Sunday, April 11, 2010
Float your Fanny down the Ganny
The Ganaraska River, the Ganny, was my target on this day. The weather was perfect, the sun shone, the air was mild and spring had sprung. My bike ran almost by itself, I think it was happy to be out of the confines of the garage. It felt great taking the 401 East towards Port Hope. I had downloaded a map from the internet and to find the spot of Canadian fun was not difficult at all. Exit 461, then North took me directly to the start of the Canoes and Kayaks Race in Canton. I was so happy riding around that I arrived at 10.45 AM, exactly 45 minutes too late. The outhouses, 2 blue “Johnny on the Spot” plastic domes, were the only thing left to see. Well I missed that one!
At 11.00 AM, the Crazy Crafts were to be launched somewhere. Not being too familiar with the roads, I just road East and felt my way along the streets until I ended up at a bridge with lots of people watching the river and police activity and cars parked alongside the road. Even a Fire Engine was on hand. It looked so serious I parked my GS and took my camera to see what this special spot had to offer. I never made it to the Start Spot for the Crazy Crafts, either. I missed that one, too!
I read that somewhere along the river the whole contingent of Canoes, Kayaks and Crazies had to portage their craft around a fish ladder. I missed that ladder as well; I never saw fish, either!
I was stuck on this nameless bridge; I think it was the highway bridge on 106 that spanned the Ganny. At first I stood on top of the bridge looking North in anticipation of some true crazy stuff. In my mind, I imagined fancy floats, similar to Carnival parades, float by. All the people around me stared up river, anticipating. Many people were about, yet I think their emotions were still partially frozen; this was after all, just the beginning of spring. Finally, a lonely canoe showed up on the horizon. This was no fancy float, just a late starter of the Canoe racers. With smiles and heavy paddling, the boat disappeared down river. Then, a quintet of canoes showed up, the occupants were wearing silly hats and had their faces painted but otherwise they looked quite normal.
I took come photos and crawled down the embankment after I asked a police officer if that would be ok to do. Having found a good spot, I was just in time to see the bulk of the Crazies approach my position. I found an Island in the river and stood in the way of the oncoming water traffic. I thought this is a cool, great spot. I took some nice pictures, but wished I’d had my telephoto lens mounted. Well, I made do with what I had.
Now, like a spigot that opened up, one float after the other showed up. Nothing looked like a parade but everybody had a great time. From the top of the bridge, people threw water-filled balloons at the crafts.
Not to be outdone, most of the folks in the flotilla had water guns or water pistols to return fire. The whole affair tuned into mayhem.
Youngsters, ever at the ready for fun, received and dished out water sprays. Balloons flew everywhere, missed some folks, bounced off others but mostly landed with a splash emptying their wet contents in somebody’s lap. The mood was happy. Boys, stripped down to their shorts, swam in the very frigid water to retrieve lost water balloons.
I had a huge smile on my face but I had to leave my spot on the Island because it was too wet. Nobody took aim at me yet being in the middle of it did not seem too wise. I retreated. Behind me the battles continued.
No participants of the Float your Fanny Races were there to win and be first. It was much more important to see and be seen. The 10 KM stretch down river was a fun activity and getting wet was part of it. In many shallow parts of the river, in rapids too, the floaters got out of their boats to lighten the craft or to push it through or past some obstacles. There are no rules in the race. Fun was the only thing that mattered. The affair was an awakening of the spirits after a deep, cold winter.
Silly costumes, elaborate boat constructions, ingenious designs were all part of this show. Come look at me, I am being silly is the best way to describe this affair.
When it seemed that everybody had passed me at the bridge spot, I went back to the bike and while there, I met another biker who told me to go downtown and see the end of the race. Sure enough, the crowds in Downtown Port Hope were huge. Parking was at a premium, even for a bike. Yet, I managed to get a spot and saw the end of the race, saw the same people I saw earlier now at the finish. Some had lost parts of their boats. Some crafts were just a wreck of their earlier appearance, others I never did see again. I watched and took pictures.
I cannot tell you who won, nor do I care to know. I can only tell you, if the weather is nice and you feel like a trip next year, go and see this spectacle on the first Saturday in April www.floatyourfanny.ca. It is something you do not see any place else. Only in Canada do people Float their Fannies in ice-cold water down a small river. Try to find the starting point for the Canoes and Kayaks, and then find the same for the Crazy Crafts. I think you will have lots of fun. On the other hand, if the Ontario club decides next year to make it an outing, let me know. I will try to make it there next year, no matter what. Either way I plan to see more of this nuttiness in 2011.