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.