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Maine – Day 1 (2014)

2019 – This was my first time in Maine, meaning I’ve been going up there for six years!

If you’re late to camp, you will miss the briefing about which well has been bleached, and which is more potable.

I learned this lesson the hard way – thankfully, not too hard – when I woke up early Saturday morning and took a swig from the bottle I had filled the night before. We’d gotten in late, around midnight or so, and after pitching tents, pumped water from the well at the foot of the cabin. When I took a sip in the morning, it was . . .sprightly, like extreme toothpaste. Turns out that the potable well was up the hill, near the kitchen entrance.

We were there for kayaking. Saturday, Sunday, and Memorial Day, we paddled in the vicinity of the Sheepscot River, out of an Appalachian Mountain Club camp at Knubble Bay. Each day brought us new adventures.

Day 1, Saturday, we spent time in tidal streams. We started low and worked our way up, practicing ferry techniques in progressively stronger and bigger streams. Eventually, we had a competition against a somewhat complicated stream, with multiple smaller tributaries, each of us working our way up based on how we read the water.

After that, we paddled on and came to an overfall near a point of land; the feature was called Lower Hell Gate, reminding JJ and I of our feature here called Hell Gate. Unlike its New York cousin, this was a proper overfall, or I’m told like a hole in whitewater lingo, as the water spilled over from one elevation to another to form a bubbling cauldron releasing into a strong bit of current. Coach encouraged us to nose in, edge away from the fall, and ride it.

We did. I’m happy to say I took two runs facing with the current and came off alright, while I saw others capsize. Then I tried backing in, and facing the point of land, talking to our coach on the land, my tail towards to direction I would follow to get out.

I rode it. I “edged like a mo’fo'” as other paddler put it. I smiled. It was great! And then suddenly I was underwater, in 50 degree Maine spring water.

I looked at my toggle. It was so inviting. And I hadn’t rolled in a while. With that, I gave up and popped out. I should have rolled but I didn’t. I have a ton of excuses and I’m not happy with any of them.

In short order I was rescued. I was cold, but out. I paddled around a bit but was done.

We landed shortly after and I asked, what had I done wrong? What had any of us, and there were several who capsized, done?

“You leaned back. Ever so slightly, but it was enough to drive the stern down, just enough to catch.”

So, posture.

This is funny because when I teach, I always push good posture, to the point of sounding like an old-timey schoolmarm. And some people just insist on a nice, lazy, lean-back paddling posture. However it really makes a difference, even in flatwater paddling. Your posture affects the trim of the boat. Use that fact to your advantage.

After that, we paddled back to camp, with a few more tidal streams, and some rolling practice at the end. JJ even let me test drive her Avocet, which was a marked change from the P&H Delphin I’d been paddling.

We landed, tied up the boats, and laid out our gear before breaking for dinner. In camping, you really do rise and set with the sun. I’d been up since 0530, and after dinner I was so exhausted that I was ready for bed by 2100.

I slept soundly, looking forward to our next adventure the the next day, whatever it might be.

Published in 2014 Backpaddle Camping Kayaking Sea


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