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Learning enough to illustrate how little I know
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I've had boat envy for some time, and recently decided that I'd benefit from trying some boats out via rentals; that periodically renting a boat may be the perfect balance of economics/access for me right now.

So my question - what's the learning curve? I mean, how hard is it to be SAFE/proficient? I've spent lots of time paddling rivers, so I understand river dynamics. Can a novice get the hang of it and manage a boat out of the gate? Assuming of course the river in question is is in a safe and manageable condition...

Thanks.
 

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You might want to pick up Lemoyne Hyde's DVD on rowing a drift boat in a river. If you know river hydrolics and how to row, it won't take long, especially in a river like the Yakima-lower canyon. Just remember to point the bow toward the rock you want to avoid and row away from it at an angle to the current. Learning the cross-handed spin is a helpful maneuver for getting the boat in the right attitude to the current. Rick
 

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Many newbies use too much oar power in the beginning. Allow the river to propel you, all you're doing is making adjustments to properly position the bow. Don't fight the currents... I think Red's had a recent course on basic of rowing. You could probably go there and they'd teach you some basics for a minimal investment.
 

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Clackacraft has a good free dvd that has a good section about rowing. I think it can be found online possibly youtube. I would recommend going with someone the first time, my first trip was really pretty scary and could have ended badly. Doing 360's down the river from bank to bank, no fun at all that first trip. I too had floated canoes a few times, totally different.
 

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My first experience with a drift boat was one I rented from Red's. We did about 7 miles of the Yakima in the canyon and got the hang of it pretty quickly. That's not to say we were ready for nasty stuff, but floating the canyon is a good start.

GBeeman
 

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Tom -

If you had any level of instruction with your boating, you can apply the same principles rowing. That is, make hard moves on easy water make all of your moves with grace until you move up the food chain.

A good way to start might be to get on something easy like the Yak Canyon or the Cowlitz and practicing ferries, getting into and out of eddies, holding in current, and putting your boat exactly where yo want it with as few stokes as possible. Once you have that nailed, get into something a little more challenging. You can always scout a river in a hardboat before you run it and assess your comfort level in rowing it. As you know, you can put a kayak anywhere you want on a river, and take the most precise line possible. With a dirftboat your options are a bit more limited, and you won't be catching those one boat eddies at he top of rapids to boat scout.
 

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I was in your shoes about two years ago. The first river that I floated was the Kalama river; I floated it without taking any lessons. This was a big mistake, I did more damage to my drift boat on that float then I've done in the two years following that experience.

I took a lesson from Emerald Anglers out of Seattle, WA. I'm now pretty decent on the oars. If your going to float without taking lessons I would do the Cowlitz River for it's size. I've floated the Cowlitz, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Humptulips, and Yakima. The Cowlitz is by far the easiest if you put in at Blue Creek.
 
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