Saturday, October 15, 2011

Capsizing a canoe for the first time could be your last time

Last summer my youngest son and I planned a trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  We haven't had a chance to go fishing together in more than twenty years, so I suggested I bring my two canoes, and we'd do some fishing in Yellowstone and the Tetons.  My son flies jet airplanes for a living, but he's never paddled a canoe.   He had some reservations about learning to paddle in Yellowstone's Lewis Lake, where the altitude is high and the water, cold.  I figured he'd do just fine.  However to be on the safe side,  I had practiced swamping my canoe in our back yard swimming pool and learn some rescue techniques.

Wow!  What a wake-up call that was.  To make a long story short--I learned a swamped 12' Old Town Pack Canoe cannot be emptied by a 69-year-old solo paddler while he's in the water--and if you do finally get inside the canoe it sinks right under you.   After that eye-opening experience, I  bought some canoe air bags and stabilizer outriggers for my son to use in Yellowstone, and for my own future solo canoe trips.  

Funny thing.  I had been on three solo fishing trips to the High Sierra's during the early part of summer, and I never concerned myself with getting capsized.  I figured I'd be safe because I always made it a rule to get off the water as soon as it starts to get windy and I am careful to stay low in the canoe to meet oncoming boat wakes.  Now I know that if I do capsize in the middle of a big open lake,  my best effort to save myself will be a long swim without the canoe.

My son was so confident on Lewis Lake he out-fished me and had a great time.  I can't wait to do some solo canoeing next summer and use the rowing rig I bought for my son.

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