When the Serbian border control wanted to know who was captain, there was only one man fit for the title. By the time the captain's name was demanded in Bulgaria... We had agreed to take turns.
The captain should enjoy the following privileges during his tenure:
1. The Captain wears the thermal socks. The First Mate, known as Mate hereafter, gets cold feet. Mate can wear his thermal socks if he really wants, but Mate should be prepared to be the last one in the canoe and thereby get his feet extremely wet.
2. The Captain pays for coffees, opening his wallet and thereby winning the smiles of foreign waitresses. Mate sits meekly and pretends he's got a text on his phone - which is actually turned off.
3. The Captain never does the washing up. Mate must do the washing up. Washing up must be done in daylight and therefore first thing in the morning or immediately after dinner. Washing up involves Mate getting very cold hands and back ache - it's the canoeing-the-continent version of scrubbing the decks.
4. Captain jumps from the canoe like an explorer and surveys the wilds of Eastern Europe for a camp spot. Mate holds the canoe, usually incurring splashes and surveys the wild insects on the bottom of the canoe.
5. Captain sits in the back of the canoe, with a watch and a map. Captain decides where to go and when to stop. Mate feels disorientated. Mate wishes he had bought a new watch. Mate decides to become an EU politician and campaign for signposts on all rivers.
6. Captain writes the daily tweet. Captain puns, flirts with the world and steals Mate's funny jokes. Mate doesn't understand the concept of social media, modern culture having been thrashed out of him by hard labour (paddling).
7. Captain carries the shared toothpaste and shower gel in his wash bag. Mate sponges down the canoe. Mate wonders how much weight is really being saved by having only one toothpaste. Mate wonders what shower gel is for.
8. Captain takes jaw-droppingly good photographs and instagrams them to the delight of family, friends and German canoeing enthusiasts. Mate is the subject of Captain's carefully choreographed images. Mate must eat lunch in beautiful but extremely awkward spots, incur blindness through being forced to continuously peer wistfully into sunsets and even smile happily when Mate is actually feeling really hungry.
9. Captain sleeps soundly in the tent, on the 'good side' complete with a waterproof porch for his clothes bag. Mate puts the tent up. Mate sleeps on the 'bad side'. Mate almost died the other night when stepping out of the 'bad side' for a midnight wee and forgetting that the bad side was actually on the side of a cliff. Mate survived.
10. Captain writes the blog. Mate just wrote the alternative one.
(The author would like to sadly stress that the above privileges are purely fictional. Unfortunately, being designated as 'Captain' by border control doesn't hold much weight in the canoe.)