Excerpt from Petawawa River: Where One Hears the Sound of the Waters by
article....Many consider Algonquin Park the jewel in Ontario's crown. It
is indeed a magnificent destination, and for canoeists it offers an almost
unlimited myriad of opportunities for adventure. The Petawawa River is my
favourite Algonquin trip, especially during the shoulder seasons of spring
and fall when it feels like I have the river all to myself. Over the 40+
years that I've been paddling the “Pet” it has become a kind of touchstone
for me.......see full article and others I have written the fall of 2017,
my Canadian Canoe Culture stories will be published on
of The Canoe
by the talented filmmaker Goh Iromoto
is narrator by James Raffan. The Canoe is a superbly produced production part
of a paddlesports series film project by Canadian Canoe Culture.
Becky Mason: A Lesson in Relearning,
by Heather Cullen, Ottawa Outdoors Magazine 2003
one trouble with hanging around with a master - you pick up some of his
stuff, but you use it just when the master is doing the opposite", Norman
Maclean, "A River Runs Through It"
rain drape Quebecís Gatineau hills and break into patches of blue. It ís a
misty morning and I'm on Meech Lake for solo paddling lessons with Becky
Mason. Two, two-hour sessions with a master, and I have her undivided
attention. No wonder Iím nervous. I am in the red canoe, she is in the blue.
She chats to put me at ease, but there is no doubt I am the stranger here.
Her boat moves like an extension of her body and she refers to individual
rocks and trees as familiars, on a lake she has known her whole life.
I have the
delicious sense of stealing two mornings from work for paddling. This sense
of privilege and my awareness of our personal and shared history adds weight
to the occasion for me. Becky and I are almost the same age. We both grew up
with fathers who lived the better part of their lives in canoes. My father
paddled his while growing up in the bush near the Central Patricia gold
mine. Beckyís father Bill, well ñ you know. Heís the guy who defined
canoeing in Canada through a series of films that have become classics. The
one who supped with the Queen.
was filmed demonstration the art of bow paddling with her famous father in
their Chestnut canoe for Path of the Paddle, my dad was piling my family
into Sportspal, trimmed with sponsons and a faux birchbark paint job. The
spongy black interior scorched bare legs on a sunny day, the aluminum ribs
popped out, but it was a remarkably buoyant water craft. We used it to
gather sandy wild rice. We poked it through reeds in marshes, looking for
water lilies in bloom. We figured out how to approach rocky shores in big
winds with quiet help from Dad in the stern.
REFERS TO INDIVIDUAL ROCKS AND TREES AS FAMILIARS, ON A LAKE SHE HAS KNOWN
HER WHOLE LIFE
twenty years later, Becky and I are on Meech Lake. The differences between
us are clear: Becky paddles effortlessly and I am a workhorse. A hack. I
cheat. I use power to compensate for lack of technique, and my teacher
catches it all, without criticism. She keeps up a steady flow of talk about
black fly repellents. We try most of them during the lesson: vanilla,
vitamin B1, lemon, handkerchiefs, swatting and finally bug hats.
bug bites, Becky demonstrates familiar strokes: the pry, the draw, the
sweep, the J. These are strokes Iíve used all my life, but now I am trying
to do them right. They feel oddly new. About every tenth stroke clicks into
place. The rest of the time, I feel dyslexic. I have trouble translating her
moves into practice, fighting years of ingrained habit. For instance, I can
do a draw and the recovery stroke slice at my hips, but as soon as Becky
asks me to try one off the bow, the stroke falls apart. My spine fuses. I
feel as I do in an aerobics class: catching the step only when the
instructor has moved onto the next set of reps.
on the lake is patient. She diverts my attention to the fish-spawning beds
beneath the waterís surface, and points out the beautiful stand of hemlock
on shore. She gives me time to soak in our surroundings and her instruction.
My mind is going through an incredible series of flashing revelations. When
my body breaks into a new pattern it's like a deep thaw. My canoe surges
ahead. "Nice J!" Becky calls out. "Did you feel the way the paddle is really
working like a fulcrum there, punching you forward?" Punchy, as opposed to
15 feet long and slow. This really IS a change.
practice a lot on trips to Temagami and Labrador this summer. Each stroke
will be repeated hundreds of times to drive the new method into my bodyís
memory. Right now it is a hectic mental process, crowding out my end of the
conversation. When the lesson is up, I abandon Becky with the canoes to
load. I rush back to my car to jot notes. Paddling vocabulary helps me tag
and retain the technique. "Shorten the J. Power face for the draw, non-power
face for the pry. Sweep followed by pry for sharper approach."
drive back into Ottawa, or back into the "Big Smoke", as a friend calls it,
an upbeat, nonsense song from the 80's comes on the radio. "Life is life!
Na-na-na-na-na-naa!" The tune fits my feeling of elation. Iím looking
forward to some time on a chair tonight in my living room, paddling my
imaginary Prospector up and downstream.
simple. The first thing Iíll do is perform the stroke correctly. Second,
Iíll choose the appropriate, renovated stroke at the right moment. That
should only take the rest of the season to figure out, right?
Cullen, a writer and language teacher, moved to Ottawa from Manitoba. She
replaces the pen with a paddle whenever possible. Email --
Becky - Canoe rendezvous 2003,
by Darlene Ricker
and spinning, stop turn, side slip, and then spin the other way ... nose to
nose synchronized spin ... and back. Precision, ethereal, timeless, grace.
Sounds like dancing instruction - and it certainly was. Only this was done
by solo paddlers on water, to music.
Canoe Rendevous at Keji Park, and Becky Mason was our special guest. It was
a weekend of inspired teaching excellence second to none, thanks to Becky
and her husband Reid McLachlan, who presented several workshops on Classic
Solo Canoeing, at the Meadows Beach.
made a career teaching the various disciplines of white water and flat water
canoeing. She lives in Chelsea, Quebec, and does much of her instruction at
nearby Meech Lake.
covering some of the basics of solo canoeing, Becky taught a number of
strokes and maneuvers unfamiliar to many. She offered easy to remember
teaching tips as well. The low circle for example, is practiced with the
head looking up, but hands touching or nearly touching the water. If you
look down to the water you may take a tumble. "Turn sideways in your canoe,
reach over the gunwales, and pat the water with your hands like a raccoon
washing its paws. That's the position for the low circle." she advises.
Sounds kind a silly, but it works!
A new one
for many of us, coined "the traditional stroke" by Becky, involves a quick
punch down toward the gunwale with the grip hand, at the same time twisting
the torso outward, and parallel to the shaft. The grip hand remains in front
of the face area. The blade passes nearly underneath the canoe. The out of
water recovery is followed by a cut starting behind the hip line, which
initiates the next stroke. The stroke appears to defy all the laws of
physics we were ever taught but it really works. The effect is a huge amount
of forward power, with very little effort.
heavy wind and rain Saturday afternoon, Becky presented a flawless display
of canoe ballet to music, progressing from one maneuver to the next, all in
sync with the music. Stunning! Then she invited us all out to try. We
weren't quite so elegant, but we were keen and spirited, although a little
wet and cold by mid-afternoon. After a delicious barbeque and the warmth of
wood stoves and renewed friendships, Becky entertained us with a slide show
depicting some of her wilderness adventures across the country, her water
colour art work, and her experiences being raised in a family of paddlers.
The stories and anecdotes gave us an intimate glimpse of Becky the canoeist,
artist, environmentalist, wife and family member.
approachable, and with a wicked sense of humour, Becky put us all at ease.
warm Sunday morning, brought out many more paddlers to her advanced solo
workshop. We learned the low brace turn, the one-handed running pry, and a
sideslip draw, to name a few. Paddlers from novice, to our own Nova Scotian
experts and mentors (like Steve Cook), were out on the water playing with
canoe ballet. Leona Boyd guitar tunes filled the air while we danced and
spun with Becky.
finished off with a spectacular fireworks display, canoeing style. We
forming a long line of 24 canoes gunwale to gunwale, left handed paddlers on
the right, and right handed paddlers on the left. We paddled towards shore
in sync, and on the count of three, all did the one-handed running pry,
creating the fireworks effect all spiraling outward. Cool!
to all those who made this year's Rendevous such a success - the staff at
Keju Park, volunteer CKNS organizers, administrator Ike Whitehead, the CKNS
Board who supported the event, Annapolis Recreation Services for the sound
equipment, and all those who participated in the weekend's activities.
for allowing me to reprint her article from Canoe Kayak Nova Scotia, July
2003 Newsletter, 5516 Spring Garden Road, 4th Floor, Halifax, Nova Scotia,
provided by Dusan Soudek
2005 Book of Lists,
contributor, Alfred A. Knope
2005 Pierre: Colleagues and Friends Talk About the Trudeau They Knew,
contributor, McClelland & Stewart.
2004 Paddling the Boreal Forest, Rediscovering A.P. Low, Becky Mason
wrote the forward, Natural Heritage Books.
2004 Rendezvous with the Wild The Boreal Forest, contributor, The Boston
2003 Song of the Paddle, contributed to update, contributor, Key Porter.