My husband and I like to go floating. He has had his own canoe since he was twelve. So he has become quite skilled with handling a canoe. When he first asked me to go floating many years ago, I had to be convinced it would be fun. The last experience I had floating in a canoe was not very fun. Nevertheless, I gave it another go, and he, and his family, showed me how fun and relaxing floating can be.
Over the years we have floated together, with family, and with friends numerous times. We now have two canoes, and just a couple years ago we got our own kayaks too.
Making the switch to kayaks was a bit of a challenge for me. In the canoe, I depended on Hubby to keep me safe. Because of his years of experience, I learned to stay calm, listen to him, and trust him to navigate us through rough waters and dangerous areas when trees are down. Now that I had my own kayak, I had to learn to navigate through those situations on my own.
In all the years we’ve been together, we never tipped in the canoe. In the three summers that we have had our kayaks, I have tipped twice now. The first time was on my first overnight float trip with Hubby. The current pulled me into a tree branch in the water and instead of steering through the situation, I tried to power through by paddling. I hit the branch, and it sent me right over. To be quite honest, I was not experienced enough with my kayak for something like that, and even Hubby admitted he expected too much of me. I had only been in my kayak in our local creek, learning paddling and steering techniques for practice, but I hadn’t been on a normal float trip yet. So an overnight trip, with two long days on the river, turned out to be quite the challenge for me in my new kayak. I was physically and mentally exhausted. We made it through the two days though, and I came out stronger on the other end. A bit bruised and cranky, but stronger.
The second time I tipped was last weekend. This was not my fault. When we first started floating together, it was mainly canoes on the river, and a handful of kayaks. Now the campgrounds rent out huge rafts to floaters, and the rafts typically end up filled with drunken college students. When you put people in basically a small barge, add alcohol to the mix, and people who do not respect the river, or those around them, you get chaos and frustration for the rest of us. These rafts get in the way. They block narrow paths. They get stuck on trees and rocks in the water and cause a pile up, which can cause those of us in canoes and kayaks to flip. This is what happened to me.
Hubby and I ended up getting stuck against a tree in the water, thanks to rafts being in the way. We both started taking on water, but Hubby was able to get himself free from the tree. I got hit by a raft, causing me to flip. Those in the raft could’ve helped me, but they didn’t. So there I was, trying to keep my head above water, while holding onto my paddle and the kayak.
While Hubby made it to shore with his kayak so he could swim back for me, a couple of guys headed out from shore to help. They grabbed my kayak and helped him get it back to shore to dump out the water. I knew I had lost one of my new river shoes because I felt it float away. The other one was in my kayak when they flipped it back over. A nice girl brought me back my towel. And the guys who helped started to ask Hubby if anything else was lost when they looked down and realized everything else was secured to the kayak.
My dry box: check. My dry bag: check. My cooler: check. All still in my kayak because my husband has reminded me on every float trip to secure these things to the boat…ALWAYS. And here’s where I give him a gigantic THANK YOU! Thank you, my darling, for teaching me to do this. Thank you, my love, for teaching me to stay calm if you think you’re going to tip. I was a bit shaken up when I got to shore, but one thing I did not do was panic. I focused on keeping my head above water, and I was okay.
The next day I had a bruised hand, a bruised arm, and a big bruise on my side, but I am okay. I am sad about losing one of my new river shoes my mother in law bought me. Which, in hindsight, I realize would not have been lost if it had been secured to my foot like it should have been. Anyway, it’s just a shoe. Actually, I’m kind of glad that it was the thing that bothered me most because the girl I was a few years ago would have been a hysterical mess. The old me would have panicked and been sobbing by the time I got to shore, and threatening not to ever get back in that kayak.
Not this girl though. This girl has gotten a little stronger, and braver. My kayaking skills improve with each float trip. I’m not done yet. Some people don’t ever want to get back in a kayak, or canoe, after tipping in one. Some refuse to ever get in them in the first place because of the fear of tipping. I don’t see any point in giving it up because of what happened. I get behind the wheel of a car each day, and that is dangerous too. I prayed several times for protection on the river that day. I still tipped, but God kept me safe. Bad things are going to happen. “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.”
P.S. Here are some floating tips I’ve learned from my husband:
1. Tipping is serious; not funny. Don’t play around and try to cause others to tip.
2. Secure your belongings. Get some rope, some bungee cords, and strap your cooler, dry boxes, dry bags to the boat.
3. Respect the river. The current is always more powerful than you think. We’ve seen it bend canoes around trees. So watch out for yourself and for others.
4. Have fun! (But still, be respectful of those around you.)