Messing about

Please note: Today we fly to Japan. Since we will cross the International Date Line, our days and times will seem strange from the perspective of readers who are not traveling. We get on the airplane this afternoon and land tomorrow afternoon in Japan, except it will still be today here. I will continue to post in my journal daily, but will do so by local time wherever I am. So there will be a skipped day as we travel this direction and a doubled day when we return. Sorry for any confusion this causes. Check the journal for regular updates and although there may be a skipped day, things will continue as usual. Also, I will post in The Adventures of Edward Bear each time we change location, so you can check to see where we are.

I’ve posted this quote in my journal several times before. It seems to be one of the themes of my life: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows)

Mr e in clear lake
That is exactly what we did yesterday morning. We simply messed about in boats. I so enjoy canoeing and kayaking that one of the deep pleasures of my life is sharing that passion with others. A dozen years ago, when visiting Maine, we stopped by the outlet store of the Old Town Canoe Company. I don’t know what I expected to purchase, but we just wanted to look around. I ended up buying a very small kayak. The boat is one that was never put into production. It is the same shape as the Otter, which was produced, but it has a couple of watertight bulkheads and a small hatch for stowing cargo. The boat has a “model name” on it: Dimension. If you check it out, this is the only “Dimension” Old Town ever built. It is a very basic boat, quite wide and stable and made of rotomolded plastic. It is nearly indestructible and easy for a beginner to paddle. I’ve used it myself as a play boat and sometimes paddle it at the very edges of the season when there is ice on the lake. I also use it for basic instruction with those who have never before paddled.

My philosophy of teaching paddling is that you allow the boat and the paddle to do the teaching. Very little actual instruction is required. I know a bit of the techniques employed by the American Canoe Association in teaching basic skills and paddle techniques and strokes, but I like to allow new paddlers to get the feel of the boat by themselves. I make sure they have a good life vest and that they have been out in water deep enough to be able to trust that vest. Then I teach a basic draw stroke and a back stroke and then allow them to play with the boat. They will soon learn to make the boat go where they want most of the time. After they are comfortable in the boat, I can teach a few more advanced strokes and in the kayak, I can teach them to edge and turn the boat with less effort.

Simply messing about, however, is the best technique I know for teaching someone to enjoy canoes and kayaks.

Although yesterday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, the morning started a bit cloudy with a small amount of overnight rain. We had planned to take the boats to the lake and didn’t let the weather deter us. I took the Old Town kayak and a small “Wee Lassie” canoe that I built myself. The Wee Lassie is big enough for me to take another person along, though it is really a solo canoe. Our eight year old grandson was eager to paddle the kayak. He had experience with the boat, having paddled it last year, so I made sure his life jacket was properly zipped up, let him sit in the boat and handed him the paddle. Then I launched the Wee Lassie and gave our two granddaughters rides around the lake. The older of our granddaughters later took a turn with the kayak, but we started out with her just riding in the canoe with me.

em in clear lake
Of course you can’t sit in the bottom of a shallow canoe with the water slipping by right next to you without putting your hand into the water and watching and feeling the effect of the water as your boat slips through it. Soon our granddaughter was laughing and splashing and encouraging me to go check out various things about the lake. The water lilies were just starting to bloom with their distinctive white flowers with the bright yellow centers. She liked the feel of the leaves in her hands and wanted to look at the flowers. “Grandpa, take a picture of this one!” she said over and over again. Back and forth to the shore I went, switching granddaughters and giving both rides.

Meanwhile our grandson was getting comfortable in the kayak and, for the most part, getting the kayak to go where he wanted. He is still fairly light, so he doesn’t weigh enough to really edge the boat. He can turn by back paddling and by dragging a paddle in the water or by stroking on one side or the other of the boat. The boat, without much of a load, floats high in the water and so turns nimbly with him. Sometimes it seems to have a mind of its own and he would find himself going in a different direction than desired. A boat is a bit like a bike. It is easier to control when you have a bit of speed, but it is difficult to learn that and be confident. Nonetheless we had great fun paddling about and poking about the little lake which is net to their home.

We were, of course, pursuing something that was absolutely worth doing.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!