MITA this year.

Time to take the Wildfire back out in a little (fresh) whitewater.