Meanwhile, back on the shore, Darren was the first to realize it was going horribly wrong. He saw that it wasn’t working and immediately started following the bank downstream so he’d be in a position to help when we made it back to shore. Jack and Tim followed right behind, but André and I were washed downstream so quickly, no one got to us before we managed to get ashore. André had to jump out with the stern rope in hand to anchor the boat, and I followed with a hold on the bow rope. The boat was pointed with her bow upstream, so while Jae quickly tied his boat to a small tree, the three of us started lining the boat against the current, applying the technique used for canoes and, of course, York boats back in the day. Within the first ten steps or so, I lost one shoe in the thick mud, then the other. I kept going. I was on the bow rope, which meant I had to allow the current to keep the boat’s bow away from the shore while resisting its pull to take it too far out. I nearly lost the boat once and in the pulling, strained my right quadricep muscle. I kept holding on. When Darren, Jack and Tim reached us, they pitched in and we slowly made our way back to the boat launch.
Once we reached the slack water of the launch, we tied the boat to a large rock and went up the hill to where supper — courtesy of Marilyn, Theresa and Chris — was waiting for us. I had been pretty cool-headed while all this was going on, but with the boat secure and no one hurt (except me), I started to feel my composure slipping. I sequestered myself in the GeoTourism RV and tried not to think about calling the whole thing off. As Darren and I sat on the floor with our plates of food, I said to him “are you and I the only ones who realize how badly that went? Doesn’t anyone else realize that André and I almost started the trip on our own?” No one seemed particularly rattled, except perhaps Jae; the GeoTourism gang just decided they would announce at the launch festivities on the north side that people could drive over the bridge to see us leave. But I was shaken to the core.
Our lack of experience was showing. We had thought the ferry manoeuvre would work fine — and clearly it didn’t. So, what else did we think would be fine, but when executed, would go horribly wrong? We were facing 18 days of steering, rowing, manoeuvring, landing on steep and muddy shores, departing, avoiding shallow areas and keeping the boat from running aground. What if it didn’t go as planned? This was a seriously big boat — if she ran aground, it would be no easy task to get her afloat again. If she went sideways on a gravel bar, it could be really ugly. And what dangers might there be that I couldn’t even anticipate? The responsibilities of being Captain weighed on me heavily, and I worried how I would be able to function on the boat with a torn quad muscle. Darren and Jack reassured me somewhat, but I went to bed that night with a lot on my mind.
– Excerpt from the chapter entitled “The Power of the River,” from York Boat Captain – 18 Life-Changing Days on the Peace River by Teresa Griffith