Seeing the War Canoe off

The kids and I made quick work of our lunch, excused ourselves, hurried out the side door of the dining hall and headed down to the boat house. As we trekked down the path, the kids were excitedly discussing what they would pack for our trip to Little Indian Island for our adventure in camping with the Deer Hut.

We arrived at the dock as the last of the Deer Hutters were being assisted into the red war canoe. Muddy and Emily were holding the canoe steady against the dock and Rob and Amy were organizing the kids, each wrapped in bright orange life vests around their necks, attempting to ensure that no one got brained with a paddle or that the canoe capsized.

We stood well back on the dock and watched the show. It was thoroughly engaging. We were transfixed.

Campers were lined up on the bench-like seats. The campers towards the center were the smaller campers and those positioned along the outside edges were given paddles. I guessed that they had been deemed the most skilled paddlers.

The very center row was empty of campers and the last five were lined up ready to embark. Amy gently assisted the campers in, holding their hand as they stepped down and into the canoe. I watched as the first camper entered, paddle in hand and the canoe submerged a smidge with his weight. Crouched and cautious he moved to the far side of the canoe, knelt down on the hull and rested his bottom on the bench. He placed the blade of his paddle in the water. Three more campers entered, and again with each new addition, the canoe sunk a little more under their weight. Finally the last camper, holding his paddle was assisted into his position. The only two empty spots now were at the bow and stern.

“OK. You go first,” Emily told Rob as she crouched, holding the stern of the canoe close to the dock. Rob carefully stepped into the canoe, knelt and placed his paddle on the dock. Muddy and Amy held on to the canoe as Emily entered the canoe at the stern. The level of the canoe sunk again with the added weight. There was now only about 4 inches from the top of the gunwhale to the surface of the water. It seemed like a small margin for error!

“We are all in!” Emily called out. A cheer went up that we happily joined in. Paddles were raised and the canoe lazily jostled in the water. I grimaced watching to see if any water slopped into the canoe, but amazingly it didn’t. I gave a low whistle of relief.

“Deer Hut? Let’s do this!” Rob said. And with that Muddy and Amy pushed the canoe away from the dock and stepped back.

“Paddles ready!” Rob called and the campers with paddles held them forward and above the surface of the water in position. I was impressed. It looked like they had practiced this.

“Ready,” they responded.

“Strooooke!” Emily called out from the stern. “Strooooke! Strooooke! Strooooke!”

There was the clapping sounds of the collisions of paddles as some of the oarsmen tried, unsuccessfully, to stay with the rhythm. A spray went up from one of the paddles and managed to sprinkle a couple of campers in the seat behind causing some angst. OK, so maybe they hadn’t practiced enough?!

The canoe very slowly inched forward. “Strooooke!” Emily chanted. The campers started to fall into her rhythm. “Strooooke!” The canoe began to pick up speed as it headed out and around the peninsula.

“Shall we follow them?” I asked the kids. They nodded eagerly. “Come on then.” I grabbed Patrick’s hand and we turned from the dock and headed in the direction of the cool forested path toward the fishing dock. Patrick let go of my hand and started to run. The girls followed suit and they raced enthusiastically in front of me down the path.

I could catch glimpses of the canoe through the trees as it made it’s way along. I stepped onto the fishing dock. My three were sitting on the diving board waiting anxiously for the canoe to turn the corner and as it did, they stood and cheered.

“Go Deer Hut! You can do it!” They waved and pumped their little fists in the air.

The campers responded with a chant of, “Deer Hut! Deer Hut!”

My kids hopped off the diving board and danced alongside the canoe as it traveled adjacent to the dock. They raced back and forth and continued to cheer and encourage the campers. Then, as the canoe passed the end of the dock my three waved enthusiastically and yelled, “Bye Deer Hut! Good luck!”

We stood and watched as they continued their progress and after a minute the kids quietly sat down and watched.

Behind me I could hear the party boat engine come to life in the boat house. Patrick’s head turned quickly and then he frantically got up and ran back to the diving board. I followed behind him. He stood on the edge of the diving board watching Muddy cautiously back the party boat out of the boat house. Patrick waited patiently for the boat to approach. I stepped up behind him and observed as they turned and passed us. He waved wildly at Muddy and Amy. They cheerily waved back.

Muddy sped up as he turned past the fishing dock and Patrick jumped off the diving board and tried to run along beside the boat. He quickly was left behind as the boat tore off after the war canoe. Patrick sat down beside his sisters at the end of the dock. I walked back and sat beside the three of them. I took my sandals off and let my feet dangle in the cool water as the waves created by the wake of the party boat lapped over my feet.

It didn’t take too many minutes for the party boat to pass the war canoe. It gave the canoe a wide berth as it passed but we still noticed the canoe bob and wobble over the waves. We could hear the campers cry out and a few of the paddles were raised in protest. We couldn’t help but giggle.

“You guys excited to join the Deer Hut tonight on the island?”

The kids responded, “Oh yes,” and “Yuuuuup!”

“Are you ‘cited, Mum?” Patrick asked me.

“Suuuure, little buddy. Sure.” I replied and pasted on a big fake smile. The kids beamed back at me with what I perceived to be demented grins.

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