Shooting the rapids


Song of Hiawatha (Auszug)

„Give me of your bark, O Birch Tree!
Of your yellow bark, O Birch Tree!
Tall and stately in the valley!
I a light canoe will build me,
Build a swift Cheemaun for sailing,
That shall float upon the river,
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn
Like a yellow water-lily!“

„Lay aside your cloack, o Birch Tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!“
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gaily.
And the tree with all ist branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying with a sigh of patience,
„Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!“
With his knife the tree he girdled;
Just beneath its lowest branches,
Just above the roots, he cut it,
Till the sap came oozing outward;
Sheer he cleft the bark asunder,
With a wooden wedge he raised it,
Stripped it from the trunk unbroken.

Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And the forest´s life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
All the lightness of the birch-tree,
All the toghness of the cedar,
All the larch´s supple sinews;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily.

(Henry Longfellow)

The Song My Paddle Sings

August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I
Drift, drift
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.

The river rolls in its rocky bed;
My paddle is plying its way ahead;
Dip, dip,
While the waters flip
In foam as over their breast we slip.

And up on the hills against the sky
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings
Its emerald wings
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.

(Pauline Johnson)


The White Canoe

There´s a whisper of life in the grey dead trees,
And a murmuring wash on the shores,
And a breath of the south in the loitering breeze,
To tell that a winter is o´er.
While, free at last from its fetters of ice,
The river is clear and blue,
And cries with a tremulous, quivering voice
For the launch of the White Canoe.

Oh, gently the ripples will kiss her side,
And tenderly bear her on;
For she is the wandering phantom bride
Of the river she rests upon;
She is loved with a love that cannot forget,
A passion so strong and true,
That never a billow has risen yet
To peril the White Canoe.

(Alan Sullivan)

I have now been forty-two years in the country. For twenty-four years I was a light canoeman; I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground 'til I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw. During that period, I saved the lives of ten Bourgeois, and was always the favourite, because when others stopped to carry at a bad step, and lost time, I pushed on - over rapids, over cascades, over chutes; all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song. I had twelve wives in the country. and was once possessed of fifty horses, and six running dogs, trimmed in the first style. I was then like a Bourgeois, rich and happy: no bourgeois had better-dressed wives than I; no Indian chief finer horses; no white man better-harnessed or swifter dogs. I beat all Indians at the race, and no white man ever passed me in the chase. I wanted for nothing; and I spend all my earnings in the enjoyment of pleasure. Five hundred pounds, twice told, have passed through my hands; although now I have not a spare shirt to my back, nor a penny to buy one. Yet, were I young again, I should glory in commencing the same career again, I would willing spend another half-century in the same fields of enjoyment. There is no life so happy as a voyageur's life; none so independent; no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza! Huzza! pour le pays sauvage! (Anonymer Voyageur)


canoes in a fog


The Voyageur (Auszug)

De win´ she blow on Lac St. Claire,
She blow den blow some more,
Eef you don´t drown on dees beeg lac
You better kip close to shore.

So dat´s de reason I drink tonight,
to de men of de Grand Nor´Wes´,
For hees heart was young, an´ hees heart was light
So long as he´s leevin´ dere -
I´m proud od de sam´blood in my vein,
I´m a son of de Nort´Win´ wance again -
So we´ll fill her up till de bottle´s drain,
An´ drink to the Voyageur.

(William Henry Drummond)

Paddle Your Own Canoe

I´ve travelled about a bit in my time,
And of troubles I´ve seen a few.
But found it better in ev´ry clime
To paddle my own canoe;
My wants are small I car not at all,
If my debts ar paied when due.
I drive away strife, in the ocean of life
While paddle my own canoe.

If a hurricane rise in the mid´day sky
And the sun is lost to view
Move steadily by, with a steadfast eye
And paddle your own canoe.
Fields of daisies that grew in brigt green
Are blooming so sweet for you
So never sit down, with a tear or a frown
But paddle your own canoe.

(Irische Ballade, ca. 1840)

Love many, trust a few, and always paddle your own canoe.

What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other travel. Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature. (Pierre Elliott Trudeau)

Give me a good canoe, a pair of Ojibway snowshoes, my beaver, my family and 10,000 square miles of wilderness and I am happy. (Archibald Belaney/Grey Owl)

Tu es mon compagnon de voyage!
Je veux mourir dans mon canot
Sur le tombeau, près du rivage,
Vous renverserez mon canot.

When I must leave the great river
O bury me close to its wave
And let my canoe and my paddle
Be the only mark over my grave

(Aus “Mon Canoe d'écorce” [“My Bark Canoe”]
übersetzt von Frank Oliver Call)

The North is vast; distances are great. To travel at all, one must travel fast. To travel fast, one must travel light. (P.G. Downes)

Natives drew their maps based on time, not distance - so the rivers were short, the lakes long. It´s really a far more practical approach for canoes. (Michael Peake)

The movement of a canoe is like reed in the wind. Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, the shores.

A man is part of his canoe und therefore part of all it knows. The instant he dips a paddle, he flows as it flows, the canoe yielding to his slightest touch, reponsive to his every whim and thought. The paddle is an extension of his arm, as his arm is part of his body. ... to the canoeman there is nothing that compares with the joy he knows when a paddle is in his hand.

There is a balance in the handling of a canoe, the feeling of its being a part of the bodily swing. No matter how big the waves or how the currents swirl, you are riding them as you would ride a horse, at one with its every motion. When the point is reached where the rhythm of each stroke is as poised as the movement of the canoe itself, weariness is forgotten and there is time to watch the sky and the shores without thought of distance or effort. At such a time the canoe glides along obedient to the slightest wish and paddling becomes as unconscious and automatic an effort as breathing. Should you be lucky enough to be moving across a calm surface with mirrored clouds, you may have the sensation of suspension between heaven and earth, of paddling not on the water but through the skies themselves.

The canoe gives a sense of unbounded range and freedom, unlimited movement and exploration ... a canoe is as free as the wind itself.

There is a magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude and peace. (Sigurd Olson, The way of a canoe)

The charm of a canoe trip is in the quiet as one drifts along the shores, being a part of rocks and trees and every living thing. (Sigurd Olson, Silence)

For those of you that travel, let this be a warning. The large skies and stark beauty of the northern places can move and challenge you as gently, as insistently, as completely as the warmest and most profound of lovers. It truly becomes possible to have a love affair with the land. As for us, we all had a difficult time returning, and part of each of us probably never will. (Jesse Ford)

Canoeing is like dancing; timing is everything. (Cliff Jacobsen)

Canoes shoud show some battle scars. Shows your´re a canoeist not a canoer! (Bob Brown)

Wilderness canoeing is hardship, pain and real problems, a pragmatist´s paradise. But simultaneously this rugged journey breeds inner peace. Survival and spirituality, hell and heaven, enlightenment and profound contradiction, all together in the same wilderness package. (James Raffan)

The magic of paddling for hours is the efficiency of the action. For every action, there is a resting phase - the yin of exertion, the yang of rest. For every expenditure of energy, there is renewal of breath and power from the motion of the boat. (James Raffan)

Torture is probably one of the most important ingredients of good memories of a canoe journey. (James Raffan)

Rivers and ther contemplative flat sections and passages of heart-stopping, moving water have been my most influential teachers. The riparian world is a world that breeds in jorneyers humility, knowlegde and enduring principles about the fragility and sanctity of all life. These lessons came later. It was the thrill of white water that first took me to back country rivers. The sheer joy an physical fun of crashing down a wild-water rapid can never be oversold. (James Raffan)

Anything is better than portaging. Being in a canoe feels like flying. (James Raffan)


Canoe manned by voyageurs


Rivers with their contemplative flat sections and passages of heart-stopping, moving water have been my most influential teachers. The riparian world is a world that breeds in journeyers humility, knowledge and enduring principles about the fragility and sanctity of all life. These lessons came later. It was the thrill of white water that first took me to back country rivers. The sheer joy and physical fun of crashing down a wild-water rapid can never be oversold. (James Raffan)

We paddle now from the centre of our bodies. We are an extension of the canoe and it of us. Adjustments are made without thougt, without word. My eyes concentrate on a point on the far end of the lake. Without passing information through my conscious mind, I convey the line of our course to muscles that steer the boat. Teamwork, harmony and direction are bound up in our duality, moving through space and time. Motion is an unified blend of body, mind and spirit. Paddling, today, is selfpropelled meditation-rhythmic, purposeful and liberating. (James Raffan)

This has to be the life. To be out here in the sunshine, with good friends, on calm water, on a river flowing to the sea, with no one around in a world filled with caribou and musk-oxen and wolves and birds and flowers and wolverines, with nothing to do but sit and think to the rhythm of self-propelled motion. There´s nothing like it. (James Raffan)

Sometimes water is like a river of flowing glass. (James Raffan)

Canoe, the ultimate craft. Light, symmetrical and balanced. It moves in the river, and leaves no track.. It runs on hard work and the cycles of nature. It supports independence, but teaches duality. It carries what we need to survive with no room for extras. It is strong but bends to wild water and big waves. It can move with the water or against it, but only for so long. It counsels care and moderation. It can be blown away by the wind, and it can provide shelter when all else is gone. But best of all, this canoe takes us to the land, into the land, to places we would never be without it. We can take it up the mountain to where the river rises. It can take us to the sea. (James Raffan)

In June 1874, I witnessed for the first time a Haida fleet approaching the shores of the mainland from the ocean. It left an impression on my mind not yet effaced. The fleet consisted of some forty large canoes, each with two snow-white sails spread, one on either side of each canoe, which caused them to appear like immense birds or butterflies, with white wings outspread, flying shorewards. Before a fresh westerly breeze they glided swiftly onward over the rolling waves, which appeared to chase each other in sport as they reflected the gleams of the summer´s sun. These were the Masset Haida, who were famed for their fine war canoes. They have always been the canoe builders of the northern coast. As they neared the shore the sails were furled, and as soon as the canoes touched the beach the young men sprang out, an amid a babel of voices hastened to carry up their freight anf effects above the high tide mark. (William Henry Collison)

There are usually three Indians to each canoe, the steersman, the sailsman, and the marksman seated towards the bow. For this post the best shot is always selected. It is not easy task to shoot when the sea is rough; both the hunter and his object are being tossed up and down, now on the crest of the wave, and the next moment in the trough of the sea. It requires a steady nerve and good sight, with judgment, to fire instantly when the seal rises to the point of vantage. (William Henry Collison)

People should not rest on the ocean. (Haida watchword after William Henry Collison)

... a large fleet of Haida arrived from several other villages to attend a great potlatch by special invitation, and a great reception had been prepared for them. As their large canoes approached the shore, each propelled by from twelve to twenty rowers arranged in equal numbers on either side of the canoes, a skilful display of paddling was given. Now they made the stroke as one man, without causing the slightest sound or raising a ripple on the water, indicating the stealthy manner in which they approached their foes in a night attack. At a given signal, with a loud war whoop they dashed their paddles deep into the water, causing the foam to fly, while the canoes were almost lifted by the stroke as they made a united dash upon their supposed enemy. Instantly this was changed to a paean of triumph, while they kept in perfect time to the chant with their paddles. They swept shorewards, imitating the flight of the weary eagle by two strokes and a rest between, alternated with three strokes and a pause. This exhibition was ended by every two oarsmen crossing their paddles in mid-air over the centre of their canoes as they touched the shore. (William Henry Collison)

The canoe builders, who had been working on their canoes ever since the close of the great potlatch, had finished their work; all along the shore in front of the camp their canoes lay ready for launching. Some of them were large, some of medium size, and some small, ranging from fifty feet in length and six and a half feet beam, down to half this size and less. The largest were for ocean travelling and freight, and resembled the old war canoes while those of medium size were used for hunting the fur-seal and sea otter. All were perfect in outline and beautiful in construction. The late Admiral Prevost once remarked to me, when looking at a large canoe, that it was as perfect in outline as an Atlantic greyhound, which is the term commonly used to describe the large and fast steamers now running between Europe and America. (William Henry Collison)

Early in the morning some thirty large canoes started. The Haida are as careful as courageous in their adventures on the ocean, and so meet with but few accidents in their canoe voyages. Before starting on a voyage they exchange their children and other relatives with one another for the occasion. This binds them together in a common interest, and unites them in the hour of danger when overtaken by a storm. (William Henry Collison)

There is more perfection in canoes than in wives. ... An ideal canoe is a bundle of compromises, yielding something of her paddling speed to be able to sail fairly, sacrificing a portion of her sailing lines to secure reasonable lightness and sharpness, losing somewhat of her steadying weight and momentum for the sake of portabiltity, and being less portable because she must be strong and stiff. ... A canoe must be equally at home with wings for the breezes and with paddles for the water, yet able to move on the leg of her master over dry land. (Edwin Fowler)

Auf dem See

Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut
Saug' ich aus freier Welt;
Wie ist Natur so hold und gut,
Die mich am Busen hält!
Die Welle wieget unsern Kahn
Im Rudertakt hinauf,
Und Berge, wolkig, himmelan,
Begegnen unserm Lauf.

Aug', mein Aug', was sinkst du nieder?
Goldne Träume, kommt ihr wieder?
Weg, du Traum! so gold du bist;
Hier auch Lieb' und Leben ist.

Auf der Welle blinken
Tausend schwebende Sterne ;
Weiche Nebel trinken
Rings die türmende Ferne;
Morgenwind umflügelt
Die beschattete Bucht,
Und im See bespiegelt
Sich die reifende Frucht.

(Johann Wolfgang Goethe)


Frische Fahrt

Laue Luft kommt blau geflossen,
Frühling, Frühling soll es sein!
Waldwärts Hörnerklang geschossen,
Mutger Augen lichter Schein;
Und das Wirren bunt und bunter
Wird ein magisch wilder Fluß,
In die schöne Welt hinunter
Lockt dich dieses Stromes Gruß.

Und ich mag mich nicht bewahren!
Weit von euch treibt mich der Wind,
Auf dem Strome will ich fahren,
Von dem Glanze selig blind!
Tausend Stimmen lockend schlagen,
Hoch Aurora flammend weht,
Fahre zu! Ich mag nicht fragen,
Wo die Fahrt zu Ende geht!

(Joseph von Eichendorff)

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