Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Five Vectors Paddling a Canoe


After a great night on the river cruising moon light channels, enjoying a cigar, rum and good conversation the weekend shaped up as a welcome respite from the work days past. This morning I decided to try my hand at a little Kayaking. My good friend Chris Ohearn went back to his summer home on Hay Island with a bag of my things in his boat on that previous night.

Getting the stuff back, I decided would involve a “voyage” out on the river and back. The water was calm and for a Saturday morning not many crafts were cruising about. Setting out seemed like an okay idea. These indicators combined with the rivers natural magnetism triggered the events that unfolded earlier today.  I went to our boathouse at the waters edge beneath the bluff, my sister stores a variety of water vessels in this structure. The building is an extension of the family home and is set in a protected channel with islands dotting the vista. The place has always been a strong focal point of river experiences throughout my years, from the time our family arrived in the 1000 Island Region during the early 1970’s. The boathouse provides a great launching off place for those coming and going on the River.

I set out to use the Kayak but unfortunately she had that locked up so that vessel was out of commission, in hindsight that would have been a better choice. The other option a yellow canoe was strung up from the roof rafters with its marine like architecture. The canoe with lines the shape of a reliable performer, would carry me out on the water and get me to my objective and back.

Paddling a canoe is a great way to get exercise, one thing I noticed earlier on though and this harked back to my experience sailing catamarans on the river is the dynamics of wind and how wind plays on the vessels performance and direction. Pointing against the wind puts a combination of vectors in play. Three vectors include balance adjustment, paddling effort adjustment, and wind compensation adjustment. A fourth incidental vector of course is wave size. A fifth incidental vector exists when water flows over the sides of the boat.

The voyage started with mild corrections on each of these standard vectors and after settling into things canoeing looked like easy sailing. The initial awkward repetition in paddling strokes gave way to a rhythmic effort. I felt the pace would ease my way across to the island and back.

I was surprised to see water flowing between my feet as the canoe was now unstable, that early warning signal was the moment of recovery, had I moved mid ship and ballasted the canoe. I did not move in that direction which resulted in going back overboard.

The boat took on water at the point indicated on the map based on wind pushing the bow away from the direction I wanted to hold course. I compensated to hold course by exerting much heavier effort in paddling, this activity drove the stern under the water surface. The boat began taking on water. The canoe went under and I was now swimming for shore with the drifting plastic shell upside down, paddle in hand, shoes on.

The water wasn’t that chilly and I guess my adrenaline convinced me to relax take it easy and swim with the overturned canoe and paddle to an island shoreline. Thankfully a power boat came up to me in the water and “threw me a life line”. 

My mother got to witness the spectacle from her sunroom, on the bluff, back on the mainland. My attempt at canoeing to Hay Island ended up marooned and ditched into the river. I will have to redeem myself on another occasion and make the crossing without getting wet.