Friday, November 03, 2006

tumbling home and packing heat

Today's post is about canoes and guns.

The part of a canoe that curves inward at the top into the gunwales (pronounced, as you probably know, "gunnels") is called the tumblehome. Some canoes have tumblehome, and others don't.

Whitewater canoes usually have a little more tumblehome, so you can hold the boat more aggressively on its sides (called "edging") without too much water splashing in. It's also handy for solo flat water paddling, because the best way to paddle solo is with the boat "heeled" on one side.

If you are not comfortable in canoes, edging or heeling will freak you out. It will feel like driving into oncoming traffic, or like walking a cliff edge unroped, or like meeting people on the internet.

The gunwales were added to boats at some point for structural stability and to help "accommodate the stresses imposed by the use of artillery". I rarely bring artillery on my canoe trips. OK, never. Why? Because I'm Canadian for God's sake. We don't even lock our doors here. Come on in! I just put some coffee on. Want my DVD player?

On our kayaking trip this summer, we ended up hanging out with some really friendlyseiners in Tenakee Springs, Alaska. Kayaks don't have gunwales because they have a closed deck. Seining boats do have gunwales though. And sometimes seiners have artillery. We learned this when we went for a stroll with one of the boys, and we stopped on this bridge to look at some grizzlies feeding on salmon in the river, and one of the guys handed my friend his gun.

"Here, hold this while I take some pictures."

(Thank you to Michelle, who took this picture of our surprised friend milliseconds after he was handed the gun.)

To Americans, this might seem like no big deal. But to us, this was shocking, quietly hilarious, and another sign that we weren't in Canada-ansas anymore. (My friend has hunted before, but no one we know carries anything that might be considered for personal defence.) We wondered why this guy had brought this gun, wondered if he thought it might be useful against a charging grizzly bear. (Lewis and Clark say "um, no".)

Then we considered his circumstances. Living on a fishing boat. For months. With five other guys. Four days on, one day off. Days "on" typically 15-20 hour days. Days "off", everyone gets recklessly hosed on shore and fist fights often break out, sometimes between ship mates, sometimes between boat crews. The four women on our trip (we are all adorable) could SMELL their testosterone from shore, and when the seiner "party" started on their day "off", we kept close to our male buddies and faked that we were all couples.

When one guy started a bonfire - a few feet from our tents - by tearing apart a nearby shack and dousing it with gallons of diesel fuel, and a couple of guys beat each other bloody over whose turn it was to use the pay phone, dude's gun almost made sense.


At November 03, 2006 5:24 p.m., Blogger sgazzetti said...

I just wandered in here from the NaBloPoMo randomizer, and I dug your voice immediately. It's late and I'm overdue for bed, but I'm bookmarking.

Don't forget, every day means EVERY DAY. Dude.


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