Paddling both canoe and kayak has given me insight over the years in comparing the two arts. This year that it galled me that the first paddle I dipped was some sort of high density graphite kayak paddle. Always it has been the ironwood Grey Owl that has broken the surface, the smooth warm feel of wood against the hand, no other substitute for a canoe, I can only hope the great canoe spirits are forgiving.
Thinking of the great Mohawk who used the canoe for hunting, trading, and war and the hardy French voyageurs, it became quite apparent that in the French vernacular, the canoe was masculine, while the lesser kayak is feminine. There is so much evidence supporting such a claim.
Take for example the lower centre of gravity of a kayak like a woman, where the canoe has a higher center of gravity like a man. So what if the kayaks, due to their low profile, are able to cut the wind smoother than a canoe. The avid canoeist enjoys a good wind, straining with every stroke against nature’s force. Canoe heads feel the force of Mother Earth, during paddling and sometimes for a while afterwards.
Now it has puzzled me for many years while the kayakers are faster, and it is always the canoeist that reaches camp first, sets up and has a good cooking fire on the roar before you can scent those fibreglass hull kayaks. And it’s not just when they’re in the water. A most recent trip with Andrea, a local guide, gave me further insight. We had agreed to meet between 8 and 9 a.m. for a day paddle. I just don’t understand kayakers lack of ability to communicate, 0800 to 0900 means around 0700 to a canoe head, while Andrea doesn’t show up until 0900, typically late. Another key artifact pointing towards kayaks being the feminine. Women in my experience are usually late, just like kayakers.
A kayak is much like a purse with all its pretty little coloured bags inside various compartments, sort of like compacts, lipstick, eyeshadow, and various other creatures of convenience. And then there’s the manly canoe with it’s one bag, big and bulky, and heavy, ooh, ooh, much like a wallet, did I mention heavy.
And let’s not forget the obvious, the skirts that all kayakers wear, hey it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Of course a couple of kayakers tried to trip me up saying there are canoe spray skirts. Only a kayaker couldn’t see the obvious, they’re kilts, that manly Scots wear, not skirts.
Of course the kayakers tried to sneak in a final word by stating women live longer than men. Well on that note I grabbed my kayak, and with the haughty masculine prowess of a canoeist heaved that feminine kayak onto the rooftop with out the aid of those girly kayak rollers, that no canoe head would be caught using.
Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who lives in Port Hardy.