This column was first published on April 5, 2008

Last call!

At least it’ll be the last one from me for this year. I expect I’ll see you next Saturday at the Y on Second Street in Bangor for this year’s edition of Paddle Smart. The doors open at 5 p.m.

By that time you’ll have had a couple of days to catch the Old Town Canoe annual yard sale, and you’ll be the proud owner of a new canoe or kayak and will be thirsting for knowledge about paddling safety, how to run the Kenduskeag Stream Race the following weekend, or where you’ll be able take a lesson or two about rescuing yourself when you turn the boat upside down. (The Old Town Canoe yard sale, by the way, runs Friday through Sunday.)

If you aren’t among the throngs that partake of this year’s canoe sale, you probably already own a canoe or kayak or two and chances are you’re itching to get back on the water. (Below you’ll see a contribution from someone who has had a chance to bathe in the icy Kenduskeag.) Stop by Paddle Smart and sharpen your mental skills, take in a few reminders and learn something about keeping yourself around for the rest of the paddling season!

In addition to workshops on racing the Kenduskeag, you’ll get tips on paddling the coast or our lovely state, how to build your own kayak or select the right boat for your paddling needs and take in some great rescue demonstrations in the pool for both canoe and kayak paddlers. I guarantee you’ll come home with a brain bucket full of useful information.

Displays in the gym will feature the Marine Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors, Fields Pond Nature Center, Maine Island Trail Association, Penobscot Riverkeepers, Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Club and Penobscot River Restoration Trust as well as others.

And at 9 p.m. or shortly thereafter, somebody’s going to walk away with a new Necky Elaho sea kayak. Raffle tickets are on sale now at Epic Sports and a few selected locations and will be on sale up until the drawing.

A trip down the river

I mentioned above you’d hear from someone who has been baptized this spring in the Kenduskeag.

This from Kaitlyn Fowle of Orono, who’s a fellow Registered Maine Sea Kayak Guide. She and friends from MaineBound at the University of Maine took a little paddle a week or so ago. Here are some of Kaitlyn’s words on the experience. The group paddled a section of the river between Bullseye Bridge and Flour Mill Dam.

“Despite the fact that the usual put-in above the bridge was still iced in, we slid our kayaks into the water down below the sheet of ice on the other side of the bridge.

“While the water was still fairly low, it was perfect for us. It was neat to see the riverbanks still covered with snow, and the trees still as bare as the middle of winter giving us a clear view into the backyards of the beautiful homes that line Kenduskeag’s banks.

” … About midway down we found the perfect eddy, nice and large, easy clear eddy line. So once we cleared up most of the ice that was occupying it, we spent a few moments there playing in the river features. After a little I noticed my co-instructor was not in the water. Just then I looked to the shore and saw his bright green boat sliding down the snowy hill at astonishing speed and launch! Splat! Onto the water, with a perfect seal launch off the snowy slope!”

With all the fun it didn’t seem long, Kaitlyn said, before they were at Flour Mill, the takeout for all but her and co-instructor Josh. The group got to watch the show from shore.

“So we start styling our way down, eddy hopping as we go, my co-instructor Josh showing off for all our staff. We stop in the middle for a look at the last bit, a nice fluffy hole to punch and you are home free.

“Josh heads out first all excited to try out the new shiny boat Santa left for him months ago. I watch him clear it like a rock star then head out into white.

“I hit the hole with a great line but somehow still ended up upside down. This was not the first time I have been upside down on this side of Flour Mill. I attempted a roll, but hit the second wave funny and was back under again.

“Laughing at myself this time, I calmed down accepting the fact that life under the water is cold and dark. When I felt that I was past most of the water I calmly rolled up only to roll directly into a sheet of ice! Turns out that ice on the river right wall was really about a foot deep and my boat was now being sucked under it.

“It was time to swim. Whoa that was cold! As I looked up I saw Josh right there so I could grab his boat and get to shore – but where was my boat? It was pinned under the ice against the wall!”

Kaitlyn went on to say it took a lot of chipping and help from other MaineBounders and some anxious moments, but she and her boat were eventually reunited.

“All in all it was a good trip with an excellent rescue experience for the MaineBound paddle staff and no injuries but a good bruise to the rib cage. And well, I can check that off my to-do list!”

Something warmer and calmer

You say cold, frothy water isn’t high on your list of thrills? How about something beneficial and a lot less white knuckled? Why not sign up for the 12th annual Paddle for Pine Tree Camp? It draws paddlers from all corners of Maine to raise funds to benefit the summer camp for Maine children and adults with disabilities.

The 2008 Paddle for Pine Tree Camp will feature two trips on the Kennebec River: June 6, for a peaceful sunset paddle from Bingham to Solon followed by a pizza party; and June 7, an exciting morning paddle from Solon to North Anson followed by a celebratory barbecue.

A shuttle service will be provided at both locations. Maine guides and expert volunteers will act as escorts on both trips. Both trips are approximately 61/2 miles and will take about 21/2 hours to complete. Paddle sites are accessible and are appropriate for paddlers of all skill levels.

Paddlers raise money for Pine Tree Camp by collecting pledges per mile or accepting straight contributions. All money raised through the Paddle for Pine Tree Camp will go directly to Pine Tree Camp.

To register or for more information, visit the Pine Tree Society’s Web site,, call (207) 443-3341 or e-mail

The Paddle for Pine Tree Camp is supported by Hammond Lumber, Central Maine Power and Maine Oxy.

Pine Tree Camp, a program of Pine Tree Society, was established in 1945 as a summer therapy outlet for children with disabilities. Over the years, it has evolved into an innovative barrier-free environment offering fully accessible recreation to Maine people with disabilities. Pine Tree Camp is committed to welcoming anyone who could benefit from the experience, regardless of their ability to pay tuition. Fundraising events like the Paddle for Pine Tree Camp are held throughout the year to raise tuition assistance funds for campers and their families.

For more than 70 years, Pine Tree Society has been providing Maine children and adults with disabilities the opportunities and the means to create better lives for themselves and their families.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays.