The Canoe Story

Many moons ago, back in the days when there were such things as “summer breaks,” I went canoeing with my friends Trevor and Chris on a tiny river in Virginia.

When I say “tiny,” I mean tiny. It was but a stone’s throw from one side to the other (distance in backwoods Virginia is measured in stone’s throws), and the water rose no higher than our knees.

Us being strapping young men in need of a summer tan, we stripped off our shirts, grabbed the two life vests Chris had in his truck, and boarded the canoe. Then we proceeded to have a rather pleasant ride up river, figuring we’d relax on the way back.

It was a beautiful day–blue skies, clear water, very little current. The only disturbance was a flatbed party boat that jetted by us, the Backstreet Boys thumping through the speakers. After an hour of light paddling, we started drifting back to where we had left the truck.

We were but 100 yards (2.7 stone’s throws) from the parking lot when we heard, of all sounds, a siren. We turned around to see a river police boat sidling up next to us. At first I figured the creek ranger or whatever they’re called was going to ask us for intel about the party boat, but instead he asked us to hold up all of the life vests we had in the canoe.

It was then that we realized that we were in a bit of trouble, because river law states that you need to have as many life vests in the boat as there are people. You don’t have to wear them, of course. River law is built around getting women to wear bikinis on party boats, and life vests would get in the way of the goods. But you have to have them in the boat.

We were told to stay in the boat (where else were we going to go? Were we going to make a run for it?) as the stream sheriff wrote us a $70 ticket.

We drifted the remaining 100 yards under the sheriff’s supervision, stepped out of canoe, and drove home. Our wallets were a little lighter, but at least we’ll always have the canoe story to tell.