The Great Canoe Catastrophe

I love to kayak. I started kayaking in 2013 after I sold my 14’ aluminum flat bottom boat. I used that money to buy my wife and I matching Wilderness Systems kayaks. At the time I also had a canoe. But the canoe limited me to going where my wife wanted. The kayaks meant freedom. I could paddle wherever I wanted without the grumblings of another passenger. To this day, those kayaks are quite possibly the best purchase I ever made. This purchase sparked a desire inside of me to convince everyone I knew that they had to buy a kayak immediately.

It took some time but soon, enough of my friends had kayaks that I could plan the very first ever “Annual guy fishing trip”. A day where a group of guys could just hang out and have some fun. Two of the guys that went with us didn’t have their own boats but I had a perfectly good canoe they could use. It worked out pretty well. They were brothers so they would have no trouble sharing the space of a small boat all day. So, with all the logistics established, we set off.

The plan was for me and 4 of my friends to drive 2 separate cars loaded down with kayaks and gear to a nice creek about an hour north of Lucasville, OH called Paint Creek. This was my favorite creek to fish when I still lived in Ohio. The diversity and abundance of fish was absurd. We caught crappie, sauger/saugeye, panfish of all sorts and my all time favorite smallmouth bass. If you wanted to take a break from fishing the current was swift enough that you could let it drift you downstream and just relax. No one else on the trip knew these things though.

You see, I was the only person on this adventure that had ever been in the creek. As a guide, I had my work cut out for me. Even though I loved the creek, I knew that there were dangers. Logs and trees created little pinch points that would suck your boat right into the obstructions. There were also old logs protruding from the middle of the creek that, if you weren’t paying attention, would flip over any kayak or canoe unfortunate enough to hit it.

We met up and had a very early breakfast. It was a beautiful May morning with a forecast of full sunshine. It had rained a little bit that week but not enough to make the creek dangerous. It just brought the water levels up to the point that we would always be moving, whether we were paddling or not. The trip we had planned was only about 2-3 miles in length but it was going to take at least 8 hours to complete it. There were just too many “fishy” looking spots to pass up and it made the trip take a tremendously long time.

We took our time for the first half of the trip. We made frequent stops to stretch on long sand bars. It was so nice stepping into the cool water to cool our already sunburnt legs. These breaks also gave us time to stretch out our backs. Even though my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 had a great seat, my back would still get stiff after a while. After we would grab a quick snack and drink it was time to hop back in our boats and keep paddling.

Even though it was the first time on this body of water for everyone except me, no one had any problems. I was able to guide everyone around and through the tricky bits with relative ease. Looking ahead I could see a little bit of a worry. There was an S shaped bend in the creek and on the backside there was a large stump sticking out of the water about 18 inches. The creek was about 20 feet wide at the log so there was plenty of room. That didn’t bother me. The current however, would push you directly over top of the stump. As long as everyone paid attention and paddled strong, they could avoid it completely. I went through first so I could look back and give some direction.

Directly behind me were the 2 brothers in my canoe. I beached my kayak and turned around just in time to see a sight with equal parts fear and comedy. The brother on the front was paddling with everything he had while the brother on the back was leisurely fishing. I’m not sure what everyone knows about canoeing, but the person on the back usually has the responsibility of guiding the canoe safely. It is almost impossible to steer a canoe from the front. I looked just in time to see the bow of the boat glide up and onto the stump. The brother on the front had a death grip on the gunwales. Then only words he could muster were “Son of a Bitch!” as the canoe slowly lifted up and over to its right side and tipped over.

Everything they brought on the trip was in the bottom of that canoe; tackle, rods and reels, knives, pliers, lunchboxes and God knows what else. After the initial adrenaline rush wore off we came to our senses and drug the canoe to the shore. Luckily we were right next to a sandy beach so we could spread out and assess the situation. We launched into search mode looking for the various items that had fallen out of the canoe. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but the only thing lost to the creek was a pair of sunglasses. Aside from being soaking wet without a change of clothes, they were perfectly fine.

The remainder of the trip (about 2 hours) was spent in relentless brother hassling. That was the best 2 hours of the trip. We got to listen to 2 brothers play the blame game for what had just transpired and it made our day. While it could have been a lot worse, it wasn’t. I went on to organize 3 more “Annual guy fishing trips” with equally fun times to be had. For some reason though, those 2 never came with us again.

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