Monday, June 1, 2009

Citizen Canoe Guide

Since I have no job, I decided to spend some time volunteering for the Park's Department and the City of New Haven as a "Citizen Volunteer" Canoe Guide. Mostly this is because they offered free lessons. The lessons were a good way for me to get a work out, and be away from my mom. That's called multitasking. What follows is a "Connecticut Adventure."

Saturday was a busy day filled with information about kinds of oar strokes, safety instructions, and the ways in which people can die while enjoying a seemingly pleasant canoe ride.

-People get drunk and fall into the water and drown.
-Or they pee over the side and the canoe flips cause it's to much weight on one side and they drown (Martin, the head of "fun park activities and sports" for New Haven, or whatever, who taught us [I swear he was real] said that this is "something men do because they don't know how dangerous it is" and the only other male in the group added, "because men are stupid." to which I say in my head, "... Oh you've met my ex-boyfriend. Excellent.")
-Or they go fishing and get hooked on something and the canoe flips, and they drown.
-Or it's a nice day and they canoe with their best friend who accidentally hits them in the head with an oar and they get knocked unconscious and they drown.
-Or the weather turns and they go over rapids and they tumble out of the canoe and the water is cold and they get hypothermia and they drown...
-Or they bring their puppy in the canoe, and it starts barking and freaking out with all the water. So the swans nearby freak out and one of them starts chasing the dog in the boat, and the dog goes nuts and jumps out of the boat, and then to save the dog and the owner jumps out, and the boat is floating away, and the owner nearly drowns while trying to help the dog who nearly drowns because the swan just keeps pecking away like in "The Birds"... you know... true story.

So maybe mostly it's the water that kills them, not the canoe, but you can't canoe on land, that's called... digging a hole with an oar from a boat.

... No seriously guys, you can DIE. Wear a flotation device. And no drinking while canoing. And no dogs in boats. Srsly, if you need a seeing eye dog, you have to call ahead to the Park's Dept.

My abs hurt from rowing. This is because I learned how to row properly, which apparently involves my abs and back more than my shoulders. My knees also hurt, but that was because the front of the boat is tiny, and when I sat for three hours with my legs pressing into the gunwales (pronounced gunnels...cause it's British.. I kid you not) I got matching bruises on the side of my knees. It's cool though cause they make me look tough.

As a particularly adventurous person, I was one of two people willing to be the "helpless capsized victims who needed rescuing." So Becky and I paddled into the middle of the Mill River and capsized (fun!) and treaded in 7 feet of water until the other people took turns rescuing us. What is so legendary about this is that in the 18 years I lived across the street from this park, and no more than 500 yards from this river, THAT was the first time I ever swam in it. It's not one of those rivers you swim in. It's brackish (gross/salty), murky, rocky, and might have things like snapping turtles, leeches, rusty things, bite-y fish, sharp stuff, and like... cancer. Basically I took a good shower when I got home. BUT I feel really quite satisfied with having been in the river. My life was missing something and now I have completed that thing on the check list. It's a beautiful river, don't get me wrong. I just don't want to touch the bottom of it.

I also was the only participant to wear a skirt. I wore a skirt because I knew I was going to have to get wet, and by wearing a wrap skirt I could easily disrobe into the bathing suit I wore underneath. It was probably the best thing I could have worn actually and I'll do it again. Yeah, you got it, I'm gonna be THAT canoe guide who wears skirts. The white shirt I wore over the black bathing suit on the other hand may not have been the best plan... Nor was the OTHER white shirt I brought to change into when I got wet and needed dry clothes.

Good news is I learned from this experience.

More good news is I got an orange Coast Guard whistle and as a result feel pretty legit about being a canoe guide.

If you want to see me "in action" you can come to the Friends of East Rock Park event on June 13th and help clean up the park, eat food, and come for a canoe ride with me as your canoe guide... IF YOU DARE! Because as we all now know, Canoing is a deadly sport. No for serious. Canoing kills. So do it properly.

Thanks for reading and best regards,

P.S. The photos were taken this past autumn, but the first is the bridge right next to the canoe launch, and the second is RIGHT WHERE I took my little dip in the river! In the middle of that calm area there.

P.S.S. See the island in the second photo? We practiced turns around that island for about two hours. That's the closest I think I've ever gotten to it except maybe when I was little and went canoing with my family with canoe guides (they were so cool! and now I'M COOL! or... um... not... whichever really. Eye of the beholder!) POINT IS: When I was a little girl... let's go with... ages 4-10 I wanted to build a house on that island when I grew up.

P.S.S.S. I still kinda want to build a house on that island now that I've seen it up close.


Emily Norton said...

I love this post! I'm so glad you found something fun, I mean... life-threatening and completely intense, to volunteer for. And good disclaimer about photos because I was going to WTF your orange trees.