Andy Bike and I both have a penchant for adventures. Not go on a plane to a foreign location adventure- more around town adventures where we discover secret trails, eat in un-hip ethnic restaurants, or ride our bikes on back routes to the edge of town and back.
On our most recent adventure, we got the idea to go on an overnight boat camping trip, with minimal drive-time to get there. While I’d been boat camping on a handful of occasions, my experience pulled little weight in our back and forth e-mail exchanges about where to go. We jovially debated about the best combination of fun, scenic quality, and lack of good old boys at our chosen camping local.
After a suitably iterative process, we settled on camping on an island along the Columbia owned by a quasi-governmental agency. In order to get there, minimize the driving, and have a safe place to park the car, we had to start on the Willamette River, then cross the bar onto the Columbia to get there. I’d rowed this section of the river in my guideboat several times, so while I wasn’t concerned, I was, I hope, suitably respectful of the power of the river.
Now at this point, it should be mentioned that we weren’t in my boat. (Since a guideboat with two grown men, is neither romantic nor terribly fun since one guy sits there dragging his hand in the water while the other guy rows.) We were in Bike’s canoe. A hand-me-down canoe that he said he’d used in the Salish Sea, with his family no less. He didn’t however mention that this hand-me-down happened to be an 18 foot long, kevlar, racing canoe, until I remarked how low the freeboard was.
Although I am a fan of all things boat, I’ve never been a canoe fanatic, but given their popularity and long history, I’d always imagined there was something to them: I just hadn’t discovered quite what that was. I think my dislike of canoes came about during a boy scout whitewater canoe trip where I was forced to paddle with Mr. Ibisen, who was about the size of a small water buffalo. He insisted on playing sweeper and hanging back to help any capsized canoe right itself, which would have been fine had he any experience in such matters. Instead, he and I would invariably get dunked into the icy water in the process of rescuing anyone else, which probably explains why to this day I get cold so easily. But I digress.
We got underway and I was impressed with how quickly the boat moved through the water without sliding sideways or turning in unpredicted directions (as often happened to me in past canoe expeditions). We dodged between industrial piers, around floating logs, and finally to the straightaway where the two rivers meet. Around this point we started to notice big white, fiberglass motor yachts that seemed to push the water aside, more than they sliced through it. Normally, I glide over the wakes made by these white behemoths, but in this case, I became suspicious of the effect of taking a wave from the side. We paddled harder, turned the boat and headed almost dead on, towards the wake. As the canoe moved towards the rising water, it seemed to proceed horizontally, instead of rising up. Soon the bow of the canoe was cutting into the wake like a hot knife into butter.
I watched more amused than fearful, as a curl of water came over the bow, into my lap, and onto my feet. A micro-tsunami rushed towards the back of the canoe where it greeted Bike, Bike’s big plastic Tupperware tub, and his pseudo-dry bags (roll-top bike bags) with less force.
We laughed as it became apparent that we’d be bailing out the canoe with a drywall sponge, since neither of us had remembered to bring a bailer. We pulled ashore nearby, ate lunch and pondered our next move…