About a month ago, Pinniped Kayak hosted a two-day instructional event: Halloween at Sullivan Falls with the next day reserved for "rough water" or rocks and ledges, wherever that might take us. We had ten or twelve people each day, most of whom had traveled far- from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island- as well as our crew of College of the Atlantic students for the second day- and were ready to get wet, despite chilly temperatures and strong winds. Nate and I had our hands full, but with Barb and Rebecca assisting the first day and Peter Brady the second, the coach/student ratio remained entirely manageable.
Much of what we do, be it rough water or flat, comes back to the fundamentals- core principals that contribute to safe and effective paddling. It may be easier to learn those fundamentals in fairly flat water, on a day devoted to stroke refinement and rescues, but at some point we bump it up a notch, get into some spots that get our adrenaline running, and see how it all works, preferably with a knowledgeable coach nearby who can help you figure it all out- and keep you from getting thrashed too badly.
We had good conditions to put all of our skills into perspective. In fact, on the second day, when the forecast called for thirty-knot gusts and six-foot seas , we worried that the conditions might, in the words of Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins, put "too much f_ing perspective" on things. Since the wind had been out of the north, we opted for the relatively sheltered south end of Mount Desert Island, launching from Seal Harbor. We spent the morning working on boat handling in big seas until a few students developed seasickness and had to be towed-in... which was convenient, since that was on the agenda anyway. In the afternoon, we found smaller conditions where we could manage some play time around the rocks and on some beautiful waves.
It was a great finale to Pinniped's first season.
November is often not such a great paddling month for us. The weather changes, and it seems other stuff tends to come up. This November has been particularly charged with "other stuff," but sometimes that's a good time to remember particular paddling experiences as I did in my article: Zero Day: Time Out on Florida's Molasses Key, which appeared recently on the Canoe & Kayak Magazine website.
The other stuff? To make a long story short, after nearly twelve years here, we're closing the gallery and moving-out of our home here in Stonington (a small apartment above the gallery). So lately we've been consumed with going through our stuff and getting together the final show in the gallery. We've watched a few nice days go by when we would have liked to get out for a paddle, but our priorities were elsewhere.
What's next? Without the gallery, our personal priorities stand-out in sharper focus: painting, writing and paddling. We'll probably be here in Stonington until the end of December. After that we're heading down to Saint Marys, Georgia, where we will guide and teach for a new paddling outfit called Sea Surf & SUP. Our vague plan is to head back to this area in May and continue teaching for Pinniped through the summer. In the meantime, my book AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England should hit the shelves in April. According to Amazon, it's a "#1 New Release," which I think means that my sister pre-ordered it.
Someone recently suggested that maybe this spelled the end of Sea Kayak Stonington, but I think it is just a new beginning. I'm guessing that next summer I'll spend at least as much time paddling in the Stonington archipelago as I did last summer when I spent most of my paddling time in southern New England, while simultaneously running the gallery and writing a book. Closing the gallery is certainly bittersweet. It's sad as so many people stop by or write us to express sorrow that we will no longer be a presence here on Main Street. There has been much about the business that I have loved, but it also feels like a heavy weight removed from my shoulders. We're heading down the road without much security, but our step is lighter.