Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Paddling Clinic

Granddaughters Maggie and Lucie 

 We finally had the chance to get both granddaughters with us during their spring break.  To get them out on the water, all we needed was a decent weather day.  Like my paddle on 5 March, with the water still cold, we needed a paddle that would keep us close to shore and in shallow water.  With the wind still from the SE, I had identical conditions from that previous day trip, so another run down the shore through the rushes was in order.

The girls had no real experience paddling.  They had been to a church camp a couple years ago, but “training” amounted to little more than splashing about and wetting each other, so we started from the beginning.  I told them I would teach them six paddle strokes, and we started with a dry practice in the backyard.  I threw in a little background about never lying a paddle on the ground, never loading or stepping into a canoe until it is fully waterborne, the different types of hull materials and their advantages/disadvantage, the bowman setting the cadence, the stern paddler keeping time with the bow paddler and calling a ‘hut’ to switch sides, etc.   We had lunch, and with two canoes on the Dodge Ram, headed for the lake.

We started out from the Longdale ramp and again headed south along the shore.  In the first 45-minutes, we managed to make good only two-tenths of a mile, and a good bit of that was in circles.  It was chaos.  Like most tween sisters, the bickering and yelling was making me feel sorry for the emotional well-being of area wildlife and birds.  “You’re supposed to turn your thumb down---DOWN.”  “Stop telling me what to do.”  “No, you’re going the wrong way.  Over there, go over there.”  “What do you think I’m doing?  Why aren’t you paddling?  Paddle!”  “Shut up!  I am paddling.”  “No, you’re not.”  “I am so.”

By the end of their outing, success.

Finally, I called them into a spot where the water was shallow, and they were mostly surrounded by rushes that shielded them from some of the wind.  I told them to use their strokes to practice keeping the boat stationary and straight.  I was surprised how quickly they caught onto the use of the pry and draw, and they began to get control of the canoe, so we started on down the shore.  The idea of control over just moving forward made the difference, and they began to settle in.  Quickly they started picking their own route and made a couple rest stops on sandy spots along the shore.  They made it two-and-a-half miles to the dam and Blackjack swim beach, where I suspected they would be ready for another rest break.  Instead, they opted to come about and head straight back non-stop.  Five miles for their first real paddle was good.

The transition was fun to watch.  They were going straight, picking their own route through the shoals and obstructions, and paddling in unison.  I could hear them counting “1-2-3-4-5-6-hut” as they switched.  Before long, they were singing, and at times, I was busting my gut to keep up.  It was wonderful to see.  The next day we were having Oklahoma gales again, so we took them to the Cherokee Strip Museum in Alva, OK.  They wanted to paddle again the following day, but after much consideration, I called it off.  A cold front had moved through with a rapid drop in temperatures.  The temperature was barely going to break 50-degrees for a high.  If they got wet, even if they were close to shore and could wade out of the water, the risk of hypothermia seemed too great in the time they would need to change into the dry clothes they had carried.  It was decided to err on the side of safety.

When their Dad picked them up, they both told me they wanted to go canoeing again.  They later told their father the best time they had had on spring break was canoeing with me.  What sweeter words could a canoeing grandfather hope to hear?

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