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Thread: Canoeing: Outdoor Adventures, Patricia S. Dillon and Jeremy Oyen

  1. #1
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    Default Canoeing: Outdoor Adventures, Patricia S. Dillon and Jeremy Oyen

    Patricia S. Dillon and Jeremy Oyen, Canoeing: Outdoor Adventures (2008, Human Kinetics). $22.95.

    This is a very fine book for beginners from the American Canoe Association. With stunning colour photography, good design, and packed with very sensible advice, you could hand it with confidence to anyone starting to paddle a canoe. And there is a great deal of interest too for those who have been paddling for a while.

    Apart from Ray Goodwin’s chapters in the BCU Kayak & Canoe Handbook, necessarily much compressed and also coming as part of a wider survey of paddlesports, there is little in the way of British writing directly on open canoeing to be recommended. So this ACA book, with a twin volume on kayaking, is very welcome. As Bill Mason remarked, there is ‘never the last word’, and with his excellent Path of the Paddle sadly starting to look a little dated with its predominantly poor quality black and white photographic printing, here is a very colourful, and thoughtful, addition to canoe literature.

    A certain latitude for ‘Americanisms’ has to be allowed in translating within what Winston Churchill described as ‘English, that common language that divides us’. Some are straightforward: ‘low-head dam’ for weir, ‘squashed-ball grip’ for ‘pear grip’, and that when performing particular manoeuvres with a paddle, you should try ‘choking up on a baseball bat’. But there is also a need to ‘adjust to the wavelength’ of the USA context; I am not sure that the average British canoeist is quite ready yet for the heavy emphasis on ‘canoe ethics and etiquette’, for phrases such as ‘kinesthetically, the J-lean is an important skill to master’, and for ‘canoeing’ scenarios such as ‘rowing … the rower sits facing the back of the canoe’ or ‘trolling uses a battery-powered motor’. And probably never for the psycho-babble that paddling ‘meets our needs for psychological wellness’.

    The text is unremittingly ‘all-American’, but that also has its plus side, with vivid and enthusiastic advice throughout. Freestyle? ‘… is like obedience training for you and your canoe’. Manoeuvrability? ‘Think people, kids, pets, and gear.’ Rocker? ‘Picture a banana’. Cartopping? ‘Hone your knot-tying skills.’ Canoe straps? ‘The cam buckles make cinching a cinch.’ Spare paddle? ‘Saves you from being up the creek…’ I particularly like advice on how to prevent an ‘unexpected plunge’? ‘Keep your nose over your navel’ and ‘maintain three points of contact while moving around in the canoe, like a three-legged stool’.

    There is also a serious bonus, well worth the outlay in dollars for anyone coaching novices, in the accompanying DVD. This contains an absolute gem of a short film ‘Quick Start Your Canoe’. Those familiar with Kent Ford as international C1 champion, and star of films on raging whitewater from Nantahala to Durango, will be pleasantly amazed by his ‘family tripping in shorts on a summer’s day’ approach to the basics here. But with Kent Ford’s typical thoroughness, humour and folksy style, this is undoubtedly the first film I will be showing new cohorts of ‘starter canoeists’ – even before Bill Mason’s lyrical Song of the Paddle canoe camping classic. People learn in different ways, but the visual approach in this short film will assuredly whet anyone’s appetite, showing that canoeing is essentially a simple sport of boat, paddle and buoyancy aid – but then of course with a lot of extra reading material to dip into when you need it!

    And this book certainly is quite a read. With 228 pages of text, you only reach the chapter ‘On the Water’ by page 136 after a huge Part One ‘Preparing for a Canoeing Adventure’ - and even then you start a lengthy disquisition on topics such as ‘suitcase carry’, ‘double-boat carry’, ‘portage wheels, dollies, and carts’… before we launch onto the water for some basic strokes!

    Inevitably perhaps, in a book edited by the former executive director and the national director of safety of the ACA, along with a team of experts, there is a heavy emphasis on safety. Frankly, I am not sure that the target audience of ‘first-time or very inexperienced’ paddlers really needs to be taken exhaustively through the five types of ‘United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices’, both in the book and in another film on the DVD. Nor am I convinced that ‘Basic Canoe Gear’ for all occasions includes both a ‘weather radio’ and a ‘two-way radio or cell phone’. And when the answer to one of the quizzes in ‘Getting Ready to Paddle’ is that you must ‘file your float plan’ with ‘friends, family and park ranger’ (no doubt along with your Emergency Action Plan, which you needed for the ‘pre-event planning meeting’ and the additional ‘pre-launch meeting’), then I feel the paperwork alone is straying into ‘OTT territory’ for British paddlers. And remember this book is pitched at an audience of ‘recreational paddlers who want to be safe on local ponds or streams and adventure seekers looking to move on to whitewater’ [my emphasis]. So we have hardly encroached yet on to a Class One rapid! But then, like all such checklists and heavy legalistic warnings, you need to customise to your own requirements.

    These quibbles are more than outweighed by some excellent analysis on a whole range of canoeing topics. The use of charts and diagrams is superb; for example, a canoe classification table listing eight disciplines cross-referenced with seven factors such as ‘capacity’, ‘rocker’ and ‘hull shape’, which would be very useful for anyone sifting through catalogues with a purchase in mind.

    Does it give a comprehensive ‘strong foundational understanding’? Perhaps no text can. (And, most oddly, there is no index to assist referenced reading.) However, the BCU gets several plugs (‘a prophet without honour…’ in the UK, but evidently revered by the ACA), along with ‘Rob Roy’ MacGregor and a galaxy of quotes from familiar authors illustrating stunning photography. Web resources around the world are listed - although sadly not SotP yet.

    But just where is Poling? In the land of Harry Rock, it is certainly odd that in the section on ‘Canoe Etiquette and Ethics, Safety Guidelines’, you are instructed ‘Do not stand in a canoe’! Maybe, and that would be a surprise for New Englanders, Poling has to wait for the ‘Advanced’ book?
    Last edited by Bembe; 17th-April-2009 at 05:43 AM. Reason: Typo

  2. #2
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    Default Review

    Wow That's some review!! Are you a professional??

    A good one though. Already got me thinking of acquiring a copy..... are you finished with yours?

  3. #3
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    Default Thanks

    Interesting. How do you feel it compares to "Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Joanie and Gary McGuffin, which I've felt was the natural successor to "Path of the Paddle"?

    Ben
    One year olds want four meals a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Paper...
    Two year olds want whatever is most dangerous to get to... (Then to throw it on the floor.)

  4. #4
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    Default

    10.17 new off of Amazon
    Harry
    Guy Fawkes
    The only man to enter parliament with honest intentions

  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by happybunny View Post
    Interesting. How do you feel it compares to "Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Joanie and Gary McGuffin, which I've felt was the natural successor to "Path of the Paddle"?

    Ben
    Well at the risk of incurring Gwing's wrath again, I would NOT recommend the McGuffin book for beginners. Quite a few debates have already taken place on the merits of Masons versus McGuffins on SotP, and you can certainly start a very lively discussion around many a campfire on the point! I must remember your examination style question: '...natural successor to PotP...Discuss.'

    Personally, I am still waiting for Ray Goodwin's book, which will grow naturally from his two excellent chapters on open canoeing in the BCU Kayak and Canoe Handbook, or maybe another edition of Path of the Paddle from Paul Mason.

    I do not want to be too hard on the McGuffins' book, as they are obviously very dedicated canoeists, and for some their approach may be just what is needed to get them interested. It is simply that their book is not really in the Premier League.

    But judge for yourself. My own personal view was that:

    "Personally I would not recommend the McGuffins 'Paddle Your Own Canoe' as a starter book for beginners, as Gwing does, but then everyone to their own taste! And if you have a sweet tooth, go for stylised photographs mostly shot on a sunny day and at the same location, four pages of Joannie performing yoga, and want to outfit your solo and tandem boat with so much buoyancy that no camping gear can be stowed in them... then fair enough!"

  6. #6
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    Default Ah. A can of worms.

    Ah. I hadn't realised this was such a can of worms. I'll spend some time looking for the various threads when I can find a few spare minutes.

    Ben
    One year olds want four meals a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Paper...
    Two year olds want whatever is most dangerous to get to... (Then to throw it on the floor.)

  7. #7
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    Default Over the Top

    Wow the review was so good I don't think I need the book. LOL.

    I can't wait to get a copy.

    I still don't understand why SOTP does not get more press in the U.S.. This is absolutely the best paddling forum. Someone needs to hit the ACA, "upside of the head," and tell them to take notice.


    I still want a special section of book reviews on this site. Even (especially) if they are all done by Bembe.

    How about a book exchange section. Loan a paddling or bushcraft book and you can borrow a book. We could make a book review part of the fee.

    Is discounted media mail available for overseas?

    I do recall laughing at the Churchill joke for the same reason it was funny in England.

    My son once told fellow campers he was British and faked an accent for a week. I had quite a bit of fun with a can of imported, "Spotted Dick," I sent to him as a special family treat. "Spotted Dick," has a totally different meaning on this side of the pond. He thought it was an STD. Years later he still has not had the courage to taste it.
    Dr. Joe
    Electric Hospital
    Coos Bay Or
    http://electrichospital.com

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Joe View Post
    I still want a special section of book reviews on this site. Even (especially) if they are all done by Bembe.
    9 years later you get your wish
    John

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