Monday, December 30, 2013

Phoebe Island

Every now and then the forces of the universe are in alignment: not too cold, not too much wind, we're not too lazy, and we don't have any commitments... and we get a chance to get out for a paddle. Yesterday was one such day, with a winter storm watch starting at three in the afternoon. We even had a hint of the sun glowing somewhere behind all the clouds. The photo above was taken just before noon. High noon is not so high these days.

The wind was predicted to increase from the east, so we paddled east, hoping to have it at our backs as we returned: Scott, Green, Sprout (above) onward to Camp (below); a route we've done enough to render it a classic.

A classic, and yet I never tire of it. Much of my paddling in recent months has been done elsewhere, researching the guidebook, and if we get a few nice enough days, I'll be paddling in Massachusetts instead. If you live in southern New England and you've ever casually mentioned that we should come paddle with you or crash on your living room floor, look out; I may be making good on those invitations before long.

But it truly is a joy to get out to the archipelago, even on such an otherwise dreary day. We followed the shore of Devil, on to Spruce, Millet, and Saddleback Islands. For some reason, we got it into our heads to have lunch on Phoebe Island. We hadn't been there in awhile, which is enough reason to want to go there again. Besides, we'd discovered that it is designated as a seabird nesting island, which makes it off limits in early summer.

As I paddled, I thought a lot about my current writing project: an introduction to the guidebook. Other guidebooks include all kinds of information in the introduction: everything from boat selection to personal essays. There's usually a short manifesto about whether or not routes should be rated according to skill level (they shouldn't) and possibly sections on Leave No Trace, safety, what to wear and just about anything else a kayaker might need to know. It's tough to know where to draw the line. After all, the point of a guidebook is to provide information about a place, rather than teach people how to kayak.

I think it ought to have enough information that someone who flies into New England from some other part of the world would know what to expect as far as climate, clothing, laws, the boats we use, etc, but not so much that a beginner is tempted to use it as a how-to book. I guess I'm just thinking out loud here, but I welcome ideas. I feel very privileged to be writing this book. I consider the guide not so much mine, or AMC Books' but as something that belongs to the paddling community at large in the same way that The White Mountain Guide belongs to the hiking community. And yet it's also an opportunity to further explore sea kayaking through writing, and let it take me where it will.

We ate a quick lunch on Phoebe Island, and as predicted, the east winds picked up in early afternoon, helping us along as we paddled back home.


John Foster said...

Love the last photo.
What book are you writing the introduction to?

Michael Daugherty said...

Thanks John.
I'm writing "AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England" from Appalachian Mountain Club Books. I have until September to finish, and it comes out in spring of 2015.