Long ago, when I started canoeing on lakes, there were just a few things a paddler needed to know. You needed to know the importance of a low centre of gravity, and how to steer, track in a straight line, load, portage, and carry a canoe. Then you needed to know a few efficient paddle strokes, as well as how to deal with high winds and waves. It was kind of easy.
These days, the most important skill a canoeist needs is how to respond appropriately to wake boats and jet skis that pass by too close.
Some new canoeists handle this uncomfortable situation by immediately turning the canoe’s bow into the tsunami-like assault of approaching waves that emanate from the wake boat or jet ski. Then, they say a final prayer and brace themselves for the bouncy ride that is about to come – and try to remember how the people in the Poseidon Adventure survived.
That’s a fairly reasonable strategy.
But experienced canoeists respond more appropriately, by shaking their fists and yelling a long, string of curse words that can be heard by everyone on the lake except the people racing by.
It is not as easy as it sounds.
For instance, if you hold your hand too high while shaking a fist, it is quite possible that the operator of the watercraft passing by you too close at breakneck speed might think you are giving them a friendly wave that says, “Rock on!”
Also, if you do not annunciate well enough for them to lip read, they just might think that you are saying, “Please, send more of your big wakes in the direction of our precarious craft so our ride is even more memorable and exciting.”
The problem is, if you time either of these things wrong, they might never see or hear you at all because you are in the deep trough of one of waves they have unleashed upon you. Or the lake itself. So, opportunity missed.
Which brings me to my point. It all boils down to poor communication.
Even so, some experienced canoeists will tell you not to worry about this. For, they would say, there is no better way to send a message than by throwing a paddle.
And, while this is true, I strongly advise against this. First off, not that many of us are that good at determining the proper lead to hit a speeding wake boat or jet ski. Second, no matter what the situation, it is really hard to justify throwing a paddle just because a boat is passing too close – unless you bring an extra one.
Also, I don’t think it is fair to assign blame here. After all, how is a jet ski or wake boat operator supposed to know that they make an annoying and dangerous wake – I mean now that the loons are no longer on the lake to tell them. Also, in their defense, it’s hard to hear the occupants of a canoe screaming in terror over all that engine noise.
Still, in this day and age where we all try to get along, it would be nice if these fast water craft gave people in kayaks and canoes more of a wide berth.
I mean we all go out there to relax and no one in a canoe ever really wants to flip out.