Spooks Commuting by Canoe
September 19, 2014 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I remember that from the movie.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:22 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have Spook Canoe's second album: Cowbell, Raft & Bike
posted by chavenet at 2:27 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a great read. Having never been to DC, would this even be remotely possible anymore?
posted by jillithd at 2:43 PM on September 19, 2014

I think is actually a mandatory practice for CSIS employees.
posted by salishsea at 2:46 PM on September 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

"we have been known to have long jesuitical debates by telephone over whether a give weather condition qualifies as rain".
posted by sammyo at 2:50 PM on September 19, 2014

...and being photographed daily by a man in an inner tube with a Russian accent.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:51 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm betting Colby isn't gonna be in this club.
posted by Sphinx at 2:56 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can do this in Ottawa, if your home and workplace are oriented right. It's possible in Toronto, too but less practical, since it takes 2 hours each way.
posted by quaking fajita at 3:07 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

This feels like something out of the film The Good Shepherd. It wasn't that successful in the theatre but Matt Damon was pretty solid and it was directed by De Niro.
posted by Fizz at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I passed by the Sycamore Island club's entrance on a recent bike ride on the C & O canal. Their equipment still looks rickety and it still seems like the kind of place a bunch of CIA spooks would meet up.
posted by Skwirl at 3:30 PM on September 19, 2014

Isn't that the reverse route that John Wilkes Booth took? Booth didn't have to cross the highway but he already had a broken leg.
posted by 724A at 3:34 PM on September 19, 2014

The GW Parkway at that point probably wouldn't be that scary to cross and there's a major hiking trail on the Virginia side and the canoe club is still up and running. Whether today's CIA would allow employees to trek onto campus from the woods is the only piece that might have changed today.

Ah... Umm. My computer just flipped out in a weird way and Internet Explorer just crashed from hovering over the CIA campus too long in Google Maps...
posted by Skwirl at 3:38 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is this sort of thing at all happening in the San Francisco Bay area? When I was out there a few years ago, knowing what it's like to live in an urban area cut into three parts by piddly little rivers*, I couldn't imagine facing the bridges out there every day and not going mad in pretty short order.

*So, yeah, technically two of them are the biggest rivers in North America but they're long, not wide.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:55 PM on September 19, 2014

I don't think this was a big secret? My dad wrote a story for the Washington Post about people commuting via canoe, and I think at least one of his interviewees was a CIA guy. I'll ping him.
posted by tavella at 4:07 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is this real or did he just dream it up while on acid?
posted by marienbad at 4:28 PM on September 19, 2014

Library of Congress law librarian Gabe Horchler has been commuting from Cheverly, MD to Capitol Hill by kayak for over a decade.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2014

Haha, that's awesome-- we used to pass Sycamore Island all the time while canoeing. It always looked more like a rickety camp that young children would design as a spook hideaway, though I don't think I ever looked that closely. I too think the biggest issue would be getting the CIA to let you in through the back, I doubt the woods are still free from fences and other security precautions. (Also I suspect the canoes would be even more susceptible to theft, though presumably they could whip up a high-tech lock.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:42 PM on September 19, 2014

> piddly little rivers

With killer-cold water in them, no? This is about the bay proper, not the A. & S. "I made a series of mistakes that culminated in the worst sailing accident of my life, and almost took me to the bottom of the ocean."
posted by morganw at 7:08 PM on September 19, 2014

I particularly liked this section.
There are other problems that a non-canoeist might not anticipate. Mud, for example. I have an agreement with my wife that my method of commuting will not add significantly to her laundry pile, and my muddy trousers often test the limits of that agreement. Things are worst in the aftermath of high water, when the emergent riverbank has a consistency almost impossible to describe; Mark Twain's "too thick to drink, too thin to plow" comes close. It is easy to sink in shin-deep. A clothes brush at the office helps, but there still are days when I must try to maintain my dignity with patches of dried mud on the lower third of my trousers.
posted by zamboni at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kid Charlemagne, it may be happening in the Bay, but I doubt it. There is a very strong cross current, a lot of chop, and a lot of larger ship traffic in and out of the Bay. There's totally beach access on either end, but you'd have difficulty mooring your dinghy on the SF end somewhere (there's no free parking, not even in the ocean.) And any rental boat will be more expensive than the damn bridge toll.

And we have a ferry, anyway.

When I was in school. In Humboldt County and my parents lived in southern California, my dad always wanted to pick me up and go home for the summer by sailing down the coast, but logistically we could never make it happen. I suppose if we were just downriver it would have been different. Lucky spooks.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:13 PM on September 19, 2014

There is at least one guy who regularly kayaks to work in the Bay Area, and during the BART strike, a different guy took his own boat across the bay, and Uber offered free commutes by sailboat.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:37 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having spent many hours stuck on the American Legion bridge (the only Potomac crossing in that area) I've considered this.

I also thought this was common knowledge/DC folklore, if not specifically CIA agents. I had a high school math teacher who had a weekly bike + canoe trip to visit his mom in Bethesda.

As for agents walking on to campus in mud covered trousers? They would be 100% cool with it. The CIA has a vested interest in its employees having hobbies that keep them happy fulfilled employees who are not going to add some "excitement" to their lives.
posted by fontophilic at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2014

There's a guy in Boston who commutes by kayak.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2014

I asked my dad, and he confirmed that he had written about the CIA canoe guys back in the day for the Post, so nothing classified about it. Still a fun story, though.
posted by tavella at 5:24 PM on September 20, 2014

My office is moving closer to the Willamette in October, unfortunately there aren't good places to tie up along the downtown side of the waterfront in Portland. I could see myself doing morning kayak paddles before work now that it would be withing walking distance.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:49 AM on September 21, 2014

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