Monday, February 19, 2007


Well, we took the the new canoe out for her maiden voyage. "Voyage" is a strong word: we paddled around in a bay or two for 30 minutes or so.

We forgot to take the camera, but we got a couple more detail shots when we got home, so I updated the photo album:

I was going to christen her Persephone: I've always wanted to name a boat after Nick Adonidas' boat, and since this is the first boat I've ever owned, I naturally thought "this is my chance!". But Pocahontas thought we should name her Sacagawea, and I have to agree that's probably more appropriate. So Sacagawea it is.

She's got some scratches on the hull from a gravelly launch. Apparently Royalex can take a beating, so I'm not worried (they're not deep), but it re-emphasizes that I need to get some 303 or something on her before long. I typically wait 6 months on that kind of thing, I don't want to do that now.

So how is she?

We paddled tandem with three kids in the canoe, and she glides well. She's definitely an agile boat, and turns lightly. She's also not as stable as the huge freighter I grew up paddling, but she's a canoe: the kids were worried about her rocking, so I rocked her good and hard, and they got the idea of secondary stability.

I did paddle her solo after everyone disembarked, Canadian style. She rocks a lot, so I found myself shifting frequently, looking for her stability point. She's light too, so the wind caught her a lot without the weight of the others in the canoe. It may take some more practice to find the point where she likes to heel.

In the couple days between buying Sacagawea and putting her in the water, I've been doing some reading about canoeing online. Most of the information out there seems suspect, but there is some good stuff too. I'm sure Dad would be appalled at a lot of it. Dad's a more Zen paddler: "Just paddle the boat, and point it where you want to go!". Of course, that won't sell boats or allow people to get certified as instructors, so they have to name strokes and techniques.

As a side note: the couple times I've had a canoe instructor around, they always tried to teach me a "J-Stroke". I always thought it felt tight, cramped, and forced. I'm not entirely sure what it was my Dad taught me, but after a little reading, it seems it was either a "Canadian", or something very similar.

At any rate, I stumbled across something on the "mystical North Woods Stroke", where a paddler paddles without really taking the paddle out of the water. This excited me, as I remember Mum telling me many times about how Grandad would paddle without lifting his paddle out of the water.

Well, after some digging, I found out the so-called "mystical North Woods Stroke" is also called a "Knifing J Stroke" or "Canadian Stroke". It's basically what Dad used to make me do when we went canoeing. Not that I minded, of course: I was delighted to learn more canoe lore. But it is interesting to find out what my Dad taught me from a young age is considered "advanced", even "mystical".

That may actually be an oversimplification: apparently the really good "North Woods Strok"-ers do it without actually letting the paddle clear the water, which is more complex than what I do... but watching the demos I could find online, it's basically the same. Dad always made me skim my paddle just over the top of the water instead of knifing it through, but that's the only difference I can see. The "talking points" of the "Canadian Stroke" are all identical to what Dad told me a good paddler does.

But ever since I can remember, I tried to do what Grandad did, and invariably it wouldn't work, so I woud revert to "normal" paddling (which I now know is called a "Canadian Stroke", or maybe a really extended "J-Stroke"?). But I did find a hint that helped: and I think I got the trick of it. Now I just need to practice to get it perfect and powerful.

Apparently the "Grandad Stroke" is called an "Indian Stroke". There's a diagram of it here, which indicated what I had always done wrong: I was trying to "knife" the paddle in place, rather than paddling in an oval. In other words, I was turning the paddle the wrong way! I was turning it in instead of out.

So today I paddled most of the time "Indian style", and found it very relaxing. I don't have a lot of power there yet, and reverted to lifting the paddle out of the water on each stroke when I had to turn quickly around a sunken tree with protruding limbs. But I'm very excited: I've been trying to figure out the "Grandad Stroke" for twenty years (keep in mind about 15 of those with no access to a canoe), and today it finally clicked.

So we're very happy with our canoe, and I can hardly wait to get it back out there. Next time, I want to get the kids to take a turn at a paddle. That's how Dad taught us: 100ft of rope tied to the canoe, lifejackets on, paddle in hand, take the canoe out, kids! He'd stand on the shore and coach us. Then we graduated to taking turns in the bow while Mum enjoyed the view.

It's supposed to get to 68F this week, so maybe I can take the afternoon off and we can spend it on the lake!


Gwen said...

How wistful this makes me feel! We actually have Big Orange at our house right now, though we don't seem to get much time to use her. I think Mrs Clumsy might have gone out in her this summer. (?) Anyway, take pictures next time you go out, I'd love to see them!

clumsy ox said...

I don't think Pocahontas got a ride in Big Orange.

That canoe stirs wistful feelings in my breast. I spent many hours in her, and I learned a lot while paddling her.

Remember when we used to go fishing at some ungodly hour on Buttle Lake, while everyone else slept? We went fishing every single day, and never caught a thing... never gave up though.

Good times.

Gwen said...

Perhaps my pre-orthodontia smile frightened them away?

Or it could have been your incessant chatter at me.... cute little guy, always following me around.

clumsy ox said...

Not that it made all your abuse OK or anything...

Gwen said...

No, and I never would have said all those nasty things about you still playing Barbies at age 13 if I had known what a dazzling, impressive person you would become.

Ames said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clumsy ox said...

Wow! I had forgotten your double-edged tongue! You haven't lost one bit, g.

I am really impressed. I mean that sincerely.

I wish you hadn't brought up the Barbie thing in public though.

Gwen said...

Aw, Clumsy! We had a great childhood, didn't we? You were a wonderful big brother. And I do have a vague memory of your playing with Barbies, but I think it was more along the lines of decapitation and dismemberment! :)

Ames said...

You two stop. . . I'm going to have to say something sappy, if you don't.

Gwen said...

No, not at all, Amy! I violated the first commandment as a child; it's true that I was mercilessly taken advantage of (I believe I grated twelve thousand kilos of mozzarella, and opened 18,000 cans of tomato sauce) but I loved every minute of it. If Mark got tired of my following him around, he never said so, which was extremely kind of him. (Unless the Anti-Girl Association was aimed at me?! Egads!!!)