Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter, One Day at a Time

As it gets colder, my paddling excursions become tinged with desperatation to make the most of whatever tolerable weather comes along. I check the forecast compulsively, watching for any window of opportunity. Lately, that's any day above thirty degrees, with winds mostly under ten knots. And since I've had a little more time lately, I've been car-topping the kayak to check-out some areas I don't have time to drive to in the summer, when I work more. Also, I try to choose a route that might be more sheltered from the wind than other areas.

One day I took a tour around Blue Hill Harbor, and out past Parker Point as far as Blue Hill Falls. I like all the nooks and crannies along this shore, many of which have perfectly-situated cottages- all pretty much empty this time of the year. It's impossible to paddle here without being wowed by- and maybe even a little jealous of all these century-old architectural fantasies. In one cove where the ice was building-up, I came to an impasse and had to retrace my route to get out.

Another day I took a spin around Morgan Bay, just east of Blue Hill. I ate my lunch at the head of the bay, in a sunny spot out of the wind, thinking "this winter paddling isn't so bad." But I arrived back at the launch after dark, strapping the kayak to the car with numb fingers, thinking "this winter paddling is nuts."

One day I headed up the Benjamin River, just seeing how far I could get, portaging over a couple of beaver dams until the ice stopped me. I ate my PB&J in a sunny meadow and headed back down the river to Eggemoggin Reach.

The late afternoon sun lit-up the shore as I paddled past until, at Billings Cove, that afternoon sun seemed to abruptly morph into an early sunset. I arrived back at the launch well after dark and cranked the heat in the car while I got out of the drysuit and loaded-up.

I wasn't expecting snow yesterday, but it was coming down pretty hard as I paddled in Union River Bay, along the shore of Newbury Neck. It was just a little colder than previous days, and I had to keep a quick pace to stay warm. The snow tapered-off as I followed the shore around Patten Bay to Weymouth Point, then rode the waves back across.

These have been good trips, yet I'll admit that I'm not feeling super-committed to winter paddling this time around (and it's not even winter yet). I have plenty of numb-finger moments: struggles with drysuit zippers or getting the sprayskirt onto the cockpit rim- things that would be easy in warmer weather. But I can't stand the thought of not getting out. I keep poring over charts obsessively, finding places I want to check-out, and at the same time, watching the weather and the tide charts, and some days it all lines-up. I may not paddle all winter, but it seems impossible to stop looking ahead for that next good day.


Telemarkmike said...

Nice post and pics. I've given up till spring and pursue other outdoor activies for now, but by April I'll be itchy to get back on the water.

Lawrence said...

I find myself doing the same, although our winters here in New Jersey/PA are not as bad as yours up in Maine. I was out yesterday on a clear crisp but very cold and windy day. With temperatures in the upper 20's and a 10-15 mph steady wind I was having a hard time keeping my hands warm. I can't bear to not get out at least once every two weeks at the most though. Reading the new Ocean Kayaker that came out this week did not help either. After each article I was ready to dash out and go anywhere I could get to water.

I need to send Santa a letter for warmer gloves....


Michael Daugherty said...

I'm not sure, but I think Santa might read this blog from time to time. So it's worth mentioning that my left hand in an NRS Toaster Mitt is usually pretty toasty (lost the right hand mitt). My right hand, in a Hydroskin glove (for taking photos) inside an NRS pogie (lost the other pogie) is a little less warm, but not bad. Sometimes I'll add merino glove liners that get soaked, but they work. They also help when it comes to tying the boat onto the rack.

Haven't tried the chemical hand warmers yet, but it could be worth it.

Then again, there's the Everglades, the Keys... All it takes is money. Or, as Telemarkmike suggested, snowshoeing, skiing... if we get real snow. Failing that maybe just get a huge TV...


Telemarkmike said...

I have a whole bin of single gloves.
I should probably get rid of them, but I keep hoping for the other halves will appear. The chemical hand & foot warmers work great. I use them when skiing in crazy cold weather.

BaffinPaddler said...

Nice post. It's hard to say your last good bye to your boat for the winter. It's a long wait until spring up here in Canada too.

What other activities do you migrate to in winter besides great writing and painting?

I've been dreaming of a winter or spring road trip to somewhere warm down south with the boat strapped onto the car.

Happy holidays!

Michael Daugherty said...

Thanks Peggy (Baffin Paddler)... other activities? Hmm. Chocolate, Netflix, maybe a stroll up to Indian Point. Last winter we had one glorious morning of xc skiing in Acadia (before a kayak pool session in Bar Harbor in the afternoon).

The last two winters we've spent a significant period (1-2 months) in the Everglades & Keys, but probably not this winter. It's cheap to be there (camped-out with kayaks- and at an artist's residency) but expensive to keep our place here... and we need to get work done.

I've paddled through the winter every winter since I started paddling, sometimes more motivated than other times. I don't think I could swing it if I weren't watching the harbor all the time for those calm moments, and able to get out with a moment's notice. Not for everybody- much more careful risk management than in warmer months, but better than not paddling.

Oh yeah- snowshoeing... but I like to do it on islands that I get to in the kayak.

I hope you do get to travel south with the kayak. Then I can at least go along on your blog.