The Perfect Swarm

IMG_0473It was raining in the canoe on the bay lake. A hard rain. The kind of rain that encouraged my wife try like hell to bail water with her coffee cup.

Two days earlier…

It was a Friday. The crew and I assembled in the aft quarters to review the weather reports. They said there was a 10% chance of rain on Saturday and a 30% chance on Sunday. We decided to depart on Sunday.

One day earlier…

On one hand it was a good decision to delay because it gave us an extra day to perform dry runs. We ran equipment checks and drills. Our first trip had caught us unprepared. I’d be damned if that was going to happen on my watch.

We took some time on Saturday and got the rigging down to a science. That last portage had almost killed us.

While the canoe was out of the garage, we decided to go home improvement on this old house. For some strange reason we were tired of dry dock consisting of the canoe precariously balanced on the refrigerator and an old bookcase.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
Lean in the same direction as your companion. This is also known as “swimming.”

A one-hour construction project was about to go 500 percent past deadline.

So we decided to take one measly extra day so we could be more prepared. What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. The kind of day meant for canoes on calm, peaceful lakes. A day with absolutely no rain. A picture perfect day for canoeing. Alas, that was not meant to be.

Before working on the canoe, we referred to the list of terms we had been advised to learn to be proper canoe owners. We weren’t supposed to refer to things like front, back, left and right. Those had to be replaced with fancy nautical terms like bow, stern, port and starboard.

Did those come in handy? Hells, yes. “Honey, watch out! Grab the yardarm amidships before the whole thing keels over.”

“The what what?”

“Look out! Oh, shit!”

“Keels over” is a term we came up with on our own.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
Name every single thing you see. “That’s the 10th point we’ve seen today. I dub it Decimal Point.”

After the drills were complete, we decided to be ambitious. We were going to implement our plan to store the canoe on the garage wall.

Step one: Ripping out old disgusting shelving installed by that son of bitch old man Smithers. (The man who lived in the house before us.) I’ll say one thing about that fellow: He sure loved his nails. And they were all pounded so deep there was no chance of getting the hook-end of the hammer anywhere useful.

At the start of the task I was like, “Let’s lower this shelf carefully to avoid spilling dust.”

By the end of the task I was yelling, hitting and kicking the shelf ninja-style. I was covered in the shit and coughing up blood.

Long story short, I got that sucker down with acceptable loss of life.

The rest of the project went about the same. We had drills that weren’t worth their bits. We had bits stuck in things. We had measurements go askew. It all might have seemed ominous if only we had paid attention.

Finally we got the dirty job done and had the canoe on the wall. It was perfectly placed between the garage door and the top of the refrigerator. It had taken five hours.

We were exhausted but looking forward to some canoodling.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
Pretend you are Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Try not to let the beer cans interfere with the moment.

Present Day – Boating Day

Finally, it was Sunday. The weather looked dicey. We pressed on. As this was our second time out, preparations proceeded swimmingly and apace. We had really improved. That should have been our first clue. Soon the canoe was safely strapped to the top of our car and we took off.

Our destination was the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area just north of Portland, Oregon.

We arrived and the weather was looking dicey. So naturally we unstrapped the canoe, got it down, and mounted up on the wheels just like we had practiced. It all went well.

Soon we were at the water’s edge which was a lot lower than our scouting trip just seven days earlier. We decided to press on.

It was lightly raining. We looked at each other. “Let’s go.” What about our cameras, we wondered. Go back and put them in the car? Naw. “Let’s take ’em with us.”

We had forgotten the water-resistant bag for cameras. We had no rain gear, no tarps.

We loaded up and pushed off. Wow, that was our smoothest push-out yet.

If you don’t know Portland, a typical day of weather consists of rapidly alternating periods of rain and sun. This pattern repeats all day. Apparently this is considered normal.

“Make fast the main paddle,” I shouted as we veered left with my wife in front and me in the back. The bottom thingie on the boat scraped as we smoothly slid out.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
Worry about your dropping Klout score as you fail to interact with social media.

Long story short, we had a great time. The rain let up and there was some sun. This was followed by more sprinkles. Then some more sun. Then, when we were at the farthest possible point from the ramp, the heavens really opened up. The rain hit and it hit hard. Deluge. Torrential. The plumpy water drops hit so hard they caused angry splashes that reached out to slap us around. It was raining cats and dogs and that was just ducky.

Wisely I said, “I think it’s safe to say the level of the lake is getting a little higher all the time.”

We set a course alee and paddled until our arms were rubber. I balanced my non-waterproof camera bag on the landing gear as the ever-growing water in the boat’s insides sloshed around. I balanced my life vest on top to help protect the bag from the rain. We were drenched. Did I mention it was also cold? Damn cold? We were shivering as the life fled from our exhausted limbs.

Long story short (part deux) the sun came back out just as we finished loading that canoe back on the car.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
That sinking feeling is just the final step in a long line of bad decisions.

The moral of the story: I can do home improvement and “adventure” is my middle name!

3 responses

  1. I’m impressed with your (mostly) correct use of nautical terms. I knew that “Sailing for Dummies” book would come in handy one day.

    I’m also impressed with Mrs. Abyss. She kept her cool. You didn’t have to use the term “Thar she blows!” once. Maybe next time?

    And if there is a next time, please don’t be a dummy and forget your protective rain gear. For the camera. You? You’re all wet anyway.


    1. Heave to and prepare to be hoarded!

      Next time we’re taking the GoPro. Y’all deserve to see our adventures. Like I told Number Two when we were out there, “Walking would be faster than this.”

      True, she never blew her cool. But more than once I heard the phrase, “For hate’s sake I stab at thee.” I assumed that was some kind of rowing motivational speech.

      We have yet to break out the water skis.


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