We’ve had almost a week of wind, some gusting as high as eighty kilometres an hour in the past few days. This mighty force has kept me off the water. I don’t mind riding waves, but when I can’t turn my kayak around, I know I shouldn’t be out there. So what do you do when the season has started and you’re not on the water?
I put time into cleaning up and checking my equipment. I just vacuumed the accumulated sand out of my kayak, and cleaned the hatches in preparation for loading them. My next overnight camp is some weeks away, but I do like to carry spare parts. You never know when a tarp, rope or bungee cords will come in handy.
I also like to use a de-oxidiser to polish it up after a good wash. I’m fortunate in that I can store my kayaks inside, so I don’t have to worry about excessive weathering; but sun damage is a given after long days on the water.
Another thing I check is the smooth running of my skeg. Often pebbles and sand build up in the track, when I haul it onto a beach. If you don’t have it cleared before you’re on the water, you’re stuck with two choices, do without, or return to land and clean it out.
In an ideal world, all this clean-up would have taken place in the fall, but I have long since stopped berating myself for things that don’t get done for good reasons. It’s enough to know I’m ready now.
With everything tightened, cleaned and set to go, it’s just a matter of waiting. The wind will blow itself out. The whitecaps will lose their sharp edges, softening into ripples, and I’ll be on the water again.
My kayaks below. Top to bottom: Joy, Bubba, Balance, Serenity.
Seldom do I head out in my kayak, without taking a thermos of tea and a snack with me. Usually the food is enclosed in a Ziploc bag and tucked inside a fanny pack that I wear in front for easy access. As it also holds other essentials like sun screen, bug repellant, and tissues, it is a handy accessory.
Most often I head into the wind, choosing the hardest paddling for the first part of my session. I have a set time on the water, and know at the half way mark I will turn around. Now, the reward. With the wind behind me, and my kayak weather cocked, I rest my paddle and pull out my thermos.
I associate nature and nurture, so food is part of all my outdoor adventures. Tea on the water feeds not only my body, but my spirit. I soak up the sun and silence, breathe in air so clean it has no smell and breathe out my angst. As I sip a cup of black tea, and crunch a cluster of nutty goodness, gulls race each other down the river. Startled, a family of ducks takes to the air with a cacophony of quacking. Of course, they fly ahead of me, so my forward progress disturbs them time after time. Exasperated I move further into the centre of the river, hoping the distance will give them a sense of safety, and me the peace I crave.
By far the most beautiful and varied part of Saskatchewan is our sky. I lean back and watch as a flock of geese stich a black V across it. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch the lazy glide of a pelican, its white wings outlined by the deepest blue. The best treat, for me, is the constant slide show of sun and cloud, forming infinite shapes. Shades of blue and white combine; creating tie-silk patterns of lavenders and greys, misty blues and brilliant white. When I’m really blessed the trajectory of sun on water becomes a magical path I paddle into my imagination.
Drifting finished, I pack my thermos away, and with the wind assisting, make up for stealing from my return time. Tea on the water. I highly recommend the experience. Join me in spirit the next time you’re out. I lift my cup in a toast to any paddler who rests their paddle for a short while, to sip at life.
April 7. The ice was off the river. The sun was fighting through veils of stratus. The temperature five centigrade, meant hitting the water was a must. When I’m writing I don’t cut into my day with other activities. However, the old aphorism ‘rules are made …’ tapped at my mind. Rules are made by me, so I can change them at will, I concluded.
I wrote till 12:30. Peeks out my office window showed me the water was as smooth as ice just cleaned by a Zamboni. I couldn’t wait to get on it, but, “I’ll just grab a quick bite of lunch”, seemed sensible. Then I could stay out longer.
By 1:00 pm my darling husband had helped me load, and took me to the marina, the only place to launch at this time of year. The river was low, and mud banks extended for fifty feet before you hit water. No way was I dragging my kayak through mud – been there, didn’t like it.
I readied my kayak, starting through my first of the year checklist: paddle, PFD, gloves, jacket, phone in waterproof pocket, skeg working, sponge, pump, throw bag. Straddling my kayak, I backed it down the cement pad until my heels touched the edge of the water, then pushing back, and dropping in, I launched. It took a few seconds for my bow to clear the pad, so I wobbled precariously, my feet poking out both sides like the halves of a paddle pointing skyward.
A dark band of clouds lay along the horizon in the west. Just as I backed away from the shore, the moving front thrust a tumble of cumulous down the river, pushed by a 40 kph wind. I couldn’t even turn the bow of my kayak, couldn’t aim for the mouth of the marina. I ended up paddling inside the marina, but immediately had a new challenge. For the winter, all the piers had been tied to the shoreline with yellow nylon rope. Either I had to go over them, lifting my skeg each time, or under them pressing my face on my deck. I circled the marina, as the wind whipped up waves, even in that sheltered water. Over, under, under, over. After half an hour of this water dance, I gave up and headed for the launch. I drove my kayak up on the mud and debris, and managed to lift myself up and out, even though I was on a steep grade. I wobbled like a hula doll on a convertible dash. Hefting my body out of a kayak gets harder each year.
Loaded, we started the short drive home. Instantly, the wind dissipated. The black clouds moved past and the water calmed. Yikes! It’s hard not to take it personally, when every time I go out the wind comes up. I decided last year to give up on my pity party thinking and change my attitude. Now I say the wind loves me, and greets me the minute I hit the water. Sometimes it’s like the cousin who’s thrust on you, when you least want them around. But often, it’s content to say hello, chat a few minutes, and move on.