campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
A Summer's Day on the Kennebecasis

People are complex. An individual may have more than one persona, each a self with its unique passions. These selves may never intersect ... or they may.

Okay, I'll explain.

Kennebecasis River
Kennebecasis River

I'm a paddler. My passion for canoeing has led me far afield, and introduced me to folks and forests I'll always remember.

I'm also a dojo rat. Back in the day, I spent many hours learning karate, and made friends that are still dear to me today.

I never thought these two selves would intersect. But then I got a call from Dick, my instructor in a previous karate life. Dick was playing host to a karate teacher from Tokyo, Sensei, who was visiting Dick's dojo in Saint John.

"I see you have a web page about canoeing. How'd you like to take Sensei and me on a trip down the Kennebecasis?"

Kennebecasis River
Kennebecasis River at Plumweseep. Evan says, "The stream is narrow and winding and quite interesting though dangerous where the fast current overflows into the trees."

It was a command performance, what can I say? Dick was more than my karate instructor, he was a great friend as well.

It was midsummer, and the rivers were low. But Dick assured me there was enough water in the lower stretch by Bloomfield to float a boat. Dick was anxious to treat his guest from the choked mega-metropolis of Japan to a natural experience in the New Brunswick countryside.

We took my plastic canoe and my wooden boat on the stream. The plastic boat was a generic brand.

My wooden boat was a 16-foot Chestnut clone, sleek and sweet, but she had seen better days. The canvas was peeling from the hull, and the floor, gunwales and decks were spotted black with rot. Just one more trip, I said to myself. You still look good.

My old Chestnut Clone
When my boat was young and strong

It was a wonderful outing. The sun shone warm and bright, a soothing breeze blew downriver. The Kennebecasis was gentle enough for our novice guest, who had likely never seen a canoe.

Sensei and I couldn't share our feelings verbally, as I knew maybe three Japanese words (ritual dojo-mumbo-jumbo), and Sensei had no English. But his excitement and wonder as he climbed into my boat and took his seat were a joy to behold.

Darlings Island
The Kennebecasis River opens up to a lake near Darlings Island.

Both Dick and I shared his pleasure vicariously, as he pushed off the shore solo and ventured into the current. It wasn't long until he could wield his paddle with greater confidence.

The image of Sensei seated in the boat with the summer-long green rushes by the shore, the blue stream under the canoe, with the quaint covered bridge as backdrop, remains in my memory as clear today as it was back then. I can only hope our Japanese gentleman remembers our jaunt down the Kennebecasis stream as vividly and fondly as I do.

Bloomfield Covered Bridge, Kennebecasis
Our put-in at Bloomfield Covered Bridge, Kennebecasis

It was an added bonus that I got to meld my two passions so sweetly, one leading nearly seamlessly into the other. We went back to Dick's place later, where he and his wife kindly put me up for the weekend. Sensei taught us karate in the local dojo, and I enjoyed the company of old friends well-met all weekend long.

Both these boats are gone now. My wooden boat rotted away. Matter of fact, the jaunt down the Kennebecasis was probably its last. As for my plastic boat, the outer hull got so worn down from going over rocks that water finally leaked into the core. A finishing blow, as dojo rats may say.....

campfire tales    My bro Laurie is a master sailor and veteran canoeist. He still grieves for his prized rope that got slashed on the Nashwaak.

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