Posted Friday, September, 23, 2011 by Levi Bridges
July 2011 |
The sea is a funny place. Like the weather itself, the behavior of the ocean is fickle, subject to ever changing movement that can turn its personality from meek to depraved. A slight rise in the wind can transform a placid ocean into a mess of choppy waves that leave a lone kayaker in a vulnerable position.
This summer, I have chosen to paddle the Maine coast alone. I am well aware of the potential consequences that this decision entails. Even during the height of summer, the water temperature far out at sea is cold, at times even hovering below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If I do flip over and manage to come out of my kayak, I have the safety equipment that I’ll need to rescue myself. And in a very serious emergency, I carry a VHF marine radio to communicate with and sent out a distress call to other boats and even the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as a whole host of beacons, and flares to help a rescue team find me.
For me, the risks of kayaking alone are well worth it. I love the sense of solitude elicited by camping alone on an island. I relish the allure of the ocean and sense of connectedness with nature and the elements one feels out on the water. But I rely on a healthy sense of precaution when I approach this close encounter with nature.
Each day, I listen to the weather reports broadcast on my VHF radio with obsession, learning when winds will pick up or storms might blow through. Last week, while camping on a small island just off of Deer Isle, Maine, on the beginning of a six mile journey out to sea to Isle au Haut, a long, mountainous island, much of which belongs to Acadia National Park, I learned that a small craft advisory was issued for early the following morning. So I rose at dawn to try and beat the inclement weather.
The wind was already whipping across the water when I awoke the following morning and pushed my boat into the choppy seas. This was my first long crossing in rough weather in my new Necky Chatham 17 and I couldn’t have been more impressed. Tall waves broke over the long bow, and the boat easily rose and fell over the sea swells. Even in the wind and waves, I felt confident that the only safety equipment I would need was a confident mind, good balance, and the determination to keep going. There was never a moment when I felt that it wasn’t safe to make the crossing in this boat. The Chatham felt at home and comfortable in the windy seas.
Just before 8AM, when the winds were predicted to intensify, I made it Isle au Haut. I spent the next two days waiting out the following storm camped on a small, rocky island out at sea. When I made the long trek back to Deer Isle two days later, the storm had passed and the long stretch of sea before was calm and flat as a silky bedspread. My kayak glided easily over the still water, which lay in a completely opposite state than it had been when I had paddled out to Isle au Haut several days before. The contrast was amazing.
“The sea is a constantly shifting entity,” I thought as I paddled along, “and I’m so grateful that I have a kayak that responds so well to all of its temperaments.”