Slicing through Big Blue in an outrigger canoe
Boaters cruising aboard all the horsepower-hounds on Lake Tahoe last weekend gazed curiously at the angular vessels scooting across the water by way of diligent and harmonious paddling.
The primitive crafts ” fueled only by human energy and focus ” were en route to Tahoe Keys, the same place where Truckee Tahoe Outrigger Canoe Club members began their journey Friday at about 8:30 p.m.
“It was an amazing way to see the lake,” club President Jane Dulaney said of the voyage, which ended at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. “You definitely got a real intimate look.”
The six-person, two-person and one-person outrigger canoes traveled east by moon and starlight Friday night to Nevada Beach, where the crew camped. In the morning they continued on to Sand Harbor, then drove to Incline Village to dine at Thai Recipe. The same night the group returned to Sand Harbor and hit the lake again, taking a 12-mile open-water route straight to Lake Forest Marina in Tahoe City; and the final stretch brought them south along the shoreline, past Meeks and Emerald bays and back to Tahoe Keys.
Because of the 12-mile portion cutting across open water, the mileage totaled about 60 ” as opposed to the 72 miles of Tahoe shoreline ” and the trip took between 15 and 16 hours, Dulaney said.
Truckee resident Jane Weeks, a first-year club member and a participant in the circumnavigation, dug the experience.
“I gained a lot of respect for the beauty of the lake,” Weeks said. “It was as close as you can get to the lake without being a fish.”
Designed as an opportunity for the local outrigger canoe club to gain experience in a large body of water as a team, the three-day trip proved to be a unifying experience, Dulaney said.
“In a 42-foot-long canoe everybody has to work as one to make it work,” Dulaney said. “You get to the point of working together as one being on one craft.
“The people in the boat really bonded. You got to know the raw nature of who people are. I’m having separation anxiety now.”
Working together means each person’s paddling must be in rhythm with all the others’, and should consist of short, deep strokes, Weeks said. One muscle-head paddling too powerfully and out of sink will drastically slow the boat’s momentum. But once reaching full unison, the lean vessel can jam.
“There’s an amazing thing that happens with the community of the boat,” Weeks said. “Everyone has to be in sink. If not, it feels like paddling in cement.
“But when everyone gets in sink and becomes one, the boat gets up and goes. It actually hydroplanes.”
And at night, when light is not on the paddlers’ side, finding that groove becomes even more difficult.
“There’s a different sense of how the boat moves and how the people move,” Dulaney said. “You really have to feel the boat in a different way.”
The night travel was also more frightening, Dulaney said, as cigarette boats void of lights roared by in the blackness. But the buzzings were just a part of the adventure of circumnavigating Lake Tahoe in an outrigger canoe.
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