For part of my Master Naturalist training with the city I learned to lead canoe trips. Two park rangers and three lifeguards ran us through the paces.
On our first training day it was too windy to go out on the lake, so the rangers sat in a boat on the dock and demonstrated as best they could, while also going over the safety points. We also had to take an online paddlesport safety certification course prior to going out on the water.
In the afternoon we gathered at the city pool to do our rescue training. I was really nervous about the flipping, scared I'd hit my head on the side of the canoe as it flipped and be knocked out, causing a big scene. Hey, it wasn't like I didn't want those hot young lifeguards and park rangers coming to my rescue, I just didn't want to be embarrassed.
When it was time to practice flipping I knew that standing on the edge of the pool waiting my turn would just get me more and more nervous, so I was the first one to volunteer for a flipping. I was given the choice to jump away from the canoe as it flipped, or tuck my head in and wind up stuck underneath the canoe. I was scared of both options but ended up opting for the most scary to prove to myself I could do it: I tucked in and went under.
I thought I was prepared, but the force of the flip sent water up my nose. Finding myself alone with my head in the empty space under the overturned canoe was eerie. What now? A lifeguard swam under and joined me, coaching me in grabbing the sides of the canoe, and pushing myself under and out. It was important not to attempt to flip the canoe when emerging from beneath it because a vacuum seal had been created which would have made it difficult, as well as the fact that it was heavy and likely to slip and hit me on the head (my worst fear!).
Bodies trapped beneath an overturned canoe.
Once people were clear of the overturned canoe, another canoe could come and right it. That's me flipping an overturned canoe. It was a bit wobbly but an otherwise simple endeavor.
OK, I faced my fears and learned proper technique, I think I'm ready!
The next weekend the weather was much improved: 70 degrees and sunny! The water was calm, the conditions were perfect. I've been canoeing about a dozen times in my life but it turned out I was a little rusty. I started out in the back, the steering position, and within the first few strokes I splashed my partner with my sloppy paddling. Thankfully she was raised on a lake and an expert paddler who kindly educated me in my errors. She was also very forgiving of the soaking I gave her!
Rafting up to listen to the ranger at an interpretive stop.
Out on the lake the ranger talks to us about previous years "incidents" including unruly passengers, misbehaving children, and a family with two toddlers that flipped and needed rescue. We were also warned about drunken speedboaters who like to kick up a wake and harass paddlers in an attempt to flip them.
I'm going out of my comfort zone on this, but I hope I'll be a good guide. My first trip with the paying public is coming up soon. Wish me luck!