Friday, May 29, 2020

Remote Sea Kayaking

By ‘remote kayaking,’ I mean ‘remote’ as in ‘virtual,’ as opposed to ‘far away from things.’ I prefer the latter meaning. A month or two ago, the virus prompted pretty much everyone to start conducting meetings and other events via remote computer hook-up chats. For some reason I thought ‘no way, I don’t want to do that,’ and I did manage to mostly avoid Zoom for a while. Maybe it’s part of that tendency that people sometimes have when they get to a certain age where they feel filled-up, overwhelmed with all the new things in the world and want to stop learning. Bad idea, right? I started to cave-in to it when friends appeared as guests on some of these online events, and last week I even watched panelists from the Maine Arts Commission review my application (and several others) for a grant. Anyway, I’ve just finished watching, from a bug-on-the-wall’s perspective, the last of The Maine Island Trail Association’s ‘Lunch and Learn’ series, and I wish I’d started paying attention sooner. 

This episode featured three sea kayak guide/instructors: Karen Francoeur, Keven Beckwith and Nate Hanson, who all gave advice about getting into sea kayaking. There were over fifty viewers, some who commented or asked questions in the chat function. When the subject came to trip planning, I was grateful to hear my name mentioned, both in reference to AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England and to this blog. I felt a little pang of guilt, having not posted anything here for a while. 

In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve become ambivalent about the whole idea of blogging, as well as even sharing photos from paddling excursions on social media. There are many reasons for this – it’s complicated and perhaps best left unexplored for the moment. My feelings about it go far beyond the current situation with the virus, but I’m not sure about flaunting it when many people are unable to get out, and when many other people are gung-ho to do so – in rec boats, in jeans when the water is still cold. There have been two paddling deaths in the last month or so on Maine freshwater, both probably due to unprepared paddlers in cold water. This has always been the case in spring, but this year the illusion of summer came to us a little earlier, and people have time on their hands.  Frankly I’m surprised there haven’t been more mishaps.  

But it is getting warmer, and summer will come, one way or another. I really haven’t paddled much for a while, and my excursions have not been ambitious – it’s been enough to just get on the water. And staying at home has been good on other fronts. A couple of articles recently came out in Zest Maine, both personal essays that revolve around sea kayaking. In their next issues, the online magazine will publish the first chapters of my new book, Upwest & Downeast: Meandering the Maine Coast by Sea Kayak. I know I’ve been saying for a while that it’s almost done, but… it’s almost done.

My statement on my guiding business site about COVID-19 has changed a couple of times and it has been difficult to plan, but so far we’re proceeding with the assumption that, at least for a while, we might be guiding and teaching people who live here in Maine or have quarantined for 2 weeks. In many ways it would be a relief to avoid the limbo of unknowing and just skip this year, but we’ll see. We’re in a good place, living in downtown Stonington near Rebecca’s studio, which is just up the street from the public ramp. I feel inspired every time I look out the window, even on days like today when a dense fog obscures the usual view of the archipelago and Isle au Haut. Hopefully we’ll be taking a few people paddling soon, or at least just getting out more.

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