Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PS 1 - Solo Kayaking

Puget Sound -- Vashon Is Circumnavigation (53 miles)

A rhythm builds with each stroke... The blade enters the deep waters surface with ease, slicing the surface, just slightly tilted like a cupped hand of a swimmer. Catching the momentum of the passing water, it glides from the bow of my reach, to a beam of my midship. My body following with the flow of water almost braced against it in one spot, I face it till finally a release and a long gliding pause. The other blade comes down on the port side, and the pattern is repeated. There is a tempo to 4 knots. I seems to maintain it through a beat of an internal clock, with a 2 knot tide shutting me past the repeating points. This is one of the motions of a kayak passage. It fondly reminds me of the rhythm of hiking 3 miles per hour over the contours of the Pacific Mountain Ranges. It reminds me of that internal beat one hears on a long trip.

Lately, I have been taking to solo paddling... This has come after paddling with co-workers, instructors, peers and friends. Somehow there is a peace and gratification to the solo paddle, one which grows with each trip. I came into paddling with one main long goal, to return to Alaska. But through it recently, after facing judgement and competition from my working peers, personalities and expectation of the normal crew, there is a peace to just going it alone. One is faced with the elements as they stand, which one's own mind seem to be alone on the water with itself to tend with. This has became my mediation, this has become a refuge. 

Each trip so far has been a surge of choice, Maury, Vashon and now my plans for Bainbridge Island. With nine totaling the challenge, it seems less about completing a list, but what each teaches me as I progress. The first was an out right challenge. Having only paddled 3-7 miles, the 20+ mile circumnav took me to another point. With a capsize in mid channel, and a confident re-entry, it paved the way to push on. The calm of Quatermaster Bay and the haul over the Portage back to the Sound, nothing could seem more natural... This was exactly what I needed to be doing.

Recently, at the end of two days with the crew, I took to the unfinished business of the main part of Vashon Island. Leaving Wingehaven Marine Camp, I headed south waving to my friends and determined to make the rounds about this island. Two points, keeping Three Tree to my port, I found myself at the same Portage that I had found myself a week before... Entering Quartermaster Bay, I made the rounds, with Jellyfish appearing with each stroke. Facing an opposing tide, and a little bit of the wind, the trek through Dockton faced a different character. But as I passed Pinner Point, I knew that I was out to round a new corner, with Gig Harbor in View. 

There is nothing more sobering then 3 foot high confused waves... Unlike 5 foot rollers with a regular period, it is more akind to riding a mechanical bull while having a few in you. In your mind, you keep saying to yourself... High Brace, loose hipflicks, low brace, paddle... This sequence keeps occurring in rapid succession, due to the successive sea walls. I think to my peers, that questioned my abilities, pushing me out and as I slowly rounded the point, I knew quite well, that experience is the best teacher... This was just good plain FUN!

At Dalco, I rounded and began to shuttle up the likes of Colvos Passage. Starting with 3 foot rollers, I gained the momentum I needed. After that is was a clear shot to Lisabeula Camp. Passing point, cape and coves, Raven, Eagle and Heron followed me. I saw Porpose and Seal along the way, making Bear's Passage a welcome one. Somehow, there alone in the channel, I was in the company of friends with these spirits. A inner charge seemed to grow in me, and a contentment that I have not felt since returning from New Zealand. This was my new way of Travels...

At Lisabeula, I pulled upon shore, a quiet camp, I watched as the sun lit up the sky in a brillance of sunset, and Mt Anderson rose from behind Olalla Bay, reminding me of distant Ice Caves once visited on her slopes. Heron entered my camp that night, as well as the curious Raven.. These were the friends a solo kayaker keeps... Watching there activities, I began to see a new perspective, that of life at Tide Line...

I awoke early the next day, desiring to find out what the Waters had to teach me.. Colvos Passage passed to quickly for my taste, and soon I was on the Sound making for Alki. My eyes lead north towards Bainbridge, but it was truely the distant Whidbey and the Archipelligo that traverses this wild coast that lured me. As I rounded there at Alki, I knew after 4 days I had found my home, there on the sea... Echos of Stan raced through my mind, and flashes of that passage north incited my mind. Here was my new trail, and I knew I had to prepare for what lay ahead... 

Somehow, all that has happened in the last year didn't seem to matter much, just that quiet rhythm of the paddle blade, and the long gaze north towards the horizon... Deep inside, my soul knows these adventures will be solo... But it does not matter much, as it seemed that I had returned home...

-- Ridgewalker

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