Friday, July 10, 2009
For weeks I've been anticipating a paddle with a group of local paddlers. Their standing date of Thursday afternoons has been rained out three weeks running. I was excited to be joining them yesterday. We paddled west out of the city, further than I'd ever been. In an hour, we'd paddled a distance that equals a ten-minute drive. The river opens up at this point. Much wider than I'm used to seeing.
Just when you think you're going to have to deal with open water - chop, wind and fast boat traffic, there's a little bay on the north shore that shelters a tiny group of islands. As you get into the shallows, you find yourself directly over a shipwreck. The skeleton of the boat is covered in seaweed. It was much larger than I thought it would have been for something sunk in such a shallow spot.
When you're out on the river in the afternoons, there's a good amount of traffic. When you pair the first sunny afternoon with a month of rain and wind, there's a lot of traffic. Some you might not expect. A small plane did a fly-over directly over top of our group of 5 paddlers. It flew around the island we were approaching and then looped around. We soon discovered it was preparing to land directly ahead of us. It passed overhead once more - this time much lower than before - at treetop level.
It's times like this that I realize the importance of travelling in a group of paddlers. We're much more visible when we're in a group. As a rookie paddler, I really appreciated the more experienced paddlers. It's fine to skirt the islands or the shoreline and putter about, but there are the world's largest fresh-water shipping channel, tour boat routes, the yacht club's sailing races, the wake boarding club boats to negotiate as well as numerous personal watercraft, fishing boats and motor boat traffic to watch for. The channel and the islands make for some interesting current patterns as well. Calm looking water is not always as it seems.
I believe the paddle was about 6.5km (4 miles) in total. A really good, long, interesting time. I met some new people, learned lots and got to know my boat a little better. Hopefully next week is as enjoyable.