Boats and I don’t get along.
Or more aptly put, they make me squeal like a little girl and void the effectiveness of my deodorant in mere moments. Kayak, canoe, ship, skid, ski boat, raft …. you name it, I probably don’t like it.
The last time I was in a boat, I hung onto the sides of it for dear life and screamed like someone was trying to murder me after losing my paddle. I panicked and accidentally threw it away while covering my eyes in hopes that not seeing what was happening down river would make things better.
Not having a paddle and being voluntarily blind while strapped into a kayak going down the river does not make things better, just in case you were wondering.
- Hey — everyone has a weird fear, mine is boats.
Earlier this summer I decided to look my tippy nemesis in the face and canoe a few *ahem* 20 or so kilometres down the North Saskatchewan River.
Every so often you need to look fear in the face and say, “Oh no you don’t!”
Or in my case, simply blink many times while listening to the instructions on how not to tip over while climbing to the far end of the canoe.
Stay low. Grab both sides. Take your time. If the boat is going to capsize, this is probably when it is going to happen.
I cinched up my neato PFD (that’s sailor talk for life jacket) and mentally prepared to doggie paddle down the river to catch my picnic lunch if and when I fell over starboard.
My death grip on the paddle lessened as we meandered down the river; death no longer felt imminent and I suddenly wondered what all the sweating about these past years had been for. Being the only woman wearing her life jacket meant I was the only person suffering severe underarm chafing. I joined the cool kids and made my way down the river sans PFD after my breathing returned to normal.
Who knew the pain of underarm chafing was going to override my fear of drowning?
Canoeing in the North Saskatchewan River is about as beginner as you can get. I am pretty sure turtles were passing us on the shoreline, but I still had a few moments of panic when speedboats nearly ran us over and a dead tree tried to drown me.
Did you know if you scream “Dead tree left. Left!! LEFT!!!!!” all the person steering your canoe hears is left and that is the direction you go?
The Dirt Girls taught me to yell where the person or obstacle is not where to go to avoid it. Apparently avoiding death by tree stump requires different directions than avoiding death by floating dead tree.
Yup, we kind of ran into the dead tree.
Its not my fault at all.
Its a little bit … OK, a lot bit my fault but can you really blame the boataphobic woman?
After a few hours of gliding down the river, I realized why I don’t have a love affair with boats – I feel trapped. Trapped in a quasi-death contraption and stuck in the middle of nowhere with a whole lot of water and weird underwater creatures between you and land with only a paddle and a PFD to keep you and your lunch from a very soggy death.
What else is there to do when trapped but embrace adventure and risk freedom?
Yes, I took off all my safety gear and shoes, stripped down to my bikini and jumped in the river, why the heck not? I simply decided I would beat the river at its own game of trying to swallow me up whole.
Why not be in charge of your own capsize?
Being human, it is easy to get stuck by doing the same thing over and over and over, never changing what you do or how you do it and simply complain about being where you are and what you don’t have or haven’t accomplished.
If you are like me, you want to do things, accomplish and grow and it is easy to let fear, huge obstacles keep you from even trying to do what you want and get what you want out of life. If you find yourself trapped in a boat, floating down a river and all you want to do is get out – do it. Acknowledge the fact that you might capsize and own it.
Jump out of the boat and break free of confinements and fears.
You may find you like the safety of the boat, you may realize you’re strong enough to swim upstream or, unbeknownst to you, floating downstream on your back is exactly what you want and need.
Don’t let old fears keep you from what you want to do with your life. See what’s out there and try again. What if you’re not afraid? What if you are more than capable to swim to shore?