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As you read the following story you will realize how Paddle Smart can help you avoid and solve inexperienced situations and maintain safe on the waters!

Safety is shared, be part of the solution! We encourage all paddlers to be responsible for their actions on the water.

Canoe etiquette—a true story

The problem with ignoring others while travelling remote wilderness areas, besides being characterized as brash and unmannerly, is that you never know if you’ll need help.

It was my father who taught me this. He always insisted I say hello, maybe even have a quick conversation with the people we met in the woods.

My dad’s lesson echoed in my head as things turned dire for an ill-fated group of three paddlers I encountered in October. White-capped waves were forming and the air temperature hovered just above freezing. Midway across the lake, the paddlers capsized and yelled for help.

Their canoe was overloaded with lawn chairs and a beer cooler, their clothes and sleeping bags weren’t packed in waterproof bags. None of them wore lifejackets. Earlier that day, the trio drifted by my canoeing partner and me as we sat, eating our lunch. They didn’t return my friendly gestures.

I waved, said hi and asked how their trip was going. In return, they completely ignored me and continued on across the lake, not once looking back in my direction. I wrote them off as snobs who feel that shunning other paddlers in the backcountry is the next best thing to seeing no paddlers at all.

My canoe buddy suggested we just snub the nasty trio right back and continue on our way. And we did. Until we caught up to them, cursing as they frantically searched for the unmarked portage at the end of the lake.

We had evil thoughts of misguiding them to a false trail, but my conscience took over. I yelled out directions to the correct path. Barely acknowledging us, one paddler motioned back with a half-hearted wave. Another responded bitterly that they already knew the location of portage. The third continued to disregard our very existence as if we were intruding on their experience.

Had they been friendlier, they would have realized we were also trying to advise them of which fork to take midway down the trail. We left them to argue, portaged across the unmarked trail and set up camp on the next lake. As we settled in, we were astounded to see the three paddlers crash through the bush into the lake, not from the portage access but from a totally different direction. They didn’t heed our fork-in-the-trail advice, if they even bothered to listen. Dad would’ve said that justice had been served.

That’s when the wind picked up and sent them for a swim. Despite our misgivings, my canoe mate and I did the right thing. We rescued the doomed group and brought them to shore to share our campfire and dry off. They were a tad sheepish around camp. We finally shared a proper hello, discussed trip plans and I provided them with my father’s advice.

Excerpted from “Proper Canoe Etiquette” by Kevin Callan.

Who would you rather be? Kevin and his canoeing partner or the three paddlers?