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YAER (Yet Another Explorer Rebuild)

Glenn MacGrady

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Al, I assumed the creek was low from your comment that kayakers were lining some rapids. But the level doesn't matter for this principle to apply: When a whitewater river is so narrow that you can't even do an eddy turn, bad things will almost always happen if your canoe gets sideways.

If you can do a draw, cross-draw and a drawing sideslip, that's a really good start on whitewater technique, and all you probably need is more practice . . . = . . . more mistakes and slowly more success. More experience is also the only way to develop instinctive judgment as to how fast things will happen, and how much boat velocity (speed + direction) is needed to get from here to there, or to avoid THAT, given different bed gradients, current volumes and current velocities.

As to cross-draw vs. serial pries to move a canoe laterally to the off-side in whitewater: Traditional wisdom is that a cross-draw is a little dangerous because, for the moment your paddle is in the air, you will have no lever in the water to brace or accelerate if that's the moment when some soft or hard river thing decides to bash and unbalance you. On the other hand, serial pries can be a little dangerous because they are more likely to stick and jam the paddle into bed rocks in shallow waters.

I've always been primarily a cross-draw guy, but am awe of Bill Mason, who rarely used the cross-draw and could move laterally off-side with repeated gunwale pries even in big water, and could do so ambidextrously. At the end of Waterwalker, he solo paddles rapids for 11 minutes in canoes as big as MR Explorer, a collage of his 16' Chestnut Pal and Prospector, and does so from behind the ideal CLR.

Note how, at 1:09:40 (slightly after where the video below will start), Mason laterally moves his canoe off-side to the river right slot using only serial gunwale pries. Throughout the next 11 minutes of rapids, he moves laterally on-side with hanging draw sideslips and sculling draws, and moves laterally off-side almost always with brilliant pries. He clearly does not like to take his paddle out of the water unless he is turning with a cross-draw/Duffek or needs one powerful cross-bow yank. I've never seen anyone pry as well as him in whitewater, even paddlers I've known who were all-around better in more modern canoes.


I'll start another thread in the Paddling Techniques forum to pontificate on how the CLR relates directly to drawing and prying sideslip theory. Bring vodka.
 
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Nice job on the rebuild Al, that's a nice looking Explorer.

I have very little WW experience compared to Glenn, but I do paddle a lot quite stern heavy. The power of the current trying to push your stern downstream may have been too much to overcome with paddle strokes, especially if you were going slower than the current. If I were in that boat in that situation I would have abandoned the seat and slid forward, kneeling with my legs under the center thwart, hoping the current wouldn't grab the stern.
 
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“The Washington Canoe Cruisers was a legendary club around the D.C. area last century”

The CCA is still one of the best paddling clubs in the Baltimore/Washington metro area, although the competition in that regard has diminished as other clubs have faded, called it quits or gone entirely Facebook.


The CCA still has an active cruise schedule, and still offers workshops and paddling instruction, including WW canoeing:

This course is designed for paddlers who have successfully completed the Canoeing Basics course or who can demonstrate competence of basic flat-water paddling skills. Students will learn how to transition their flat-water skills to a moving river. Some of the skills that will be practiced in the Whitewater Canoeing course are eddy turns, peel outs, ferries, the infamous back ferry, water reading and hazards, rescue techniques, and equipment selection. Class meets at Violette’s Lock or Old Angler’s Inn (depending on the students level of experience). Both locations provide a playground for the beginning whitewater paddler.

Students are expected to provide their own equipment (canoe with added flotation, paddles, properly fitted helmet and personal floatation device, water bottle). Either tandem or solo canoes are suitable, though tandem is preferred. If a student does not have equipment please contact the instructor early to resolve issues.

This course is based upon the American Canoe Association’s river canoe curriculum at levels 3 and 4


And, equally valuable, more detailed Swiftwater Rescue instruction.

This class covers all the basics of safe paddling: river dangers, how to recognize and avoid them, proper boat and personal outfitting, self rescue techniques, swimmer and boat recovery, trip organization and leadership.

The class consists of 2, 8 hour sessions over Saturday and Sunday. Please check the CCA class schedule for dates. To complete the entire course, participants must be competent in class II whitewater. You must provide your own boats, and equipment.


I never took any formal paddling instruction, and it probably shows. I did take a helpful rescue class, and donated a couple not-worth-fixing-up canoes as “victim” boats to other clubs. I beefed up those donated victim boats, and even there learned lessons; I didn’t want to sacrifice my precious cap nuts or thread protectors, and one of the students bloodied a hand on a too long machine screw.

Every boat that has come through the shop since, mine or otherwise, has gotten caps on any exposed threads. SS cap nuts are like $1 each, but worth it. 3/16” thread protectors are much less expensive, like 16 cents apiece, and can be cut to shorter lengths.

https://www.amazon.com/Thread-Protectors-Rubber-Flexible-Black,Inner/dp/B08H5VCXLL

(I recently heard of another valuable canoework use for those, but that’s a different thread, and I’ve already gone off on a tangent)

Other local clubs have faded or failed as the few folks willing to volunteer for club leadership and Chair positions have aged out, with no younger paddlers willing to step up. I’m no angel there; I was active in two local clubs for 15 – 20 years. I led trips, and of course wrote trip reports for the newsletters, but was never willing to volunteer as “Treasurer”, “Safety Chair” or “Membership Chair”.

The same handful of aging volunteers ran those clubs and kept them going year after year after year. Until they didn’t.

Not counting the carousing Duckheads, who did have a trip scheduled every month, there were once five active canoe clubs in my area, seven if you count southern Pennsylvania. Those were the days.
 
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There's another part to this story that I have been holding off telling until I knew the outcome.

When I got home I left all the gear in my Subaru Outback and didn't look at any of it until the next day. When I did, I discovered the brank-spanking-new Bending Branches Expedition Plus paddle had a split straight through the rock guard and running about 2/3rds of the length o the paddle. The split was so clean it looked like it had been cut with a band saw!

I knew I hadn't used the paddle to pry or push off of rocks and that the paddle had only swum about 25 feet before the kayaker rescued it. So I submitted a warranty claim to Bending Branches, explained the entire story to them and attached this photo.


748B9381-6ACD-4D38-9925-EBC0293F9945_1_105_c.jpeg

About 36 hours later I got an email from BB customer service informing me that they would be happy to replace the paddle under warranty. The replacement just arrived. And, as Steve Harvey used to say on his radio program, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Kudos to Bending Branches customer service!
 
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