Joe Boater Can Tip a Canoe
Before you owned a sailboat, you had adventures in a 1960s, Grumman, aluminum canoe, named Different Drummer. You didn’t live on it (hmmm? there’s a thought) but rather, carried it around on your Toyota pick-up (and later a Subaru wagon) and launched it from there. One particular day, early in your Seattle phase, you did just that.
As a soloist, you used a canoe more like a kayak. You sat in the center of the boat and used a long double paddle. This sitting arrangement had, over time, seen many improvisations and variations. On the day of this particular story, you were testing a new approach. You had found a styrofoam block floating around one day and thought, “that might work under the center seat.”
So you gave it a go. The challenges with sitting in the center of the canoe were 1) sitting low enough to keep the boat stable, and 2) sitting high enough to clear the gunwales when paddling. The styrofoam block was strong in number two and weak in number one.
One December day, you launched from North Lake Union and headed to South Lake Union. You were going to sail one of The Center of Wooden Boat’s, Blanchard Jrs. It was exciting as this would be the first time you would be sailing one alone. Travel to The Center was uneventful. You went sailing and had a great time. You returned to The Center, took pictures of the Blanchard, and boarded Different Drummer for your return paddle to North Lake Union.
As you were paddling away and getting situated, you adjusted the styrofoam block. As you did this, you must have moved your butt a bit too far outboard. A canoe is very stable until it isn’t. Your butt crossed that line, and the gunwale dipped down. Once the water started to rush in, the canoe lost stability. It dumped you and filled with water. It’s called swamping. Since it had flotation in the ends, it didn’t sink.
You were wearing a vest type PFD which had great buoyancy. You were within arms reach of The Center’s dock, and bystanders saw you go in. They quickly came over, two men grabbed you by the vest, lifted you from the water, and onto the dock. They commented on how easy it was to do with that type of PFD.
When canoeing, you always travel with a dry bag for times like this. It has extra clothes and some other survival gear. The men who pulled you from the water suggested you change your clothes, and since it was December, you agreed. By the time you had done this and returned to the boat, they had emptied the water. You said thank you and got on with your journey. You did, however, dunk your phone and your camera, which you in haste and excitement, failed to return to their waterproof containers. Shoot.
The takeaways are:
Always wear your PFD. The vest type was an advantage because it gave your rescuers something to grab. The inflatable type would not have provided this.
Always carry a dry bag with extra clothes. The incident was minor because you were able to put on dry clothes quickly.
Lash everything you don’t want to lose to the boat.
Always secure your electronic devices in waterproof containers.
When you know the seat is too high, don’t use it.
Keep your butt inboard.