Friday, February 12, 2016


 I thought when I said you wanted to go for a canoe ride that you'd actually help and paddle --William L. Bergenstein

In his book, author Gil Stieglitz in Marital Intelligence stresses five foolproof guides to strengthening your marriage. The book is being used as part of our couples enrichment class course work at our church. As I read through the book's five problems facing married couples, it struck me like being whacked over the head with a paddle, they also apply to canoeing and tandem kayaking.

Meeting Each Others' Needs  First of all, remember how you promised to take her on a luxury Viking River Cruise that you see in the commercial before Downtown Abbey.  Well, this isn't it. But, finding a little common ground is a good way to start. You are there to paddle, so your needs are met already. After you unload the boat, pack the lunch and the camping gear inside. Comfort is key, make sure her seat is dry and her gear is safe.  After that,  help her rub on her sun screen and push off. On a peaceful night with the setting sun, a cruise of beauty and inspiration will give you some great one on one time.

Immature Behaviors  Remember on the junior high church canoe trip how there was always that guy who splashed and swamped the girl's canoes and then laughed when they came out of the water soaking wet?  Those days are over. If you ever want to kayak with her again, the whole idea is to keep the water out of the boat and off your mate. Keep the craft stable and emphasize safety and fun. Remain calm and patient. Nothing sinks a boat trip faster than yelling at your inexperienced paddling partner. Providing a relaxed fun environment will ensure she will be eager to go again.

Clashing Temperaments  We often hear tandem kayaks or canoes being called "divorce boats" You put a couple in a boat to make them work together and often a squabble will ensue before getting to the other end of the lake. One will attempt to steer from the bow (front), while the mate will trying to navigate from the bow (back).  Before long they are going in circles or worse, crashing into rocks.
You should remember to work as a team and make compromises. Paddling is like dancing. Keep rhythm with your paddling partner by communicating direction, synchronizing to their strokes and where to stop for lunch or a good place to swim or hike.

 Competing relationships   Honey,'re  just not listening to me, is a tandem kayaking conundrum. With the front rider is facing bow with their mouth and ears are pointing forward, it is difficult for the person in the stern to hear things like, Awe, look the cute little deer or  LOOK OUT FOR THE ROCK!
The bow (front) paddler is the eyes of the kayak and directs the stern (back) paddler around obstacles that can't be seen because their view is blocked. The person in front needs to look back when talking to their paddling partner.
The kayakers must also share the same tempo in paddling the boat. I like to paddle like a machine with powerful deep movements while Debbie's stroke resembles a dipping and chipping motion. I splash, while she leaves the water in the lake. I adjust my stroke to hers to avoid hitting our paddles. Slow it down and take it easy. And really, what is the hurry anyway?

Past Baggage  The reason you are out there in the first place is to have fun and get away for awhile. Leave the bills, laundry, and chores at home and enjoy the serenity of the lake. This is a chance for you both to energize your body, spirit and soul and find harmony in being together.

Paddling together is a successful marriage of working in partnership to get across the lake or down river. Sharing these experiences with a partner will hopefully bring your bond even closer.  Follow these rules and even in rough waters it will be a smooth ride.

 This article was originally published in Outside Adventure to the Max July 11, 2014.