Safety Briefing

by Nancy Campbell

This slow current won’t capsize a kayak, but watch for the surge when the lock gates open:
you can brace against barge-wash with the back of your blade,
trim your boat in response to the flow, take the turns
on an edge. Keep the whole of your torso
over the boat and reach out your paddle
to make a sure catch with each stroke.
Be alert. Correct any small slip
with a twist of your hips:
you’ll be surprised
just how far
you can tip


you do
feel your hull
tilt a fraction too far
take a beat. Stay calm.
Although you’ll be surprised
as the kayak rolls round, and up
turns to down (don’t forget, hold your breath)
as canal fills your clothes and cold numbs your limbs
and the shivers begin, you’ll be safe under that uppity boat
(just remember, stay calm) if you keep a grip on the cockpit
until it stops tumbling. Now comes the moment to struggle
with toggles, to push free from your craft in a cascade of bubbles
and burst to the surface – and breathe – then clamber back in and continue to paddle.