Allison Plean: Ahoy matey!

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Allison Plean

Allison Plean's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com.

— Editor's note: The following Allison Plean column originally appeared in the June 30, 2006, edition of 4 Points.

Bad pirate jokes and cheesy comments about "booty" are perfectly acceptable when flying a pirate flag on the back of your flotation device on the Yampa River.

The jokes and comments are even funnier while wearing an eye patch and sitting in the dingy attached to the back of the duct-taped pirate ship/craft.

Arrrr! It's tubing season.

Our journey began with directions from the appointed mastermind of the crew, who put together a shuttle route plan. Deciphering the puzzle of ratios of the amount of people, tubes and vehicles - and how to best to distribute them - is only the first of many obstacles.

On-river obstacles include fly fishers, roaring rapids and low-hanging branches (and the dreaded D-hole). But as long as you know when to lift your butt to avoid rocks, you're good to go.

There are only a few don'ts in tubing. Don't wear expensive sunglass if you can't remember to hold on to them in dangerous waters. Don't get out of the river halfway through your journey to warm up on the rocks (it's only going to be colder when you get back in). And don't go tubing with cracked ribs (note to self).

Soon after we shoved off from the Fetcher Park dock on Saturday, my matey was hit in the head with an ore. Paddling is dangerous. Don't put anyone in charge of an ore if they don't know how to use it.

A little later, I made my first fatal mistake. I got tossed off my dingy, and somehow my leg became wrapped in the rope that attached the dingy to the pirate ship. My leg gushed blood.

(There's nothing better than showing off tubing battle wounds at Sunpie's Bistro. The story behind the wound gets better - and more dangerous - each time you tell it.)

Everyone comes out of the river with war stories. Sometimes, it's grief about a lost flip-flop, and other times, it involves the C-hole vacuum that kept sucking you back in.

This past weekend, I lost my dingy in the C-hole. A sympathetic spectator actually jumped/walked into the river to rescue it for me. I wasn't about to go after that thing with cracked ribs. In addition to kind strangers, one of the best assets to possess when on the river is your memory.

Memorize the river.

Know where it turns, where it gets shallow and where the quiet zones are. But also know there are some things beyond your control.

The trickiest part of tubing is staying warm. Unfortunately, it's just not gonna happen. Even if the sun is out, a brisk wind eventually will flow through your pirate sail.

Losing a member of your group also is a likely scenario. It took us more than an hour to find my roommate's houseguest last summer. He went all the way to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. Which serves as a reminder that communication is key when tubing with friends.

Unless you are tied to one another, don't forget to designate a meeting point. Someone inevitably will take a wrong turn at the railroad bridge above Snake Island and lose the rest of the group.

Also, tubing season is short. We're talkin' three to four weeks. The water level drops quickly during July, so tube often, decorate your craft with pride and use all your pirate jokes while they're still funny.

How many pirate jokes are lame?

Most of them, arrrrrr!

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