How to Have Sex in a Canoe

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“Three words: center of gravity,” says James Raffan, former executive director of the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario. To avoid capsizing, bodies should stay low in the hull, especially if you intend to make any lateral rocking movements. In a country with more than 60 percent of the world’s lakes, crisscrossed by untold rivers and streams, it’s no wonder that the ability to copulate while floating in a small boat has become a point of national pride. In 1973, the author and historian Pierre Berton was quoted as saying, “A Canadian is somebody who knows how to make love in a canoe.”

Take some basic precautions. First, make room. Stow your paddles, handle ends down, behind the stern seat. Take out the removable center thwart, if there is one; you don’t want to get stuck under it in the event of a flip. (One old boat in the museum’s collection, called a “girling canoe,” features a detachable thwart and a record player.) To maintain balance, relax your body. “Let your hips roll with the canoe,” Raffan says. Be mindful of the fact that sound carries particularly well across still water. To avoid someone rushing to rescue you, keep some body parts visible above the gunwale. “A canoe with nobody in it raises alarm,” Raffan says. Beginners should try such activities only on still water. You may decide to remove your life jacket, which is probably fine as long as you’re a capable swimmer. Before disrobing, consider that black flies and mosquitoes are most active around twilight.

Raffan’s first date with his wife of 38 years was a seven-week canoe trip in northern Canada. As long as you can keep your balance, a canoe can serve as a venue for that human-on-human kind of courtship. “It bonds people together in ways that linger,” he says. But in your pursuit of carnal pleasure, don’t forget about the actual canoeing, which offers a different kind of corporeal satisfaction, attainable without a partner. Sometimes Raffan goes out alone on a lake at night, the stars of the Milky Way bright above him. “That’s an orgasmic experience of its own,” he says, “when you situate your frailty as a human being, and the narrowness of your concerns, in the cosmos.”

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A version of this article appears in print on July 29, 2018, Page 19 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: How to Have Sex In a Canoe. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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