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Shuttle for Dummies

By: Kevin Maggs

Our most recent trip to Mackfest has shown that despite the improvement of their on-water skills, the GKC is severely lacking in their off-water skills: Specifically, their ability to get to the river in a timely manner. I would hate to tarnish the entire club for the shortcomings of a few, so you should take this brief test before deciding whether you need this tutorial.

1. Do you often find yourself at the take out and suddenly realize your clothes are at the put in?2. Have you been at the put in with the shuttle completed and realized you are missing a minor piece of equipment like a boat, paddle, skirt, helmet or simple common sense?
3. Have you reached the take out and realized there is no form of transportation waiting for you?
4. Have you been at a festival only 20 minutes from the put in and kept people waiting who have driven 3 hours to get there?
5. Have you driven to the take out, the put in, the take out and the put in again when you were only running the river once?
6. Have you spent more time doing the shuttle than you spent on the river?
7. Have you spent large amounts of time standing at the put in smoking, talking, pulling lint out of your belly button and touching yourself in your bathing suit area while other boaters are waiting in the river wondering where the hell you are?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions then you are a dummy and should read on.

Since you are still reading then we can assume that you are a self professed dummy. Take heart because there are worse things to be. Some paddlers stopped reading. This may mean that they are dummies but blissfully unaware. Admitting you are a dummy is the first step in becoming less of a dummy. You have a chance because those other dummies will continue to annoy their fellow boaters until their boating days are over.

I will explain what is wrong with the above points by number.

1. Nobody likes a wet boater in their vehicle. Sometimes it is inevitable. A paddler shows up late for a paddle because three were almost killed in a car accident or because they or their partner was giving birth and they missed the shuttle. In those cases, exceptions can be made. Also in cases where two runs are being made wet people can be tied to the roof for a second shuttle.

2. This one is self explanatory for anyone with half a brain. So I will explain it to you. The gear listed above is essential for paddling whitewater. Without it you don’t get to boat.

3. Also fairly easy to figure out what is wrong. We are kayakers not hikers. We drive to the river, boat to the bottom, drive to the bar. To do this we need a vehicle at both ends.

4. People who wake up early and eat breakfast in their car while driving slightly below the speed range that would get the charged with racing a motor vehicle are doing so because they are busy. They don’t have the entire weekend to play. Keeping them waiting only makes them long for the hours of sleep the missed by getting up so early.

5.&6 It should be easy to see what is wrong with these scenarios. We are kayakers not rally drivers. If you want to drive to the same place four or five times a day become a taxi driver. You will meet lots of interesting people and make a little pocket money as well.

7. This is wrong in so many ways but I will make one point that should help everyone understand. There is no booze at the put in. If there is no booze, then why are we standing around talking at the put in? Besides, what is there to talk about? We haven’t done the river yet.

I am hopeful that I have successfully explained the reason for a properly executed shuttle, now I will explain how to accomplish it.

There are two basic methods.

Vehicles up and Vehicles down.

Vehicles down involves the majority of the cars at the bottom of the river. This method is used when you are driving past the take out on the way to the put in. You may have experienced this at Ross St. in Elora.

In this method:

All cars meet at the put in.
All boats, passengers and ALL paddling gear are left at the put in.
Drivers head to the bottom, leave as many vehicles as possible at the bottom and drive back to the put in with the fewest cars possible.
All dry clothes and shoes should be left in the vehicles that are at the takeout.
With this method, all boaters arrive at the take out, change into dry clothes and then the boats belonging to the shuttle drivers are loaded onto a vehicle or two and the shuttle driver and boats are taken back to the top to retrieve gear.
Very simple, Very efficient.

Vehicles Up:

Now before you stop reading and assume that Vehicles up is just the opposite of vehicles down. I would like to point out that you are only reading this because you are in fact a Dummy. If it was in fact the opposite you would find yourself at the take out with your boat and gear. Your dry clothes and vehicles would be at the top of the river. You would have a very exhausting day ahead of you as you tried to paddle upstream.

So please read on because there are also some finesse tips waiting at the end of the tutorial.

Vehicles Up is what we encountered at Mackfest and this is where the club showed their lack of exposure to this foreign shuttle.

In this method, on the way past the take out, leave the largest number of vehicles at the takeout you can without affecting your ability to transport all the boats, paddlers and gear to the put in.

The vehicles left at the take out must be emptied of all paddlers, boats and paddling gear that will be required for that day. That equipment is not only removed from the vehicle -- it must be placed in the vehicles that are going to the put in.

These vehicles left at the takeout are then filled with . . . Is the suspense killing you? Have you figured it out for yourself? Just for fun, write a few ideas on a piece of paper before you read on.


Ok here are the answers: Dry clothes for all the paddlers, beverages, food, perhaps frisbees or paintball guns to entertain the people left behind. But number one is dry clothes for everyone.

Once at the top, boats are unloaded, people put on their gear quickly and paddle the river.

No one should be attempting to drive back to the take out unless they have chosen not to boat. (These people are shuttle bunnies or Shuttlecocks. How to acquire them or turn normal everyday paddlers into them will be covered in later tutorials.)

The river is then paddled. At the take out, people get dressed and drivers are returned to their vehicles. Meanwhile, passengers enjoy the sun and take the few minutes afforded to them by the absence of the drivers to talk behind their backs, steal their beer or plan various pranks on the kind hearted people who did all the driving while those lazy pricks just hung around in the sun and drank themselves silly.

Once again this method can be simple, efficient and quickly accomplished when the rules are followed.

I’m sure some of you are questioning why not leave the bare minimum of vehicles at the takeout or why dry clothes for all paddlers are important when you could get away with only dry clothes for the drivers. This is a good question considering the source so I will answer it;

Safety and Convenience:

Convenience: Everyone has paddled with boaters who seem to take 5 times longer than most people to get dressed. If these people are drivers then everyone ends up waiting for them to fold and press their airbags before they run the shuttle. This is annoying and does not need to be tolerated. If such person is taking too long then another person can be dispatched to pick up their vehicle. If only the clothes for the drivers were waiting then this would not be possible. If clothes are only available for drivers then people would be standing around in their paddling gear (or worse naked) while the shuttle was ran and would only be able to stow their gear and change after the shuttle. This severely cuts into drinking time. More importantly it cuts into the drivers’ drinking time.

I would like to make this perfectly clear: No one should ever cut into the drivers’ drinking time.

Safety: While not as important as convenience, it should be considered.

If someone is injured on a river and there are extra cars at the take out then the injured party can be immediately transported to the hospital so that their wimpering and whining does not disturb the revelry of the passengers drinking, eating and waiting for shuttles.

A few quick finesse items to consider:

Pick up trucks rule.
Next up are Vans.
The reasons are simple.
Trucks carry more boats,
Vans carry more people.

Whenever possible people with passenger cars should bow to the will of Pick up truck owners. If they are not around then bow to the Van owners. Everyone is free to hate motorcycle and cyclists.

In a perfect paddling world people would only show up to paddle with pick up trucks and vans.

Know your shuttle roads. Sometimes adjustments have to be made to suit the shuttle vehicle with the shuttle roads. There have been many times that we have had to wedge a small car under the wheels of a shuttle truck to get traction.

In advanced shuttle circles not every vehicle goes to the take out first. For Vehicle up Shuttles.

Also advanced shuttlers have even managed to organize to meet people who are coming from the opposite direction after dropping their gear at the top. This allows the people coming from the opposite direction to simultaneously drop their dry gear in the vehicle at the take out and shuttle that driver to the Put in. But I’m getting way too advanced.
These should be saved for later tutorials.

If you liked this tutorial please buy the writer a drink when you see him and more tutorials will be forthcoming.


Original article published September 28th, 2010

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