PYC 2017: Traffic Cones on the Lake
The orange-clad 1G braves the wind in canoeing class.

“Elvis,” I exclaimed when I found myself on the island in the middle of Seven Acre Lake with my favorite creature here. Elvis is the mascot on campus: a heavyset duck who will eat anything you give him, including pizza—although that’s not recommended for a duck. Elvis has been around for a long time, but I haven’t seen him since camp started as he spends his time under the pine tree at the lake, begging for food from campers in canoe class. Assistant Canoe Instructor Julia Goddard informed me that sometimes they play the Imperial March from Star Wars as he walks around the island. There’s apparently a video of it somewhere, and I want to get my hands on it.

My skin hasn’t seen much sun in the last few weeks, so I was excited for the prospect of being out for a little while at least. Compared to the canoeing staff, I look like a ghost. When 1G arrived in their bright orange shirts, which earned them the nickname Traffic Cones, it made for an even starker contrast. As the girls prepared for class, Erica said: “I can’t wait to pretend to have an argument and capsize!”

She would have to wait until the rules were covered, but that didn’t take too long. Head Instructor Abraham Blondeau explained the importance of footwear and life vests. Footwear protects you from loose fishhooks, and life vests protect you from drowning. I think everyone was a fan of being protected from those things.

Mr. Blondeau also went over the parts of the canoe and explained why the Union Jack was flying proudly in the wind. For one, it shows which way the wind is blowing. For two, he is from Canada, so he wouldn’t use an American flag for that. And for three, it was a source of inspiration for Horatio Nelson who went to the North Pole when he was fifteen-years-old, around the same age as the campers.

Assistant Instructor Adam Paul helped Mr. Blondeau demonstrate how to lift a canoe for portage—carrying the canoe from one place to another. After the demonstration, the girls were given a turn with their partners. Erica and Kathleen went first and did well, as did everyone who went after. Thirteen-year-old Ariana was the first to try the one-woman portage, doing it without her partner.

At this point, everyone grabbed a life vest and stood on the shore for the next demonstration. Assistant instructors Eleanor Clark and Miss Goddard went out on the lake in a canoe and pretended to have an argument before capsizing their canoe. This is called swamping. They then showed the proper way to get back to shore and how to empty the canoe of water.

It was now the girls’ turn. Everyone got into a canoe with their partner and went out onto the water. Erica got to have her fake argument, and everyone got to try swamping before righting themselves.

They then all came back to shore to get some water and to learn the next thing. All of their shoes made a sloshing sound as they walked, and Elvis looked intrigue under his shade tree.

Next, the campers were next shown how to do a tandem rescue. This is when a second canoe comes to help the canoe that swamped. Miss Clark and Miss Goddard had another argument, yelling at each other for forgetting the paddles. Miss Clark called Miss Goddard a millstone around her neck, and with that, they promptly tipped the boat. The argument would’ve been more convincing without the laughter, so I’m not recommending them to the Oscars.

“Oh no ladies,” Mr. Paul exclaimed as he and assistant instructor Aebra Hayes made their way out to help their friends. The four of them then showed how to do a tandem rescue, while Mr. Blondeau explained on the shore.

Again, it was the girls turn to try. I was very amused by the whole thing. Mr. Paul helped his little sister Maddie, a fourteen-year-old in 1G, as she learned how to do it.

It was then time to learn how to paddle. They went back to the island and sat on the benches as the instructors showed them the various strokes and how to use them. Mr. Paul and I discussed the long course. I was already out here, so we decided we were going to race it with everyone else.

Once everyone felt comfortable using the paddles, all of the canoes lined up under the bridge. I grabbed a life vest and joined Mr. Paul as we made our way into the lineup as well. “Three, two, one, go!” I worked the front while Mr. Paul called out from the back. We pulled ahead of the rest of the teams and swung around the floating markers, making our way around the lake. In the last half of the course, Elvis bobbed around in front of us as I shouted at him to move out of the way. He’s not a good listener, but luckily the wind moved him.

The last leg of the course was the hardest. We had to push into the wind, which was also causing there to be a slight current in the water itself. Behind us, I could hear the voices of 1G encouraging each other to push through it. Our breath was heavy as we past the last marker and went full speed ahead under the bridge and across the finish line. We didn’t quite break the record, but we got close. Considering that the record was Mr. Paul and Mr. Michael Davis, who is much stronger than me, I think we did rather well.

The girls weren’t too far behind us. Thankfully no one swamped during the race, and they were able to finish in a timely fashion. At this point, I left to write up the experience. I heard later that Mr. Eric Burns, the assistant camp director, came and did the long course with Mr. Blondeau. Mr. Paul and I were just a few seconds faster, but they apparently plan to try again. I hope to be there next time, but I am glad 1G was there to cheer them on.