The canoe is far more than the sum of its parts. Of ancient design and with history stretching back thousands of years, it is a water craft of unequalled simplicity and functionality.
I have spent a long time travelling in the mountains, carrying huge loads, doing everything I could to keep the weight of my pack down. With canoeing this all changed. I no longer needed to break my toothbrush and spoon in half to save weight. I could travel in the wilderness and carry huge amounts of equipment. Katrina and I would load our 17-foot canoe like a Ford Sierra with family of four going on a glamping trip to Temby. Tents, air beds, wood burning stove and even chairs! Food would be fresh meat, fruit and veg! I could carry 10 or even 20 litres of water at a time, not to mention the food for Tyke and Gonzo, our dogs.
Piled high we looked like the rag and bone man of the water, we would go on a Scottish canoe adventure. Even with all this gear we could easily cover 20 miles a day on calm waters and travel in some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, leaving no trace.
And what a place to see wildlife from. You are quiet, very close, but not close enough to disturb. You can stop paddling and drift, taking photos.
We’ve paddled alongside dolphins!
But the Canoe was more than a vehicle to escape to wild places in. Technique could be honed and efficiency increased. Rivers became accessible as we learned to paddle our canoes safely down rapids.
We discovered that you could easily sail your canoe with a simple down wind sail (our first sail was a waterproof jacket held at the font of the canoe between two paddles.) It is easy to adapt most open canoes to be sailed efficiently with purpose-built equipment. I learnt to sail and would enjoy the tranquillity of quiet sails, puffs of wind giving just enough to push the boat along. Free energy on a long canoe trip is fantastic!
On windy days sailing is as exciting as going down any rapid. Sitting on the gunwale, feet tucked under straps, leaning backwards to stop the canoe capsizing. You are in control of a wild horse as you hang on tight, galloping through waves sending sheets of spray into the air. An unforgettable and priceless experience!
Katrina and I have both gone on to complete some amazing canoe journeys!
I even enjoy paddling in the rain…. but I’m not sure Gonzo does!
My canoes have done so much for me, taken me on adventures, allowed me to see things that I would not have seen. But most importantly they have introduced me to some of the kindest, friendliest and most generous people I have ever met.