This year the Chewonki Wilderness trip office offered an alternative spring break option to the students. The second week of spring break 10 students returned to campus to take part in a white water canoe clinic with a few of the seasoned paddlers here at Chewonki. After a week of honing their new skills they participated in a race on the St. George River. The following is an account by two of the students who participated in this unique experience.
[to the tune of “Barbie Girl” by Aqua]
We are Barbie Arms. In our Barbie Boat. We’re on the water. We are paddling. No need to paddle fast, because we came in last. But it’s OK; we had a blast! Come on Barbie, let’s go paddling! Oh oh ohh yeah. Come on Barbie, let’s go paddling! Oooeoooeo Oooeoooeo! Come on Barbie, let’s go paddling! Oh oh ohh yeah. Come on Barbie, we paddling!
This was our cheer. Us Barbie Arms Left and Barbie Arms Right grew to know each other like brother and sister. By the end of the week-long canoe clinic, we knew exactly how the other half felt. The two Barbie Arms were brought together by fate, and it was in their sacred well of hope—the Barbie Boat—that our tale begins.
Day one. Barbie Arms weren’t together quite yet. The group would be formed in the time to come. We paddled and we didn’t know what we were doing. We couldn’t turn, we couldn’t go straight, we didn’t know the bow from the stern. This all would change.
Day two. A river with bends. Moving water.
Day three. The race teams were formed. There was Marco and there was Polo; together, expedition Yolo. There was Pancake Muscle Snowboard and there was Waffle Bone Ski; together, the Breakfast Club. There was Fang and there was Talon; together, the Call of the Wild.
Day four. Duck Soup (Charlie Fear(less), one of the two instructors) put two and two together and created the pair Old School Cinema. The proper path was shown and Barbie Arms Left found Barbie Arms right. The two halves were a whole.
Day five. The race. Barbie Arms was ready to go slowly. The horn sounded and off we paddle at a turtle’s pace (a Barbie’s pace, more like!), singing our cheer (that may be found at the top of the page, please take some time to sing it, we worked hard to write it and we think that you’ll have fun and will feel happy afterwards). Onwards, the Barbie Boat goes. We are passed left and right, sometimes double passed, sometimes triple passed, sometimes passed by children!
“Barbie Arms, don’t look now, but here comes the babies.”
An hour into the Barbie Boats’ voyage, mysterious boat number 56 passes us. The Barbie Boat is number 32 (the numbers correspond to the number of minutes that the boat leaves the starting line after the race officially begins). Boat 56 did in 36 minutes what the Barbie Arms did in an hour. Oh that’s greeeaat. So what does the Barbie Boat do? Does it give up? Nay. Does it tip? Almost. Regardless, the Barbie Boat—Barbie Arms Left and Barbie Arms Right—keep on keeping on while singing our song. We are Barbie Arms in our Barbie Boat…
We wreak havoc everywhere we go (about an hour behind most other boats), turning smiles into frowns. We don’t mean to; we can’t help it. How could we help it, if we can’t even help ourselves? In a relatively calm section of the rapids the Barbie Boat gets hung up, its bow stuck between two rocks in the shallow water only inches deep. We don’t panic. We rock the boat back and forth as taught while back paddling to get ourselves out of this awful place. Per usual, Barbie Boat doesn’t get out in time. two boats scrape by on our left, barely avoiding the new obstacle that is the Barbie Boat. This scares us into a stupor. We don’t know what to do. Barbie Arms confused. Our paddles are moving, but not in a helpful way. BAM! OUTTA NOWHERE! Another pair of paddlers are in distress. They have hit our canoe and we have created a blockage that they make sure to let us know was entirely our fault. Without making eye-contact, the two frustrated paddlers heave and ho and off they go. They’ve made it out of this awful situation. We haven’t. BAM ANOTHER BOAT! This time, there is no paddling their way out of it. They are stuck something fierce. The bow lady makes no noise. She has given up. Her paddle on the gunnels, she hangs her head in disgrace. “These kids… these… kids” she must be thinking. Barbie Arms Left glances at this poor lady, knowing that her sadness can easily and clearly be attributed to the Barbie Boat’s mistake, and the poor lady looks up, briefly catching Barbie Arms’ eye. Barbie Arms quickly looks down at his feet in the canoe and decides that he should stand up to push the boat out. He stands up.
“Barbie Arms, what the heck do you think you’re doing, sit back down.” – Barbie Arms Right
So he does. He sits back down, discouraged and hopeless. Then… something happens. The angry man with an angry buzz cut in the stern of the angry stuck canoe leaps out into the rapids and wails as he pushes the canoe with his bare hands out of the shallow stretch. Barbie Arms Right looks back at Barbie Arms Left. They are terrified. Poor Barbie Arms. Poor angry man. Finally, the canoe is freed, and the bow lady pulls the Barbie Boat with it. We give our awkward thanks, avoiding eye contact, while muttering apologies. We go our separate ways.
This boat got second place in their classification by thirty seconds. We’re so sorry.
Barbie Arms continued at a comfortably slow pace, and continued to get stuck in front of every camera that they passed. One cameraman got so uncomfortable that he slightly tilted the camera’s angle to move the straggling Barbie Boat out of the shot, right after we coasted perfectly into its view and got stuck on rocks. As we rounded Sleepy Bend, we stowed away our paddles and enjoyed the scenery. Surely enough, Willard came up behind us in the Chewonki sweep boat, and said that we should “maybe paddle at a gentle pace.” We were going slower than a “gentle pace.”
The Barbie Boat came in second to last. 110 out of 111. We managed to beat a junior (12 and under)/senior group by a minute. Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
But we had fun!
-Duncan Hanrahan, Cape Elizabeth ME