Thursday, February 11, 2016


Some days the winter seems to drag-on slowly. Others, you realize it will be over before you know it- before you’ve had a chance to do all those winter things you’d hoped to do at the beginning, when the winter stretched-out ahead with so much promise. Maybe a bit like suddenly discovering that you’re in your fifties and you think holy crap, how did that happen? Winters, like lifetimes, go by in a flash. We plan on certain things to get us through it: sports, library visits, potluck dinners, holidays, and you imagine doing these things casually, like they’ll be bright spots in the middle of long stretches of slow-moving empty time, but instead we rush to and from them like anything else.

Aside from trips to the pool at the Bar Harbor YMCA, all my paddling lately has been short, close-to-home trips among the nearby islands, and I seem oddly content with this. Sometimes I go with company- Rebecca or –lately- Bill, who is getting in shape for a trip to Baja, but more often I’m alone, with which I am also oddly content.

There’s been enough snow that I can slide my kayak down to the high tide line like a toboggan, and carry it from there. I wade-in and plop into the cockpit. My hands are in thick gloves and pogies. My heels rest upon a piece of foam to help insulate them from the near-freezing water just below the hull. These precautions help, but after a couple hours, while my core will at times feel hot beneath two or three wool layers and a drysuit, my fingertips and toes tend to get a bit numb. Most of the time I hardly notice – one of the good things about keeping these winter trips fairly short.

Since I haven’t been writing lots of blog posts lately, I tend to have a narrative going in my head as I paddle, with observations and commentary. They could be the same, from one day to the next:

“Snow began to fall, slowly at first, hardly noticeable. Then the flakes grew dense, turning the sky a deep gray…”

“Eagles seem to be claiming Potato Island for another year…”

“Dull light today, dark and not much tonal range…”

I bring hot chocolate in a vacuum bottle as a back-up in case I (or someone) get cold and need warming. But half-way through the trip I usually just drink it. It feels like a luxury, to float on the water, sipping the chocolate. It would also be good leftover, when I get home, but as a rule, everything is better out on the water.

Inevitably, I’ve put-off paddling until the end of the day, after I’ve done enough work, and I end-up returning as it gets dark, pointing for the dark stretch of rocky beach, far below the house we’re staying in, where I’ve left-on a light.

Yesterday, since the weather looked colder and windier for the next few days, I brought my kayak inside, so I can do a few gelcoat repairs. I don’t mind a few non-paddling days, although today I realized that it would have been perfectly fine out there. Still, I have a lot of work to do, and only a few more months in this particular situation, and I know it will go quickly.

I’ve been going over what I hope will be final proofs of the guidebook. The publication date is less than two months away. I’ve also been preparing for a slideshow/talk that I’ll deliver in a couple of weeks… in a church basement in Deer Isle- part of IHT’s winter lecture series. I’ve known for awhile that I would need to do something like this to promote the book. I’m not much of a performer- probably part of the reason I like to write. So I’ve been working on text to accompany the slideshow. It’s evolving into an essay about the process of researching and writing the guidebook, but I’m exploring other threads that lead into this story- how I got into sea kayaking, my writing background, this blog. As usual, the text is growing into a monster that needs to be tamed.

If you're in Deer Isle on Wednesday, February 24th, I'll be giving my slideshow/talk at 5  at the Congregational Church.

If you can't make that, I'll be doing it at Jesup Library in Bar Harbor on June 10th.


Anonymous said...

What a gift to be able to read this. Could you throw a hot water bottle (or something similar) down by your feet to help? I don't mind cold fingers but cold toes make me crazy for some reason.

John Foster said...

Loods awesome!

George Pardi said...

I've been anxiously waiting for the book to finally be published. Your article in Sea Kayaker years ago is responsible for lots of good paddling adventures with my buddies. More important is the bonding we've done while paddling around Deer Isle. And the laughs. You can't put a price on them. So glad that I got to meet you at Old Quarry last September.