by Chris Farris / photos by Carlisle Landel
Picture this: a 70-foot luxury houseboat moored in a secluded cove on a warm lake as the base of operations for the First Western Outtasight Clinic, where 4 veterans with visual impairments would learn kayaking skills and nine vets or volunteers would learn to guide the visually impaired. It was a perfect plan at a perfect place with perfect conditions: 79-degree, crystal-clear weather and water on Lake Berryessa in California.
No plan is perfect, of course, and we were reminded of this as the advance party discovered that a fallen tree had blocked the road into Pleasure Cove Marina, where we would camp overnight before transferring to our houseboat. It took 2.5 hours before the fire and utility crews cleaned up the mess.
Once camp was set up, we gathered for dinner, introductions, and orientation, and after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we transferred people, food and gear to our houseboat. Once aboard, we motored out to our instruction site in Haines Cove, where we moored the boat to an island and set up for three days and two nights of instruction and fun.
The guidance was provided by Chris Farris, event organizer, and American River Chapter Co-Coordinator, and Carlisle Landel, Co-Coordinator of the Palo Alto River Chapter, both of whom had been certified at last June’s TRR Adaptive Paddling Conference, with additional help and oversight from Jennifer Eaton from Kids Are Outta Sight and TRR National. The participants, who came from Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and California, included both visually impaired paddlers and their accompanying but untrained family members as well as experienced whitewater and sea kayak instructors who needed to learn techniques for teaching and guiding this population.
And learn we all did, starting with the basics, progressing to a double-circumnavigation of our island (2 miles total) and culminating in 5-mile paddle back to the marina from our mooring site on the last day. But paddling and instruction was not the only thing on the schedule by a long shot—not when you have a luxury houseboat complete with water slide and hot tub. In addition, excellent meals were prepared and enjoyed, new boats were dedicated, and a raffle was held. As a special bonus, Park Ranger Jennifer Onufer came to the boat and gave a presentation on the natural history of the lake and its locale with her collection of fossils, plants, pelts and other specimens that could be passed about and shared even with the visually impaired while a member of the Bureau of Reclamation public relations staff shot documentary photographs and interviewed our participants.
By Saturday morning, everyone had advanced their skills to the point where the paddle back to the marina on the final morning was well within the capability, and we had a leisurely trip back in the morning sun. After unloading the boat we returned to our camp for a huge catered meal and our final closing ceremonies.
Special thanks are due to:
- Melissa Farris for organizing the food and menu and for holding down the campsite while we were on the boat.
- The staff of Pleasure Cove Marina, who towed our string of sea kayaks to the mooring site and provided water taxi service between the marina and our mooring.
- Guy Cables, owner, and operator of Sierra Outdoor Center of Auburn, for the donation of raffle items and his continued support of TRR American River.
- TRR National, both for its support of the clinic and for its OJT program, which provided the training that made organizing this event possible.
Our home away from home.
“Captain” Kevin Park, TRR American River Chapter Co-Coordinator, at the helm.
Shoreside base camp. From left, Warner Weber (VIP), Lester Howard (VIP), Chris Farris, Greg Thompson, Greg Berman, Tim Reusser (Boise), Bill MacDonald, Joe Sanders (participant), Kevin Park (A.R.), Jim Lougheed (VIP),Tom Higman, Dianne Lougheed (participant), Jennifer Eaton (KAOS), Those pictured without affiliation are from American River Chapter.
VIPs Warner Weber, Jim Lougheed and Lester Howard relax as we motor out of the marina.
The fleet awaits.
Chris Farris (white hat) dedicates two boats donated to the American River chapter as the clinic participants look on.
Jim and Diane Lougheed relax while the fleet paddles home.
Butts in boats!
Class begins! Diane and Jim Lougheed get instruction from Bill MacDonald while Jennifer Eaton (rear) gets organized.
Tim Reusser (Boise) prepares lunch on board.
BuRec Ranger Jennifer Onufer gives us the scoop as the PR officer films. Clockwise from Ranger Onufer: Jim Lougheed, Bill MacDonald, Warner Weber, Chris Farris, Greg Thompson, Jennifer Eaton, Tom Higman, Lester Howard, Greg Berman
The crew. Top from left: Robert Sanders, Joe Sanders, Tim Reusser, Lester Howard, Greg Thompson, Warner Weber, Chris Farris, Matt Krizan. Bottom: Carlisle Landel, Diane Lougheed, Jim Lougheed, Greg Berman, Jennifer Eaton, Bill MacDonald, Tom Higman. Not pictured: Kevin Park.
Melissa and Chris Farris with a token of our appreciation