Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Good Friends and the Ocean

The most excellent TM read one of my blog posts about not getting on the ocean and decided to sacrifice a day of his vacation to make sure I got at least one ocean paddle in this season.

Most of my reasons for not getting out on the ocean have been more about my being neurotic about the COVID. I avoid groups and getting close to people outside of my direct family at all costs. While I do go out for bike rides, those are solo excursions that pose relatively low risk of major injury. I can also wear a mask the whole time.

Sea kayaking is not something I do solo except on very rare occasions. The ocean can be a harsh mistress. I don't really think staying masked the whole time is possible given that there is going to be spray and your face just gets wet. I also worry that in the case of rescues there is no way to keep distance and a high probability of someone inadvertently blowing a bunch of droplets in your face.

Rationally, I know that being outside, in the sun, with an ocean breeze in a 16' kayak with a paddle that requires a good 4' radius is something even the most conservative epidemiologist would consider minimal risk. I also know that the chances of needing to do a rescue with most of the people I paddle with is pretty slim. We are all pretty good.

Rational doesn't always win out in these decisions though.....

To help get me out on the water Tim set aside a day of his vacation to paddle with just me. He figured, correctly, that paddling with just one other person, who I completely trust, would be on the edge of my comfort zone. I still had some anxiety about the long drive and what about my coffee for the return trip or bathroom breaks. What if the ramp was busy.... What if the conditions were more than I was ready to handle.... What if....

The afternoon before, I dawdled in packing up. Anxiety still gnawed at my enthusiasm. As I packed up, I developed a plan to alleviate some of my anxiety. I would pack an extra iced coffee, extra water, and extra snacks in a cooler to eliminate the need stop on the way home. I considered brining our portable loo to ensure I could stay entirely self contained while transiting, but decided that was too much and I didn't want to have to deal with waste disposal.

H did poke a little fun at my plans. She has been enjoying Starbucks cold brew all summer and thinks avoiding the largely contactless is a little crazy. She isn't entirely wrong... However, I have learned to do without over the shutdown. Why spend on Starbucks when our home made coffee is just as good?

Once I finally got to Weatherill, I started to relax. I was still a little skittish and very conscious about staying masked up. However, TM's jovial presence and the ocean smell instantly lowered my anxiety level. We packed up our kayaks and carried them down to the water wearing masks which was odd. TM took his off before launching, but I needed to be well off shore before taking mine off. Knowing that ocean paddling with a mask on was not only a little crazy but likely dangerous, I had prepared ahead to safely store my mask on the water. I brought a zip lock bag and stored it in the little cockpit hatch; it was safe, dry, and close by if needed.

It didn't take long for being on the water to work its magic. I mostly forgot that our country is burning around us between the pandemic and the racial tension boiling over across the country. The flow of the paddle through the water, the salty smell of the air, and the gentle rocking of the waves are better than any drug.

We didn't do anything super exciting. We paddled from Weatherill, around Beavertail and then north along the Jamestown coast. The conditions were super mellow. I needed to pay attention, but not too much. It was perfect.

We lunched at one of the little pocket beaches which was surprisingly relaxing. I was barely bothered about not being masked. We were outside and there was a nice breeze. I didn't even freak out when a group of people showed up on the hill asking if we were finishing up... We were.

As we ate, we watched rain storms march steadily towards us from Narragansett and heard a few rumbles. It was nothing to worry about, but definitely time to start planning our exit.

It looked like things might be clearing up when we got back to Weatherill, so I decided to stay in the kayak and play a bit. I was going to try rolling, but the water was a little low as was my confidence... Instead I practiced my reverse figure eights. I did OK. There was a wind that kept pushing me around a little and making some of the turns hard. It was good practice on switching edges, remembering paddle placement, and just general boat feel.

This was also the first time I had my new paddle in salt water, so I was excited to see what it would do. As expected from the previous fresh water outings, it was awesome. I felt very confident with it. I had plenty of forward power and felt secure with the bracing. My less than ergonomic home office set up has not done wonders for my wrists, and they were a little sore. I'm certain, however, that they were less sore than they would have been after dragging a giant lollipop through the water...

The clear skies didn't last long. As we were loading the boats on the cars it started to rain and before I could finish up it was pouring. Fortunately, I had not changed into dry clothes before loading the boat.

When Tim asked about stopping for coffee, I was so chill from the paddling that I almost said yes. The rain, sadly, made it impossible. I'm still not ready to sit inside a coffee shop and I did have an ice cold coffee sitting in the back of my truck along with my extra water and snacks.

The rain did help me appreciate our monster Subaru just a little bit more. It is big enough to comfortably change clothes in the back. I just pulled up the privacy shades, slipped out of my wet clothes, toweled off, and slipped on my dry clothes. It was luxurious to change in a large dry space, grab my driving goodies, then slip into the driver's seat.

This was possibly the best day of 2020 so far....

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