Book Excerpt: Learning to Canoe

In November of my first term of college, I learned how to flatwater canoe around my 35th birthday.

Learning to Canoe

I pulled on my tall wellie boots over my wetsuit and promptly caused a charley horse in each calf.

I had tried to get into a canoe once in my life: in high school on a trip with friends in the Thousand Islands. My boatmate and I capsized right at the dock on a chilly June morning. Jeans and sweatshirts hung heavy as we scrambled back onto the dock. I hadn’t been in a canoe since.

That’s not to say I hadn’t spent time in other tippy watercraft. I rowed crew in an eight-woman shell during and after college. I’d spent time, day trips usually, in a sea kayak. But for no particular reason, I hadn’t found myself back in a canoe until a frosty November morning twenty years later.

The thirty of us stood around a small fire we built in the fire pit on PQ beach. We jockeyed for position. Someone’s wetsuit would get too warm next to the fire and she would step out of the circle. Someone else would take her place. Thick mist hung on the water with weak rays of sunshine filtering through.

The instructor walked down the hill from her big maroon truck and unlocked the coated wire that secured the canoes to the canoe rack. We paired up and carried sixteen canoes down the beach, setting the bow end in the water. We each grabbed a yellow paddle with a blue shaft and huddled in groups of three or four, waiting for instruction to begin.

We were divided up into three groups of ten and rotated through three stations over the course of the day. Jill took us through solo boating. Shannon and Betty instructed us in the finer details of tandem boating. Adam talked with us about equipment maintenance, how to lift and carry a canoe, getting in and out of the canoe safely, and changing positions in the boat without coming ashore.

As I had no skills in canoeing at all, I probably should have been in the group that worked through those stations in reverse; however, that was not to be. I found myself as a new canoeist, trying to paddle a tandem canoe solo.

I’m writing a career change memoir and I’d love your feedback as I post small ~300 word blurbs. What do you want to know more about? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? Comment below or e-mail me.

Photo credit: Ria Quik

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