"Thar' She Blows" ~ So you're a "Newbie"

I remember the day well…buying my first Canoe. My previous canoeing had been on ponds and with my Dad on pretty tame water but I was a Young buck, newly married and as Young Bucks are prone to do I wanted the Fastest Canoe I could find and the Salesperson saw me coming. I left the Store with an Old Town TRIPPER ! 100 pounds of Paddling Pig.

With the Boat on top of the Van I was off to Bar Harbor, Maine. Being more than a bit impatient I climbed into my NEW acquisition and hit the Water…Alone. While common sense dictated that I remain behind the Barrier I was having none of that and turned the corner from the Safety of the Harbor straight into the Open Sea. After all, what could possibly happen?

I instantly discovered what could happen as my Canoe was sucked out to Sea and I was totally out of control. With very large Swells making turning around completely impossible I suddenly realized I was an idiot…and I was CERTAIN that I was about to meet my Maker. For about 30 minutes I looked all around me and watched the safety of the land become smaller and Smaller. Was I Scared? You bet. I was SERIOUSLY Scared and due to the fact that the Movie “Jaws” was currently #1 I was fairly sure that I was soon going to be eaten.

I write this not to be Comical in ANY way… cuz in the Words of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry…“A Man’s GOT to know his Limitations.” … and I should have known better.

As my life was flashing before my eyes and I had truthfully given up hope I could see a fishing boat approaching…and I began screaming for help. They saw me and headed in my direction. They tossed me a line and pulled me alongside…then pulled my Tripper on board as well. After getting my butt handed to me by the Skipper they took me into port where I was unloaded, schooled once again and went on my way…my Canoe and I in the care of a kindly Woman driving a pickup truck. Back to the Motel I was staying at we went. I was humiliated.

I learned much that day. Did I quit canoeing? Nope. I learned as much about canoeing as I could and went on to start a Canoe Club in Upstate NY…the Ahwaga Canoe Club. After 5 or 6 years I moved out of the area and it became … http://www.ackcny.org

The Club was a Massive Success with 2 or sometimes 3 trips a week, often 30 boats on each trip and Safety was Concern #1. I highly recommend that if you’re just getting started in Canoeing or Kayaking that you take a few lessons from qualified instructors. Don’t be a Bonehead as I was.

The Bottom Line here should be obvious. NEVER go boating alone unless you’re on a Small pond. Always wear a PFD… KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING. :slight_smile: Be safe out there my Friends. Many thanks to paddling.com for what you do. :slight_smile: Rich Briere


Great story that illustrates the importance of learning and as you say, knowing your limitations.
I’ve never had a lesson. Actually I would love to but I don’t really live where our boats have a following.
As for never going boating alone, that’s one rule I can’t live with. I tend to head out into the wilderness alone. Usually in a kayak, sometimes in a canoe.

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Hi Rich. Great story and I think many of us have similar stories on some topic or another. Mine involve home construction or are automobile/motorcycle related mostly.

It seems, as we get older it is easier to relate these youthful stories.

I’m a new to canoes and I’m 65. I go down our local river and it is mostly populated with young adults and I use the term adult loosely. Mostly cheap single layer plastic big box store plastic rec-kayaks with no flotation and no PFD being worn but one in the boat incase you get stopped. Late teens into twenties there is a immortality thing going on in our brains and we felt bulletproof.

We had record rainfalls the last few weeks and the river was suggested to be closed to boaters. That didn’t stop anyone except people that didn’t need the warning in the first place and our local firemen were getting more than their share of water rescues all week.

Not sure how to get a message like yours across to those that would never visit a sight like this. I guess it is each of us do our part at being safe and each of us pass the message along whenever we see an opening.

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Great story. I’m so glad it had a happy ending!

My first time kayaking was equally foolhardy, but also, hilarious. I was in Barbados on a surf trip, staying with friends. My introverted self very much needed a solo day so I sent my friends off on their own adventure. There was a SOT at the sailing club where my friend keeps his sailboat. I asked if I could try it out and was told it had a leak and only stays floating for about 2 hours. So I said, “cool! See you then.” I took my snorkeling gear and headed out in the ocean to a see shipwreck. I was just a little apprehensive, but in the good way. A few boaters I had met previously asked me on the way out if I was okay, did I want to go out sailing with them instead and I was all chipper with, “nope, I’m fine. Thanks!” So I paddled out to the shipwreck, tied off to a buoy, sort of kept an eye on my watch and snorkeled my little heart out. Then I headed back… and the boat started to sink just as the beach was in sight. I managed to get it to about 100 yards off shore when it sank. (2 very strong young men later went out and dragged it in with their dingy).

And then I was hooked! I purchased my first kayak within a month of getting back.

I do paddle almost exclusively solo now (unless it’s whitewater), and I paddle in what some would consider challenging water, but I’m much safer about it now.


The errors in judgment that people talk about here are generally ok. It means you made It home safely to properly get the lesson. I and anyone with long time on the water has them, where one piece of luck like the fisherman coming by made all the diff.

It is the ones we will never hear about that are the problem.

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Indeed. A 19 year old kayaker died last week on Freeman Lake in Elizabethtown, KY. He drowned in 20 feet of water in this very calm lake, quite close to shore. He rented a rec kayak, was not wearing the mandatory pfd, and could not swim (he lied about this on his form). I have no idea what actually happened, but he was in distress right before he disappeared according to onlookers on shore. Very sad. Very preventible.


What an incredibly KIND group of folks you are. :slight_smile: I knew you would be.

In the Interest of Truth and Transparency, MUCH of my “Solo Paddling” took place within 100 yards of my home…with (if this pic pops) “Beaver Cleaver”. I had 3 large ponds within walking distance and spent many hours doing that. This guy would often Swim next to me. He was a Charmer. :slight_smile:

My life as a paddler was filled with lessons. While paddling with a group behind me through a small section of the Chenango River with 6 to 8 foot banks on both sides of the 8 to 10 foot wide stream in that narrow section, I suddenly saw a Flash of Fur and Flesh as a Doe jumped OVER my boat and landed on the other bank. As I turned my head in amazement of what I’d just seen, her fawn tried to follow Mom and landed IN my Canoe sending us both INTO the water. I pushed the Fawn up the bank and my Boat was collected by others who paddled past. That was Fawn…er…Fun. :slight_smile:

Having said that, when traveling in a Group it’s, IMHO, MANDATORY to have a Lead boat ((NOBODY Passes the Lead boat) as well as a Sweep. (the Last Boat in the Group-No stragglers can be left behind). On another adventure on a Stream I knew well, I came around the bend to discover a tree had fallen into the fast moving water. 3 Blasts on my Whistle signaled the Group to Stop but a Woman on her FIRST TRIP in her NEW Kayak came around the Corner and was swept into the branches. She rolled, was pinned under 5’ of water and didn’t pop out. I knew this was a SERIOUS problem and I ripped off my own PFD so as not to allow more for the branches to grab…blew two sets of three on my whistle signaling I needed Help…dove from my perch slightly upstream from where she was pinned and my body slammed into her boat with just enough force to jostle it free. We were both lucky because the water was shallow enough for me to be able to plant my feet and push. It could have been a disaster. Although PFD’s are absolutely mandatory, should you find yourself in her predicament, pinned underwater, I strongly suggest peeling it off any way possible. The less that branches have to hold on to the better your chances are for escape.

Her first Kayak trip was her Last. She sold her boat and we never saw her again. Totally understandable. Safety First my Friends. :slight_smile:

Rich. Your mentioning the strainer with the woman trapped is the biggest danger on our river also and no one seems to understand it here. As I mentioned above after all our rain over the last couple weeks dozen of trees had come down in the river and it is wide enough that they don’t cover the width but normally occur where there is a bend and the force of the water is cutting out the bank. The tree falls and now the strongest current is running thru the tree and you need to start working against the current early on to not have it take you in. People don’t see the current as its going thru the tree as easy as not and half of them want to get close to get a look.

Sometimes a farmer will pull one out if they can get a chain to it. winter and spring ice flow will clean some of them up also or at least move them to a better spot.

The our river is very deceiving because there is no white water people think of it as a lazy river at an amusement park once the water is warm you will see people in anything that floats going down stream.

2-3 MPH is pretty slow until you are being sucked thru a maple or oak tree.

Excellent posts, Bud. Upstate NY is LOADED with incredible opportunities for all kinds of Water Travel. Now that I’m in Massachusetts I get to see the Mile Wide Connecticut River and it’s Major League Boring. :slight_smile: There are only a couple of Creeks even worth looking at.

You bringing up the “Youth of America” is perfect timing as I’m currently involved in a “Discussion” with a 20 year old Bass Player who’s in a Metal Band and their only Quest is to turn everything up to TEN and Blow everyone out of the room. I recently turned 70 and my entire life has been spent in the Music World…the Golden Days. LOL. Now I’ve somehow become my Father and the 20 year old has become the Meathead that I was at his age. :joy: Life is a Strange Game.

Introverted? I could relate , esp in my teens.
I may still be so I’ll ask Castoff.

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String, I think you fit in my class of gregarious introvert’s. I am very comfortable spending long periods alone. If around people much I need time to myself. Yet I also enjoy people, and the time spent with them.

My experience with “it could have turned out bad” was my first ww canoe trip when I paddled a tandem canoe with my partner running every rapid. I wanted to run Bull Sluice at the end of the day, but he didn’t. So I went solo. I made it through, but missed my line and took on water. I was paddling hard to prevent from being pulled back into the hydraulic when a rope was thrown to me. I like rope!

Yes there was more than one ww close call, we had taken on water going through a big wave train. We pulled over getting out on a massive rock in about 3 feet of water. Our mistake was being on the down stream side of the canoe. When we lifted the canoe the water caught the gunnel filling and pushing the canoe. We were pushed of the rock as the canoe was pushed up hard against it. My right foot was trapped under the canoe and I was laid out with one foot on the bottom and my head only above the water. Try as we might we could not push the canoe against the current to release my foot. I told Pat that perhaps we needed to pull the canoe toward us using the current instead of fighting it. This would put my head underwater, and if it didn’t go over I would be stuck there. You can bet we gave it all we had.


This is how I describe myself as well. I get “tapped out.” I’m notorious for skipping the group meals at business travel events. Well notorious among my trusted colleagues who don’t tattle on me.

I’m glad you got out of that. It sounds like you kept a cool head.

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Flotsam, my wife agrees with your character description of me. I am a one to one kind of guy. I tend to disappear inward in a crowd.

It’s usually easy to keep a cool head immersed in the Chatooga. What were you (not) thinking?

What was I thinking…That I would never get downstream of a boat ever again!! :flushed:


This has been fun, but it’s almost time for Clemson to try to show up in a game.

For some reason most people think that they are born knowing how to paddle a canoe and handle an axe.

People often exaggerate their experience. I used to lead a lot of river trips. No matter what people told me I would get them out on a lake at least once to assess their ability with a paddle.

I took a friend that “grew in upstate New York with a paddle in his hands.” I took him and his nephew on a local lake. The wind came up and they were helpless, sitting on shore and walking their canoe back to the put in. I paddled the Old Town Guide 18 solo in the wind to demonstrate that controlling a canoe in that wind was possible. They both paddled on a trip for a week in the bow and did great. Allowing them together in a canoe on a river would have been a mistake. The uncle capsized later, but it was not his fault.

“Gregarious introvert”. At the risk of wandering off the OP thread, II love that personality characterization, Castoff! It will be helpful to be able to use it in my own defense. That is exactly what I am and those of you others who are declaring to be part of that same minority tribe are describing exactly how I feel about being around people. I really enjoy good companionship and conversation and can be very happy and communicative in small groups. But I shut down and withdraw in mass gatherings and regularly need down time on my own even when in the best and dearest of company.

My late father was much the same, and I seem to have been the only other member of the family who understood that about him (some others were hurt by what seemed to them to be avoidance or rejection at times.) Fortunately my mother enjoyed doing things without my dad and they often took separate vacations – mom was more sociable and had a large group of close women friends from her grad school days with whom she would take trips while Dad preferred to rent a little bedsit apartment in London and take classes at Cambridge or Oxford and knock around old bookstalls during his sabbaticals. They worked it out.

I have had romantic partners accuse me of being “unfaithful” or even “autistic” for not being able to tolerate being around them 24/7. This often reached a head when we took vacations together.

I have observed that it is not unusual for very emotionally needy people to be attracted to us “gregarious introverts”, probably because we tend to be very self-reliant, practical, low drama and reliable. But once we become entangled we GIs can feel oppressed, even frantic, about the clinginess and demands of the needy one, who in turn feels neglected and unsure of our affection when we require solitude to recharge our emotional batteries. I have even encountered this in platonic friendships with people whose expectations of what they considered “loyalty” and “availability” were beyond what I could comfortably provide.

The partner who accused me of being “autistic” kept insisting that I was “obviously” cold and lacked empathy. I tried to explain my need for solitude was in part driven not by a lack of, but actually an excess of empathy. I tend to be hyper-aware of all the people around me and concerned about their individual welfare and how they are faring in the group. That has always been a characteristic that made me an effective instructor, manager, crew chief and even outfitter guide. It did make it difficult to teach in classroom settings (as I did for a while in teaching construction trade apprenticeship courses) because I was always aware of the varying level of comprehension and preparedness among my students and trying to make sure those who were struggling got special attention without neglecting or boring those better able to keep up was extremely challenging and time-consuming. God bless those able to balance that, but it was too much for me after a while.

Being hyper aware of others’ humanity can be overwhelming and psychologically exhausting. My family long ago got used to my needing to take a long walk by myself late on Christmas Day or after Thanksgiving dinner. And I am apt to disappear for extended periods during wedding receptions, family reunions and other high-intensity personal interaction events.

I think we GIs are often misunderstood. Being self-possessed is not the same as being self-centered. And the personal need for regular solitude is not misanthropy.

I’m not a saint or Bodhisattva and my compassion and empathy are not bottomless. I need a walk in the woods or a solitary paddle on a quiet river to recharge those reserves sometimes. Those in my life who really understand that are patient with me and I am deeply grateful to them for that.

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I am the same at family gatherings. Every year we take 16 close relatives to the beach in one house. Those are big houses for about 3 days. Then it’s usually the guys who start looking for places to go.
I got lucky last summer. Our room was fairly isolated with it’s own deck overlooking the marsh. I take several books , binoculars, camera ,and 2 kayaks.
We have rented the same house for this year.