Swamping the Canoe

Written by Dan. Added on June 14, 2009.

Nine of us wanted to go canoeing, and we had three canoes. We piled in — three to a canoe — and headed out. We paddled past the calm inlet, and out into the Housatonic River to see what we might find.

There were a number of power boats going by. Some went slow with fishermen, others went fast pulling water skiers and tubes. There were even a few jet skis running by. We all decided to head out into the river and ride the wake that these boats were leaving. Right after a powerboat would zip by, we would paddle hard to quickly reach the wake so that we could splash and bounce over it!

While out on the water we also explored up and down the river. We found some tennis balls; we through them into the water at each other’s canoes to splash water. We found some other items in the river, too — most notably a sneaker and a small bobber! All three of our canoes were having a good time out on the water.

But we kept going back to the wake of the power boats. That was certainly the most exciting thing! Eventually the boat drivers realized that we wanted to catch the biggest wakes, and they obliged by running fast! We started hitting the wake harder and harder: after racing to get to it, Brady would stand in the bow of our canoe just as it was coming out of the water, then flop down to push the bow lower; I would reciprocate by jumping up and down with the stern of the canoe. We were able to bounce the canoe hard and splash a lot of water! One time, we caught a wake just right, an the water splashed over the top of Brady’s head and all over Johnny, sitting in the middle! I had to bail some water after that one!

Now, it’s worth mentioning that Johnny was a young Scout, and a little nervous about this outing. He didn’t think it was a good idea that we were getting so far away from shore (because of a few bends in the river it was completely out of sight). He was nervous that we were out for too long, and may get into trouble. And he was very afraid that we might flip the canoe. Johnny was having fun, but reminded us of his concerns constantly. Brady and I ignored them. And that big splash that just came into the canoe a few minutes earlier made him even more vocal.

So, we continued to seek out the biggest wake and the biggest splash. A boat sped by us, and we paddled hard to reach it. We hit this wake at a slightly different angle than the others (not quite perpendicular) and as soon as we started bouncing on the water, pushing the bow down, water rolled in over the side of the canoe. Just a little at first, but a few moments later the bow was obviously going under!

The bow pointed down and the stern pointed up — quickly sending the canoe vertical, and looking reminiscent of the Titanic. We were sinking fast! But, as anybody who has earned Canoeing merit badge knows, a canoe will remain buoyant even when swamped, and you can still paddle it to shore. As we sank lower and lower, and the water went up past our waists, over our chests, and up to our necks, it became obvious that this canoe was not going to remain buoyant. Brady and I reached down for the canoe handle and heaved it up.

As our canoe was going down, Johnny was exclaiming “whoa!” and “we’re sinking!” But after the canoe was clearly not supporting us anymore, we watched our paddles rise up to the surface of the water, along with our collection of tennis balls, my water bottle and our shoes. It happened fast, but Johnny let out a shrill yell, “don’t let my shoes get away! They cost five hundred dollars!”

My perspective may be a little skewed, but it seems to me that very quickly after we went down, Ethan — in another canoe — excitedly burst out “we get to do a T-rescue!” He seemed a bit over-eager to me!

After a successful T-rescue we all got back into the canoe and headed back to shore. What an adventure!

Read another story: Paddling on the Delaware River