An article in a national magazine presented summer fun tips including suggestions for canoe safety, or specifically, what to do with a tipped canoe if kids are aboard. Uh, if the canoe tips they won’t be aboard long, will they? As an experienced canoe-tipper I did not agree with the suggested actions and feel my readers deserve a deeper dive on the topic.
The first problem in the article is the plural word, kids. This should be singular, as in no sane parent boards a canoe with more than one. Kids squirm, fight, fidget, flick boogers, lean over the side, drag arms in the water, and splash. Rent the longest canoe and shove one (and only one) kid in the front while you insert yourself in the back. Keep an eye on the little rascal and drench him with lake water should he become belligerent or refuse to paddle. Your rear position affords you two seconds warning should he jump up and swat at a buzzing insect. Take a breath, and close your mouth before the plunge.
Should you ignore the previous paragraph and set sail with more than one kid then you must consider tipping a probable event. Place your phone and wallet in a sealed plastic bag before leaving the dock, and consider adding a strap to your glasses. Moms, consider the effects of lake water on your outfit and wear something that will remain modest when wet.
Insist that the entire crew (you included) don one of those musty life jackets offered by the canoe vendor. These preservers are usually included in the rental fee although there is a charge for the non-moldy upgrade. Listening as the kids gripe about the stench beats losing a crew member to Davey Jones’s Locker. Spray the lifejackets with insect repellent to mask the odor and deflect the hungry insects vacationing at the lake.
Canoes tip with little effort on the part of the crew. Be prepared for the unavoidable and plan your first actions after the splashdown.
- If the canoe tips, swim and tow the canoe by its rope. You don’t want to forfeit your deposit or pay for an additional hour, do you?
- If the canoe tips, grab your favorite child and swim to shore. Which is the favorite? The one with the highest earning potential is the obvious choice.
- If the canoe tips, relax and let your life jacket float you. Have the children grab a strap and tow you as a team building exercise.
- If the canoe tips, promise ice cream for all who beat you to dry land. Now swim like Jaws is nipping at your heels. Should you lose the race the winner will have a bragging point you will never live down.
- If the canoe tips, tell the crew to swim for the beach. Phantom sightings of kid-eating copper-headed water rattle snakes provide incentive for stragglers to pick up their pace.
- If the canoe tips, enjoy the moment. You just made a memory. The kids will recant the story many times at family gatherings over the coming years adding danger with each retelling.
Someone ejected me from a canoe into green alligator-filled swamp water. My baptism caught me by surprise, and I ingested a mouthful of that gunk. I lived through the trauma and may write that story for you someday. I tell it often enough.