Cold Water Training
day was exhilarating and exhausting.
directs his crew to begin paddling away from the dock, with the
other canoe already pulling away in the background.
those present know that we were “on the journey” – in other
words, having come this far, and having showed up for Cold Water
Training, we had met the criteria for participating in the
Paddle to Suquamish.
Enforcement Officer Andy Axelson spoke to us about water safety,
explaining the buddy system; the need to cinch up our life vests
(pfds – personal floatation devices) tightly so that they
wouldn’t ride up over our heads when we hit the water; how to
spot the effects of hypothermia and what to do if someone was
suffering from it. He explained that the water in the Strait is
55˚F – cold enough for hypothermia to set in after 30-60 minutes
in the water. Ideally, when we roll the canoes, we should be
able to account for one another, flip the canoe, bail out the
water, and get everyone back in within 8 minutes. We’re all a
us our canoe assignments for the entire journey:
Skipper Marlin Holden, Josh Holden, Steve Johnson, Kissendra
Johnson, Unique Robinson, Irv Mortensen, Caleb Champagne, Andrea
Champagne, Marie Champagne, Sherry MacGregor, Nikki Sather, Taya
Canoe (soon to be named): Skipper Paul Bowlby, Healther
Johnson-Jock, Jessica (Johnson) Creech, Andrew Sampson, John
Bridge, Candy Burkhardt, Betty Oppenheimer, Charlene Dick,
Jorene Dick (and Audrey McWalter and Jeff Monson, who were
We had a
purifying smudging ceremony, and Marlin talked about the
transformative nature of the Journey. He explained that the
journey could help direct us to our true paths in life, and
compared life to a farmer planting crops. Done well, a farmer
plants the right crops and thrives. At times, the farmer might
plant the wrong crops and have to correct his course. Either
way, the journey will offer each of us an opportunity to look at
the seeds we’ve sown and evaluate their success. Together we
pray for a safe day on the water.
We put in
the canoes at the boat ramp and paddled out into Sequim Bay. The
winds were high, and our singing voices carried off into the
breeze. The Squeetzee (the Tribe’s new Enforcement boat, which
means Sea Urchin) followed us with Enforcement Officer Andy
Axelson and Natural Resources Technician Bob DeLorm at the helm.
After an hour or so, Marlin had the Laxaynəm pull alongside the
Squeetzee to practice tying up. It took a while to get the ropes
to the proper lengths (since last year, we used the Whitefeather,
and everything had been arranged accordingly). Once the canoe
was secured, the crew disembarked the canoe and came aboard the
Squeetzee for a few minutes.
Sherry, Unique, Kissendra and Caleb
take a moment to relax on
the unnamed canoe crew paddled around, staying close to the
Squeetzee and watching the process. After the Laxaynəm crew got
back into the canoe and took off, the second canoe approached
the Squeetzee and tied up. We all learned a thing or two about
ropes, knots, keeping our hands out of the way, and keeping the
canoe balanced as we get in and out of it. Andy, a former Oregon
State Patrolman who hasn’t been on a Tribal Canoe Journey yet,
got to practice working with the 35+-foot canoes.
Andy and Paul tie the canoe
onto the Squeetzee
while the pullers prepare to disembark.
paddled toward the Sequim Bay shore south of the Marina. At the
beach, the Laxaynəm crew practiced using the straps and floats
which were designed to help lift the 1200-pound canoe out of the
The straps and floats Marlin had made last year really
help us get a grip on the 1500 pound canoe.
off the gear we wanted to keep dry, and paddled both canoes out
into 14-foot waters. The unnamed canoe was first to roll over,
spilling the nine of us into the frigid waters. After a few
seconds to get our bearings, and certain that all of us were ok,
we righted the canoe and Candy, being the smallest of us, began
bailing with all of her might – and wow - did she bail at record
speed! As the canoe floated up higher, one by one, we were each
helped into the canoe. It was very fast, and very much a team
prepared to lean to the left and tip the canoe.
For a brief
moment, we were all underwater and behind the canoe.
OK! Skipper Paul made sure we were all ok, and we each checked
for our buddy (our canoe seatmate).
the first to get back in and start bailing, while the rest of us
helped from the water as best we could.
As soon as
we were done, the Laxaynəm crew rolled over and did the same
exercise. Though no one was timing us, it seemed that both crews
had done the cold water training in less than 10 minutes each.
wet, we paddled ashore to retrieve our gear. Some of us ran up
to our cars to get dry clothes. Having been completely
submerged, we all commented how warm the shallow water felt on
our feet! We reboarded and took off again, to paddle the canoes
back into the Marina boat ramp. As we exited the sheltered bay,
we were hit head-on by fierce winds. Each of us realized, as we
pulled together, that although exhilarating, being in the cold
water had been exhausting, and it took all of our energy to
paddle back to land. As we tied onto the dock, the Squeetzee
plied past, honking its goodbye for the day.
Marlin exclaimed, “We did great! And we don’t have to do that
again!” Back in the parking lot, we all dried off and
congratulated each other on a job well done. We learned a lot –
about safety and teamwork.
For the rest
of our practices, we’ll be concentrating on stamina – going out
for 3-4 hours at a clip on July 11 and 25. On July 18, we’ll be
practicing our singing and drumming. And on August 1, our
journey will begin very early in the morning!