I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. I am a fat man in a boat.

Steady hand at the helm.

My experience in a boat is very limited, but I’ve enjoyed it each time.  I liked having fun on the water, taking photos and exercising muscles that don’t normally get stressed in hiking and bicycling. I’d love to take a canoe or kayak camping trip some time. Until that time comes, I’ll stick with day paddling.

Willow Bay campground in the Allegheny National Forest has a canoe and kayak rental business on site, and I made arrangements Monday morning to get on the water. Conditions were different from other places I’ve rented; at Willow Bay you are expected to drag the canoe down to the launch on your own. I asked for assistance, explaining I have a bad back and I’m inexperienced, and eventually received help getting the canoe down the slope.

As I’ve become used to. my weight was a problem that needed to be worked around. For the sake of stability I was seated in the front of the canoe, facing backward. This positioning puts me as close as possible to the dead center of the canoe. Even so, I kept causing the bow to stick out of the water. This meant every time I tried to steer the canoe right or left, I’d spin in a circle. Eventually I made progress but I still made more 360 degree turns than most people.

I was tempted to get my Lewis and Clark on and head out of the bay, into the main body of the Allegheny Reservoir, onto the river, and from there who knows?

Keep following it and you wind up in New Orleans.

I had the canoe for three hours, so near the end of my time I headed for shore. On previous rentals I’ve been met by someone who helped me get out of the boat. This time, no. So I ran the canoe aground as hard as I could, and attempted to stand up in the calf-deep water. Attempted. Whenever I tried to stand up, the canoe moved under me and I lost my balance. On one attempt I fell back into the canoe.


Eventually after 15 minutes of struggle I pushed the canoe up against a rock, and that gave me enough stability I could get to my feet. I pulled the canoe up on the bank, left my safety flotation device at the equipment locker, and went back to my car. I enjoyed the experience, but once again my limitations, well, limited my fun.