Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bartlett Island

On Saturday afternoons we’ve been going to the pool in Bar Harbor for practice. The tough part, often enough, is loading and unloading boats in the wind and cold and worrying about icy roads; we’re not usually tempted to go for a paddle outside. This time though, with temps in the thirties and not much wind, we decided to do both: ocean in the morning, pool in the afternoon. We launched at Bartlett Landing, on the northwest side of Mount Desert Island, and set-off around Bartlett Island at high tide.

I’d brought along the little point-of-view video camera, and we experimented with different set-ups as we made our way toward the south end of Bartlett Island. Ice coated much of the steep, shore-side granite, and at high tide we could cruise alongside, our progress a bit slowed by the desire for video.

I don’t bring the little video camera on every trip. The great thing about such a camera is that you can turn it on and it does the work while you continue paddling. Of course, after you’ve downloaded copious amounts of footage-- which takes time as well as storage space on the computer, you reign-in the shotgun approach and try to get footage that counts.

One of the reasons I paddle is that it puts me in the moment. Any kind of multi-tasking is a challenge to appreciating the moment: even thinking too much can be a form of multi-tasking, like wondering about how I might write about this, if I should blog about it. It takes you away, spreads your attention thin.  

Does shooting video make it more challenging to be present and attentive to the moment? You are essentially looking for little pieces of experience to save for later, an artifact to bring home, as if that is the object of your quest, rather than the quest being the reward in itself. But using the camera could actually make you focus more completely on the moment. Certainly, taking photos and video does slow me down sometimes when I might be apt to just go cruising-on. I slow down to consider how something looks and end up looking far more closely, thinking about it, appreciating it.

I’m not sure that doing something without cameras makes it a more pure endeavor, and I probably won’t find out any time soon, since I’m fairly addicted to image-making. The trend of posting on Facebook adds a whole other level to the question that I think I’d better stay away from for the moment, since we’ve got an island to get around here.

The real highlight of the trip was the ice: the tall icicles in Dogfish Cove, the long expanses of thin skim ice we plowed through along much of the western side. In the distance, seals climbed aboard an ice floe. Paddling through the ice was hard-going and a bit surreal: the constant crunching sound against our hulls, the paddles penetrating just enough to move forward, leaving alternating holes in our wake. I worried a little about breaking a paddle, and a little less about damaging hulls, but we made it through okay, finally taking a quick break on The Hub before hurrying, with the tide, back down Bartlett Narrows to the launch.

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