May 26, 2006

Guest Post!

Filed under: Kvetch! Kvetch! Kvetch!, PolenNews — Twin C @ 1:50 pm

Here’s is R. Ooghe’s retelling of The Great Canoe Incident of 2006:

After several cups of coffee from the McKleinfeld Wedding Mug, I chose to join the Boating Activity Group led by Sarah over the Hiking Expedition that Sven was going to lead. The promise of nautical adventure was too much for me to resist, and especially with the view of all the sleek and smart-looking green canoes set out on the waterfront it was clear there would be no other way to experience this lake, even if it were drizzly, cold and windy. There were also two paddleboats, Twin C and I opting for a modular yellow one looking like a set piece from a 1970’s Saturday morning science fiction show. Twin C and I charged into the breech, shoving off within minutes of getting down to the water. The stability and sturdiness of the paddleboat allowed us to believe that the limited supply of life-jackets should best be left to those in the canoes, namely Sarah, Sally and Matt Shaw in one, Ross and his girlfriend in another, and Sally’s uncle and his son in a third. Rainbow and Chris also set off on the second paddleboat.

Twin C and I paddled around feeling like pirate raiders for as long as it took for the other canoes to launch into the lake. Then we felt like hopeless retirees splashing and flailing ineffectually and exhaustingly, as the canoes glided out past us towards high adventure. It was obvious that the intent of the boating expedition was to get out of the little inlet we were situated on, round a spit of land extending into the main body of the lake, and then investigate a mysterious island in the middle of the lake Twin C and I imaginatively dubbed “Mystery Island�. Twin C boisterously launched into a the yar of a pirate captain inciting us onwards to greater and greater effort, which began to seem increasingly futile as the canoes sped away from us. On top of that, some design flaw in our craft boded ill in that the paddleboat was really taking on a lot of water, it’s prow tipping into the glassy lake and sloshing water into the compartment with each peddle such that my shoes were splashing into the water more and more as we seemed to be settling deeper and deeper into the water.

Realizing that this was not getting any better, Twin C and I peddled slowly back to shore and claimed the last canoe now that the challenge was clearly to make it to this island as soon as possible, since Sarah, Matt and Sally were already halfway there. Twin C and I shoved off of the pier, mightily making up for lost time with the clockwork precision rowing of the Princeton Crew, or at least it felt that way compared to the sinking paddleboat experience, until we rounded the spit of land and set out onto the open lake.

Mystery Island was visible in the distance, but once out on the main part of the lake the wind began to buffet us in a way that dramatically slowed our progress. The immediate problem was that Twin C and I had to often switch the side we were paddling on, as whenever the canoe was pointed even slightly away from Mystery Island which was almost directly windward, we would be spun one way or the over on the choppy waves in a way that took extremely strenuous effort to correct. Sarah and Sally’s distant canoe had clearly made landfall a long time ago, but no matter how hard we paddled we only made slow, creeping progress. I removed my coat and sweater, really heaving the oar into the water as Twin C did the same, water splashing everywhere.

Then an awful thing happened.

About fifty yards from Mystery Island, choppy, white tipped waves rocked the canoe as we battled forward against the wind. In one sickeningly inevitable moment, I felt the canoe rock just past the center of balance- (I would later come to suspect that what had happened was that Twin C and I simultaneously tried to counter the wind by both paddling on the opposite side of where the wind was coming from, the side which also was sending waves against us)- such that for one moment we were lurching over and the next moment we were plunged fully, and heavily, clothed, into a suddenly wet , cold, very watery, lake.

Treading water, and speaking very clipped, the immediately understood thing to do was to get back in the now stupid, hateful canoe. Fortunately, the canoe itself had not tipped over, it just bobbed mockingly, and Twin C swum around to the other side to stabilize it while I clambered awkwardly back in, and moved to the center to steady it while Twin C did the same. Soaking wet and cold, we both plopped into the body of the canoe to catch our breath, gather our wits and let the adrenaline jitters pass. Neither of us were speaking, but it was clear that the moment had been simultaneously scary and infuriating, water was sloshing around the canoe, shoes were wet and sweaters were soaked, wind was cold and it was altogether just a wretched feeling.

After delicately paddling a few yards, Sarah, Sally and Matt Shaw were with us to suggest we still go ahead aways to the island (the previous reverie of calling it Mystery Island now beyond inappropriate), while I tried to convey that the only thing that would now be happening was a return to the closest shore on our side of the lake. Twin C had still not spoken, but the vibe I was getting from him was about the same as Marilyn would have emanated had she been chucked overboard. I switched from soaked tee shirt to merely wet sweater, and we haphazardly made it to some other miniature marina, and staggered ashore. Twin C and I went our soggy ways, and long hot showers followed.

A big, mayonnaisy sandwich and coffee had the desired effect, while I tried to explain to about a dozen armchair canoe-ologists the circumstances of the accident, and that there were simply no life-jackets *left* when we had set back out, nor was it that windy at that point. This pivotal episode placed me directly into the consciousness of most of the wedding party for the rest of the trip as one of the capsized-without-a-life-jacket guys, although I fortunately missed the blandishments of the park ranger who was moved to visit our camp after the accident.


  1. Excellent retelling.

    For the record, we were not entirely irresponsible - we did have one floatation device with us in the canoe (and even in the paddle boat), one of those flat seat cushiony ones. But my feeling was “We’re never going to fall in! We don’t need life jackets!” Hello, speaking too soon. . .

    I had no idea we were being chastised. I thought we were just being sympathized with. Oh well.

    Comment by Twin C — May 26, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

  2. we were largely being sympathized with. it was, in fact, another more grizzled poster on this blog who is not Twin A or Twin D who made a few head-shaking, sighing, ‘city folk’ references (despite the fact that said individual at other times has exaggerated my southern pretensions to Snuffy Smith-like degrees of corn-pone-itude).

    Actually, everyone was all cool about it- there’s just no unselfconscious way to chat at a wedding about the fact you went out in a canoe and came back looking like a drowned rat.

    Comment by ooghe — May 26, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

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