Last week I headed out in a canoe equipped only with a paddle and enthusiasm to accompany the Nakusp Paddling Club on one of their Wednesday paddles.
It had been years since I’d been canoeing, and the hot, sunny weather was promising.
My four co-voyageurs, Barb, Trish, Kathleen and Gerhardt, and myself wheeled the canoe into the marina’s waters and nimbly climbed aboard.
Once we pushed away from the dock, we scooted each to a side in one synchronized movement so we were equally distributed left and right. Already the level of co-ordination required was impressive, and we hadn’t even put oar to water yet.
Trish had the lead and set the pace. There had been a bit of a preamble on dry land about proper technique, but there is no replacement for learning by doing.
With my eye on the blade of her paddle, I stuck mine in and pulled it through the water, trying to keep up to the quick tempo of her strokes.
Straight and short strokes, using the core of the body to do most of the work: those had been the instructions, but I found my shoulders starting to ache. And my fingers as I pinched them between the canoe and my paddle.
“How long do you guys normally stay out here for?” I asked, thinking I could probably hold out for another half an hour or so.
“We usually go for about two hours,” said Barb Towle, “until six.”
Right then, I knew I was in trouble.
Either I had to get better at paddling in a hurry or practise swimming to shore instead.
Just then, a heron flew out of the reeds and away into the trees. Distraction is also a great comforter.
There are times when the adage “when in doubt, follow the instructions” has served me well in the past so I figured I would give it a try this time too.
Instead of using my shoulders and arms, I began to use my body and to pull in shorter strokes. Miracle of miracles, it worked!
Eventually I settled in to a shorter stroke.
We headed out of the marina, and caught sight of a bald eagle battling an osprey mid-air above the water. What caused the dramatic aeronautics wasn’t clear, but quickly played itself out.
On the horizon, the weather was looking to break its promise as dark clouds pushed in and the wind picked up across the lake. Soon we were stabbing our paddles into dark swells that rocked our canoe.
Even without whitecaps, this was a little challenging, and Barb gave voice to the very good idea of heading back to sheltered waters.
Relief flooded my body, particularly my arms, as we pulled up to the launch and heaved the canoe back on to her single-wheeled carrier.
There are 17-18 members of the Nakusp Paddling Club, but generally there are about 5-6 people who make it out each week for the Wednesday paddle. Sundays there are usually longer trips; a recent one included an overnight trip up the lake. Anyone is welcome to come for a trial paddling, then they will be invited to join the club at a cost of $20/year and filling in some paperwork.
Claire Paradis, Associate Editor, Arrow Lakes News