Friday, May 11, 2012

Canoeing in the Family by Granny Anne

Mervyn (Shannon's Grandfather) canoeing in France in 1938
Today, in Seattle, we went canoeing: Shannon steering at the back and Frost and Wren in the middle with Beezle dog wandering around or sleeping in the laundry basket. Our route was down the Sammamish River from McRedmond River Park to Woodenville, a distance of about 10 miles taking us about 2.5 hours. The river drainsLake Sammamish into Lake Washington.

On lake Washington 
Paddling downriver from Redmond (note Beezle in basket)

Snackbreak (canoeing is hungry work) 

 The Sammamish is named after the native people that lived along its shores. It is not a wide river and flows at about 3-4 knots. Shannon's Old Town canoe is very stable and none of the kids’ wriggling around worried us. It was an adventure and Wren commented that it was 'heaven'. Frost helped with paddling but enjoyed relaxing with Beezle snuggled on his lap. The 'padkos'  (food for the journey) was an important feature of the trip and even Beezle had his bag of padkos. There was a lot to see: birds, including some spring goslings, fish, a muskrat swimming, turtles and peoples' backyards. We were the only canoeists on the river.  Josh collected Shannon at the end to ferry her back to the car. It was a most successful expedition and it finished with delicious cookies from the Hillcrest Bakery in Woodenville.

The canoeing reminded me of family stories of canoe trips. Since Shannon and I have been researching family history I shall tell them here.

In 1938 my father, at the age of 27 travelled round the world ending up in Europe. He and a friend decided to canoe down the Rhine. They bought a wood and canvas canoe in London and set off for Kehl in Germany. It was the time of increasing tension between France and Germany and Dad recalled the Heil Hitler salutes that greeted you at every German Pub or wine 'stahl'. Dad would tell stories of that trip with great happiness. It was not without danger as the Rhine was full of boats and his friend could not swim.

We were not fully aware of the developing conflict. They said that there would never be another war. At one of the places we stopped for the night we went up to a Rhinecastle. We met a lot of Spanish refugees, these were attractive girls. They had to escape from Spain, from Franco’s Civil war where the Nazis were fighting. And the other side was helped by the Soviet Union and the International Brigade. So we spent some time with them. We were like gypsies and we took what came, at that age one does not have the same fear of what tomorrow brings.
We should have been drowned a hundred times. On one occasion we were going like anything on the river and there was a great big bridge ahead with pillars down into the water. I was in the front and Fergie was in the back. I noticed that we are going to hit one of these pillars sideways.
I shouted at him, ‘Steer it round, steer it round!!’ expecting him to use the rudder.
He says, ‘No! No! I threw it away!’
We are going down the Rhine without a rudder! Imagine it! I paddled like hell on the one side to get it round. We just got it round past the pillars.”

I remember our canoe and kayak journeys in the wilds of Africa: down the Zambezi and Orange Rivers. In the 1980s Mervyn and I loved to do these trips. Now I look back on them with more sense of the dangers that surrounded us. The Zambezi is a kilometre wide. The birdlife, animals on the shores and in the river were a stunning spectacle. At night we camped on the shores and told stories of Africa round the campfire. Some days we lunched on a shallow sandbank in the middle of theZambezi. The Camp chairs were in the clear water and we could watch hippo pods in the river and elephants coming down to drink.  

Mervyn and Freddie beside the Rhine

Canoeing the Zambezi, note the hippos in the background

Canoeing in the Okavango Delta in a wooden "makoro"

Okavango crocodile

1 comment:

tamusana said...

Amazing -- love all the old photos, new photos; old stories, new stories. And the constant adventurous thread throughout :-)