May 24, 2018
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Reacquainting with the water

Jeff Strout | BDN
Jeff Strout | BDN
Getting back on the water triggers fond memories of paddles past. In this case, a beautiful ending to a calm day at Pushaw Lake during the summer of 2010.
By Jeff Strout, BDN Staff

Last Sunday was the day I was going to get in and on the water.

I’d put off getting in my seasonal inaugural paddle long enough. It was time — barring outrageous weather, of course.

The delay in getting in actually was pinned to the fact that my drysuit was getting a new gasket and booties installed. Once that project was done it needed to be tested. And there’s no better way to test the waterproofness than to jump overboard or wade into the water.

The on part involved weather and scheduling issues. Sunday was the day.

And it wasn’t too bad a day, except for the north wind blowing a steady 15 knots, gusting higher. It would mean more work to make headway, but I’d waited long enough. The wind and waves were well within my capabilities.

So I headed to Gould Landing at Pushaw Lake intent on testing my drysuit and getting in a paddle.

At the beach there were three young ladies frolicking in the water near shore. I decided that dressing up in a drysuit and wading past them wasn’t going to happen. I know I’m a nerd, but I wasn’t going to flaunt it. The drysuit test would have to wait.

I strolled up the road, watched a few people casting their lines for fish, watched a mallard pair dabble for food and generally lolled around for 15-20 minutes until the frolickers had disappeared (I knew that the combination of wind and water eventually would drive them away).

Then with the beach pretty much to myself I suited up and waded out to chest level and dunked under (well, mostly). I bobbed around like a seal, floated by the air trapped in the suit (it was a little difficult to get my feet back down to stand up). No leaks! The water didn’t feel all that cold on my exposed hands so I decided I’d paddle without Neoprene gloves, but I’d keep them handy just in case.

The dryness test a success, I rigged up the kayak with the usual safety gear, stowed keys in a dry bag, donned my PFD and spray skirt and headed out into the wind. At Hemlock Point where the wind blew unencumbered I decided that conditions were manageable and struck out for Dollar and Harwood islands.

This being an inaugural voyage, I was happy to reach the lee of Dollar where I could stop for a minute and grab a sip of water. Just around the corner I measured the winds at a steady 15 knots coming down the eastern side.

With my goal being the southern end of Harwood where it was sheltered, I resumed my voyage, content with the thought that I would get out of the boat for a second and stretch my legs. Best of all, after pushing against the wind, I’d have it at my back for the return leg. Simple psyching, but it helps.

Paddling a canoe or kayak is not the fastest way to get between two points — it takes a lot of strokes to get there, but most often that’s the fun part. It may be tedious at times, but it does wonders to build patience.

A stiff tail wind does wonders, however, in relieving any of that tediousness. Rather than heading into waves, they’re now running with you and they love to be mischievous, pushing the stern to one side or the other. But by putting on a little power, you can surf from wave to wave and that’s when the speed and the fun begin.

Needless to say, the return from Harwood was much quicker than the trip out, by about half.

All in all it was an enjoyable and successful outing.

P.S. That same day on the Penobscot River above the dam in Milford, a kayaker capsized and was nearly swept away in the swift current before another kayaker came to her rescue and emergency personnel reached the two, according to a Bangor Daily News story. The report said the woman was able to put on her life jacket after capsizing.

This brings to mind two pieces of advice: Wear your life jacket, your PFD, when you are in your boat, and think twice and assess your abilities before paddling swift waters, particularly above a dam. In this instance the woman was fortunate someone else was there to help.

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