View topic - Your Worst Paddling Partner Ever?

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PostPosted: June 27th, 2020, 12:19 pm 

Joined: June 28th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 1836
Location: Freeland, Maryland USA
The title of Frozentripper’s “abandonment” news story got me thinking about the worst paddling partners I have tripped with.

Not the worst, but a woman who “was once a raft guide” (there must be a million people who were “once raft guides”) decided that she was the trip leader. Thankfully I was paddling a solo canoe, so she wasn’t actually my partner on the river, but at every campsite she would take charge, “deciding” whose tent was going where. Suffice it to say that she and her partner never had a poor tent site, but if you got on her wrong side you would be exiled to Siberia.

I didn’t really mind Siberia; I could distance while on the river, and far away in camp was good by me. One trip with her was enough.

My actual worst paddling partner ever was one of my prime backpacking companions. Big, tall, strong fellow, and great company on the trail. For anonymity sake I’ll call him Jay.

40 years ago, when we were still in our twenties, I took Jay on a canoe trip, seated in the bow of our Grumman for couple of days of flatwater paddling. We had a few mildly breezy headwind days, and I needed him to paddle. Like, how hard can it be, actually paddle, simply push blade against the water?

He had the ability to provide no propulsion with his paddle. It “looked” like he was paddling. I gave him some pointers about using a paddle, and his strokes looked OK, but they were providing zero help.

I tested that a few times by essentially ceasing to paddle in the stern, just doing an occasional draw or pry to keep us going straight, and we would instantly glide to a stop. Even on near windless days. How he managed that is still a magical mystery to me.

One trip with him was not enough. 30 years later I took Jay out paddling a second time. Flatwater again, but a simple up and back day trip. I put him in a fast solo decked canoe with a rudder and gave him an appropriate length double blade, so at worst he could splish-splash propulsive on either side. Not a long trip either, 4.8 miles out to a sandy point with great views, 4.8 miles back.

I had another novice paddling friend along on that trip, Scott, also an old B-packing buddy. We took our time; we had all day and it was a scenic stop-and-smell the roses (er, marsh mud) kind of trip. Even so we had to stop and wait for Jay several times, and he somehow (that magic again) managed to snarl the rudder retraction line so badly at one point that I had to drag his boat up on shore and repair it.

4.8 miles later we stopped for a long lunch break on that sandy peninsula with great views before heading back. Jay mostly kept up after I fixed his rudder and showed him how to use the sail. Although, even then, with all three of use using the same sails in nearly identical decked/ruddered hulsl, he managed to lag behind. That magical Jay slowness strikes again.

The day was a seeming success; 9.6 miles round trip, and we got to effortlessly downwind sail half the way back. When we arrived back at the launch we put the paddles, PFD’s and day gear into the van and readied to put the decked canoes on the roof racks. Big tall full-sized van roof racks. Scott is short, and I could use a big tall helper. We couldn’t find Jay.

We found him, conked out asleep on the back seat.

“Hey Jay, give me a hand loading the boats” I asked, opening the door.

In response “Mumffff fooo fffaad, uhnff fnnntt mvvvvff” without opening his eyes.

“What? Come on, gimme a hand loading the boats”

“I too tired, I can’t move” he mumbled more clearly.

Shortie Scott and I racked all three boats, and Jay slept soundly in the back seat all the way home.

In another 30 years I’ll think about taking Jay out paddling again. In his defense, both now in our sixties, I am sure he could still hike my ass off.

PostPosted: June 27th, 2020, 2:13 pm 

Joined: February 28th, 2018, 10:54 am
Posts: 93
Location: SW Quebec
I haven't had a bad paddle partner, mostly because I avoid other people. That said, my wife has a couple of paddling quirks. This first is timing - brutal. Stroke, stroke, strokestrokestroke... stroke....strokestroke. Gah! I was seriously considering a swim tempo/metronome. The other is the ability to violate the laws of physics. She can paddle on the starboard side and make the canoe turn right. It's just like a draw except that it looks nothing like it. She does not twist the paddle either. It's baffling.

Weak, I know.

I do have a bad partner boating experience, but not canoeing, and not really boating.

My parents had a fly-in only hunting/fishing camp north of Montreal. My dad had a 14' jon boat flown up and it was my brother-in-law's and my job to transport it the 1000 or so yards to another nearby lake. We arrived the night before and got a little too deep into a bottle of whiskey. Dad being dad was up at 4 and after patiently waiting for 2 hours for us to get up decided we needed get busy and got us out of bed. We were both still fairly polluted and as such were not against the idea of nice, hearty breakfast - bacon, eggs, sausages, home fries...

Fast forward about an hour, we are well into our portage - in the middle of the bush with an aluminum jon boat over our heads, BIL in the front and me in the rear. He takes a big step to get over some tree roots and his hangover kicks in causing him to spew breakfast all over the trail. A few steps later the waft of half-digested breakfast and stomach bile hits and is now stuck in the upside-down boat hull. My turn.

We laugh about that kind of stuff now.

PostPosted: June 28th, 2020, 11:37 pm 
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Joined: March 18th, 2019, 7:54 pm
Posts: 121
Location: Brampton
I paddle solo often :-?

It's a good thing I talk to myself a lot when solo. I need the expert advice.

If you ate today, thank a farmer.

PostPosted: June 29th, 2020, 7:19 am 
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Joined: April 21st, 2004, 10:52 am
Posts: 1133
Location: Near Ottawa ON
That'd be John. To avoid anonymity let's call him John.
John didn't handle stress well. For one thing he'd seem to immediately go deaf. And dumb. I had to develop a special correction stroke for when he was really screwing up; I'd lean forward and whacking him with my paddle. It usually made him stop whatever it was he was doing.
We did a "beer and lawn chairs" trip one time: 12 days at 4 beer/day each is 4 cases of beer in my boat. Plus, unbeknownst to me John had lost a bet with one of the other paddlers and his payment, another 24, was stashed in one of his multiple packs. Plus an extravagant amount of fresh food, fishing tackle and of course the lawn chairs. Living large.
The boat handled like a barge. Our first maneuver on the water was a simple back-ferry to avoid some rocks on river-left. John was in the front paddling on the right. About 2 strokes in I realized that we were not going to move the massive weight of the boat far enough to avoid all the rocks. No problem - now that we were closer we could see a path through directly downstream where Ken (may he rest in peace) was setting up to line his canoe. It would be a bit of a bump-and-grind but we'd make it. All we had to do was straighten out.
"Give me your best draw!" I called as I reached out and dug my paddle into my own draw. John, unaccountably, switched sides and did what was actually a well executed stacked-hands stroke, drawing the front of the boat in the wrong direction, counteracting my own efforts.
I hadn't accounted for that. There was no time to execute the aforementioned correction stroke as I yelled "Cross-draw, hard!" and redoubled my own effort to straighten out the boat. John, starting to stress as he realized that something wasn't going right, had already gone pretty much deaf. But he did react to the urgency in my voice by doing an even bigger draw. We breached against the rocks right beside where Ken was standing. Fortunately the impact knock John half out of the boat, all his weight on the downstream gunnel as the force of the water tried to roll the canoe into the current. I jumped out into the waist-deep water and heaved up on the upstream gunnel but would have lost the battle with the weight of all that booze if Ken hadn't of jump in and helped. (I was surprised at Ken's quick selfless action until I learned that he was the one owed the extra beer in my boat and he was thinking to save it, not so much my canoe.)
So we got away with it.
"John, what the heck was that!?" I asked.
"What? I did just what you said." John replied. "You called for my best draw, and my best draw is on the left side.".
Yup, I've got lots of John stories.

PostPosted: June 29th, 2020, 2:14 pm 
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Joined: February 24th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 548
Location: HFX, Nova Scotia canada
That would be Dipsy Don, we will call him. On a previous trip he was going to be very late and I volunteered to stay back and get him paddling solo( I wasn't told that he never paddled solo) to the camp site alive. Dark by the time we arrived. Nothing really hard but with light getting low was fun for me, Don not so.

First trip next season I find out a week before that we are an even number of paddlers( i usually paddled solo) so I decided to take my new tandem. Water was high so I figured would be a good test. Said bow paddler was Dipsy Don. Besides left and right issues, complete inability to pick a good line and way to much gear he had zero power. Paddle was in the water but nothing was happening, this is a big guy. River we did has a bunch of rock gardens, ledges and stuff that requires attention. Didn't take him long to figure out that I was soaking him on purpose every chance I could. After the first morning we had a discussion about what to do and when to do it. Much better, never asked to paddle with me again.


PostPosted: August 2nd, 2020, 8:23 am 

Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 388
I take it y'all have never paddled with Lonzi and Cressman? There's stuff of legend there.

With some folks it's hard to draw that line betwixt best and worst.

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