Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Where'd Glen Go? Perch Creek 2005

On this trip it wasn't our daughter riding Bonnie Blue, it was our son, Noah. We decided to go back to Perch Creek this time. Perhaps we weren't yet over the embarrassment we had endured at Chickasabougue.

The water looked quite different from our previous visits. It seemed to have some sort of murky film over it, as if it hadn't been moving in a while. We plunged in anyway.
After a little bit, I was surprised to my son say, "This is quite a shoulder workout, isn't it?" I was surprised to find that both Noah and Glen felt paddling was a strain on their shoulders. Neither my daughter nor I had ever felt that way. As girls, with naturally weaker upper body strength, we were the first to discover the best way to paddle a kayak.

One reason for this is that a true kayak stroke is not a shoulder stroke, it doesn't even require a great deal of upper body strength if done correctly. The best kayak stroke doesn't pull the paddle through the water. Instead the paddle is thought of almost as stationary in the water and the kayaker tries to pull the boat past the paddle. The paddle acts as a lever to propel the boat forward. This is why kayaking is so great for strengthening the core muscles. The kayaker uses the upper body to push the paddle outward, away from the body and plant the paddle into the water. Then the kayaker rotates the upper body very slightly and uses the core muscles, thighs and lower back to pull the boat past the paddle. In doing so, he or she employs every major muscle group. In learning this stroke, it helps to think of the water as mud or pudding, and you are trying to pull your boat past the paddle through this thick substance.

The three of us paddled along until we reached the road, but the water today was much lower than when we were there before. By slumping down in our kayaks we were able to push our hands against the underside of the bridge and float underneath.

Once we cleared the bridge, I took the lead and paddled away.
After a while it was evident that no one else had been this way in a while. Fallen trees made an obstacle course of the creek as we made one hairpin curve after another. Noah definitely added entertainment to the trip by splashing water on us and tossing debris into our path and our boats. Finally we came to the true end of this waterway for us... two narrow drainage culverts. I assumed that Noah's suggestion to capsize our kayaks and swim underneath them through the culverts was simply a joke, so we headed back.

We had just commented that going back seemed easier when the most unexpected thing happened. Glen turned one of the many hairpin turns and then disappeared. One moment he was on his boat, the next he was gone. Unknown to us, his boat had been slowly taking on water in the hull (that leaky hold from last trip probably.) When he went around that last curve,
I heard someone shout "I'm going in the water!", but I thought it was Noah playing jokes on us.

he water in Glen's hull shifted to one side as he took the turn. Over he went and his boat along with him. I was surprised to see it was Glen and even more surprised to see the water was over his head. I would have never imagined the water in that little creek would be that deep. The deep water combined with the large amount of water that had gotten into his hull made getting back on the kayak very difficult. Glen would flip the kayak right side up, but as he tried to mount the kayak, the water in the hull would shift toward him and it would flip again. I really didn't think he was in any trouble, he looking amazingly calm during the whole thing.

I must have looked a whole lot calmer than I felt, what with the uproarious laughter that proceeded forth from Frances and Noah.

Capsizing our kayaks is always a concern because of critters in the waters we sail. So, when I went over because of a leaky boat, I'm thinking snakebite at best, alligator leg amputation at worst (not the gator's leg, of course, but mine). A bit of panic set in as I sought to reenter my boat, panic that must have been confined to the rapid breathing I experienced because my wife and son both maintain until this day that at no time did I seem out of control or in any danger.

My joke about this is that my "loving family" seemed really concerned about me at the time of the capsize, a concern expressed in hearty guffaws. Frances says that it was only Noah laughing, but I distinctly remember a gallery of the amused (including a number of hysterical birds and squirrels in the trees). I must have been quite a sight. My kayak, a usually self-baling sit-on-top model, had filled with water because of a loose plug in the hull. Remounting the boat was therefore treacherous, and very difficult. On several occasions, it spun away from me, and when I finally made it onto the deck, I was splayed out on my belly, headfirst toward the bow (rather than "beyond the bow"). Go ahead and laugh if the image strikes you as funny. Frances, Noah, the squirrels, and the birds surely thought so (and yes, Frances, as the angel in Genesis said to Sarah when she denied her chuckle, "But thou didst laugh").

I did not laugh. I might have smiled. Maybe a chuckle. Definitely not a laugh. Definitely not.

finally managed to mount his kayak by straddling across it face down, his arms and legs hanging off each side. I did have the fleeting thought that because his kayak was dark green, his shirt was green and his PFD was dark green, he looked sort of like a giant green turtle. At this point, Noah made no effort to contain his laughter.

Now lest you think I am expressing resentment toward beloved family members, and especially my most beloved, I found the incident immediately amusing, or at least as soon as the paramedics pumped the water out of my lungs. Of course, Frances and Noah don't remember this part of the story. They were too doubled over with laughter to notice (oh all right, there were no paramedics, and I never inhaled more than a quart or two of water, give or take a few ounces). And the incident didn't affect my enjoyment of kayaking. I still love it, and still consider my time with Frances on the water as one of God's richest blessings. So I laugh, I laugh with you, Frances, Noah, squirrels, birds, and readers. It was and is my distinct pleasure to have provided such comedic relief - even as my entire life passed before my eyes! Gurgle! Glurg!

Once Noah stopped laughing, we were able to each grasp an end of the kayak while Glen mounted it properly. But now with the hull nearly full, Glen rode so low in the water that his stern deck was completely submerged. The extra weight of the water made paddling the boat almost impossible.

After we passed back under the bridge, Glen going very slowly so as to not capsize under the bridge, he pulled up into a yard that sloped into the creek. Glen unplugged his kayak, up ended it and drained an unbelievable amount of water from the boat. After that he rode much higher in the water and we all felt better.

At the beginning of the float, watching Noah paddle without a flotation device made me feel silly with mine and I almost regretted the restraint on my movement it caused. But when Glen capsized in water over his head in this little creek, I determined I would always wear my vest no matter how benign the water appeared.


Charlotte said...

Oh if only I had been there to see this! Reading about it was the next best thing.

Frances Davis said...

I'm sure if one had been a squirrel or bird on the bank, it might have had all the components of good entertainment; drama, suspense and humor. We look back on it now with fondness and laughter. Well, Noah always looked at it with laughter.