Sunday, August 1, 2010


I was doing the volunteer thing again, this time for the YPRC, with a large crowd of  youths.  I paddled across the river from New Jersey to Yonkers and was given the job of perimeter, which involves sitting in my boat and watching enthusiastic folks get to know sit-on-tops on a corner of the river.  I was there to provide assistance if anyone needed it.  This can be a very tedious way to volunteer, so aside from the usual distractions like splashing people and warning them to be careful of fearsome sharks, I worked on my rolls.

[caption id="attachment_86" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Kids and volunteers enjoying the river."]

Kids and volunteers enjoying the river.

One kid who was watching told me that he almost knows how to roll and has his bow dip down really well.  In fact, he would be practicing his roll “right now” if only he had “remembered to bring his nose plug.”

“Oh, you can borrow mine if you like.”  I happily offered.

With mild panic he gave some very good reason for why he didn't want to give it a go.

My friend Link was soon out there with me and joined me in practice.  Link has a little bit more trouble with his rolls then I do and while I've never seen him miss a roll before, he was in a moment, out of his boat in the way that I had been when I was learning to roll not to long ago. But no worries, myself and a number of other experienced paddlers where there to help him get back in.

Some of the volunteers took a group of sit-on-tops out on a small excursion and I was asked to stay and watch those who did not want to go.  A little boy asked me where the others where going and I told him “They heard there was a Jabberwock upstream and went to see if they could get a glimpse.”

“What's a Jabberwock?”,  he asked, quite interested.

“You don't know the story of the Jabberwock?”  I told him the story, and lost his attention in the process.

I was chatting again with Link and told him of how a local internet news group, Teaneck Patch, had offered to pay me to write for them about my trip.

Link's kayak was home made and a much more delicate boat then my plastic one.  He had to be very careful around rocks.  So when he was trying to roll again, this time with a Greenland paddle that we had borrowed from a friend, we handled the whole thing a bit less smoothly.  He had gone over on purpose and began the wind up for his extended paddle roll.  It would have gone perfectly, except he lost hold of his paddle.  The paddle began to float away and Link was upside down, head under water.  That is not a good position to be in without a paddle.

So I quickly pulled my boat up next to his, he grabbed my bow, and used it to pull himself out of the water.  Or at least, that's what should have happened.  What actually happened is that I pulled my bow up, but not quite close enough to his waving for help hands.  By the time he finally did get a hold of my bow he had already taken his spray-skirt half off in an effort to wet exit.  So he pulled himself part of the way up, and then out of his kayak.

Helping a man get back in his boat is not a hard thing to do if you know how, and I do.  But Link wanted to get back in using his inflatable paddle float.  Unfortunately as he began to blow air into the paddle float he realized that we were being pushed by the current towards some rocks and an ancient sewer pipe.  We neither wanted Link nor his boat to be hit against these obstacles so he held onto the back of my boat from underneath with his legs and one arm, and used the other arm to hold onto his boat.

I began to paddle.  It was slow going against the current with both the extra boat and Link's less then hydrodynamic form.

Link asked “Are you sure we're making any progress at all?”

“Yes, I'm sure.”  But it was slow going.

After some time we had made a few feet of progress away from the rocks and where no longer immediate danger of Link or his boat colliding with them.  So I, quite tired from pulling so much even a short distance through the water, suggested that we stop there and he resume trying to get back into his boat on his own.

He did, but before he could make any meaningful progress with inflating his paddle float we where once again near the rocks.  We made our train with Link as the link between the boats (That's not why I chose the name Link for him though, really.  Link is a character from an old tv show that shares some characteristics with my friend.)  And I began again to put my all in to paddling towards the boat ramp about 100 meters away.

I think I read in a book that a good way to pull someone along is to have them sit right behind you on your deck and I suggested this to Link.  He didn't think it would work.  I was working really hard now to bring him all the way to the ramp since I didn't want a repeat of what happened a moment ago, just losing ground to have to pull him through it again.

Link made some comment, probably friendly and good natured.  I didn't want to hear anything friendly or good natured, I was working to hard to pull him through the water since he couldn't get back in his boat very quickly.  I said something rude.

That's OK, Link is a friendly good natured guy who teaches dance.  After another few minutes, when he had apparently grown tired of the usual

“Are you sure we're making any progress?”


he said something else that was friendly and good natured.  I was even more exhausted then I had been the last time so I said something that was even ruder.

Eventually we made it back, I think all told it took about three weeks to make it those hundred meters but it felt longer because I had to pee.  When we where about ten feet away from the ramp I told him he could manage the rest on his own.  He let go of my boat and as quickly as I could I leaped ashore and ran to the nearest bunch of bushed for a moment of privacy.

When I returned he told me that once he set his mind to it, it took him only a moment to get back in his boat and he could have done it back near the rocks after all.  The boy who can almost roll told me that I did everything wrong.

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