Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A calm day gone wild

Language advisory - the F word gets used a bunch down below.
It is gray, warm, calm and humid. It is a signal that the weather will change. I head out knowing that wind and rain will come later. Rain comes just as I set the canoe in the water.

I work out past the burial island. With the water up high right now, I can explore deeper into the marsh than in mid-winter. I paddle into a gap in the cattails that I have never explored before. It is just barely wide enough for the canoe and soon it becomes a beaver canal. Besides dams, beaver are known to maintain and even dredge canals to ease their movements through the marsh. I back out, because the beaver can swim under trees and brush that stop the canoe. I head a couple hundred yards north to the nearest beaver lodge. There, I follow another gap into the cattails and it too becomes a beaver canal with numerous gnawings along the sides. I pole on, deeper into this marsh than I had ever been and soon find myself just 30 feet from open water. Here I have to get out on the firm but floating bog stuff and drag the canoe. I am becoming increasingly familiar with the complex network of beaver trails, drags and canals that criss-cross the the marshes and islands in the bay. At 4 to 8 beaver per lodge, there should be something like 3 dozen in the bay. Most people are surprised that there are any at all. Even fewer understand just how much the beaver sculpt the appearance of this area.

I head west through the "crossing under place", across the top of Portage Bay, and into Lake Union, briefly stopping to tell two girls who are clearly rookie kayakers to put on their life jackets instead of strapping them to the rear deck of the kayak. I tell them that they won't swim long in 45 degree water and they turn their noses up at me. So be it. Half way down Lake Union, the rising wind finally stops me. I can portage out here, but instead I spin and surf the growing waves and wind. I also have a hunch that I might be needed. Soon, it is all whitecaps and handling the boat requires constant attention. I find the two rookies struggling in the waves, clearly out of their league. I find calm behind a bridge abutment and wait in case they need rescue. I am not happy to be involved in their ignorant stunt, but I do know what to do should they flip and I can get to them in less than a minute. It is messy and clumsy, but they struggle to shore just a few yards away and I vent, appropriately, on them, "When someone who clearly knows what they are doing tells you to put on your fucking life jacket put on your fucking life jacket you fucking idiots! I don't want to have to come over there to pull your fucking ass out of the fucking lake you fucking idiots! They are embarrassed (as they should be) and know that they got lucky (they did). Had they flipped, the kayak would have sailed with the wind well out of reach before they could grab it (rookies) and they would have been left swimming until I got to them. I run into rental boaters doing this kind of shit all the time.

Maybe they will never go in the water again. That suits me fine.

Portage Bay is breezy, but do-able being sheltered from the brunt of the wind. It is fresh and invigorating. It has been a great day, an ever changing day, even with the dumbshits.

FYI - I read that out of 115 kayak and canoe drownings and 95 of them were people without life jackets.

1 comment: