That spring we upped the anti a little bit and the club had some interesting meetings. The meeting I remember the best was when Bob O’Neil wanted to take Bob Potter (sold me my first boat) and I to the Kennebec River in Maine. At the time the river was considered class V and at 15 years old the original members of the club were against it, to say the least. We had a full on fight in my house at the club meeting and my dad, the president, had to make the final decision, since I was his son. He let me go, and that set the tone for the club for years to come.
That year, Wayne Hockmeyer, owner of Northern Outdoors on the Kennebec built his own personal dam on top of the Dead River Dam out of plywood and 2×4’s. He scheduled a big rafting trip on Memorial Day Weekend when there was no release scheduled. Our club caught wind of it and we were all up there. We camped at Webb’s camp and got to the put-in early. There was Wayne giving his “you are all going to die” safety speech while we looked and saw no water in the river. Suddenly we heard the “boom” “boom” of a handful of shotguns. Within minutes the river went from 100 cfs to 8000cfs of water and another 1000 cfs of trees. What a concept we thought, make your own release, as the Merrimack Valley Paddlers, all rolling, most on the whitewater for the first time, ran down to the river.
We had two dislocated shoulders on that trip and another 5 that month in our club. Why? We couldn’t read water and went into every hole on the river with our paddles over our heads. I seemed to fair just fine.
Our next trip was the West River in Vermont. There I learned about play boating. I eddied out at the “ender hole” in the “Dumplings” rapid and saw several people do enders. I was mesmerized. I spent hours just going into that hole doing enders and pirouettes, back enders, and more enders. I had my first fan in J.J. of the Worchester chapter of the AMC. He sat there with me and cheered me on as I did ender after ender and rolled up on that boily eddy line (a new challenge for me). We didn’t go downstream until the water dam cut off and the water was disappearing.
Suddenly, I was discovering that I was one of the best boaters around, certainly the best in our club. I was the big fish in a little pond. That summer I got invited to work with Action Photography owned by Tom and Judy Rogers on the Kennebec River. I spent the next two summers up there paddling everyday and getting really good. On one occasion I hurt my shoulder and couldn’t paddle with a paddle. I ran the river everyday with my hands only and took photos. My big move each day was to eddy out at “whitewasher” to get out and get photos of the rafts. If I missed the eddy which was hard to catch, I would be in big trouble with my boss. At this point I was convinced that I was the best paddler out there and there was never any evidence otherwise.