My First Day

I got a call from my friend Ed asking if I’d like to go boating with he and Dan the next day. I’ve known Ed my whole life, he was at my christening, at least I assume he was as his parents are my God parents. I didn’t meet Dan until I joined Boy Scouts at age 11. Ed was a Scout also. We’ve been close friends ever since.
We all did a lot of canoeing in the scouts but mostly on smaller rivers like the Wading in South Jersey or week long trips on the Susquehanna out near Pittsburgh. I tell Ed I’m in and will meet him at his house in the morning.
Dan is already there when I get to Ed’s house. He’s usually early for things while I tend to get there at the last minute. Ed already has his boats and gear laid out on the lawn, a couple of Dagger Animases, a Wavesport Frankenstein and a Wavesport Diesel 65. He tells me that the Frankenstien may be a bit small for me and that they call the Diesel a “banana boat” because its yellow and its hard to control. He tells me to pick a boat and recommends one of the Animases. I choose the Diesel as it looks more like the boats I had seen people paddling when I rafted the Gauley. Ed tells me he knew I’d pick that one, he and Dan both think I’m a little wacked.
We are going to paddle the Musconetcong River and shuttle Dan’s truck down to the takeout at the Penwell Dam. We get back to Ed’s and carry the boats down to the put in on Kings Highway.
I’ve never been in a Kayak before. Ed shows me how to put on the spray skirt and I sit in the boat at the edge of the river. I have a PFD but stick it inside my boat. I’ve never worn one canoeing and don’t see why I should start now. None of us has a helmet. Ed tells me to pull the grab loop if I flip and pushes me in.
The water is moving kind of fast and is really shallow. The boat feels extremely tippy to me and I’m a little frightened. I feel as though the boat is going to flip every time I hit a rock, and I’m hitting a lot of rocks. 
I can’t seem to control this thing. Sometimes it goes left, other times right and occasionally just turns around backwards for no apparent reason at all. I hear Dan laughing behind me, at least he’s enjoying himself.
The Musconetcong is a small river and is mostly moving flat water with an occassional ripple where people have piled rocks to form primitive dams. I really am enjoying running the tongues of water between the rocks and am starting to get the feel of the boat. Sometimes it even goes where I want it to.
We come around a bend in the river and the water picks up speed as it drops into a narrow shoot between an island and the bank. I start down the shoot and get a little nervous when I see a small pillow of water in the center at the bottom. I know its a rock but cannot manuever the boat around it. I’m moving too fast and headed straight for it.
To my surprise the boat just kind of bumps over it and I’m still upright. That was a lot of fun. We paddle in to the pool above the Penwell dam.
The dam is maybe 6′ high and slopes down at perhaps a 45 degree angle. There is a standing wave all the way across the bottom. Ed tells me that he has run it before. I’m pretty skeptical. Ed paddles up, drops over the lip, appears below the dam and motions for me to go next.
Nervously, I paddle slowly up to the lip. So slowly , in fact, that I get stuck up there with the bow of the boat hanging over the edge. I look down at the standing wave below the dam and am not all that happy with my current position. I finally summon the courage to rock my boat forward and start over the dam.
Its over before I know it. Its really easy. Just slide down and crash through the wave. How cool is that? I carry the boat up and try it again, at least another 10 times.
Later, while we are paddling around in the pool above the dam, Ed says that he has read about how to roll a kayak but can’t do it himself.
He says that you do a C to C motion with your body and the kayak comes up. He tries it but cannot roll so he pushes his paddle off the bottom and comes back up, I figure how hard can it be? It looks so easy on the National Geographic specials when the Eskimos do it. Over I go.
I try to form a C to C by alternately leaning over the bow of the then back over the stern. It doesn’t work the first time. In fact, it seems like the boat doesn’t move at all. I try it a few more times but continue to get the same result. About then, my brain, which admittedly has not been functioning too well to this point, begins to realize that this isn’t going to work and that oxygen is in short supply down here. I put the blade of my paddle on the bottom of the river and push.
That doesn’t work either. I just succeed in pushing the boat away from the paddle. I’m not coming up and its starting to worry me a little.
I let go of the paddle and try to lift my head above the water while doing some kind of frantic dog paddle stroke. Ed is in his boat on my other side trying to roll me up. It seems that every time I get close to getting my head out of the water, Ed rolls me back in the other direction. Pretty funny really although I fail to see the humor at the time.
My lungs are burning and it occurs to me that I might drown in 3′ of water. I’ve always been a strong swimmer and it seems impossible that this could be happening. I think that my wife Carole is really going to be mad.
It finally dawns on me to pull the grab loop, pull the skirt and exit the boat. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before, all I could think of was getting my head above the surface. I stand up in waist deep water.
Ed has flipped over and lost his paddle while trying to help me. Dan is sitting in his boat kind of watching the whole thing, he doesn’t know what to do. I grab Ed’s boat and flip him back up. I should have held him under for a while, it would have served him right. I look over at Dan and he just shakes his head, he thinks I’m nuts.
We pack up the boats in Dan’s truck and head back to Ed’s house. I had a great day and can’t wait to try this again.
 
 

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