What's Your Boating Passion?

Hi, I’m Clyde Nicely, the current editor of the e-Newsletter. I want to hear from you, hear what you’re thinking…about the NL, about NRS, about boating, about life. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. We’ll post your replies that are of interest to other readers.

Boats on  the Salmon River, Idaho. Son Ben in foreground
Boats on the Salmon River, Idaho. Son Ben in foreground

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Let me tell you a bit about my boating self. I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. In high school, a friend and I built a little plywood boat and prowled every bay and lagoon we could find. Since moving west, I’ve been rafting in round boats for almost 30 years; and I’ve done some canoeing, a little whitewater kayaking in hard-shell and inflatable kayaks and some sailing. Since coming to NRS, I’ve spent time on catarafts and in touring kayaks. You can read about my first Idaho boating season in First Raft.

So, what’s my boating passion? The biggest one is multiday raft trips. For me the main ingredients of multiday trips are being in the outdoors, camping, solitude, no phone ringing, the camaraderie of companions, lots of laughter…while rapids add the spice.

I get on the river and the cares of the outer world slough away. Gravity takes over; the water’s heading toward the sea and I’m going with it. My eyes automatically and unconsciously start scanning downstream for obstacles and channels. I’m keeping track of boats above, or below, or both. At the same time I’m taking in the beautiful scenery, looking for wildlife and chatting with companions. There’s lots of input coming in but it’s not a problem, I’m fitting into the rhythm of the river.

I’m also listening for the first Canyon Wren of the trip. This little bird’s found along most of the rivers I regularly float, and its song is special to me. I’ve seen the song described as “a musical descending cascade of liquid notes” and that fits perfectly. When I hear the call, I whistle back and laugh.

There is tension on the river. Oops, there’s an obstacle ahead…figure out which way the water’s flowing, pull, pull, spin, pull. Then a big rapid. Find a good landing and scramble up to scout. How the heck do we get through this? Chat and debate.

Scout, go back to the boat, acknowledge the butterflies, cinch up the PFD, check for loose gear, stow the bowline. “See you at the bottom.” “Keep the black side down.” “Good luck.” Then push out into the flow. It all looks different at river level; hunt for those landmarks…the rocks, the tongues, the pillows. After the rapid it’s exhilaration or chagrin or rescue and recovery. It’s all part of the rhythm.

Camping on Grand Canyon sand
Camping on Grand Canyon sand

At the end of the day it’s find and agree on a campsite. Unload the boats, set up the kitchen, find a place for the toilet. If the weather’s warm and the sky’s clear, I like to just lay out a tarp and sleep under the stars. If cold or iffy, then it’s put up the tent. Set up the River Wing, spread out the camp chairs. Relax, get something to drink. Spin a yarn about the day, laugh, rib someone who messed up or take the ribbing if it’s me. Meal preparation, maybe use the Dutch ovens, eat, cleanup. Relax, listen to the river. Tell old “war stories”, laugh a lot. It’s all part of the rhythm.

Ahhh, then there’s the Layover Day – my favorite part. Sleep late, fix a big breakfast, drink lots of coffee. Sit, relax, listen to the river. Decide what to do with the day. Now, I boat with some folks who have a hard time sitting still. A layover day to them is a chance to see what’s on the other side of the river or the other side of the mountain. Me, I don’t have a problem sitting still, I really enjoy it and I’m pretty good at it. I may do a little laundry or fix something on the boat, but that’s about as energetic as I usually get. My favorite things are finding some shade for a nap, curling up with a good book, drinking a cold one and watching the river. So many times I’ve looked at the water surging past and marveled at how it just keeps on flowing.

I like to say that I’m not the greatest boater, skill-wise, but I’m a great lover of boating. I’m passionate about boating. It fills my cup and charges my batteries. It’s hard to imagine a life without it. I tell folks that you’re a “river addict” if no matter where you see moving water, your mind starts processing where you would “run that stretch.” This is true whether it’s a stream you’re driving along or water running down the gutter in the street after a rain. .

Hole huntin' in Hells Canyon, Idaho/Oregon
Hole huntin' in Hells Canyon, Idaho/Oregon

“Hi, my name’s Clyde, I’m a River Addict.” That’s my boating passion. What’s yours? What fills your cup and draws you back, again and again? Drop me an e-mail at editor@nrs.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Boat Often & Boat Safe,
Clyde