Swimming the Don
They say insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting a different outcome. In that case I guess my expectation of getting a canoe down the Don River without going into the drink qualifies. Last year my paddling partner (and real life partner....it wasn't pretty) turned out not to be much of a canoeist ("what do you mean you don't know how to turn a canoe?!" "You never asked!"). We went into the bank, rolled sideways and the ship went down. Not even enough time for Celine Dion to break into song.
So this year I thought I'd try a real red blooded out-doorsy Roots kind of paddling partner, my old producer Mackay Taggart. Clearly Mackay is a good paddler and we did alright for the first few minutes after being released in the abnormally rushing waters on Sunday. Paddle the Don is a once a year event where they open the gates at the top of the river at 2AM. The water rises and in some spots it gets choppy. More importantly it covers rocks that lie just below the surface and wait to swallow canoes the way Charlie Brown's tree eats kites.
In my defense, there was a guy on the banks gesturing frantically and telling us to pull left. We did so and promptly crashed into a rock. For a moment it seemed we could slide over it but we ended up over compensating for the tilt and the boat went over. Mackay managed to hold on against the current and we pulled the canoe to an eddy where we were able to empty it out. Casualties included a new video camera, our souvenir tuques, a waffle shirt from Mark’s Work Warehouse that I’ve had for fifteen years and MacKay’s iPhone. Oh and considerable pride as the passing canoeists were merciless.
For the record the Don is muddy and cold and possibly toxic. I spent the next two hours wondering if I needed the scrub down the nuclear plant workers in Silkwood were always getting. Now I keep wondering if the guy on the shore was just some random jerk trying to see how many people he could dupe into sinking their boats.
The rest of the ride was tippy at times but mostly a great spring paddle. You have to imagine what it's like to be gliding along on a sunny day in early spring right in the heart of Toronto watching the towers along the Valley go by. It takes about two and a half hours and yes, I'm obviously crazy enough to do it again. Maybe next year we wont go into the drink.
Oh and...still waiting to hear from Mackay about whether putting an iPhone in rice after getting it wet works.