June 7, 2013 - Forward Progress

Have you ever noticed that as you are approaching a landing site, or trying to maneuver in some way to make a better approach that a canoe really doesn’t like to go backwards?  Oh, it will but with great resistance.  And it never, never goes backwards in a straight forward manner.  It doesn’t like going back to where it once was.

A few Aprils ago I went to the Obed River system near the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee.  My paddling friend, Chad, knew of a great tributary to check out in light of the fact that we just had some great rainfall and everything was running nicely.

Knowing there were going to be more than Class I rapids, I took my trusty Royalex Mad River Explorer for the adventure.  We met Chad’s dad at the put in and we all paddled solo in our own boats.  I turned mine around and sat in the bow seat, then wound up kneeling most of the trip (glad I made that knee pad!) keeping the center of gravity stable.

It was fun and challenging with Class IIs and marginal Class IIIs for us to maneuver.  Because it was a daytrip, I didn’t have a lot of ballast, just my river bag with a little gear for a change of clothes and some emergency items.

Approaching a constant set of rapids, I misread the rocks and hit one broadside near the bow.  The canoe quickly reversed itself and I found myself with my back to the downstream side.  In other words, I was looking back, but the canoe was most definitely moving forward.  I quickly adjusted by safely turning around and just like my boat, moved forward.

I think that’s why I like a canoe better than other boats.  It lets me look back on where I’ve been, but it won’t let me go back there very easily.  It wants to move forward. Always.Regardless of the obstacles.

I love that lesson.