There’s a First Time For Everything

Our two Florida Studies program chairs, Ray Arsenault and Gary Mormino, are notorious for their research, their intelligence, and their unfailing ability to capsize a canoe. Seriously.

Last fall I wrote an oral history of Jeff Klinkenberg. After we talked for about ninety minutes, Jeff said, “So, you’re a student of Ray and Gary’s?”

I affirmed that I was.

“They’re great guys. I love them, I do.” That’s a pretty close approximation, I think, to what Jeff actually said, but I remember with vivid clarity what he said next. He looked into my eyes and dipped his head down a bit as though he was going to tell me a secret.

“Don’t ever,” Jeff said “get into a canoe with either of them. They go over every time.”

Turns out Jeff knew of what he spoke. These guys are legends for going over in a canoe in more bodies of water than the average person can identify. I laugh at them whenever the subject comes up. In fact, I think I laughed about their capsize-abilities as recently as Sunday morning.

Let’s make that, laughed. I think we all know what’s coming next.

Oh, yes I did. In a kayak I’ve owned for five years.

Was it in rough water? Why, no, it wasn’t.
Was it in fast water? Why, no, it wasn’t.
Was it in a crisis sort of situation where I flipped trying to save a drowning baby? Why, no, it wasn’t.


I was putting in. Calypso was already in, as was I. Yes, I flipped my kayak with only part of the boat in the water. In my defense, the entry slope was really steep. Poor Calypso, she didn’t know what hit her. One minute she was in the cockpit, looking out at the Alafaya, sniffing the air for recent swamp bunnies or whatever the hell she sniffs for, thinking, “hey, life is pretty good.”

The next minute she is under the water in a kayak that she, not thirty seconds ago, trusted implicitly, thinking something, I imagine, that is a cross between “What the–?!” and “{sigh} so this is how it’s going to be.”

I experienced a cross pollination of thought between “I am NOT capsizing, am I?” and “Oh, shit, get the dog!” ‘Cause, you know, there are gators in the Alafaya (and, used to be, manatee, who I like to think of as the unsung villains of the Florida waterways. Vicious creatures, those manatee. One tried to kill Shelly just a few months ago. OK, well, it hissed at her. She said. Which is, as we all know, completely believable and not at all delusional.)

I got out, saved Calypso (poor little puppy, it’s hard to be my dog, it really is), rescued my dry box (with camera and keys dry and happy inside), sponged a couple of gallons out of my cockpit, plopped a slightly nervous and very wet Calypso back in the kayak, and shivered my way up the river.

THAT is how the universe repays you for laughing at other people.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.