The Beer Rules! — John Drent

Okay, I admit it. I dumped. But you knew that already, or I wouldn’t be writing this report. And to add ignominy, I dumped within the first few hundred meters in the easy water. Sort of an annual reproach for ignoring my high strung boat for so long. I did not have the honour of being the first dumper on River’s Week, that prize going to the crowd which braved the Pasayten the day previous. And I certainly wasn’t the last. Fortunately our journeymen rescuers Anne & Alain were in attendance and executed a rescue in seconds.

             The Sunday run on the Similkameen found low water levels, making for a river that was quite runnable but with less push than usual, more defined ledges, more required manoeuvring and a few really good surf waves including one bank to bank beauty that could have accommodated us all.  Also a fair bit of carnage, with about a dozen dumps in total. We set off with 13 canoes, so apparently there was at least one who did not dump. Or perhaps we had multiple dumpers. I sort of lost track.

             But it was all good fun. I don’t get out as often as I’d like and it is always a trill to paddle the interior rivers at any water level. 

             The whole week was a blast and it is always fun to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. It is also a great learning opportunity, and every year I learn a bit more about the highly nuanced intricacies of such things as river running, surfing,  group dynamics of Beavers in the wild, and the Beer Trade. This later is something I took some pains to understand as I found myself this time on both ends of the exchange. After interviewing some of the best legal minds in the club, I believe I may be in a position to codify this often confusing arrangement, which seems to have its roots somewhere in the traditional practices of river running in Coracles between the pubs of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.   

  So, as I understand it goes something like this:

            – The beer debt is incurred by the swimmer(s), also variously referred to as the dumper, the newbie,  the victim, and (in old Britain) as the “sodden paddy”.

            – Each swimmer incurs a debt of one standard issue beer for each qualifying occurrence. A simultaneous qualifying occurrence involving more than one swimmer therefore incurs a beer debt equal to the number of swimmers involved, said swimmer(s) often referred to, in the legal tradition that eventually developed, as  “the party of the first part”.

            – The beer debt is increased in the case of unruly, excessively demanding, or otherwise unreasonable or outrageous behaviour on the part of the party of the first part. The exact amount of the penalty remains an obscure formula and may in the end be the result of a peer decision made in the traditional manner; that is, sometime after the non- contested beers have been awarded and consumed.

            – The beer debt accrues to the rescuer, also variously referred to as the assistant,  the beer hunter, or, in the legal tradition, as the “party of the second part”.  Sometimes the rescuer is just referred to as Annealain, this apparently having become a generic term for this role. As the beer debt is incurred by the party(s) of the first part, the quantity of beers is entirely dependant on the number of actual swimmers. It follows, for instance, that a single rescuer who rescues, say, two swimmers out of a tandem boat, is therefore entitled to two beers, unless other factors allow for any of the permissible penalty beers, and of course assuming that said incident constitutes a qualifying occurrence.

            –  As to what exactly constitutes a qualifying occurrence, there seems to be a bit of disagreement, with most of the disagreements vocalized by the party(s) of the first part. There does seem to be a consensus however that a dump in the performance of a surf does not qualify. There is less consensus around dumps while boofing, or self recovery dumps, penalties for the later usually limited to writing the trip report. There was also a proposal to formally disqualify pins with both gunnels touching the water which did not actually require the participation of the party of the second part. As I understand it, the executive is to review this proposal at some later date.

 There is more of course, but these are the basics of the trade as I’ve observed, and should serve as an introduction to novitiate members. It may be that the Beaver executive will take some interest in my humble attempt to demystify the arrangements, and use this draft as the basis for an official policy statement.

  There are also of course mitigating circumstances which may enter into the discussion, and I’ve listed here some overheard comments that you may also find useful one day. 

1) Just getting used to my new boat

2) Not used to this water level

3) She never listens

4) The water is too loud

5) He yelled at me

6) I don’t do well under stress

7) My kayak doesn’t behave like this

8) I said pry, not cry

9) But she said the rock is my friend

10) It wasn’t a gunnel grab. I technically never touched the gunnel, only the boat.

11) I was dreaming of a happy place

12) My paddle got stuck

13) Surfing doesn’t count

14) A complete pin with both gunnels in the water does not count

15) This has never happened before

16) The water is too low

17) The water is too pushy

18) She tried to kill me

19) My boat leaks

20) I had it all under control

21) My skates hurt


   Anyway, apart from the usual bruised shins and egos, there seemed to be no permanent damage other than to the Rival of Perpetual Repair. There were plenty of grins at the end of the day, and the drama of rotating campsites, presidential pardons,  and the great beer exchange remained to entertain us in days to come.  Looking forward to next year already.

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